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“We Do Not Exist”

Illness, Invisibility, and Empowerment of Communities Struck by the Fracking Boom

Kristen M. Schorpp

Gullion, Jessica Smart. 2015. Fracking the Neighborhood: Reluctant Activists and Natural Gas Drilling. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Wylie, Sara Ann. 2018. Fractivism: Corporate Bodies and Chemical Bonds. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

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Urban tourism via dispossession of oeuvres

Labor as a common denominator

Marc Morell

Most of the anthropology of tourism has focused either on authenticity or on the commoditization of culture. Furthermore, tourism has been looked at as a service sector and, at most, as an urban strategy. Few authors have investigated the organization of (in)formal labor in the tourism industry outside the wage form. I address this gap by looking at the living and dead labor that the production of cultural heritage is about. I argue that the tourism industry transforms long-labored spaces and existing collective use values into commodities. After illustrating this argument with sketches from the Ciutat de Mallorca (Balearic Islands, Spain), I conclude that the relation between the dead labor and the living labor that produce heritage determines people’s differential access to its commoditized outcome.

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Rethinking Adaptation

Emotions, Evolution, and Climate Change

Debra J. Davidson

Understanding that climate change poses considerable threats for social systems, to which we must adapt in order to survive, social responses to climate change should be viewed in the context of evolution, which entails the variation, selection, and retention of information. Digging deeper into evolutionary theory, however, emotions play a surprisingly prominent role in adaptation. This article offers an explicitly historical, nondirectional conceptualization of our potential evolutionary pathways in response to climate change. Emotions emerge from the intersection of culture and biology to guide the degree of variation of knowledge to which we have access, the selection of knowledge, and the retention of that knowledge in new (or old) practices. I delve into multiple fields of scholarship on emotions, describing several important considerations for understanding social responses to climate change: emotions are shared, play a central role in decision-making, and simultaneously derive from past evolutionary processes and define future evolutionary processes.

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Hadas Weiss

My goal in this forum essay is to brush the dust off Claude Meillassoux’s (1981) magnum opus, Maidens, Meal and Money, by demonstrating its relevance for the present day. While Meillassoux wrote primarily about precapitalist agricultural communities, he had sketched on their basis a model of social reproduction that incorporates social investments and powers, and he foregrounded the hierarchical and exploitative reproductive orders by which capitalism sustains accumulation. In the context of a renewed interest by feminist scholars in questions of social reproduction, I argue that the analytical tools developed by Meillassoux are at least as helpful in making sense of the age of financialization.

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Marxist morphologies

A materialist critique of brute materialities, flat infrastructures, fuzzy property, and complexified cities

Michał Murawski

This article critiques assumptions made by urban anthropologists and other scholars of cities, focusing on currently fashionable theories of infrastructure, materiality, and complexity. It problematizes how scholarship informed by actor-network theory, assemblage theory and other varieties of (post)postmodernism uses morphological optics and metaphors to represent social life, the material world, and existence itself as necessarily “flat,” “complex” or “fuzzy.” As a corrective, it proposes reorienting our social morphologies with reference to a Marxist notion of infrastructure, founded on a dynamic understanding of the relationship between determining economic base and determined superstructure. It constructs its theoretical edifice with reference to the remaking of post-1945 Warsaw as a socialist city through property expropriation and monumental architectural and planning works, and post-1989 attempts to unmake its socialist character through property reprivatization and unplanning.

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Introduction

Marxian anthropology resurgent

Patrick Neveling and Luisa Steur

This introduction, coming out during the two hundredth anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth, discusses the distinctiveness of Marxian anthropology and what it has to offer to our efforts at understanding, and confronting, the complexities of the social contradictions constituted by—and constitutive of—twenty-first century capitalism. The article points out common denominators of Marxian anthropology going back to Marx’s insights, but also offers a cursory social history of the diverse lineages of enquiry within Marxian anthropology, shaped by the relations and inequalities of the context in which they emerged. Finally, we discuss certain crucial fields of engagement in contemporary Marxian anthropology as reflected in this theme section’s contributions.

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Gramsci in and beyond resistances

The search for an autonomous political initiative among a subaltern group in the Beninese savanna

Riccardo Ciavolella

Stemming from a Gramscian approach, this article engages with the anthropological debate about subaltern groups’ forms of resistance by using the case of marginalized Fulani groups of pastoral and nomadic origins in northwest Benin. Their experiences seemingly confirm contemporary theories on resistance, which emphasize subaltern people’s capacities to tactically circumvent exploitation and exclusion and to handle contradictions between different “moral economies.” Nevertheless, one should question the impact of small-scale reactions that remain on the infrapolitical level and the emancipatory role that political theories give to tactical forms of resistance of dispersed subjectivities while refusing collective strategies. Grounding Gramscian theories in ethnography, this article wonders about the possibilities and limits of margins to turn into the scene of an “autonomous political initiative” of a subaltern group.

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Environmental Expertise as Group Belonging

Environmental Sociology Meets Science and Technology Studies

Rolf Lidskog and Göran Sundqvist

What is environmental expertise? The background to this question is that many scholars consider environmental expertise crucial for discovering, diagnosing, and solving environmental problems but do not discuss in any depth what constitutes expertise. By investigating the meaning and use of the concept of expertise in three general theories within environmental sociology—the treadmill of production, risk society, and ecological modernization— and findings from science and technology studies (STS), this article develops a sociological understanding of environmental expertise: what it is and how it is acquired. Environmental expertise is namely about group belonging and professional socialization around specialized skills; that is, it concerns both substantial competence and social recognition. The implications of this general view on expertise are then used to enrich theories in environmental sociology.

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Elite ethnography in an insecure place

The methodological implications of “studying up” in Pakistan

Rosita Armytage

Based on ethnographic research conducted with the wealthiest and most powerful business owners and politicians in urban Pakistan from 2013 to 2015, this article examines the particular set of epistemological and interpersonal issues that arise when studying elite actors. In politically unstable contexts like Pakistan, the relationship between the researcher and the elite reveals shifting power dynamics of class, gender, and national background, which are further complicated by the prevalence of rumor and the exceptional ability of elite informants to obscure that which they would prefer remain hidden. Specifically, this article argues that the researcher’s positionality, and the inversion of traditional power dynamics between the researcher and the researched, can ameliorate, as well as exacerbate, the challenges of undertaking participant observation with society’s most powerful.

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Franco Ruzzenenti and Aleksandra Wagner

The aim of the article is to discuss the unintended consequences of energy efficiency, in the context of defuturization, by addressing the phenomenon of the rebound effect. The energy discourse is presented as ideological discourse protecting the status quo, even if it contemplates alternatives solutions. The interpretation of energy efficiency in the light of the Luhmannian concept of temporal structures in the modern society is proposed, and two types of expert narratives on the rebound effect are outlined: the mechanistic rebound effect and the systemic Jevons paradox. Finally, we explain why none of them are noticeably reflected in public discourse on energy policy and are limited to the scientific milieu.