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Open access

Not-Russians on TV

Class, Comedy, and the Peculiarities of East European Otherness on 2 Broke Girls

Erica L. Fraser

Abstract

This article discusses portrayals of a Ukrainian and a Polish character on the US sitcom 2 Broke Girls (2011–2017). The pilot episode reveals that the showrunners used stereotypes of Russian characters to establish different national origins for Oleg and Sophie. The show perpetuates offensive stereotypes of Slavic and postsocialist characters to elide differences from Russians but with notable distinctions—stemming from Oleg and Sophie's economic backgrounds in the struggling postsocialist economies of the 1990s. American television has produced many comedic characters from the European margins (Greek, Czech, Ukrainian, Polish, Latvian, or from invented but East European-coded lands) who were understood as chaotic but loveable. Crucially, however, they were not Russian. From the late Cold War through the 2010s, Russianness onscreen seems to consistently signal dishonesty, danger, or hopelessness for Western audiences. This suggests that while stereotypes persist, in comedy, at least, showrunners use East Europeans to support, not threaten, American characters, further othering Russianness.

Open access

The Power of Musical Aesthetics

Ritual and Emotion in Contemporary Moroccan Sufism

Bruno Ferraz Bartel

Abstract

This article explores the role of music in eliciting emotional states among the Hamdouchiya Sufi order in Morocco. It highlights the aesthetic aspects of Sufi rituals as relational activities that impact sensory perceptions and mystical experiences. Music serves as a medium through which emotions are expressed, self-imagination takes form, and challenges to the study of rituals are presented. Aesthetics plays a pivotal role in Sufi practice and belief, involving the body as a vessel for spiritual transformation and interaction with music as reflections of the divine. The article also discusses the concept of aesthetics within a cultural context, emphasising its influence on socialisation and morality. Sufism provides an opportunity to contemplate the limits of the mind, self and emotions, thereby unveiling the ritualistic shaping of one's spiritual existence.

Open access

Religence

Conceptualising Posthuman Religion

Michael W. Scott

Abstract

In this article I contribute to posthuman anthropology by developing two lines of thought. I first suggest that the post-Cartesian ontology integral to posthumanism accommodates a new scientifically informed version of negative theology. I then explore how this new negative theology implies a posthuman religion. By analysing Michel Serres's reconceptualisation of religion as the opposite of negligence and engaging with efforts to build on this thought by Tim Ingold and Bruno Latour, I develop a theory of posthuman religion I call religence. With the innovation of this term, I bring posthuman religion into view and, to show how religence may be approached anthropologically, I draw on Anna Tsing's ‘critical description’ of the interdependence between Tricholoma fungi and pine trees. Religence, I conclude, is best understood not as a single pervasive and unchanging mode of relating that can eliminate negligence, but as a plurality of provisional and shifting religence–negligence complexes.

Résumé

Dans cet article, je contribue à l'anthropologie posthumaniste en développant deux axes de réflexion. Je suggère d'abord que l'ontologie postcartésienne, qui fait partie intégrante du posthumanisme, s'adapte à une nouvelle version scientifiquement informée de la théologie apophatique ou négative. En tant que forme de non-dualisme relationnel, l'ontologie posthumaine permet de conceptualiser un dieu incomplet et inconnaissable, néanmoins sous-entendu dans les performances de toutes choses. J'explore ensuite comment cette nouvelle théologie négative implique une religion posthumaine. Je dénoue les fils étymologiques de la reconceptualisation de la religion par Michel Serres, selon laquelle la religion est l'opposé de la négligence, et suis les efforts de Tim Ingold et Bruno Latour qui visent à construire sur cette pensée. C'est à partir de cela que je développe une théorie de la religion posthumaine que j'appelle la religence. Avec l'innovation de ce terme, je mets en lumière la religion posthumaine et, afin de montrer la façon par laquelle la religence peut être abordée de manière anthropologique, je m'appuie sur la « critical description » d'Anna Tsing de l'interdépendance entre les champignons Tricholoma et les pins. Je conclus que la religence doit être mieux comprise non pas comme un mode relationnel unique, omniprésent et immuable, capable d’éliminer la négligence, mais comme une pluralité de religions-négligences provisoires et changeantes.

Open access

Reports

Hamza Esmili

Charlotte al-Khalili, Waiting for the Revolution to End: Syrian Displacement, Time and Subjectivity (London: UCL Press, 2023), xix +235pp., 8 figures, ISBN: 978-1-80008-505-3 (Hbk); ISBN: 978-1-80008-504-6 (Pbk); ISBN: 978-1-80008-503-9 (ePDF); ISBN: 978-1-80008-506-0 (ePub); https://doi.org/10.14324/111.9781800085039.

Open access

Reviews

Cristiana Panella, Quirin Rieder, João Pina-Cabral, Florian Muehlfried, and Luisa Steur

Herzfeld, Michael. 2021. Subversive Archaism. Troubling Traditionalists and the Politics of National Heritage, Durham and London: Duke University Press. 239 pp. Ppb.: $25.95. ISBN: 9781478017622.

Walter, Anna-Maria. 2021. Intimate Connections: Love and Marriage in Pakistan's High Mountains. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. 244 pp. Pb.: US$37.95, ISBN: 9781978820487.

Segalen, Martine. 2022. Destins Français. Essai d'auto-ethnographie familiale. Paris: CREAPHIS Editions. 314 pp. Pb.: €12.00, ISBN: 9782354281823.

Lazarev, Egor. 2023. State-Building as Lawfare: Custom, Sharia, and State Law in Postwar Chechnya. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 321 pp. Hb.: £75.00, ISBN: 9781009245951.

