This article discusses the impact of skin colour inequality in the individual aspirations and prospects of social inclusion and success, social mobility aspirations, professional ambitions and career opportunities. Ethnographically, it studies specific forms of cosmetic investments and self-optimisation in Portugal and its effects on the micropolitics of bodies, correlating the agency of individuals (how they empower themselves maximising certain aspects and minimising others) with the ways in which a European white appearance circulates as a form of capital and commodity, creating body narratives that are very much racialised. By inquiring the actual European understanding of value in bodies, we can also understand the colonial legacy and how it is reproduced through the mutation of bodies.
‘Cosmetic’ Investments in the Body
The article studies the emergence of the transgender phenomenon within LGB activism in contemporary Ukraine in relation to an ongoing geopolitical process of Europeanisation, which involves negotiations over the country’s belonging to Europe. The article is based on PhD research (2013–2018) and has borrowed from governmentality studies and also from literature about the Europeanisation process. It pays particular attention to the instrumentalisation of sexual diversity and the transfer of ideas from Western to Eastern Europe. Using data from field research, the article brings to light the discrepancies between the globalised frameworks for LGBT activism and localised meanings and practices.
Phenomenology Encounters Cognitivism
Since the early 1990s, phenomenology and cognitivism have become influential strands of inquiry in film theory. Phenomenological approaches remain focused on descriptive accounts of the embodied subject’s experiential engagement with film, whereas cognitivist approaches attempt to provide explanatory accounts in order to theorize cognitively relevant aspects of our experience of movies. Both approaches, however, are faced with certain challenges. Phenomenology remains a descriptive theory that turns speculative once it ventures to “explain” the phenomena upon which it focuses. Cognitivism deploys naturalistic explanatory theories that can risk reductively distorting the phenomena upon which it focuses by not having an adequate phenomenology of subjective experience. Phenomenology and cognitivism could work together, I suggest, to ground a pluralistic philosophy of film that is both descriptively rich and theoretically productive. From this perspective, we would be better placed to integrate the cultural and historical horizons of meaning that mediate our subjective experience of cinema.
The Motorway as a Space of Neoliberalism
The article surveys a giant infrastructural construction project in Poland: the A2 motorway, connecting Poznan´ and Warsaw with the Polish-German border. It was the first private motorway in Poland, and the biggest European infrastructural project, and was realized in a public-private partnership system. The last section of A2 was opened on 1 December 2011, which can be seen as a key moment in Polish socioeconomic transformation. I examine it on two levels: (1) a discourse between government and private investors in which the motorway was the medium of economic and social development and infrastructural “the end” modernization of Poland; (2) practices and opinions of local communities, living along the new motorway. On the first level, the construction of A2 was seen as an impetus for the economic and social development of the regions where the motorway was built. But on the second level, I observe almost universal disappointment and a deep crisis experienced by local economies.
Sarah Pink and John Postill
When people move country, they experience new social, infrastructural, and ambient contingencies, which enables them to imagine otherwise unknowable possible futures ‘at home’. In this article, we mobilise a design anthropological approach to show how collaboration with temporary migrants can generate understandings that generate insights regarding future sustainable products in emerging economies. We draw on research with temporary Indonesian student migrants in Australia, which explored how they envisioned their possible domestic futures through their changing laundry practices.
Jelena Tošić and Annika Lems
Th is contribution introduces the collection of texts in this special section of Migration and Society exploring contemporary patterns of im/mobility between Africa and Europe. It proposes an ontological-epistemological framework for investigating present-day movements via three core dimensions: (1) a focus on im/mobility explores the intertwinement of mobility and stasis in the context of biographical and migratory pathways and thus goes beyond a binary approach to migration; (2) an existential and dialogical-ethnographic approach zooms in on individual experiences of im/mobility and shows that the personal-experiential is not apolitical, but represents a realm of everyday struggles and quests for a good life; and (3) a genealogical-historical dimension explores present-day migratory quests through their embeddedness within legacies of (post)colonial power relations and interconnections and thus counteracts the hegemonic image of immigration from Africa as having no history and legitimacy.
