Aníbal Arregui, Gesa Mackenthun and Stephanie Wodianka (eds.) (2018), DEcolonial Heritage: Natures, Cultures, and the Asymmetries of Memory (Cultural Encounters and the Discourses of Scholarship, vol. 10) (Münster: Waxmann), 278 pp., Paperback €34.90, ISBN 9783830937906.
The twelve articles in this volume explore the intersection between colonial and decolonial studies, the environment and UNESCO-sanctioned ideas of ‘world heritage’. In the words of Lowenthal, ‘Every community owes its identity and collective well-being to familiarity with place, attachments to inhabited and domesticated landscapes’. Heritage is thus very symbolic, powerful and contested. The principal question addressed by the volume is whether world heritage continues the process of Western domination over non-Western people.
The authors and editors of the volume come from a wide variety of disciplines and locations, mostly from social and cultural anthropology, geography, world literatures, cultural studies and journalism; they are originally from, or affiliated with, Germany, Barcelona, Spain, the United States, Austria, Jerusalem, Argentina and Britain.
In his book Ó Giolláin states, ‘The reasons for an interest in folklore varied substantially from country to country. [They included] scientific enquiry; self-affirmation within a movement for national liberation; the assertion of regional identity within the nation; nostalgia for a harmonious rural society at a time of urban proletarian radicalism.’ The same reasons are investigated in the volume. For example, scientific enquiry and the creation of a national heritage in modern nation-states are touched upon in Lüsebrink's study of the French politician Grégoire and in Lévêque's article on Stendhal's literary account of his journeys through France. Or again, the article by Del Mármol and Estrada demonstrates that nostalgia for a harmonious rural society has been capitalised by tourism marketers in the Catalan Pyrenees: urban dwellers visit the area to quench their thirst for an unspoilt bucolic experience, concealing the harsh reality of depopulation of those villages. The ideological dimensions of heritage are exemplified by Steel's article: he examines popular modern images of the Vikings in the United States that have been used by white supremacists to justify racial claims.
As cogently put by Lowenthal, cultural heritage studies are dominated by dispute; they are essentially an ideological battle zone. There is often a substantial power imbalance between the different parties. The articles by Carabelli and Probst are a case in point. Carabelli focuses on the recent incorporation of the Moroccan city of Casablanca in the UNESCO's World Heritage Sites List. While awareness of the architectural significance of twentieth-century buildings has been raised through the efforts of cultural associations, conflicts between civil society organisations and the minister have prevented the process from being completed faster. Probst applies Mauss’ idea of the gift as establishing reciprocal social relationships to the Nigerian city of Osogbo, including the World Heritage site of the Osun Sacred Grove: forests along the river, with temples and statues to the eponymous goddess. Every year a festival takes place in the grove and attracts many tourists. The festival has religious (Yoruba) connotations for some, historical-cultural connotations for others, and it brings much-needed money. However, permanent settlements, hunting, farming and fishing are all prohibited in the grove. The site embodies the tension between tourism and traditional local livelihoods.
The other articles in the volume tackle the concept of environment and climate change. Vogt analyses Ecuador's attempt to keep their oil in the ground in the Yasuní National Park, home to extraordinary biodiversity and indigenous people. The attempt has unfortunately failed, showing that developing nations often need to make a difficult choice between preserving their environment or economic development. Ellenblum shows that extreme weather phenomena were related to mass migration and cultural destruction in medieval Persia and Egypt. Knopf notes that the Inuits’ intimate knowledge of their landscape, too long belittled by Western scholars, can be used to understand and combat climate change. Kucich suggests an analysis of native and colonial texts from Canada and the United States through the lens of a shared landscape. Last but not least, Arregui warns against widespread ideas of heritage preservation; rather, as indigenous shamans remind us, we should ‘cultivate the sky’, or tend to our garden, the biosphere.
A strength of the volume is that it shows that the relationships between (de)colonialism, the environment and heritage are both fertile and fragile. Like the relationships between humans and nonhumans in indigenous traditions, they must be thoughtfully tended and cultivated. A weakness of the volume is that it gives considerably more voice to male rather than female scholars: of the fifteen writers represented by authors and editors, ten are men and only five women. In a book concerned with social justice and power imbalances, a more gender-balanced representation might have been expected.
World heritage itself, while often well-intentioned, stems from colonialism. UNESCO, though a global association, still holds an essentially Eurocentric view of heritage. The volume sheds light on the complexity and richness of heritage and the environment; it raises many urgent questions and provides a few possible solutions. It will appeal to anthropologists, folklorists, sociologists, geographers, environmentalists and, indeed, to anyone interested in understanding our fluid, multicultural world.
Dublin City University
Agnieszka Halemba (2015), Negotiating Marian Apparitions: The Politics of Religion in Transcarpathian Ukraine (Leipzig Studies on the History and Culture of East-Central Europe, vol. II) (Budapest: CEU Press), 312 pp., €52, ISBN 9786155053368.
