It is often challenging to find the strands that connect articles in a given issue of a small yet heavily interdisciplinary regional studies journal. Yet I often marvel at how certain themes emerge time and time again. This issue is random at first glance; the topics are individually diverse when compared, but it is mostly their perennially significant nature within our region that makes them similar. Therefore, in this first issue of Sibirica's twenty-first volume, I found that a theme of revisiting (and rethinking) came to the fore. The four articles included here all revisit key themes in Siberian studies—from human-animal interconnectedness and bear ceremonialism to state-instituted identity categories and urbanization—from fresh perspectives.
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Towards Critical Analytical Auto-Ethnography
Global Pandemic and Migrant Women (Im)mobilities in Northern Ireland
This article discusses the usefulness of critical analytical auto-ethnography in studying migrant (im)mobilities in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whereas the auto-ethnographic genre has boomed during COVID-19 times, the authors of auto-ethnographic texts usually focus on their own experiences of the pandemic, engaging in an evocative style of writing. Following an overview of auto-ethnographic writing genres, this article discusses complex issues of insider/outsider status in pandemic research. It calls for a critical and analytical auto-ethnographic approach to the study of migrations and mobilities in a context in which they are currently unevenly distributed.
Bear Ceremonialism, the Eastern Khanty, and Cultural Variation among Ob-Ugrians
Andrew Wiget and Olga Balalaeva
This article draws on a large archive of original video documentation to complement ethnographic literature to provide the first description of modern Eastern Khanty bear ceremonialism and locate it in relation to the traditions of other Ob-Ugrian groups. The comparative analysis of Ob-Ugrian bear ceremonial traditions underscores fundamental differences in the function of such ceremonies, highlights foundational elements of local group identity, and suggests ways in which Ob-Ugrian groups interacted with adjacent populations.
Decolonising Durkheimian Conceptions of the International
Colonialism and Internationalism in the Durkheimian School during and after the Colonial Era
Grégoire Mallard and Jean Terrier
Over the past 20 years, numerous scholars have called upon social scientists to consider the colonial contexts within which sociology, anthropology and ethnology were institutionalised in Europe and beyond. We explain how historical sociologists and historians of international law, sociology and anthropology can develop a global intellectual history of what we call the ‘sciences of the international’ by paying attention to the political ideas of the Durkheimian school of sociology. We situate the political ideas of the central figures explored in this special issue—Émile Durkheim, Marcel Mauss, Bronisław Malinowski and Alfred Métraux—in their broader context, analysing their convergence and differences. We also reinterpret the calls made by historians of ideas to ‘provincialise Europe’ or move to a ‘global history’, by studying how epistemologies and political imaginaries continued by sociologists and ethnologists after the colonial era related to imperialist ways of thinking.
The “awkwardnesses” of aid and exchange
Food cooperative practices in austerity Britain
Self-help and mutual aid have been at the heart of the consumer cooperative movement and its response to food insecurity since its inception. Yet how these terms are conceptualized and practiced in contemporary food co-ops often has more to do with their individual histories, ideologies, and the values of those involved than it does the history of the cooperative movement. Drawing on ethnographic examples from two London-based food co-ops with different backgrounds, this article explores how each enacts ideals of aid and exchange. It argues that the context of austerity creates “awkwardnesses” between and within personal values and organizational structures in the face of inequality, leading to blurred boundaries between different models of aid and exchange and the forms of moral accounting that these entail.
