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Audit failure and corporate corruption

Why Mediterranean patron-client relations are relevant for understanding the work of international accountancy firms

Cris Shore

Patron-clientelism and corruption were traditionally viewed as problems endemic to underdeveloped marginal countries with weak states, powerful self-serving elites, and widespread civic disengagement. However, recent decades have seen a dramatic increase in corruption scandals in the Global North, particularly its more developed banking and financial sectors. Paradoxically, this has occurred despite a massive expansion in auditing by international accountancy firms (KPMG, PwC, Deloitte, EY) who often portray themselves as warriors of integrity, transparency, and ethical conduct. How are these trends connected? Drawing on anthropological studies of Mediterranean patron-clientelism, I illustrate how collusive relations between accountancy firms and their clients create ideal conditions for corruption to flourish. Finally, I ask how can these accountancy scandals help us rethink patron-clientelism in an age of “audit culture”?

Open access

Dissenting poses

Marginal youth, viral aesthetics, and affective politics in neoliberal Morocco

Cristiana Strava

In the spring of 2014, an unprecedented wave of police raids swept over every lower-class (sha‘abi) neighborhood across Morocco. Dubbed “Operation Tcharmil,” the raids targeted young, lower-class men that matched viral online images in which track-suit-wearing teens boastfully displayed status objects and white weapons. Drawing on the theoretical apparatus of the “affective turn,” in this article I unpack the structural and historical factors that shaped both popular reactions and policing actions toward the sudden, online visibility of a politically and economically disenfranchised group. I situate this episode within current debates about the entanglement of neoliberal disciplinary regimes and the reproduction of particular social orders, and argue that attention to such outbursts can help us revitalize and rethink existing notions of class.

Open access

Horizontal and vertical politics

Strategic uses of abajo and arriba in the construction of the Venezuelan socialist State

Stefano Boni

The spatial expressions of egalitarian and hierarchical political relations, respectively along the horizontal and vertical axis, are visually illustrated in a broad cross-cultural perspective. The dichotomy between los de abajo (those below) and los de arriba (those above) is explored in contemporary Venezuelan politics, using ethnographic and visual evidence. Th e socialist party, which presents itself as representative of los de abajo, has been increasingly criticized for being los de arriba both by the opposition and by grassroots PSUV (Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela; United Socialist Party of Venezuela) activists who denounce the persistence of hierarchical dynamics through metaphors such as paracaido (para-shooter) and poner la escalera (holding the ladder).

Open access

In the shade of the chinar

Dushanbe’s affective spatialities

Malika Bahovadinova

This article evaluates the ongoing reconstruction of Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, from the perspective of the affective registers it has elicited: from the despair of those who fondly remember the city’s earlier Soviet facade to those who have benefitted from the expansion of housing stock and green space across the city center. Exploring these positions and the role of statist conceptions of modernity, personal and political memories of space, and the emotions called forth by urban redevelopment, the article elaborates on the place of affect and sentimental politics in the processes of city beautification and development. It argues that the despair experienced by city residents in their protests against redevelopment projects has both enabled and constrained citizens in terms of their participation in Dushanbe’s urban development, economic redistribution, and the politics of memory.

Open access

Navigating the sustainability landscape

Impact pathways and the sustainability ethic as moral compass

Matthew Archer

Sustainability professionals believe their work has positive social and environmental impacts in the “real world,” but they recognize that their impactfulness is contingent on a number of other factors, especially the willingness of other, typically more powerful actors to consider their findings and implement their recommendations. In this article, I develop the notion of “impact pathways” to think about the relationship between paths, maps, travelers, terrains, and ethics in the context of what my informants regularly refer to as the sustainability “landscape.” I show how the interpretation of a map and the choice between different possible paths can be partially explained by an actor’s particular ethical framework, in this case something I identify as the sustainability ethic.

Open access

Postsocialist Mediterranean

Scalar gaze, moral self, and relational labor of favors in Eastern Europe

Čarna Brković

This article opens a conversation between anthropological studies of the Mediterranean and of postsocialism in order to propose the notion of a “scalar gaze” as an analytical approach useful for capturing veering practices in their social complexity. The article argues that favors (veze/štela, lit. relations, connections) in contemporary Bosnia and Herzegovina were a practice through which people fulfilled the demands of capitalist economy to be active, rather than a pre-capitalist excess that prevented “proper” development of the country into a neoliberal democracy. Zooming in and out and looking sideways between moral reasoning, internationally supervised structural changes of the job markets, and electoral politics, this article explores how the relational labor of favors reproduced moral selves, as well as hierarchy and inequality.

Open access

Trading Futures

Sadaqah, social enterprise, and the polytemporalities of development gifts

Tom Widger and Filippo Osella

In this article, we explore what happens when idea(l)s of Islamic charity (sadaqah) and social enterprise converge within a low-cost public health clinic in Colombo, Sri Lanka. For both the clinic’s wealthy sponsors and the urban poor who use it, interpreting the intervention as a pious expression of care toward the poor or as a for-profit humanitarian venture meant extending different futures to the poor. The ambiguous temporalities of gifts and commodities anticipated by benefactors and beneficiaries involved in this challenges anthropological assumptions concerning the marketizing effects of neoliberal development interventions. Our ethnography revealed a hesitancy among the clinic’s sponsors, managers, and users to endow the intervention with a final interpretation, undermining its stated goal of promoting health care privatization and “responsibilization” of the poor.

Open access

Air in Unexpected Places

Metabolism, Design, and the Making of an ‘African’ Aircrete

Michael Degani

Abstract

Aircrete is a lightweight building material with a number of remarkable qualities, including high compression strength, buoyancy and thermal insulation. Perhaps most strikingly, its lack of sand aggregate makes it energy efficient compared to concrete. While aircrete is regularly sold by various construction companies, DIY enthusiasts and technicians around the world are cultivating more home-brew, open-source methods. This article follows James, an American ex-security contractor and mining engineer, as he attempts to convert his own embodied legacies of imperial extraction into a pro-social business venture by designing aircrete machines and mixes for urban Africa. His adventures in aircrete typify an energy future in which an array of intriguing experiments and technologies intersect with a broader entrepreneurial effort to capture Africa's growing consumer markets.

Open access

Ben Belek

Janet Carsten, Blood Work: Life and Laboratories in Penang, Durham, NC: Duke University, pp. 256, 2019.

Open access

Capturing Crisis

Solar Power and Humanitarian Energy Markets in Africa

Jamie Cross

Abstract

Goudebou refugee camp in northern Burkina Faso has emerged as a testing ground for international efforts to find market-based solutions to the delivery of basic energy services in humanitarian contexts. This article follows energy researchers, humanitarian practitioners and entrepreneurs as they work to capture a market for energy here by mapping consumer demand, generating evidence that can prove the willingness of refugees to pay and securing contracts for the supply of solar powered technologies. Their efforts reveal the moral and material logics of humanitarian interventions in the field of energy, and point to the continued significance of ‘crisis’ for the making of Africa's energy politics, subjects and futures.