Negotiating Marian Apparitions opens with a brief exposition of the apparitional events that led to the establishment of the Greek Catholic, Marian site of Dzhublyk in the Irshava District, whose boundaries coincided with the boundaries of the Irshava Deanery in the Mukachevo Greek Catholic Eparchy (27) in Transcarpathia – in the author's use: the Ukrainian state's current unit of administration (91), as these are recounted in the official publications of the site's managers. In 2002 the Virgin appeared to two young girls, stating in one of her initial appearances that the purpose of her visit was to help unite the people and the church and to restore priestly authority (Tsyipesh 2002). Despite the particularities the site may present, the apparitional events with which the book begins and in relation to the general patterns of which Dzhublyk is discussed (ch. 2) are not uncommon as such; they form part of a foundational story that is related in one form or another in many Marian sites around the world. The book's ethnographic focus is, however, less common. Structured around the Virgin's message (2, 60), which connects the site to wider sociopolitical matters (60) and is used by Halemba for its ‘interpretative potential’ (211), the book does not feature religious experience as the main focus of its investigation (5), centring instead around aspects of religion's organisation (3). These, Halemba argues, are important in the analysis of differences ‘observed on the ground’ between Christianity's branches (148, 21) as they generate ‘patterns according to which people's experiences are deemed religious’ (21).
Religious experiences, organisations and institutions are seen as interrelated but analytically distinct aspects of religion (5), and they form the three dimensions of the author's analytical perspective (6). Setting upon herself the task of ‘show[ing] the importance of the organization of religious life in a particular social and historical context’ (21), Halemba focuses on how religious institutions interact with what she terms ‘organizational emplacement’ (5), defined as ‘the inclusion of given practices within some organizational structure’ (21). The book's innovation lies in its examination of legitimation processes from the perspective of those who perceive themselves as having authority – that is, the Catholic priests and clergy and not only of the laity as the subordinate (206, see also 33). In this framework Dzhublyk is examined in terms of its management and ‘social significance’ and is used by Halemba as grounds for exploring questions of ‘identity and political belonging’ (2), of ‘authority, legitimacy, and power in religious organizations, as well as questions of religious and national unity in present-day Ukraine’ (37).
Looking at attempts to manage the site, Halemba notes that despite being controversial, Dzhublyk was able to remain ‘within the framework of the organizational church,’ thus succeeding in becoming a stable feature of the Transcarpathian ‘religious landscape’ (83, 85). Negotiations between the site's managers and the Mucachevo Greek Catholic Eparchy within the administration of which Dzhublyk is located (27; Halemba 2008: 336) are presented in light of changes in the eparchy's direction and its policies in relation to the site (ch. 5). Halemba notes the church authorities’ decision to not antagonize Dzhublyk's followers (221), showing how their concern was not with establishing the truthfulness of the apparitions but instead with the management of the site in ways that would benefit the church (80, 57, 78). The significance of the site is explored in the backdrop of Transcarpathia's relationship to the Ukrainian state, of the issue of national identity (89) and of the relations between the Mucachevo Greek Catholic Eparchy and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (88), the ‘two [ … ] independent structures of the Greek Catholic Church’ in Ukraine (98).
In keeping with her focus on the organisational aspects of religion and on priests, Halemba also looks at the latter's attempts to legitimise their authority among the Transcarpathian laity, the relations with which she sees as having been formed during Soviet times (151) and the underground activity of the Greek Catholic Church (156). Halemba argues that during postsocialism, the challenge was the revival not of religious life (26), which had survived and was transformed under socialism (24), but of organizational religion's ability of controlling religious experiences and institutions (26, 178). In the churches’ postsocialist attempts to regain control of the region's religious life, Halemba mainly traces the processes of differentiation between Catholic and Orthodox practices in the region (238). Dzhublyk is seen not only as ‘an extreme case of the’ Greek Catholic and Orthodox churches’ diversification (264) but also as a site where innovative religious practices are tested (230).
The book contains a wealth of data gathered through ethnographic fieldwork conducted in different villages and towns of Transcarpathia's Irshava District and/or Deanery. Fieldwork consisted of interviews with the Irshava Deanery's Greek Catholic priests, with ‘members of church councils’ of the region's villages and with parishioners as well as archival research and observation of pilgrimages organised by Transcarpathians, ceremonies commemorating the apparitions of Dzhublyk and various events that were organised in the region by the authorities of the eparchy (27–28). It will be of interest to anthropologists and historians working on the region and/or on pilgrimage and religion (Eastern Christianity in particular) and in postsocialist societies and beyond.
University of Toronto/University of Cyprus
Halemba, A. (2008), ‘From Dzhublyk to Medjugorje: The Virgin Mary as a Transnational Figure: Transnationalism and the Nation State’, Zeitschrift für Ostmitteleuropa-Forschung 57, no. 3: 329–345.
Tsyipesh, A. (2002), Ob'iavlennia Matinky Bozhoi Bilia Dherela Na Zakarpatti [Apparitions of the God's Mother Next to a Spring in Transcarpathia] (L'viv: Dobra knyzhka).