Non “Religious” Knowing in Pilgrimages to Sacred Sites
Greek Cypriots’ “return” Pilgrimages to the Monastery of Apostolos Andreas (Cyprus)
Even though pilgrimages may often be directed toward what can conventionally be seen as “religious” sacred sites, religious and ritual forms of knowledge and ignorance may not necessarily be the only, or even the most prominent, forms in their workings. Focusing on Greek Cypriots’ return pilgrimages to the Christian-Orthodox monastery of Apostolos Andreas (Karpasia) under the conditions of Cyprus's ongoing division, in this article I explore the non “religious” forms of knowing and ignoring salient to pilgrimages to sacred religious sites, the conditions under which they become relevant, and the risks associated with them. Showing how pilgrimages to the monastery of Apostolos Andreas are situated within a larger framework of seeing “our places,” I will argue that remembering and knowing these places is the type of knowledge most commonly sought out by pilgrims, while also exploring what the stakes of not knowing/forgetting them may be felt to be. An exclusive focus on “religious” forms of knowledge and ignorance would obscure the ways in which pilgrimage is often embedded in everyday social and political concerns.
Plastic Packaging, Food Supply, and Everyday Life
Adopting a Social Practice Perspective in Social-Ecological Research
Lukas Sattlegger, Immanuel Stieß, Luca Raschewski, and Katharina Reindl
This article presents practice-theoretical conceptions of societal relations to nature as a fruitful alternative to common system approaches in social-ecological research. Via the example of plastic food packaging, two different practice-theoretical approaches to food supply are discussed regarding their suitability for relating the material properties of packaging to their everyday use by producers, retailers, and consumers: (1) the network approach (portraying food supply as a network of practices; these practices include material elements that interrelate with other elements like competence or meaning) and (2) the nexus approach (investigating the interrelation between social practices and material arrangements in which they take place). Depending on the given research interest, both perspectives have their pros and cons: the network approach is stronger in understanding the everyday use of technologies, while the nexus approach encourages the integration of infrastructures and environmental contexts that are not directly observable within the practice.
Migrant smuggling and everyday life in the Maghreb
Drawing on extensive fieldwork among Malian migrants and connection men, this article investigates the sociality of facilitating migrant journeys and illegal border crossings in the Maghreb. Dominant discourses portray smugglers as participating in highly organized networks of unscrupulous people taking advantage of innocent migrants. I counter such narratives by zooming in on West African migrants involved in the facilitation of illegal border crossings. This bizness consists of ensembles of temporary practices and relations embedded in everyday life with linkages to historical and regional practices of brokering and hosting. This perspective invites us to move conceptually from focusing on different (stereo)types of smugglers to considering smuggling practices; to make sense of the phenomenon, we need to pay less attention to fixed social positions and more to the transient social poses adopted by those involved.
Facing bureaucratic uncertainty in the Bolsa Família Program
Clientelism beyond reciprocity and economic rationality
Flávio Eiró and Martijn Koster
Clientelism is often analyzed along lines of moral values and reciprocity or an economic rationality. This article, instead, moves beyond this dichotomy and shows how both frameworks coexist and become entwined. Based on ethnographic research in a city in the Brazilian Northeast, it analyzes how the anti-poverty Bolsa Família Program and its bureaucracy are entangled with electoral politics and clientelism. We show how the program's beneficiaries engage in clientelist relationships and exchanges to deal with structural precariousness and bureaucratic uncertainty. Contributing to understanding the complexity of clientelism, our analysis demonstrates how they, in their assessment of and dealing with political candidates, employ the frames of reference of both reciprocity and economic rationality in such a way that they act as a “counterpoint” to each other.
Life in the ant trails
Cocaine and caustic circuits in Bissau
This article looks ethnographically at the cocaine trade in and through Bissau, Guinea-Bissau. It clarifies some of the less obvious aspects of illegal cross-border trade and ties the minor flow of drugs, often trafficked by the desperate and disenfranchised, to larger global dynamics. While international media and commentators alike frequently depict transnational organized crime as a pathogen attacking the healthy global order, a closer look at the Bissau cocaine trade clarifies that the trade is neither external nor parasitical but integral to it. The trade's grasp of Bissau is anchored in enduring critical circumstance, stretching from the social to the political, and displays several ironic feedback loops and interdependencies linking misfortune in time and space. The article thus shows how negative conditions may travel and circulate in a manner that ramifies vulnerability across economic and political borders.