Once again, this issue of Sibirica is diverse and disparate. We move from understanding food security as a laboratory in the northern districts of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) all the way to a brief yet trilingual Tuvan geological glossary, with stops along the way to learn about an influential yet little-known Buryat activist, as well as cultural developments in Magadan in the 1950s and 1960s. However, what unites these varied pieces is a central theme of creativity, and the effects of approaching problems with fresh eyes and new ideas even amid restrictive conditions or systems—whether political or infrastructural.
Personal Encounters and Bordering Processes in the British Refugees Welcome Movement
Pierre Monforte and Gaja Maestri
This article examines the complex and ambivalent nature of the encounters between British volunteers and refugees within the 2015 Refugees Welcome movement. The 72 interviews we conducted with volunteers active in different charities and informal networks reveal the significance of the logic of trust in these encounters. We show that although participants often base their engagement on claims that disrupt dominant narratives about border controls, they also tend to endorse and reproduce bordering processes based on the perceived trustworthiness of refugees and, sometimes, exclude some groups from their support. Taking insights from the literature on encounters and critical humanitarianism, our article highlights from a theoretical and empirical perspective how “ordinary participants” in the refugee support sector can subvert humanitarian borders, but also participate in the construction of new types of borders based on domopolitics. More generally, the article aims to highlight civil society's voluntary participation in the governance of migration.
Self-managing Reproductive Health for Adolescent Refugees in Kampala
George Palattiyil, Ann-Christin Zuntz, Harish Nair, Paul Bukuluki, and Kalyango Ronald Sebba
This article provides an ethnographically informed critique of the humanitarian self-management model that informs reproductive health trainings for young urban refugees in Kampala, Uganda. It draws on interviews with 16 adolescent refugees, as well as policymakers, aid workers and health care professionals in Kampala in April 2019. We found that reproductive health education training sessions are a site of gendered learning where displaced boys and girls gain an understanding of what it means “how to live a good life” and how to become marriage material. Their focus on self-control also reflects a wider shift in humanitarianism toward female empowerment as a tool of neoliberal governance. In a low-resource context, however, “self-managing” one’s reproductive health takes on a different meaning, as displaced adolescents weigh up opportunities for short-term income from transactional sex with imagined reproductive futures elsewhere.
Crises of Presence and the Habitus of Migrancy
What is it to be alien? This article considers the debate concerning alienation/de-alienation launched by Hegel and revisited a half-century ago by Jacques Derrida. It examines the systemic reduction of legal rights of presence that migrants in contemporary Europe regularly encounter. Such experiences lead people to undergo a ‘loss of presence’ in the sense that they question their relationship with the world and the people around them. As Ernesto de Martino proposed, these occurrences constitute a ‘subjective alienation’ brought about by ‘objective alienation’. In this way, they impact one's personal ontogeny, producing what I call a ‘habitus of migrancy’. As a contribution toward ethnographic theory, the article engages the role of long-term self-reflection in anthropological analysis.
Zeynep S. Mencutek
The increasing salience and variations of “voluntary” return techniques have not yet been thoroughly investigated in the context of Global South countries, which host the majority of displaced people. As the largest refugee host and transit country, the case of Turkey provides important insights on the role that these instruments and the very notion of “voluntariness” play for migration governance. This article specifically looks at how Turkey develops and implements its own “voluntary return” instruments. The analysis illustrates different ways in which “voluntary” returns are being institutionalized at central state and substate levels across the country. It shows how these national mechanisms are imposed at multiple sites, while also being diffused as practices in everyday interactions with refugees across the country. The arguments I put forward arise from qualitative research that combined mapping of policy papers, national legislation, and interviews with returnees and other relevant stakeholders.
Religious Rituals’ Reflection of Current Social Conditions in the Middle East
Peoples’ practising of religious ritual is never isolated from the social and political setting in which it takes place. It is therefore inevitable that ritual practice somehow contends with the current social context. Examining Muslim ritual practices across the Middle East, the authors of the articles in this special issue discuss religious ritual as a tool for accomplishing something in the real world. They provide examples of which social concerns are addressed in ritual practice, who is involved and how the ritual practice is affected. The studies show that current ritual practices are embedded in multi-actor social spaces, and they also reflect on the ritual as a multi-actor space where the power to define ritual form, meaning and importance shifts between different categories of actors.
The Power and Productivity of Vigilance Regimes
Ana Ivasiuc, Eveline Dürr, and Catherine Whittaker
This introduction to the special section charts the ways in which the concept of vigilance has been loosely conceptualized at the intersection between security, surveillance, and border studies. It rethinks vigilance through the conceptual lens of vigilance regimes, as well as through the productivity of watchfulness in different contexts. Vigilance is conceptualized as an assemblage of moral ideas, belonging, increased attention, and social practice, located in certain sociopolitical contexts, concrete spaces, and technologies. Regimes of vigilance are defined as complex assemblages of practices and discourses that mobilize alertness for specific goals, which are embedded in particular materialities of watchfulness, and which in turn have effects on social practice and processes of subjectivation. This introduction calls for greater analytic attention toward the agency that vigilance produces, and seeks to define vigilance and the regimes that it constitutes, offering a productive lens for the study of socially mobilized alertness.
Art, Violent Conflict, and Displacement
Katarzyna Grabska and Cindy Horst
Violent conflict and displacement reconfigure societies in abrupt, dramatic, and often contradictory ways. Power relations are often shaken up, with new social hierarchies emerging. Artists play a central role in periods of uncertainty and volatility, both as commentators of events and as inspirators for change. This special section explores the role of art practice in transformation in contexts of violent conflict and displacement. The articles focus on artists that either create in the context of oppression and control or respond to these contexts by creating spaces of resistance, life in and with violent conflict, transformation, and inspiration. The articles discuss a range of initiatives and artistic practices that take place in a variety of contexts, from artists involved in societal transformation in Afghanistan, Cambodia, and Syria, to artists working in Palestine, Chad, Sri Lanka, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Ashura, State and Society in Kuwait
The Twelver Shi'a in Kuwait constitute a minority amongst the country's population. Compared to the situation of Shi'a in the region, they enjoy a good position economically and politically. While this political aspect of their identity frequently has been highlighted in scholarly literature, little has been written about how Shi'a ritual life relates to the political and economic spheres of social life. In this article, I discuss the performance of the annual Shi'a Ashura ritual in relation to the political status of the Shi'as in Kuwait. I show that the Shi'as’ public enactment of the ritual is multifaceted and revolves around the issue of ritual visibility. Ritual performance demonstrates compliance with as well as contestations of state authorities’ identity policy regarding religion and nationality, contestations within the Shi'a community, and contentions in relation to other groups in Kuwait.
Framing new regulations by challenging rules in Naples
Antonio Vesco and Alexandros Kioupkiolis
The “commons” have become a rallying point of social mobilization against privatization and a linchpin of collective civic empowerment and democratic renewal in several countries. What singles out the Italian “laboratory” of urban commons in recent years is the coalescence of pro-commons lawyers with activists, movements, and grassroots collectives. The central role played by law in the Italian commons network must be read in the light of the distinctive forms that regulations and rules assume in specific contexts. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted between 2018 and 2019, this article focuses on the case of Naples and the reinvention of the legal tradition of “civic use.” Our account of the daily practices pursued by a Neapolitan community of commoners—L’Asilo—delves into the role played by the law and its representatives in a political context that has always been the subject of stigmatization.