Carolyn Korsmeyer (ed.) (2017), The Taste Culture Reader: Experiencing Food and Drink (2nd ed.) (London: Bloomsbury Academic), 410 pp., $35.95, ISBN 9780857857897.
Anthropology has found itself increasingly defending its public role as a social science that matters, as a recent theme of the American Anthropological Association annual meetings asserted. Although contemporary anthropology shares much with other academic disciplines in the arts, humanities and social sciences in its reconfiguration of its public face, responsibilities and duties, there are some things that the various pursuits of anthropology have claimed as historically distinctive. One of the arguments for and against the social, political and economic relevance of anthropology is its reliance on ethnographic methodologies, which, despite decades of soul searching and intellectual debating, rely on some notion of the studying, understanding and appreciation of various aspects of peoples’ everyday and local experiences. It is thus not surprising that anthropology worldwide has increasingly contributed to scholarly investigations of food and drink, eating and drinking and the many sensory experiences tied to consumption, tastes and tasting. But many of these studies find it hard to balance an accurate portrait of the significance of food and drink in social life with an analysis of how these and other sensory experiences intersect with social theory.
A fine example of how an ethnographer can combine a finely detailed ethnographic study of local life in the city and of the city, as well as of matters that have import beyond the city in question (in this case, London), and to provide a sophisticated contribution to a broad range of social theories can be found in sociologist Alex Rhys-Taylor's Food and Multiculture. This ethnography offers a compelling portrait of food places, tastes, smells, textures and sounds in the neighbourhoods and boroughs of inner East London. It not only gives the reader a sense of what it is like to walk the streets of Brick Lane, Petticoat Lane, Whitechapel, Tower Hamlets, Hackney and even the financial hub of The City, by day and night, but it also demonstrates how charting the physical layout of food and dining offers a powerful insight into multicultural life and social change. A review of the many strengths of this book would almost qualify as a spoiler, but the chapter themes alone give some idea of how reading a book like this can itself challenge other senses. Rhys-Taylor reviews the origin and social relations involved in street food, fast food and new takes on traditional British foods that reflect the ethnic landscape of a changing global city. Halal katsu, combining Middle East and Japanese ingredients and sensibilities, are as readily on offer as are the eels that have long been a favourite of Eastenders, who now also need to solve the problems of how to savour and solve their bush meat and dirty chicken (each of these four foodstuffs being the subject of a chapter). How these foods figure in daily life but, more importantly, in the narrative local people offer of their past, present and future lives, beyond and in London, are the veritable ingredients of what I expect will become a classic contemporary ethnography. From my own experience of the anthropology of consumption, Rhys-Taylor's Food and Multiculture may be the best single ‘sensory ethnography’ yet produced.
This fine book also offers much food for thought (sorry) about the ways in which ethnography can contribute to wider theorising in the social sciences. Rhys-Taylor does this in two ways. He examines how ethnographic methodology is too dependent on seeing and observing to completely represent ‘the full range of forces carving the social morphology and cultural texture of cities’ (5). His valuable and persuasive corrective is to offer ethnography as utilising the nose, mouth and ears as well as a method in doing the research as much as in representing the research. His methodological afterword is itself worth the price of this book.
Rhys-Taylor also takes exception to recent social science of the city that asserts that it is difficult to understand the contemporary city from the perspective of the everyday lives of urban citizens and denizens, whose experiences ‘are simply too microscopic, myopic, self-involved and localized’ (3) to allow understanding of global forces that shape the urban scene. The theories and theorists who so argue are ably and comprehensively reviewed in a particularly persuasive introduction to what is in essence an ethnography of East London, achieving a difficult feat often attempted but seldom realised: a discussion of various theories related to ethnography, anthropology and cities that is balanced with finely detailed sensory exploration of the foods, sights, sounds, tastes and aesthetics of London street lives. And these street scenes are both enticing and repugnant, simultaneously and variously ‘sonorous, smelly and full of both delectable and stomach-churning things’ (2).
Anthropologists and anthropological ethnographers are not alone in their investigations of sensory experiences as a window on micro- and macro-formations of society, polity, economy and culture. Carolyn Korsmeyer's second edition of The Taste Culture Reader revises an already exceptionally well-received textbook that uses many excerpted classical works and essays commissioned for the volume on gustatory, aesthetic and other cultural and bodily experiences. The collection overall explores, largely for a student readership, the multidimensional contradictions in various social forms of a sense of taste. The forty-four chapters in this impressive volume include both case studies and theoretical treatises by anthropologists, philosophers, historians, sociologists, psychologists and literary scholars. In eight themed sections the volume looks at issues related to gustation and physiology, history, philosophy, health, emotions, memory and art. Although the majority of the contributions focus on food preparation, appreciation, delivery, enjoyment and its roles in all forms of social life, it would do an injustice to the book to leave an assessment of it at that. Here too, as in the Rhys-Taylor book, the real value of this work is highlighted in the subtitle: Experiencing Food and Drink. It offers an engaging and challenging set of readings that show how the tastes and tasting of food and drink are so inextricably tied to the artefacts of local, national and global cultures that theories of culture change cannot be complete without their inclusion. This book on its own can usefully stand as a primary text for undergraduate and postgraduate courses/modules on consumption or as a secondary text in any course that examines sensory experience. As such it is particularly relevant to anthropology, a field that relies on experience as its prime motivation for and defence of ethnography and the ethnographer.