Campbell, Stephen. 2022. Along the Integral Margin: Uneven Development in a Myanmar Squatter Settlement. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. 210 pp. Hb.: US$51.95, ISBN: 9781501764882.

Open access

The Romanovs on Contemporary American TV

Nostalgia for White Imperialism

Katharina Wiedlack

Abstract

This article analyzes the Netflix six-part docudrama The Last Czars as well as the Amazon Prime anthology drama The Romanoffs for its representations of Russian imperial history and its heritage. Using an intersectional lens, it utilizes a close watching of the TV shows to identify a nostalgia for Russia's imperial legacy as core element of both series. Embedding the findings within popular culture, the analysis further shows that the nostalgic depiction of the last Russian imperial family and the mourning of their loss has a century-long history within American media. Comparing these depictions further to recent commemorations of the last Romanovs through the exhibitions Russia My History points to the Western complicity in Russian imperialist and colonial ideology through the recent shows in liberal American media.

Restricted access

Russians at the Gates

Spies, Saboteurs, and Provocateurs in Jack Ryan 3 and Treason

Denise J. Youngblood

Abstract

This article analyzes two recent streaming series—the third season of Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan (Prime, USA, 2022) and the limited series Treason (Netflix, UK, 2022)—as aspects of “Cold War II,” the increasingly common term for the resurgence of anti-Russian attitudes and stereotypes in Anglophone cinema and television that has been apparent since 2010. These two series reflect a shared fear of Russians and offer interesting and illuminating points of comparison, especially regarding their definitions of the threat (internal or external), the battleground (at home or abroad), and strategies for confronting the enemy (shoot ’em up or run and hide). At the same time, these series reflect different national concerns, with Jack Ryan 3 as one of many US-produced spy thrillers that trumpet aggressive, offensive action in a way that deflects attention from the country's serious divisions and protracted domestic crises. Treason, on the other hand, engages with British concerns over corruption in the UK's police and security services. Finally, the series’ differing treatments of the relationship of the not-so-distant past to present dangers (real and perceived) is also noteworthy, if puzzling; the demise of the Soviet Union is central to the crisis in Jack Ryan 3 but only glancingly mentioned in Treason.

Free access

The Strawpeople of Russian, Eastern European, and Soviet History in English-Language TV and Film

Erica L. Fraser and Danielle C. Kinsey

Abstract

This special issue features historical scholars of imperial Russia and the Soviet Union analyzing representations of Russian and East European characters and history in contemporary Anglophone television and films, such as The Americans, Black Widow, The Great, For All Mankind, and Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. They identify several tropes that shore up Anglosphere conceptions of progressiveness, liberalism, feminism, and even whiteness in ways that put pressure on geopolitics today, which some have characterized as a second Cold War. Gender and sexuality are dominant themes through which difference between the West and Eastern Europe is commonly staged onscreen. Debate emerges on whether this is a return to twentieth-century thinking or a new vision of Russian and East European otherness.

Open access

Suspicion and Evidence

On the Complexities of Online Truth-Seeking in Times of Uncertainty

Mathijs Pelkmans

Abstract

How do people discern between truth and untruth? What characterises their engagements with evidence? Some progress in answering these huge questions can be made by exploring them in conditions of radical epistemic uncertainty, such as the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the virus's behaviour was largely unknown and the efficacy of interventions unknowable. This article focuses on the workings of suspicion and its relationship with evidence, doing so by analysing conversations collected in a Facebook discussion group devoted to ‘Covid truth’. It argues that suspicion produces its own forms of falsification but has a contentious relationship with positive truth. By outlining the epistemic labour of self-avowed truth seekers, the article elucidates some of the mechanisms by which Covid conspiracy theories proliferated and explains why its partakers were convinced that they had a critical edge over the rest of us.

Résumé

Comment les gens discernent-ils entre vérités et non-vérité ? Qu'est-ce qui caractérise leur recherche de la preuve ? Certains progrès dans la réponse à ces grandes questions ont pu être faites par leur exploration en contexte d'incertitude épistémique radicale, tel que celui des premiers mois de la pandémie, alors que le comportement du virus était encore largement inconnu et l'efficacité des interventions mise en œuvre encore largement inconnues. Cet article se concentre sur le travail de la suspicion et sa relation à la preuve, à travers l'analyse de conversations collectées sur un groupe de discussion Facebook consacré à « la vérité du Covid ». Il défend l'idée que la suspicion produit ses propres formes de falsification, mais a une relation passionnée avec la vérité positive. En dessinant les contours du travail épistémique des chercheurs auto-proclamés de vérité, cet article met au jour certains des mécanismes par lesquels les théories conspirationnistes du Covid ont proliféré et explique pourquoi ceux qui les ont en partage sont si persuadés d'avoir la lucidité critique qui fait défaut au reste d'entre nous.

Open access

There is No Place Like al-Dār

Everyday Entanglements in a Cairene Islamic Studies Institute

Alia Shaddad

Abstract

A Dār is a space that offers various courses and programmes that teach the Quran, the Hadith and the different branches of Islamic knowledge that derive from, and are in conversation with, both. The question this article intends to explore is: what is the Dār? It does so by looking at the temporal and geographic context the Dār exists in, and how it is situated historically, as well as its everyday rhythms. The vignettes presented throughout the article provide insight into the ways in which a space of knowledge can exist, teasing the bounds of structure, order and rigidity, allowing us to explore potential imaginaries to the ways we have experienced, and the ways we imagine, Islamic spaces of knowledge to be.