George Orwell is most widely known as the teller of dystopian tales of oppression. A closer look at his oeuvre reveals a courageous truth seeker who frequently lived and worked with his literary subjects. In his fieldwork he used the methods of classic ethnography including participant observation, semi-structured interviews and field notes. This article argues that Orwell was an ethnographer in his research methods and that both Down and Out in Paris and London and The Road to Wigan Pier are ethnographic texts with valuable insights into marginal groups in the early to mid-twentieth century in Europe. The writer’s clear-sighted and humane depiction of ‘otherness’ shows his skill as an ethnographer. His personal investment with his subject matter, reflexivity and attention to broader social and political phenomena in his narratives mark Orwell as an autoethnographer.
The Road to Wigan Pier and Down and Out in Paris and London
Human–Animal Relationships in the Middle East
Marjan Mashkour and Anahita Grisoni
The Sub-disciplinary Context
Máiréad Nic Craith and Laurent Sebastian Fournier
This special issue on anthropology and literature invited proposals for original contributions focusing on relationships between anthropology and literature. We were especially interested in the following questions: what role does literature play in anthropology? Can literature be considered as ethnography? What are the relationships between anthropology and literature, past and present? Are anthropology and anthropological motives used in literature? We also looked for critical readings of writers as anthropologists and critical readings of anthropologists as writers. Moreover, we wanted to assess the influence of literature on the invention of traditions, rituals and cultural performances. All these different questions and topics are clearly connected with the study of literacy, illiteracy and popular culture. They also lead to questions regarding potential textual strategies for ethnography and the possibilities of bringing together the field of anthropology (more associated with the social sciences) and literary studies (traditionally part of the humanities).
Transnationalism and Transgenerationalism in the Middle East and Its Diasporas
G. J. Breyley
Interactions across the Middle East and between the region and the rest of the world have arguably intensified in recent years, from shifts in economic and cultural relations to unprecedented levels and changing forms of migration. In response, anthropologists and others working in the social sciences and humanities have deepened their collective investigation of transnationalism, approaching this theme and the questions it raises in diverse ways (see Alsultany and Shohat 2013; Chatty 2015; Graw and Schielke 2012; Hage 2005; Kearney 1995; Naficy 2003, 1999; Silverstein 2015; Vertovec 2009). Many scholars have explored the limitations of thinking in ‘national’ categories, while at the same time observing the persistence of this way of thinking and its effects on the everyday lives of those who live transnationally or experience ‘the diasporic condition’. Jumana Bayeh (2014: 19) suggests that: ‘Defined by alterity, double consciousness and a fragmented identity, the diasporic condition, like the figure of the foreigner, accepts the dis-integrated subjectivity of the self and in turn exposes the nation-state’s own internal heterogeneity’. The articles in this interdisciplinary special issue variously address these and other aspects of the diasporic condition in several different Middle Eastern and diasporic contexts.
One of the great anthems of the romantically famed 1960s was Dylan’s ‘The times, they are a-changing’. But are they ever not? They certainly are right now, and radically. As a subject concerned with what one might, in slightly old-fashioned terms, describe as ‘the human condition’, anthropology ought to pay attention to and engage with these changes. That attention and engagement ought to be visible in the pages of its journals, and across the spectrum of journals, it certainly has been. For small journals like AJEC, this poses particular challenges. When the editorial board met last year during the EASA conference in Tallinn, we discussed these challenges and how best to respond to them. The journal has been doing exceptionally well in a difficult publishing climate, and the changes to the management and of format of AJEC, agreed in Tallinn and complemented by subsequent consultation, will build on this success.
Setting the Context
Máiréad Nic Craith and Bernadette O'Rourke
Within the field of anthropology, there is a comprehensive linguistic sub-discipline which deals with issues from semiotics and linguistics to identity and intangible cultural heritage. This special volume of AJEC emerged from our desire to explore that sub-discipline in a European context. From our perspective, it appears that many anthropologists in and of Europe engage with a variety of questions within the sub-discipline. However, these anthropologists are not necessarily located in anthropology departments. Furthermore, their expertise is not necessarily profiled in anthropological journals. This is in sharp contrast with the U.S.A. where the significance of language in the field of anthropology is more clearly defined and profiled.
Material Culture of the Middle East, Its Intangible Dimensions and New Museums
Janet Blake and Danila Mayer
In this issue of Anthropology of the Middle East, we present contributions that deal with museums, museology and their approaches to the new social situations through which they must navigate. Cutting a swathe very generously around the Mediterranean and the Middle East – from Tunis to Qatar, Turkey and, as an extension, to Austria – we bring together articles that look closely into some acute issues of today: the transformation from colonial to post-colonial and its reverberant impacts, from national to post-national and transnational societies both in Europe and the Middle East, and to the stringencies of material culture, cultural heritage and ‘meaningful objects’, and how to preserve, to analyse and to exhibit them. All contributors dedicate their works published here to the social, cultural and economic changes affecting societies and communities, and to the demands that increasing diversity presents as challenges to cultural institutions and their personnel.
Sexuality, Culture and Public Politics in the Middle East
The role of sexuality in the construction of various social institutions and in the maintenance of power hierarchies has long been a significant focus of anthropological research (Leacock and Safa 1986; MacCormack and Strathern 1980; Wolkowitz et al. 1981). Indeed anthropologists and sociologists have been mindful of the extent to which sexuality constitutes a highly contested terrain that is tightly patrolled by religious forces, morality codes and state institutions in all societies (Gole 1996; Hélie and Hoodfar 2012; Lancaster and di Leonardo 1997; Lee 2011; White 2002). However, in recent decades, the fragmenting of sexuality studies into studies of gender roles, reproductive rights, sexual orientation, studies in masculinities, and even honour killing and violence against women, has resulted in depoliticising sexuality: without clearly linking the various aspects and arenas in which sexuality is salient, the centrality and complexity of politics of sexuality to power structures are easily lost.
Máiréad Nic Craith
Books Available for Review
Eszter B. Gantner and Jay (Koby) Oppenheim
In 1996 the historian Diana Pinto published her often since quoted and discussed article on ‘A New Jewish Identity for Post-1989 Europe’. She was one of the first Jewish intellectuals to reflect on the fall of the Iron Curtain and the resulting political changes and their possible consequences for Jewish communities in Europe. In her article, she introduced the term ‘Jewish space’ that motivates the focus of this issue, as well as the term ‘voluntarily Jewish’, which describes the construction of identity free of external prescription. Pinto situates Jewish space in the context of the Erinnerungspolitik European democracies engaged in during the 1980s, when Holocaust memorialisation began to assume an institutional form through the establishment of Jewish museums, research institutes and exhibitions.