Thomas M. Wilson
Binghamton University, State University of New York
Simon McKerrell and Gary West (2018), Understanding Scotland Musically: Folk, Tradition, Policy (Ashgate Popular and Folk Music Series) (Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge), 290 pp., Hardback £115, ISBN 9781138205222.
This collection of nineteen articles stems from an eponymous 2014 conference at Newcastle University. It seeks to highlight current scholarship in Scottish traditional music in an era of major change in terms of professionalised performance, approaches to academic study and governmental policy, particularly since Scottish political devolution in 1999. The editors are at the forefront of this research, and their ‘scholar-performer’ backgrounds, as eminent musicians as well as academics, give them particular insight, representing something of a common theme: several of the contributors to the book are noted performers themselves. This volume would therefore appeal to the wider Scottish traditional music community, so it is pleasing to see there is now a lower priced e-Book version (£20.00).
The book covers a lot of ground, addressing many topics with which practitioners and scholars in Scotland are currently grappling: intangible cultural heritage (ICH) in a constituent nation of the UK, a nonsignatory of the 2003 UNESCO convention, ideas of authenticity, professionalised performance, formalised education, oral transmission, creative individualism, funding policy, revivalism and globalisation. It comes at an important time, when the advent of university courses in Scottish music has converged in recent years with sound archive digitisation projects documenting oral tradition, such as Tobar an Dualchais / Kist o Riches, alongside a growing role for professional ‘folk’ performers in the global music marketplace.
The editors seek to establish a distinction between ‘folk’ and ‘traditional’ music in the introduction, based in part on their observations of professionalised performance. Given the overlaps of ‘Porosity, genres, hybridity’, as one of the four book sections is titled, this distinction is inevitably one with which other contributors tussle elsewhere in the book. David McGuinness’ article on the problem with ‘traditional’ is useful in this regard, provoking discussion of issues surrounding the mythology of origin and orality. However, his treatment of oral transmission is somewhat fleeting and does not consider evidence from the traditions of the (sometimes illiterate) Scottish Travellers, for example. McGuinness’ consideration of the ‘outsider’, which he contends can also mean musicians from other genres within Scotland, poses necessary questions that challenge the book's overall premise.
Simon McKerrell's case for Scottish traditional music as ICH that requires safeguarding feels more assumed or implied than clearly argued. With relatively few articles currently critiquing Scotland's ICH experience, an opportunity has been missed here. Other European approaches to traditional music and ICH are mentioned but ultimately not expounded. In exploring traditional music's sustainability, the conflict between its ‘endangerment’ as ICH versus growing ‘professionalisation’ (albeit for low financial return) is not fully interrogated and at times appears to be aiming for several targets with differing degrees of success.
Stuart Eydmann and Ronnie Gibson give essential accounts of aspects of instrumental traditions. Eydmann's article in particular is refreshing in its detailed analysis of revival movements of neglected instruments, informed by the principles of his own background in architectural conservation.
Aspects of the book's political thesis, stated in the publisher's description as ‘how traditional music performs Scottishness at this crucial moment in the public life of an increasingly (dis)United Kingdom’, are covered best in the preface, introduction and the editors’ own articles, alongside Mairi McFadyen's piece on engagement with the 2014 Scottish independence referendum and Meghan McAvoy's ‘Slaying the Tartan Monster’. Much of the rest of the book, however, looks at practice in particular contexts that do not depend so much on political identities but rather those that are local, geographical, linguistic or personal.
For readers outside the relatively small field of Scottish traditional music study, the order and sectioning of the book – which may result from its conference origin – makes for less satisfactory reading in terms of understanding the overall theme. David Francis’ vital article on the emergence of ‘traditional arts’ in Scottish cultural policy since the mid-twentieth century would have made a better opening piece to set the context; similarly, Gary West's and Karen McAulay's excellent pieces would have provided useful foregrounding earlier in the volume. A handful of articles, while strong on their own merits, feel like outliers in terms of the book's remit.
Although through a ‘Scottish’ lens, this is a thoughtful and wide-ranging book reflecting the multifarious concerns and challenges of researching and performing traditional music in the modern era. Perhaps more ethnology than musicology, it confirms a change in recent scholarship from analysing repertoire to the practice of music making. Simon Frith's afterword is crucial, setting the study in the wider field of ethnomusicology with threads and issues common to all musical genres. Frith encapsulates the lack of unanimity – acknowledged by the editors – around ideas of identity, tradition and politics, indicative of this still-emerging field of study as Scotland's political and civic landscape continues to shift and adjust and to which this book makes an important contribution.
