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Introduction

Understanding Experiences and Decisions in Situations of Enduring Hardship in Africa

Mirjam de Bruijn and Jonna Both

Abstract

The enduring experience of hardship, in the form of layers of various crises, can become deeply ingrained in a society, and people can come to act and react under these conditions as if they lead a normal life. This process is explored through the analytical concept of duress, which contains three elements: enduring and accumulating layers of hardship over time, the normalization of this hardship, and a form of deeply constrained agency. We argue that decisions made in duress have a significant impact on the social and political structures of society. This concept of duress is used as a lens to understand the lives of individual people and societies in Central and West Africa that have a long history of ecological, political, and social conflicts and crises.

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Introduction

Ethnographic Engagement with Bureaucratic Violence

Erin R. Eldridge and Amanda J. Reinke

Abstract

Bureaucracies are dynamic and interactive sociocultural worlds that drive knowledge production, power inequalities and subsequent social struggle, and violence. The authors featured in this special section mobilize their ethnographic data to examine bureaucracies as animated spaces where violence, whether physical, structural, or symbolic, manifests in everyday bureaucratic practices and relationships. The articles span geographic contexts (e.g., United States, Canada, Chile, Eritrea) and topics (e.g., migration, extractive economies, law and sociolegal change, and settler colonialism) but are bound together in their investigation of the violence of the administration of decisions, care, and control through bureaucratic means.

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Made in Nigeria

Duress and Upwardly Mobile Youth in the Biography of a Young Entrepreneur in Enugu

Inge Ligtvoet

Abstract

What does duress mean in the lives of those who are not by definition understood to be living in duress—namely, upwardly mobile young people in a relatively peaceful city in southeast Nigeria? In this article, I try to answer that question by presenting the life story of Azu, a young designer in Enugu who has made his way out of a poverty-stricken background through a relatively successful entrepreneurship.His biography, based on interviews and observations, and partially through a shared experience of constraint in Nigeria, serves as an example of duress in the lives of those who—by family, educational background, or career success—are considered “well-off” compared with most youths in the country. I argue that duress for these youths is informed by social expectations due to their acquired status as much as by the sociopolitical uncertainties that they have been confronted with throughout their lives.

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The Many Layers of Moral Outrage

Kurdish Activists and Diaspora Politics

Nerina Weiss

Abstract

This article takes the expressions of moral outrage in an illegal demonstration in Norway as a point of entry to explore how the political unfolds in Kurdish diasporic spaces. The premise for this analysis is that moral outrage among pro-Kurdish activists is an enduring, intergenerational process, the expression of which displays a multitemporality and multidirectionality. In order to explore the many layers of moral outrage this article proposes an analysis along the literature of political ritual and performance, which focuses on signification, symbolism, identity constructions, and the importance of audiences. I argue that Kurdish activists consciously perform their moral outrage to position themselves in relation to their host country, other Kurdish activists in Norway, and the larger transnational Kurdish community in Europe. As such, moral outrage turns out to be central in the enactment of Kurdish diaspora politics.

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Migrant Residents in Search of Residences

Locating Structural Violence at the Interstices of Bureaucracies

Megan Sheehan

Abstract

Latin American migration to Chile has increased exponentially over the past 20 years. As migrants settle in Santiago, they face numerous articulations of bureaucracy—at entry, in visa processing, in labor regulations, and in housing law. This article charts a central paradox of migrant experiences with two discordant bureaucratic entities in Chile. Migrants are frequently able to acquire residency documents, yet they are often unable to enter into formal rental agreements or easily access adequate housing. Drawing on data collected during 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Santiago, Chile, I explore migrants’ lived experience of bureaucracy. As migrants navigate the processes involved in attaining visas and in securing housing, their experiences expose the interstices of bureaucracy, sites of disjuncture between contrasting bureaucratic entities and realms. These bureaucratic interstices are critical sites where structural violence is fostered, normalized, and made invisible.