Visual Anthropology in the Middle East
Esther Hertzog and Yael Katzir
This issue demonstrates the potential and unique contribution of visual anthropology to deepening and expanding anthropological knowledge with historical, artistic, cultural and political perspectives. Describing and analysing historical events, daily social life and the arts, the articles offer original interpretations of human experiences and social processes that are part of the Middle East reality, in the past and present. Some authors suggest striving to establish ethnic, cultural and national identities goes hand in hand with struggles for civilian rights and socio-economic equality. Using illustrations and a feminist analysis, other authors reflect on women’s marginalisation in the arts and in the historiography of this region. The use of visual materials, highlighting similarities among divergent communities, entails an optimistic view about the potential contribution of arts to break through fundamental dividing features.
War Veterans and the Construction of Citizenship Categories
Nikkie Wiegink, Ralph Sprenkels and Birgitte Refslund Sørensen
War veterans oft en constitute a specific category of citizens as they inspire and bring forward particular claims on recognition and resources of the state. The authors featured in this special section each explore processes of the construction of categories of war veterans in different contemporary contexts. Drawing on ethnographic data, the contributions explore the interactions between (those identified) as war veterans and the state, and the processes concerned with granting value to participation in war. This involves (the denial of) rights and privileges as well as a process of identity construction. Th e construction of war veterans as a specific kind of citizens is a political phenomenon, subject to negotiation and contestation, involving both the external categorizations of war veterans as well as the self-making and identity politics from former fighters “from below.”
Cosmopolitan politesse, continued
This issue’s forum continues a lively discussion of Nigel Rapport’s notion of ‘cosmopolitan politesse’ that was previously featured in these pages in the summer of 2018. Rapport has long proposed this sort of politesse as a ‘form of virtue’ and ‘good manners’ (2018: 93) premised on ‘the ontological reality of human individuality’, which in turn necessitates an ‘interactional code’ according to which we must presume both ‘common humanity’ but also ‘distinct individuality’ to the point where we ‘classif[y] the Other in no more substantive fashion than this’ (92). Given anthropology’s history of intricately taxonomising humans according to various criteria, this is indeed a challenging proposal – all the more so in the context of legal anthropology, where being subject to specific norms and laws is often taken to be constitutive of distinctive subjectivities, sensibilities and survival strategies. In this issue, Don Gardner responds, directing his critical attention towards the notion of personhood undergirding Rapport’s plea for a revitalised Kantian liberalism in an era of resurgent xenophobia and ethnonationalism. In the process, we see two accomplished scholars taking positions within (and consciously outside of) a whole range of classical debates in the Western philosophical cannon with pressing relevance for contemporary legal anthropology, from nature versus nurture to free will versus determinism, individualism versus collectivism and structure versus agency.
Andrew Benjamin and Francesco Borghesi
This special issue arose from a workshop on “Peace and Concord from Plato to Lessing”, organised by the editors and which took place at the University of Sydney on 18 and 19 September 2017. Central to the work of both the editors is the relationship between the concepts of ‘concord’, ‘peace’ and ‘dignity’ within a setting created by a concern with the development of a philological anthropology. Their work combines both intellectual history and philosophy, a combination that is reflected in the contents of the special issue of Theoria. The importance of these terms is that they allow for another interpretation of the ethical and the political. Central to both is the location of human being within a larger cultural context. That context demands an approach in which philosophy does not exclude history, and history recognises that it is already informed philosophically. If there is a unifying term, it is ‘culture’. The approach taken within the larger project starts with the centrality of culture as that which demands to be thought. And yet culture is neither tranquil nor unified. As Walter Benjamin argued, there ‘is no document of culture which is not at the same time a document of barbarism’. Allowing for culture’s centrality entails a reconfiguration of both philosophy and intellectual history.