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Anthropocene Dynamics in the Prehistoric Pacific

Modeling Emergent Socioecological Outcomes of Environmental Change

Thomas P. Leppard

How will human societies evolve in the face of the massive changes humans themselves are driving in the earth systems? Currently, few data exist with which to address this question. I argue that archaeological datasets from islands provide useful models for understanding long-term socioecological responses to large-scale environmental change, by virtue of their longitudinal dimension and their relative insulation from broader biophysical systems. Reviewing how colonizing humans initiated biological and physical change in the insular Pacific, I show that varied adaptations to this dynamism caused diversification in social and subsistence systems. This diversification shows considerable path dependency related to the degree of heterogeneity/homogeneity in the distribution of food resources. This suggests that the extent to which the Anthropocene modifies agroeconomic land surfaces toward or away from patchiness will have profound sociopolitical implications.

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Amanda J. Reinke

Informal justice refers to those legal practices that are traditionally outside the purview of formal law and legal systems. Since the advent of widespread social critique in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s, informal justice models have become increasingly popular and implemented in communities and within the legal system itself. The existence of informal justice mechanisms alongside and within formal justice systems in the US raises a number of questions for applied anthropologists interested in legal anthropology. In this article, I leverage four years of ethnographic fieldwork in the US to argue for the capacity of applied anthropologists to effectively work in grey juridical spaces that are beside and between the law, activism, and emerging bureaucratic regimes.

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Are Inexpensive Solutions Affordable?

Bio-Sand Water Filters and Improved Wood Stoves in San Miguel Totonicapán

Matthew Krystal

This article explores the efforts of an indigenous non-governmental organisation (NGO) to solve two related problems in San Miguel Totonicapán: the lack of clean drinking water and deforestation. Drawing on participant observation conducted during field stays over 10 years and survey data collected over 18 months, the article examines the affordability of bio-sand drinking water filters and high-efficiency wood cooking stoves. It considers whether savings over typical current practices for the procurement of drinking water and cooking fuel off set the purchase price of new sustainable technologies. The article also outlines data-driven recommendations offered to the NGO. While there are significant obstacles to market distribution, the acquisition of a bio-sand water filter or an improved wood stove makes good economic sense for households that presently purchase drinking water or firewood.

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Being a Community Health Worker Means Advocating

Participation, Perceptions, and Challenges in Advocacy

Ryan I. Logan

Community health workers (CHWs) participate in advocacy as a crucial means to empower clients in overcoming health disparities and to improve the health and social well-being of their communities. Building on previous studies, this article proposes a new framework for conceptualising CHW advocacy, depending on the intended impact level of CHW advocacy. CHWs participate in three ‘levels’ of advocacy, the micro, the macro, and the professional. This article also details the challenges they face at each level. As steps are taken to institutionalise these workers throughout the United States and abroad, there is a danger that their participation in advocacy will diminish. As advocacy serves as a primary conduit through which to empower clients, enshrining this role in steps to integrate these workers is essential. Finally, this article provides justification for the impacts of CHWs in addressing the social determinants of health and in helping their communities strive towards health equity.

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Livia Jiménez Sedano

This is a brief reflection on the consequences of the commodification of dance cultures from the former colonised world and the ways they are consumed in Europe. Inspired from ten years of fieldwork, the ethnic structuring of postcolonial dance floors in European cities proves an empirical basis to start this line of thought. Instead of promoting respect and interest in the dance forms and the cultural contexts in which these dance forms developed, aficionados tend to consider that these are less evolved, beautiful and interesting than the appropriations they develop in their home countries. As a result, commodification leads to reinforcing previous stereotypes and emic hierarchies of value. The kinetic metaphor of the bodies that scream but cannot listen structures the text and its arguments.

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Lisa Marie Borrelli, Cristina Douglas and Michele Fontefrancesco

Rules, Paper, Status: Migrants and Precarious Bureaucracy in Contemporary Italy Anna Tuckett. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2018, ISBN: 9781503606494, 192 pp., Pb. $25

Living before Dying: Imagining and Remembering Home Janette Davies. New York: Berghahn, 2018, ISBN: 978-1-78920-130-7, 158 pp., Pb. $27.95/£19.00.

Unfinished: The Anthropology of Becoming João Biehl and Peter Locke (eds), Durham: Duke University Press, 2017, ISBN: 978-0-8223-6945-5, 400 pp., Pb. $29.95.

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Anthropology in Action is always happy to hear from potential reviewers at all stages in their academic careers, for books, films or other media. We currently have a number of books and video resources awaiting review. If you are interested in reviewing anything on the list below, please contact the reviews editor David Orr (d.orr@sussex.ac.uk).

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Johan Wedel

This article focuses on efforts to overcome the divide between state legality and local practices. It explores a pragmatic effort to deal with witchcraft accusations and occult-related violence in customary courts among the Miskitu people in Eastern Nicaragua, taking into account both indigenous notions of justice and cosmology, and the laws of the state. In this model, a community court (elected by the community inhabitants and supported by a council of elders), watchmen known as ‘voluntary police’ and a ‘judicial facilitator’ play intermediary roles. Witchcraft is understood and addressed in relation to Miskitu cultural perceptions and notions of illness afflictions, and disputes are settled through negotiations involving divination, healing, signing a legally binding ‘peace’ contract, a fine, and giving protection to alleged witches. This decreases tensions and the risk of vigilante justice is reduced. The focus is on settling disputes, conciliation and recreating harmony instead of retribution.

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Peter De Bolla, Ewan Jones, Paul Nulty, Gabriel Recchia and John Regan

This article proposes a novel computational method for discerning the structure and history of concepts. Based on the analysis of co-occurrence data in large data sets, the method creates a measure of “binding” that enables the construction of verbal constellations that comprise the larger units, “concepts,” that change over time. In contrast to investigation into semantic networks, our method seeks to uncover structures of conceptual operation that are not simply semantic. These larger units of lexical operation that are visualized as interconnected networks may have underlying rules of formation and operation that have as yet unexamined—perhaps tangential—connection to meaning as such. The article is thus exploratory and intended to open the history of concepts to some new avenues of investigation.

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Elisabeth Timm and Patrick Laviolette

It is with a certain nostalgia and great sadness that we begin this issue by announcing the death of one of our journal’s founding editors, Prof. Christian Giordano [1945–2018], in the final days of last year – an obituary will be published in the next issue. With the passing of Ina-Maria Greverus in 2017, AJEC is now orphaned from its two founding editors. At a time when the Soviet Union was collapsing and Europe would begin facing even more drastic changes, Grevenus and Giordano had the collective vision in 1990 of launching the Anthropological Yearbook of European Cultures.