Dino Numerato (2018), Football Fans, Activism and Social Change (London and New York: Routledge), 164 pp., Hardbook £102, ISBN 9781138911871; eBook £18.50, ISBN: 9781315692302.
This book offers a thorough analysis of football fans in the context of their social activism and relationships, including both fans’ engagements with the general public as well as with the management of their clubs and the football federations of their countries. It is the result of two years of work on the 2015–2017 project ‘Football Fandom, Reflexivity and Social Change’. Using primary and secondary sources, the situation was analysed in three European countries, with a few references to the wider picture at the European level. The empirical material consists of seventy-eight semistructured interviews with speakers from England, the Czech Republic and Italy as well as several relevant actors at the European level. Alongside semistructured interviews, the author states that he has conducted numerous informal conversations, which also form an important part of the empirical basis for exploring the phenomena with which this book deals. It should also be noted that the whole project included 250 hours of observation (mostly without participation) at various locations and events, including at football stadiums, protests, conferences and roundtable discussions.
In the introductory chapter the author clearly points out that football is going through a process of major transformation, regarding not just football as a game but also aspects surrounding football, primarily fans and their active role in this global phenomenon. The introductory chapter is called ‘Wind of Change’, suggesting that some new ‘winds are blowing’, originating in football stands across Europe. The changes mentioned in the title relate primarily to expressive elements of fans’ fighting against the commercialisation of sport – match boycotts, calls to the leaders of the clubs for a public debate and the expression of various slogans. This indicates that disagreement with the development of football has long crossed the boundaries of ‘marginal’ and numerically negligible social groups.
In the following chapter an analysis of three different types of fan activism is presented in three separate contexts (England, the Czech Republic and Italy) but with the clear aim of problematising the transnational dimension of this type of activism. When analysing the situation in these three countries, Numerato's analysis takes on features of a continuum, where England is on one side, the Czech Republic on the other and Italy in the middle. The pole of the continuum at which he placed England gives the impression of networking and the existence of clear continuity regarding the fellowship of fans and their knowledge of their rights. Conversely, the situation in the Czech Republic is described as much more passive, disaggregated and involving reactive resistance. Between these two countries lies Italy, in which Numerato claims there are indications of changes taking place in the triangle composed of fans, the football establishment and power. In a further analysis of the fan activism phenomenon, Numerato introduces an interesting discussion of the reflexivity of fans and social changes as the potential results of that same reflexivity. Reflexivity in this context is not perceived as an ‘internal conversation’ by an individual; instead, it is seen as an ‘external conversation’ focused on the sociocultural aspects of football.
The next chapter is devoted to fans’ relationship with ‘security’ processes surrounding football and stadiums. Often there is a firm belief that supporters’ groups are potential troublemakers by themselves, while not taking into account how often the behaviour of those who care about the safety of these same supporters is also problematic. Fans’ activism greatly contributes to changes in such established patterns, most notably by raising awareness among the general public, which is often unaware of the problems fans encounter when attending football stadiums, Numerato concludes. After supporters’ activities in the direction of the desecuritisation of football, Numerato analyses fans’ activism relating to sociocultural aspects in and around football. The fans’ ‘moral right’ in the struggles surrounding the processes of the globalisation and commodification of football is emphasised by their devotion to the symbolic aspects of the clubs they support. It is important to highlight that this ‘moral right’ is not a statement of fans’ ambition to be the exclusive owners of their club but rather consists of a demand for their inclusion in the decision-making process.
In the chapter preceding the conclusion the author addresses the question of the inclusion of fans in decision-making processes in clubs, the ownership structure of clubs and specific requests that can be heard ever more in fans’ statements. The basic process emphasised by a number of fans across Europe concerns the democratisation of the existing club-management system. Democratisation here also has a certain symbolic weight because the democratisation of football clubs can take football to where it once was – to being ‘the people's game’.
This book provides a detailed view of fan-based activism and of fans’ response to globalisation and commodification processes that have affected football over the past decades. By analysing fans’ activities, it can be said that some aspects of their struggles can be applied to an analysis of the wider social context. This book, with its extraordinary contribution to this field of social sciences, is an excellent roadmap for further research into the phenomena of fan activism and processes of change in modern sports, especially football.
Perri 6 and Paul Richards (2017), Mary Douglas: Understanding Social Thought and Conflict (New York: Berghahn), 246 pp., Paperback £24, ISBN 9781785335617.
