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Seeing Fidel in the Sky

Unruly Affects in the Making of the State in Rural Cuba

Marie Aureille

In July 2017, local leaders interrupted their conversations after a long working day at the sight of a cloud that looked like Fidel Castro. This fleeting vision plunged them into a genuine and lasting joy, far from the hypocrisy and cynicism attributed to revolutionary elites since the crisis of the 1990s. Following the role of affects and emotions in the daily work of bureaucrats and in their interactions with farmers, I argue that affects play a pivotal role in producing what Timothy Mitchell calls the ‘state effect’ by fueling the boundary work that sustains the distinction between state and society in Cuba. I show how affects articulate registers of self-sacrifice and reciprocity which have been mediating relationships with El Estado since the beginning of the revolution.

Open access

A State of Relief

Feelings, Affect and Emotions in Instantiating the Malawi State in Disaster Relief

Tanja D. Hendriks

Studies of bureaucrats and bureaucracy have contributed to our understanding of the social production of indifference (Herzfeld 1992). However, in this article, I argue that this focus obscures the centrality of feelings, affect and emotions in their everyday functioning. Drawing on twelve months of ethnographic fieldwork in Malawi with civil servants of the Department of Disaster Management Affairs, I show empirically how they did not—nor did they strive to—appear indifferent. Rather, feelings, affect and emotions shaped the ways in which they allocated assistance and instantiated the state in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai. Despite its general material constraints, these relief interventions enabled the Malawi state to be present and provide resources to some of its citizens, constituting (it as) a state of relief.

Open access

States of Feeling

Public Servants’ Affective and Emotional Entanglements in the Making of the State

Sophie Andreetta, Luisa Enria, Pauline Jarroux, and Susanne Verheul

With the affective turn, scholars pay increased attention to the emotional dimensions of everyday life. This special issue builds on this work through an explicit focus on bureaucracies to show what a more sustained attention to affects and emotions can bring to the study of the state, both as an apparatus and as an image. Contributions highlight the importance of ethnographically studying the affective relations and emotional engagements of public servants to understand how representations and practices of the state are brought together in often intangible, sometimes unspoken, but nonetheless powerful ways. In this Introduction we situate our wider contribution and the individual articles in debates about the social lives of the state and the daily practices of public servants. We postulate how affective intensities give rise to particular political imaginations and subjectivities, and we reflect on ethnography’s unique position within the study of emotions and affects in political anthropology.

Open access

Indulata Prasad


The caste system has implications for the environmental experiences of Dalits (formerly “untouchables”). Dalits are disproportionately impacted by natural disasters and climate change because of their high dependence on natural resources and manual labor, including agriculture. Dalit viewpoints and ecological expertise nevertheless remain missing from the environmental literature and mainstream activism. Aligning with Black ecologies as a challenge to eco-racism, I use the term “Dalit ecologies” to conceptualize Dalit articulations with their environment and experiences of eco-casteism involving inequities such as their exclusions from natural resources and high vulnerability to pollution and waste. My analysis of scholarly literature finds that nature is caste-ized through the ideology of Hindu Brahminism that animates mainstream environmental activism in India. Dalit subjectivities and agency nevertheless remain evident in their literary and oral narratives and ongoing struggles for access to land, water, and other environmental resources.

Open access

We All We Got

Urban Black Ecologies of Care and Mutual Aid

Ashanté M. Reese and Symone A. Johnson


Urban ecologies are fraught with inequities, often resulting in humanitarian or charity solutions that emphasize lack rather than communities’ self-determination. While these inequities have been widely documented, the COVID-19 pandemic further reveals how these crises are not the sum result of individual failures. Rather, they are systemically produced through policies that harm people. How do Black urban residents contend with the sociohistorical antagonisms between feelings of scarcity (e.g., food and housing insecurity, underemployment, and financial strain) and aspirations for abundance? Using ethnographic encounters in Chicago and Austin we consider how practices of mutual aid are meaningful both spatially and affectively. First, we explore how mutual aid transforms “decaying” urban spaces to meet residents’ needs. Second, we explore felt experiences of mutuality in social relationships as distinct from authoritarian, charity-based relationality. Thinking these spatial and affective dimensions collectively, we work toward a framework of Black ecologies of care and mutual aid.