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Moral Thresholds of Outrage

The March for Hrant Dink and New Ways of Mobilization in Turkey

Lorenzo D’Orsi

Abstract

This article analyses the social construction of moral outrage, interpreting it as both an extemporaneous feeling and an enduring process, objectified in narratives and rituals and permeating public spaces as well as the intimate sphere of social actors’ lives. Based on ethnography carried out in Istanbul, this contribution focuses on the assassination of the Turkish Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in 2007. This provoked a moral shock and led to an annual commemoration in which thousands of people—distant in political, religious, ethnic positions—gather around a shared feeling of outrage. The article retraces the narratives of innocence and the moral frames that make Dink’s public figure different from other victims of state violence, thus enabling a moral and emotional identification of a large audience. Outrage over Dink’s murder has become a creative, mobilizing force that fosters new relationships between national history and subjectivity, and de-reifies essentialized social boundaries and identity claims.

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Navigating the Politics of Anxiety

Moral Outrage, Responsiveness, and State Accountability in Denmark

Mette-Louise Johansen

Abstract

This article explores how Danish police officers and social workers involved in countering violent extremism (CVE) seek to cope with the possibility of public moral outrage being directed at the welfare state when issues of security and integration arise. In such cases, state officials are faced with a difficult dilemma: on the one hand, they could be blamed for inefficient casework if there is a terror attack. On the other hand, the target group could perceive their intervention as outrageous, in which case it may end up producing the violence that it purports to prevent. The response to this dilemma is a dynamic shift between early and intense intervention on the one hand, and hesitation and “pulling back” from intervention on the other. I suggest that this dynamic response plays a crucial role in risk assessment and decision-making processes related to CVE efforts in Denmark.

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"Our Future Is Already in Jeopardy"

Duress and the Palimpsest of Violence of Two CAR Student Refugees in the DRC

Maria Catherina Wilson Janssens

Abstract

Duress results from the internalization of violence. Through the narratives of two Central African Republic student refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo, this article presents the multiple layers of violence they experience. After introducing violence, the article turns to its different layers by making use of the palimpsest metaphor. Three layers of violence interrelate and overlap: the first relates to chronic crisis in the Central African Republic; the second layer deals with the context of the urban jungle (Kinshasa); and the third layer is linked to the humanitarian agencies that fail to provide for urban refugees. The experience of these three layers adds up to duress. Duress colors the students’ agency and the decisions they make along their life paths.

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Perspectives from the Ground

Colonial Bureaucratic Violence, Identity, and Transitional Justice in Canada

Jaymelee J. Kim

Abstract

While traditionally underrepresented in transitional justice studies, anthropological study of culture, ethnography, and processes can contribute valuable insight into colonial bureaucracies and dynamics of power. This article uses an ethnographic approach and a colonial bureaucratic violence theoretical foundation to analyze negative perceptions of transitional justice at the ground level. Participants included facilitators, government officials, nonprofit organizations, and Indigenous community members; research occurred during implementation of transitional justice (2011–2014) for a period of 12 months. Specifically, I argue that the relationship between transitional justice and colonial bureaucratic violence encourages negative views of transitional justice. Instead, ethnographic data first reveals that bureaucratic processes within transitional justice challenge Indigenous identities. Second, Indigenous survivors in British Columbia, Canada, largely view transitional justice on a continuum of colonial bureaucratic violence. Using a colonial bureaucratic violence framework, this article provides insight and nuance into perceptions of transitional justice at the local level.

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A Phone without Names

Distrust and Duress in Côte d’Ivoire

Kathrin Heitz-Tokpa

Abstract

The anthropology of war has provided intimate analyses of how communities deal with hardship in violent conflicts. These clearly affect such communities’ social fabric, but exactly how is little understood. This article uses the lens of trust and distrust to analyze the effects of violent conflict on social relations. Through an ethnographic case study of a nurse during the 2002–2011 violent conflict in Côte d’Ivoire, I show how his trust in social norms, political opponents, and strangers in general became transformed into distrust. He stopped saving names in his phone to protect himself and people in his phone. The case highlights how experiences of duress can create distrust and how distrust can prolong conditions of duress by hindering the rebuilding of social trust.