Based on the premise that no one has grasped the larger design of Mary Douglas’ œuvre, Mary Douglas: Understanding Social Thought and Conflict is a thorough reconstruction of her lifelong intellectual project and a substantial endeavour towards understanding and contextualising her contributions to ‘what institutions are and how they work, to explain styles of human thought, and to understanding the fundamental basis of social conflict and its containment’ (vii). Considering Douglas to have been one of the ‘most important theorists working in the social sciences in the twentieth century’ (vii) and a rigorous disciple of Durkheim, Perri 6 and Paul Richards aim at tracing her ‘spiralling rather than linear’ (viii) – but substantially coherent – overarching programme. The final goal of the volume is to demonstrate that ‘her arguments constitute a novel and sophisticated understanding of the dynamics of the amplification and the attenuation of dissension among and between human groups’ (viii) and to provide ways to overcome the contemporary impasse in the social sciences.
Divided into four beautifully written thematic chapters and a concluding section dedicated to a final assessment of her contribution to understanding social thought and conflict, the book is a sort of critical (but affectionate) hermeneutic of Douglas’ work. The authors first cover the period from the mid-1950s to 1970, when Douglas first created and then used in comparative analysis key concepts derived from her fieldwork among the Lele of the Kasai (Western Congo), such as classification, symbolisation, meaning, ritual and anomaly. Focusing then on the 1970s to the mid-1980s, they analyse her turn to Western societies’ contemporary issues, such as risk, consumption and environmentalism, underlining how she detoured through economics and political science in order to develop a typology of a limited number of elementary forms of social organisation. Moreover, they show that from mid-1970s until the mid-1990s Douglas systematically worked out the microfoundations ‘for a social science capable of explaining the full range of human social organization and thought styles’ (10), whilst the last period of her life was dedicated – using, most surprisingly, the Hebrew Bible as her source of ethnographic data – ‘to understanding how institutions can be changed in ways that might attenuate or channel conflict, or about how positive feedback dynamics might be arrested before they result in disorganization and violence’ (145). Additionally, as demonstrated in the final chapter, where Richards and 6 discuss examples from their own (and other disciples’) work, the volume includes some possible applications of her theory.
Mary Douglas: Understanding Social Thought and Conflict, however, betrays some weaknesses in its compositional and expositive structure as well as the methodology used. Although I openly support the chronological reconstruction the authors adopted, I am inclined to think that an introductory chapter should have been dedicated to a clear and thorough explanation of the main characteristics of Douglas’ fourfold typology of elementary forms of social organisation and her 1986 text How Institutions Think. In fact, although the book is intended for advanced students of the social sciences and is exquisitely written, it does not always come as an ‘accessible introduction to the main features of Douglas's theory, and its structure and implications’ (xi). A pity, as such a choice is likely to prevent the presentation of Douglas’ achievements to a potentially larger audience, favouring on the contrary the allocation of this work to a niche market.
Moreover, an introduction of this kind would have made explicit their historiographical perspective. Essentially, Mary Douglas: Understanding Social Thought and Conflict is built on a ‘reverse approach’: starting from the late completion and comprehension of her work, it looks back to reconstruct the puzzle of Douglas’ greatly misunderstood œuvre. Without a clear methodological positioning, even if not intended to be a ‘work of scholarly or antiquarian duty’ (ix), the volume suffers from an intrinsic fragility. The very opposite of ‘antiquarianism’ (understood in the ‘nondisqualifying’ sense of ‘historicism’), it is indeed a very much ‘presentist’ (Stocking 1968; Dimpflmeier 2014) reconstruction of Douglas’ intellectual trajectory – which turns out to be driven by a sort of ever-present, secretly hidden programme eventually supporting 6 and Richards’ actual and future agendas – a suspicion that grows even more when we consider the fact that it remains (deliberately?) vague on the subject of whether Douglas herself had ever had such a clear insight on her research agenda either before or after 1986.
Mary Douglas: Understanding Social Thought and Conflict, concerns regarding historical methodology and legitimacy aside, is an ambitious and compelling work. The volume bravely reproposes Douglas’ theory and some of its empirical operationalisations that deserve close attention in rethinking the future of social sciences – an extremely challenging task that would have probably been aided by a more detailed and extensive explanation of what the Douglasian theory has to offer in comparison with other approaches with regard to overcoming our contemporary scientific impasse. Nowadays we are no doubt in need of more audacious theories (and books) that try to find ‘very distinctive and potentially highly fruitful way[s] beyond this evident explanatory road block’ (ix) and some convincing application to guide us through and out of our everyday conflicting societies and cultures.
La Tuscia University of Viterbo – I.R.I.A.E.
Dimpflmeier, F. (2014), ‘Towards a Path of Social Responsibility: Interdisciplinary Approaches between History and Anthropology’, in G. Czene (ed.), Good Governance, Sustainable Development and the Education of the Future Generation of Scientists (Budapest: Grafcom), 119–157.
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Stocking, G. W. (1968), ‘On the Limits of “Presentism” and “Historicism” in the Historiography of the Behavioral Sciences’, in Race, Culture, Evolution: Essays in the History of Anthropology (New York: Free Press), 1–12.