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Architectures of Appropriation

Salvage, Repatriation, and the Politics of Jean Prouvé’s Maisons Tropicales

Leonie Treier

The Maisons Tropicales are three prefabricated housing structures designed by Jean Prouvé. Fabricated in France, they were transported to and assembled in Brazzaville and Niamey, then part of the French colonies, around 1950. Their design was tied closely to the belief in the so-called civilizing and enlightening power of European modernist design and, thereby, also the French colonial agenda. In the early 2000s, an American collector, Robert Rubin, and a French art dealer, Eric Touchaleaume, “repatriated” the houses to France. There, they were transformed into and celebrated as icons of French modern design, while their colonial histories were ignored. This article analyzes the importance of discourse in this transformation and how it reflects ongoing dynamics of power and dispossession in the art world. Rubin and Touchaleaume simultaneously employed conflicting narratives mirroring anthropological “salvage” and “repatriation” discourses to describe the Maisons’ removal. The case study highlights the moral weight associated with the language around processes of repatriation, the nested relationships between heritage and the market, and the continuation of colonial practices of dispossession.

Open access

Isabelle Williams, Florence Esson, Yunci Cai, Lee Davidson, Valentin Gorbachev, Nathan Jones, Kirsty Kernohan, Heidi Weber, Xiaomei Zhao, and Xuelei Li

Women Mean Business: Colonial businesswomen in New Zealand, Catherine Bishop. Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2019.

Imagining Decolonisation, Rebecca Kiddle with Bianca Elkington, Moana Jackson, Ocean Ripeka Mercier, Mike Ross, Jennie Smeaton, and Amanda Thomas, eds. Wellington: Bridget Williams Books, 2020.

Cosmopolitan Ambassadors: International Exhibitions, Cultural Diplomacy and the Polycentral Museum, Lee Davidson and Leticia Pérez Castellanos. Wilmington, DE: Vernon Press, 2019.

Museums, International Exhibitions and China’s Cultural Diplomacy, Linda Da Kong. London: Routledge, 2021.

Curating (Post-)Socialist Environments, Philipp Schorch and Daniel Habit. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2021.

A Cultural Arsenal for Democracy: The World War II Work of US Museums, Clarissa J. Ceglio. Boston: University of Massachusetts Press, 2022.

Mobile Museums: Collections in Circulation, Felix Driver, Mark Nesbitt, and Caroline Cornish, eds. London: UCL Press, 2021.

Écrire la muséologie: Méthodes de recherche, rédaction, communication [Writing museology, Research methods, writing, communication], François Mairesse and Fabien Van Geert. Paris: Presses Sorbonne Nouvelle Ed, 2021.

Cultural Renewal in Cambodia: Academic Activism in the Neoliberal Era, Philippe Peycam. Leiden: Brill, 2020.

Animal Classification in Central China: From the late Neolithic to the early Bronze Age, Ningning Dong. Oxford: BAR Publishing, 2021.

Open access

Changing Times - A Time for Change

Museums in the COVID-19 Era

Noga Raved and Havatzelet Yahel

The current research analyzes worldwide trends in which museums acted in response to a new global social health order. It is based on information from a survey we conducted among members of the International Committee of Regional Museums in addition to other surveys conducted by international museums and cultural bodies. We tried to understand how museums can remain relevant to their audiences, how they might evolve in this changing environment, and how they operate to reflect the new situation. Our main findings show that various methods were used, including shifting to digital platforms, changing physical operations, refocusing on local audiences, collecting materials relating to the COVID-19 crisis, and curating special exhibitions dedicated to the pandemic and its impact on daily lives.

Open access

Citizen Curators

Cultural Democracy in Action?

Tehmina Goskar

This article presents findings and reflections of the Citizen Curators program, designed and led by the author on behalf of Cornwall Museums Partnership and seven participating museums. Dubbed an experiment in cultural democracy, as well as providing a novel alternative pathway into museum work, Citizen Curators took place between 2017 and 2021 with four cohorts resulting in more than 80 successful completers, one-fifth of whom went on to jobs in the sector. The program was designed as an action research project in curatorial education in an era of equity, socially engaged practice, and ethical awareness. The article presents qualitative and quantitative findings on the program’s design, impact, and what was learned about the realities of cocuration, diversity, and inclusion over the four-year program.

Open access

Climate Change and Resilience Perspectives

Brazilian Museums and Their Challenges

Marcus Vinicius Rosário da Silva and Sheila Walbe Ornstein

Brazilian museum operations and maintenance practices, as well as collections and educational activities, can be important actors in communicating the risks of climate change and can be examples of best practice in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Documentary research for this article was conducted with museum institutions that promote operations and maintenance best practices applicable to the sector in Brazil. As a result, Brazilian cases were assessed for greenhouse gas emission and sustainable practice metrics focusing on energy efficiency. The results still show a low Brazilian commitment by the museum sector in the combat against climate change.