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Open access

Questioning Artists

Contributing Societal Critique and Alternative Visions in Dark Times

Cindy Horst

In this article, I explore the concept of the questioning individual through life history research with two female artists from (post)war contexts. Afghan theater producer Monirah Hashemi’s story illustrates how self-expression in contexts of violence is not only politically but also socially repressed, and illustrates the role that marginalized outsiders can play in questioning. Diala Brisly, a visual artist from Syria, talks of public expression after the suspension of censorship and shows the power of creative self-expression to support resistance to repression. This article explores their contributions of both societal critique and alternative visions of (post)war societies from their positions in exile. I argue that creative processes and cultural expressions can play crucial roles as sources of resistance and ways of creating alternative societal visions.

Open access

Slam Poetry in Chad

A Space of Belonging in an Environment of Violence and Repression

Mirjam de Bruijn

How can we explain the increasing popularity of slam poetry among youth in societies colored by long histories of conflict and political repression? This article explores this question for the rise of slam poetry in Chad, since 2014, a conflict-ridden country with an authoritarian regime and deep poverty, characteristics of a society in duress. In Francophone Africa we can speak of a slam poetry movement, where slam as a form of expression and the organization of (inter)national festivals has become a space of belonging for young people in Africa who must cope with societies in duress. The article is the result of my long engagement with the slam scene in francophone Africa.

Open access

“The State Cannot Protect Us”

How Vigilance (Un)makes the State in Western Europe

Ana Ivasiuc

Informal policing has recently been on the rise in Europe: in several countries, “concerned citizens” have mobilized for the protection of their neighborhoods. This article examines the production and mobilization of vigilance in the negotiations around practices of informal policing in Italy and Germany and analyzes the relational way in which discourses and practices of vigilantism make and unmake the state. Grounded in research on practices of informal policing in Italy and Germany, the article argues that practices of vigilance manifested in informal policing are simultaneously and ambivalently state-(un)making practices. What is obtained in the process is an ambivalent regime of vigilance.

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Vigilance, Knowledge, and De/colonization

Protesting While Latin@ in the US-Mexico Borderlands

Catherine Whittaker and Eveline Dürr

This article shows how vigilance against racism and coloniality in the US-Mexico borderlands produces knowledge, highlighting the decolonizing potential of their dynamic entanglement. Before the Black Lives Matter protests against police violence across the United States in late May 2020, many Latin@s in San Diego, California, already anticipated racial discrimination and violence in light of growing anti-migration sentiment. Those Latin@s who took part in the protests often also protested border patrol violence. Based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork, we argue that the vigilance of Latin@s, who were further racialized as “immigrants” through their protest participation, produced knowledge about ongoing racism and coloniality in San Diego. We propose theorizing vigilance as having both the potential to uphold colonialist structures and to undermine these.

Open access

Katarzyna Grabska

In this article, I examine encounters with an artist and his art: Cambodian exile filmmaker Rithy Panh. In his cinematographic and artwork, Rithy Panh comes to terms with his childhood, the death of his family, and the suffering of his people during the Khmer Rouge regime and the genocide in Cambodia. Conflict and displacement are themes usually approached by researchers using language-based methods, which do not give us fully adequate insights into the “felt and experienced” temporal/spatial aspects of conflict and displacement. I frame my discussion through the reflective interaction between art, an artist with violent conflict and displacement background and the audience—a researcher. First, I examine how taking the sentipensar approach to research through art encounters and researcher as a thinking-feeling person contributes to a different understanding of personal trajectories, experiences of, and emotions connected to conflict, war, and displacement. My second aim is to analyze how artistic practice of Rithy Panh contributes to coming to terms with and to creating alternatives to the official public discourses about the past and the present, at individual and societal levels.

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Visualizing Vigilance in the Generalized Representation of the Nomad

Reflections on the Banjara Community in Rajasthan, India

Urmi Bhattacharyya

Reflecting on the generic construction of the nomad through discursive imaginaries and regulatory forms of control, this work engages in the interpretation of vigilance through the acknowledgment of its connectedness to the politics and practice of visuality. Based on essentialized interpretations of identity, ahistorical accounts of mobility, and stereotypical representations of difference, generalized nomadic representations legitimize measures of vigilance and subject formation. By reflecting on the representation of the Banjara community in Rajasthan, India, and their contexts of socioeconomic discrimination, the article thus emphasizes how acts of vigilance in the form of measures of classification and discipline operate in relation to imaginaries of normative order and social distinction, to engage in the structural reproduction of distance, difference and (in)visibility.