Sahar Sarreshtehdari (2017), Das ist so typisch persisch! Eine Untersuchung diasporischer Erinnerungskulturen am Beispiel der zweiten Generation iranischer MigrantInnen in Deutschland [That Is So typically Persian! A Study of Diasporic Memory Cultures Exemplified by Second-Generation Iranian Migrants in Germany] (Münster: Waxman), 332 pp., €39.90, ISBN 9783830936732.
Out of five million Iranians living abroad, 130,000 found a new home in Germany. In public discourse this group is often referred to as model migrants, owing to their high levels of education and their inclination to choose prestigious professions such as medicine or law. In an empirical study based on semistructured interviews with second-generation migrants from Iran, Sahar Sarreshtehdari offers extensive insights into the life worlds of these individuals. She explores their family narratives and conceptualisations of being Iranian and asks for the impact of such considerations on their biographies. She thus contributes to an emerging field of study – the collective memory of migrant populations.
The study is rooted in a classical memory studies framework, drawing on theorists such as Maurice Halbwachs, Aby Warburg, Pierre Nora and Aleida and Jan Assman. They claim that memory is socially transmitted and, to a large degree, socially constructed: (assumed) shared experiences support the formation and maintenance of a group identity. Besides the family as a memory collective, Sarreshtehdari introduces the diaspora as a group for which cultivation of shared memories is constitutive and identifies social media, specifically three topical Facebook groups, as a place where (potentially) collective memories are negotiated. This original case study makes a convincing point about the simultaneity of unification and diversification in memory matters: the web is a space for low-threshold participation and, thus, facilitates the spread of alternative memory configurations. At the same time it is subjected to mainstreaming tendencies: the ways in which algorithms and online sociality work amplifies certain voices while others are silenced.
The analysis of the interviews confirms some findings that are widely established in current scholarship on second-generation migrants: they share a strong sense of belonging to their ancestors’ place of residence while being simultaneously repulsed by it. This ambiguity is partly caused by the political and social predicaments they identify and partly by the lack of implicit knowledge that personal visits reveal. Finally, they appropriate the term Migrationshintergrund (literally, migration background), which often evokes negative connotations, stressing instead the wealth of properties and cultural expression their dual rootedness allows for.
Next to these widely observed dynamics the study also reveals some aspects specific to Iranians: they came to Germany under very different conditions. During and after the Islamic Revolution supporters of the Shah, secular groups and women fled the country; later young men fled military service in the Iran-Iraq War. Throughout, Iranians arrived in Germany to study or work there. Consequently, the Iranian diaspora is divided into subgroups with significantly different worldviews, ranging from Muslim to secular and from monarchist to leftist. The evaluation of the Facebook group reveals that the Iranian diaspora in Germany is polarised and argues passionately over various issues, while most respondents claim they have little contact with Iranians outside the digital sphere. An interesting feature of young Iranians is the playful usage of the two terms available to describe their origin. For some the denotation ‘Persian’ is associated with historical grandeur and offers an opportunity to disassociate themselves from the unbeloved current Iranian state. Others reject the label ‘Persian’ as nostalgic and sentimental and prefer to charge the denomination ‘Iranian’ positively through their own example.
While providing a compelling portrait of second-generation Iranian migrants in Germany, the study does not fulfil the potential offered by its own data to reflect upon notions of collectivity more generally. The theoretical framework of the text proposes that shared experience and memory foster identity and collectivity. Although acknowledging the ambiguous, fragmented, shifting nature of collective memory, the author never fully abandons the idea of a structuring narrative underlying all Iran-related communication, having certain (although differing) implications on individual life courses. Although this may hold true for family compounds, the empirical material suggests that it does not on the diaspora level. Neither is there any authority equipped with the reach and credibility to implement a set of ‘ratified’ memories with respective meanings. Nor does it seem that individuals seek the support of a diasporic collective. Self-positioning, even if informed by homologous family narratives, is a highly personal and introspective project. The book features many accounts of agentive individuals who ponder the ways in which both the Iranian and the German social context influences them and consciously appeal at least some of these determinations. Remembering can only take place in individual minds, and thus, not only the content but also the belief in the existence of a collective memory is the outcome of an individual perspective. Although for some the uniting power of ‘being Iranian’ is uncontested, for others such an emotional quality of a shared identity does not come into view. These insights from the interviews could have been used to venture a critique of conventional conceptualisations of collective and diaspora memory.
The author herself implicitly corroborates this interpretation. She belongs to the group she is studying; however, she made the elegant decision to treat her own experiences separately, leaving it up to the reader to integrate her narrative into the bigger picture. These honest and engaging reflections describe a lifelong project of confronting and readjusting her image of Iran and Iranians. Letting go of inherited narratives and moving towards a greyer, more malleable conception is described as a frightening but eventually liberating process.
Theorists of memory and diaspora studies will find little new insights in this book. It does present a multifaceted and accessible representation of Iranian diasporic life in Germany, which will be of great value for scholars of Iranian migration as well as for practitioners in integration services. I believe it can also be an enriching read for anyone identifying him- or herself with this group.
