We are living at a time of what seems like unprecedented social, political, moral, epistemological and environmental uncertainty. It seems we are moving into – or are already in – what some historians call a ‘general crisis’. They usually apply that term to the seventeenth century. But however different his view of the world may have been to ours, Chaucer was himself living through just such a period, when ancient certainties and assumptions seemed radically unstable, when society seemed to be sliding into irresolvable war and chaos, and the weather was reliably unreliable. Famine stalked every happy harvest. Dame Fortune seemed to be at her most unpredictable. And ancient voices from that anxious time may have something to tell us in our own.
The Generative Power of Political Emotions
Mette-Louise Johansen, Therese Sandrup and Nerina Weiss
Moral outrage has until now been conceptualized as a call to action, a reaction to injustice and transgressions, and a forceful motor for democratic participation, acts of civil disobedience, and violent and illicit action. This introduction goes beyond linear causality between trigger events, political emotions, and actions to explore moral outrage as it is experienced and expressed in contexts of political violence, providing a better understanding of that emotion’s generic power. Moral outrage is here understood as a multidimensional emotion that may occur momentarily and instantly, and exist as an enduring process and being-in-the-world, based on intergenerational experiences of violence, state histories, or local contexts of fear and anxiety. Because it appears in the intersubjective field, moral outrage is central for identity politics and social positioning, so we show how moral outrage may be a prism to investigate and understand social processes such as mobilization, collectivities, moral positioning and responsiveness, and political violence.
Ethnographic Engagement with Bureaucratic Violence
Erin R. Eldridge and Amanda J. Reinke
Bureaucracies are dynamic and interactive sociocultural worlds that drive knowledge production, power inequalities and subsequent social struggle, and violence. The authors featured in this special section mobilize their ethnographic data to examine bureaucracies as animated spaces where violence, whether physical, structural, or symbolic, manifests in everyday bureaucratic practices and relationships. The articles span geographic contexts (e.g., United States, Canada, Chile, Eritrea) and topics (e.g., migration, extractive economies, law and sociolegal change, and settler colonialism) but are bound together in their investigation of the violence of the administration of decisions, care, and control through bureaucratic means.
Understanding Experiences and Decisions in Situations of Enduring Hardship in Africa
Mirjam de Bruijn and Jonna Both
The enduring experience of hardship, in the form of layers of various crises, can become deeply ingrained in a society, and people can come to act and react under these conditions as if they lead a normal life. This process is explored through the analytical concept of duress, which contains three elements: enduring and accumulating layers of hardship over time, the normalization of this hardship, and a form of deeply constrained agency. We argue that decisions made in duress have a significant impact on the social and political structures of society. This concept of duress is used as a lens to understand the lives of individual people and societies in Central and West Africa that have a long history of ecological, political, and social conflicts and crises.
Mimetic Governmentality, Colonialism, and the State
Patrice Ladwig and Ricardo Roque
Engaging critically with literature on mimesis, colonialism, and the state in anthropology and history, this introduction argues for an approach to mimesis and imitation as constitutive of the state and its forms of rule and governmentality in the context of late European colonialism. It explores how the colonial state attempted to administer, control, and integrate its indigenous subjects through mimetic policies of governance, while examining how indigenous polities adopted imitative practices in order to establish reciprocal ties with, or to resist the presence of, the colonial state. In introducing this special issue, three main themes will be addressed: mimesis as a strategic policy of colonial government, as an object of colonial regulation, and, finally, as a creative indigenous appropriation of external forms of state power.
Ethnographic engagements with global elites
Paul Robert Gilbert and Jessica Sklair
Anthropological interest in critical studies of class, system, and inequality has recently been revitalized. Most ethnographers have done this from “below,” while studies of financial, political, and other professional elites have tended to avoid the language of class, capital, and inequality. This themed section draws together ethnographies of family wealth transfers, philanthropy, and private sector development to reflect on the place of critique in the anthropology of elites. While disciplinary norms and ethics usually promote deferral to our research participants, the uncritical translation of these norms “upward” to studies of elites raises concerns. We argue for a critical approach that does not seek political purity or attempt to “get the goods” on elites, but that makes explicit the politics involved in doing ethnography with elites.
Mobility in doctoral education – and beyond
Corina Balaban and Susan Wright
This special issue emerged as a result of Universities in the Knowledge Economy (UNIKE), a four-year collaborative research project and training programme for early-stage researchers that investigated the dynamic relationships between universities and knowledge economies in Europe and in the Asia-Pacific Rim. The project was funded by the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Commission (EC) and included researchers based at six different universities in five European countries. Mobility was not only a widespread research interest within the UNIKE academic community but also a reality of the project, which was in itself a practical example of mobility in doctoral education, as envisaged by the European Commission. Many questions emerged as to how mobility became so central to the European Union’s policies for higher education, but also as to how the portrayal of mobility on a policy level compared to the actual lived experiences of mobile students and researchers. ‘Mobility’ can refer to many different things: geographical mobility, social mobility, cross-sectoral mobility or intellectual mobility (interdisciplinarity). The academic literature mostly treats them separately, with clusters of studies around each concept. In contrast, this special issue sets out to investigate these different types of mobility collectively, with authors covering several parts or the whole spectrum of mobilities. We believe it is valuable to discuss these four different aspects of mobility together for two reasons. First, they are often mentioned together in higher education policy as ‘desirable’ characteristics of a given education programme. Second, the ideal profile of the new, flexible knowledge worker supposedly combines all these aspects of mobility in one persona. The policy literature produced by influential stakeholders in higher education such as the European Commission and the OECD focuses on how to encourage, foster and support different kinds of mobility, working on the assumption that mobility is inherently good and will benefit countries, higher education systems and individuals. Much of the academic literature has adopted a similar approach, focusing on ways to enable mobility rather than challenge it.
Politics and Power after the 2017 Bundestag Election
Although it has not been that long since the articles of the previous special issue devoted to the 2017 Bundestag election and its aftermath have been published, the political situation in Germany appears to have stabilized. After almost six months without a new government, German politics has sunk back into a kind of late-Merkel era normality. Public opinion polls continue to show that the CDU/CSU is slightly above its election outcome, the SPD is still down in the 17–18 percent range, the FDP has lost about 2 percent of its support, while the AfD, Greens and Left Party are up 1–2 percent.
Anthropology and the EU General Data Protection Regulation
In May 2018, the European Union (EU) introduced the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) with the aim of increasing transparency in data processing and enhancing the rights of data subjects. Within anthropology, concerns have been raised about how the new legislation will affect ethnographic fieldwork and whether the laws contradict the discipline’s core tenets. To address these questions, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London hosted an event on 25 May 2018 entitled ‘Is Anthropology Legal?’, bringing together researchers and data managers to begin a dialogue about the future of anthropological work in the context of the GDPR. In this article, I report and reflect on the event and on the possible implications for anthropological research within this climate of increasing governance.
Denise Turner and Bronwen Gillespie
The Comfort of People Daniel Miller, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2017, ISBN 978-1-5095-2432-7, 226 pp.
How Development Projects Persist: Everyday Negotiations with Guatemalan NGOs Erin Beck, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017, ISBN 978-0-8223-6378-1, 266 pp.