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Open access

The Dynamics of Language Endangerment

A Comparative Study

Brigitte Pakendorf

Abstract

Most languages spoken by the “small-numbered indigenous peoples of the North” are currently highly endangered or extinct, yet there are big differences in vitality between languages and even dialects. I here discuss the factors that have shaped the current levels of endangerment of three Northern Tungusic lects: the Lamunkhin dialect of Even, the Bystraia dialect of Even, and Negidal. All three communities have lived through the sociopolitical changes associated with the Soviet era, and yet Negidal is nearly extinct, Bystraia Even is spoken only by adults, and Lamunkhin Even is still being passed on to children. The factors favoring language vitality that emerge from this study are the maintenance of cohesive and compact speech communities without forced resettlements and a relative minority of newcomers.

Free access

Editorial

Liana Chua, Natalia Buitron, and Timothy Cooper

Reassuringly (or otherwise), the above paragraph reads more like the contents of a junk mailbox than an accurate depiction of our first special issue of 2024. Even so, there are uncanny glimpses of plausibility – ‘in the era of’; ‘wield unprecedented influence’; ‘intricate role in shaping narratives, policies, and individual experiences’; ‘the evolving dynamics between’. These rest less on their content than on their lexical, performative familiarity: they look and sound like the sort of thing you would find in academic journals. Put differently, these phrases seem plausible not because of what they say, but because of how they are strung together, evaluated and recognised.

Free access

Editorial

Penny Welch and Susan Wright

This issue of Learning and Teaching: The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences features authors from Spain, the Netherlands, the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Iraq. They write about a new degree in Global Digital Humanities, academics’ understandings of what constitutes ‘good science’, the role of academic middle managers, what PhD graduates in non-academic careers actually do and obstacles to promotion for academics.

Free access

Editorial

Isabelle Rivoal, Dimitra Kofti, and Arne Harms

‘Winter is coming!’ The ominous phrase punctuating George R.R. Martin’s popular fantasy saga plays as a repetitive warning that there is something out there threatening the world as it is, something the political powers of the time are oblivious to, made shortsighted as they are by their petty quarrels and thirst for power. As much as the warning resounds with contemporaneous anxieties, the underlying message remains anthropo-centred and anchored in warfare concerns – dead people from old wars are coming back lest we constantly keep them at bay. It is tempting to reverse the claim into ‘summer is coming’ to make the point about the actual threat which needs to be addressed by the same shortsighted political powers. It has become common sense that human-induced climate change is a new actor in/of history. Indeed, history has been epistemologically redefined after the popularisation of the Anthropocene in the 1990s to develop into ‘big histories’ that feed global imaginaries about numerous new agentivities (earth, life, nature and also water and ice). History will never be the same, nor the figure of the human. The wintery summer that is upon us warrants our attention. Anthropology has a lot to offer, we believe, precisely by thinking laterally and including agents, forces and materialities that we simply can’t afford to ignore.

Restricted access

The Emergence of the Term “Conspiracy” in the Arabic Public Sphere

Jacob Høigilt

Abstract

Conspiracy theories are widespread across the world, including in the Arab Middle East and North Africa. The term “conspiracy” (muˀāmara) itself is also frequently used in contemporary Arabic. However, we know little about when and how the term emerged and how it was used originally. Based on a digital corpus of Arab newspapers from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as well as plain text versions of classical Arabic literature, this article finds that muˀāmara appears and rises to prominence in the late nineteenth century in the emerging Arabic-speaking public sphere. The term was probably coined in response to influence from European public discourse at the same time, which included conspiracy theories. Unlike that European discourse and today's Arabic conspiracy talk, the early usage of muˀāmara had little to do with either conspiracy theories or religion. The word was used in a more sober way than in Europe.

Restricted access

Encountering Job

Interpreting the Book of Job in the Conceptual Frame of Martin Buber's Dialogical Philosophy

Szilvia Anikó Papp

Abstract

Within the scope of this article, I interpret the Book of Job through Martin Buber's concept of dialogue. The Book of Job continues to pose unanswerable inquiries concerning the enigma of human suffering, the benevolence of God and the elusive origins of Evil. Rather than attempting to provide definitive answers to these eternal questions, I have chosen to shift the focus of my interpretation towards a process of dialogue itself, for I believe that within the pages of the Book of Job, the dialogue assumes a pivotal role. I create a dialogue between Martin Buber's philosophical essay, I and Thou, and the Book of Job in the interpretive process.

Restricted access

Erasing the Foreskin

The “Excess Skin” Myth, Male Genital Mutilation, and Foreskin Trafficking in the United States

Shawn Welch

Despite growing criticism from human rights scholars and international medical experts, non-therapeutic penile circumcision of newborns in the United States continues to be widely accepted among American healthcare practitioners. While a wealth of literature exists on the topic, it can leave out cultural depictions of the foreskin as aesthetically displeasing, unhygienic, or as extra skin, presumptions that normalize its physical and psychological erasure. Highlighting how a cultural attitude treats a healthy body part as worthy only of excision, I show how this vilification rationalizes the wide-scale performance of a practice that in any other context is seen as grossly unethical: the painful and unnecessary modification of the sexual anatomy of a non-consenting person. I also discuss how this rationalization enables profit-driven trafficking in infant sexual tissue.

Open access

Ethnographic Museums

A History

Aleksandar Bošković

Adam Kuper (2023), The Museum of Other People: From Colonial Acquisitions to Cosmopolitan Exhibitions (London: Profile Books), xi +415 pp, £25 (Hb), ISBN 9781800810914.

Open access

The Eugenic Underpinnings of Apartheid South Africa, and its Influence on the South African School System

Carla Turner

Abstract

In Apartheid South Africa, eugenic notions formed an underlying justification for the superiority of the white race over Africans, through the works of international eugenicists like Galton and Pearson, and locally through prominent South African eugenicist H. B. Fantham. These ideas are expressed and elaborated upon in Emevwo Biakalo's essay ‘Categories of Cross-Cultural Cognition and the African Condition’. His work serves particularly to highlight that the mind and cognitive processes of Africans were considered very different from their white counterparts, and thus they would require different approaches to education. I demonstrate here how these views served as part of the underlying justification for Apartheid in South Africa, particularly in Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd's insistence on creating separate and distinct educational systems for different races. This eugenic legacy is still visible in South Africa's radically unequal education system to this day.

Open access

The Fairy Council of Ireland at the River Boyne

Heritage and Decolonial Climate Imaginaries

Anjuli Grantham

Abstract

This article uses a decolonial climate imaginary to experiment with alternative approaches to heritage scholarship while analysing uses of intangible heritage within an environmental campaign in Ireland. A decolonial approach is used to examine the Save the Boyne campaign, contrasting the scientistic-materialist basis of the authorised heritage discourse with the relational heritage ontology centred on the myths which activists have deployed. A coalition including the Fairy Council of Ireland is objecting to a treated wastewater pipeline in County Meath that, if constructed, would reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of a slaughterhouse yet discharge treated wastewater into the River Boyne. This article considers how a relational ontology might provoke a broadening of heritage conceptualisations and purposes in this time of planetary crisis.