Getraud Seiser (ed.) (2017), Ökonomische Anthropologie. Einführung und Fallbeispiele, (Wien: Facultas), 412 pp., €26.90, ISBN 9783708908359.
This volume represents the first comprehensive introduction to economic anthropology in German. Like Anthropologie der Mythen and Anthropologie der Migration of the same series from Facultas publishing house, the volume addresses undergraduate students of anthropology and related social science disciplines. The authors all belong to the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Vienna, where economic anthropology is part of the mandatory undergraduate programme.
The volume starts with two overview chapters introducing the reader to the field of economic anthropology. The first is a well-composed overview of the historical development in the field and a description of its main thinkers and paradigms (Gertraud Seiser), summarised in a one-page graphic (Martin Thalhammer). The following chapter discusses key concepts in economic anthropology, such as subsistence economy and work, surplus production, commodity and gift exchange, value, reciprocity, consumption, scarcity and affluence (Gertraud Seiser and Martin Thalhammer).
The second part comprises topical contributions that discuss the economic anthropological perspectives in their respective research fields – three of which are in English (Tatiana Thelen, Ayse Caglar, Manuela Zips-Mairitsch and Werner Zips). The volume stands out because of its geographical coverage of all continents and topical variety of research fields, demonstrating the relevance of economic anthropological questions on a wide spectrum. Each chapter discusses key concepts mentioned in the introduction in relation to one or a few particular research fields in anthropology (kinship, migration, gender, morality, nature – to name but a few) and provides a short list of key readings at the end.
The volume is not intended as an overview of the most recent fields of study in economic anthropology (13); rather, it intends to equip the reader with a groundwork to approach recent economic anthropological literature and locate it within the wider discipline of anthropology. Several chapters treat more classical fields and concepts focused on one particular people and/or form of livelihood: household production (Patricia Zuckerhut); gift exchange, reciprocity and exchange in Amazonia (Hermann Mückler); the relation to nature among foraging, herding, nomadic and intensive agricultural societies (Andre Gingrich); and social ecology, nature and myth among the Shuar and Achuar (Elke Mader).
Chapters covering more recent research fields emphasize the global intertwining of economic practices in particular research sites: the role migrants play in the global positioning of cities (Ayse Caglar), migrant care workers in the global economy of compassion (Herta Nöbauer), commodification of body parts (Bernhard Hadolt) and global art markets (Thomas Fillitz). Some contributions treat specifically the manoeuvres at the interface of ‘economies’ in plural. Especially noteworthy are chapters on the transformation of collective to private property in the postsocialist context (Tatjana Thelen), on the subsistence economy and waged labour in relation to the cultural concepts of hierarchy and equality in Central Morocco (Wolfgang Kraus) and on the partial inclusion of Aborigines in Australia in urbanisation processes (Gabriele Weichart). A set of longue durée historical anthropological approaches investigate hunter and gatherer societies between subsistence and cash economy and their cohabitation of Alaskan forests with international oil companies (Peter Schweitzer) as well as transfrontier conservation areas in South Africa that lead to the displacement of local land-using communities (Manuela Zips-Mairitsch and Werner Zips).
The contributions vary in terms of focus. Some present case studies with a focus on demonstrating a particular concept of economic anthropology in a didactical manner: Thelen uses the case of restoring private property in agricultural land in postsocialist Hungary to demonstrate why property relations are not ‘just about economy’ (145). Kraus discusses the relation of economic and social structures by looking at the partial integration of the cash economy – the role of the suq market and the waged menial labour obtained by marginalised Imlwan – in an otherwise culturally egalitarian society of the Ayt Hadiddu subsistence farmers in Central Morocco. Others introduce the reader to an innovative research perspective: Caglar argues for the necessity to theorise locality in migration research and the concept of migrants as city scalers; Fillitz analyses art markets as particular social fields, three of which he characterises by the logics of gambling, glamour and moral economy, respectively, and thus shows them to be a phenomenon of ‘millennial capitalism’; Nöbauer analyses care migrants in the context of a global economy of compassion; Zips suggests a perspective on religious practice among Jamaican revival churches through Bourdieu's praxeology and diverse types of capital.
Finally, there are two chapters presenting main currents and developments within a specific subfield: Darbinger gives a useful overview over anthropological approaches to consumer studies, which tend to be a neglected area in economic anthropology, and Zuckerhut introduces the reader to anthropological studies of household production, a classical key field of economic anthropology that students of anthropology will need in order to understand the wider field.
At times the two aims of the volume – both to introduce the field of economic anthropology and to present the research done at the Vienna Department of Anthropology – are conflicting. Although the volume generally succeeds in making its main point on the relevance of an economic anthropological perspective in any subfield of anthropology, some chapters are overlapping in their main points, and concepts that have been developed specifically in one contribution are used without significantly advancing the reader's understanding of it in another.
The volume manages to show the wide spectrum of concepts and research perspectives that come together in economic anthropology and its various subfields. It presents a timely and useful introduction to the economic anthropology for German-speaking students.