Open access

“You Wanna Come to the ‘Urban’ Night Tomorrow... It’s the Wrong Night Tonight”

Black Consumers as Both “Wanted” and “Unwanted” in the Night-Time Economy

Nikhaela Wicks

Drawing from a yearlong ethnography alongside police officers, door staff, and venue managers, this article explores my research participants’ conceptions, and governance of, “urban nights” in “Greenshire, UK.” My research participants used the term “urban nights” to refer to nighttime events where traditionally Black music is played, such as drill, grime, and R & B. In doing this, I reveal how institutional racism is embedded within policing cultures and everyday policing practices used to govern nightlife. In exploring how nightlife is governed in a white provincial context in Southern England, I uncover how the public and private police work together to produce nightlife as an “acceptably white space.” The article outlines the impact this has on the governance of “urban nights” and the management, access, and experiences of Black nighttime participants.

Open access

Juan Javier Rivera Andía

Valeri, Valerio, Classic Concepts in Anthropology, 280 pp., appendix, bibliography. Chicago: HAU Books, 2018. Paperback, $30.00. ISBN 9780990505082.

Viveiros de Castro, Eduardo, The Relative Native: Essays on Indigenous Conceptual Worlds, 366 pp., bibliography, index. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015. Paperback, $35.00. ISBN 9780990505037.

Ab ramson, Allen, and Martin Holbraad, eds., Framing Cosmologies: The Anthropology of Worlds, 336 pp., bibligraphical references, index. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2014. Paperback, $35.00. ISBN 9781526107183.

Open access

Ayala Fader

To share/sharing/shared/a share of/to share with. What do we create when we share objects, embodied experiences, languages, or ideas with others? Intimacy? Ties of obligation? A sense of belonging to something despite differences of investments and position? In this special section, Hillewaert and Tetreault experiment with reimagining the notion of ‘sharedness’. They have assembled a set of articles that use the term when describing less hegemonically spiritual and religious communities from a variety of places, traditions, and social formations. Some contributors focus on communities marginalized by more dominantly recognized state or institutional religiosity (Riley, Cochrane, Tetreault). Others ask what constitutes the grounds for defining religious/spiritual communities at all (Hillewaert, Elisha). The majority of the communities discussed probably fit most comfortably in scholarship on new religious movements or New Age scholarship (Elisha). What links these contributions is a focus on processes by which participants’ sharedness is achieved despite their differences of belief, practice, or both, which might seem to threaten their existence as a collectivity. That is, the authors consider how difference rather than sameness becomes the grounds for creating a sense of joint purpose. They also emphasize that sharedness is a jumping-off point, a category for ethnographic investigation specifically through attention to language, materiality, and embodiment. This contrasts to assumptions that community of any sort necessarily relies on or emerges from participants’ sameness.

Open access

Amira Mittermaier


Amid a moment of crisis, how might the anthropology of religion shift its focus from ethics to politics? This 2021 Rappaport Lecture, delivered at the Society for the Anthropology of Religion (SAR) Biennial Meeting on 15 May 2021, begins by highlighting three ways in which our field has taken on politics in recent years: by troubling the distinction between ethics and politics, by thinking religion together with pressing political issues, and by taking a critical look at our conceptual horizons. Elaborating on this third way, it proposes that the anthropology of religion needs to move beyond the human horizon by ethnographically grappling with something bigger, namely, God. Prompted by a reflection on the phrase Allāhu akbar (God is the greatest), the lecture maps the challenges posed by a god greater than the human imagination and considers a range of writing strategies that might help make our texts more hospitable to such a figure. Bringing Islam into the conversation about the relationship between theology and anthropology, it suggests that the figure of God directs us toward the evasive and unknowable—that which exceeds our grasp and analysis.