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Postsocialist Mediterranean

Scalar gaze, moral self, and relational labor of favors in Eastern Europe

Čarna Brković

This article opens a conversation between anthropological studies of the Mediterranean and of postsocialism in order to propose the notion of a “scalar gaze” as an analytical approach useful for capturing veering practices in their social complexity. The article argues that favors (veze/štela, lit. relations, connections) in contemporary Bosnia and Herzegovina were a practice through which people fulfilled the demands of capitalist economy to be active, rather than a pre-capitalist excess that prevented “proper” development of the country into a neoliberal democracy. Zooming in and out and looking sideways between moral reasoning, internationally supervised structural changes of the job markets, and electoral politics, this article explores how the relational labor of favors reproduced moral selves, as well as hierarchy and inequality.

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Trading Futures

Sadaqah, social enterprise, and the polytemporalities of development gifts

Tom Widger and Filippo Osella

In this article, we explore what happens when idea(l)s of Islamic charity (sadaqah) and social enterprise converge within a low-cost public health clinic in Colombo, Sri Lanka. For both the clinic’s wealthy sponsors and the urban poor who use it, interpreting the intervention as a pious expression of care toward the poor or as a for-profit humanitarian venture meant extending different futures to the poor. The ambiguous temporalities of gifts and commodities anticipated by benefactors and beneficiaries involved in this challenges anthropological assumptions concerning the marketizing effects of neoliberal development interventions. Our ethnography revealed a hesitancy among the clinic’s sponsors, managers, and users to endow the intervention with a final interpretation, undermining its stated goal of promoting health care privatization and “responsibilization” of the poor.

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Air in Unexpected Places

Metabolism, Design, and the Making of an ‘African’ Aircrete

Michael Degani

Abstract

Aircrete is a lightweight building material with a number of remarkable qualities, including high compression strength, buoyancy and thermal insulation. Perhaps most strikingly, its lack of sand aggregate makes it energy efficient compared to concrete. While aircrete is regularly sold by various construction companies, DIY enthusiasts and technicians around the world are cultivating more home-brew, open-source methods. This article follows James, an American ex-security contractor and mining engineer, as he attempts to convert his own embodied legacies of imperial extraction into a pro-social business venture by designing aircrete machines and mixes for urban Africa. His adventures in aircrete typify an energy future in which an array of intriguing experiments and technologies intersect with a broader entrepreneurial effort to capture Africa's growing consumer markets.

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Appropriate Targets

Global Patterns in Interaction and Conflict Surrounding Cetacean Conservation and Traditional Marine Hunting Communities

Florence Durney

Abstract

With the International Whaling Commission's 1982 moratorium on commercial whaling in force, much of today's cetacean hunting is done by traditional or indigenous communities for subsistence use. However, many communities continue to face pressure from other global stakeholders to stop. Informed by my research with marine hunters in Indonesia, this article combines scholarship from biology, philosophy, and law with global anthropology on cetacean hunting groups to explore a set of recurring arguments arising between hunting communities, management and conservation bodies, and publics. These include the role of charismatic species in Western imagination and conservation; how understandings of animal sentience determine acceptable prey; disputes about the authenticity of and control over traditional hunting practice; and the entanglement of cultural sovereignty and rights to animal resources. Bringing these arguments together allows for an examination of how the dominant global discourse about traditional whaling is shaped and how it affects extant hunting communities.

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Between Boundary-Work and Cosmopolitan Aspirations

A Historical Genealogy of EASA (and European Anthropology)

Damián Omar Martínez

Abstract

This article presents a historical genealogy of EASA and European anthropology. Performing a heuristic exercise of ethnographic epoché, it critically examines European anthropologists’ writings on European anthropology and EASA as they appear in different statements and accounts, especially in the Association's newsletters and reports of its conferences, understanding these documents as praxeologically embedded in anthropologists’ everyday production of knowledge. Drawing on the sociology of critique and the concept of boundary-work, it argues that EASA created its own ‘space of critique’, funnelling previous discussions on European anthropology, and becoming a platform for its production and its contestation as a site for the production of ‘hierarchies of knowledge’. Those contestations reflect an original and longstanding tension between EASA's inclusive cosmopolitan aspiration and the exclusionary practice of boundary-work.

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Ben Belek

Janet Carsten, Blood Work: Life and Laboratories in Penang, Durham, NC: Duke University, pp. 256, 2019.

Open access

Eugene N. Anderson, Jodie Asselin, Jessica diCarlo, Ritwick Ghosh, Michelle Hak Hepburn, Allison Koch, and Lindsay Vogt

Hamilton, Sarah R. 2018. Cultivating Nature: The Conservation of a Valencian Working Landscape. Seattle: University of Washington Press. 312 pp. ISBN 978-0-295-74331-8.

Besky, Sarah, and Alex Blanchette, eds. 2019. How Nature Works: Rethinking Labor on a Troubled Planet. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. 272 pp. ISBN: 978-0-8263-6085-4

Lora-Wainwright, Anna. 2017. Resigned Activism: Living with Pollution in Rural China. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 272 pp. ISBN: 978-0-2620-3632-0.

Symons, Jonathan. 2019. Ecomodernism: Technology, Politics and the Climate Crisis. Cambridge: Polity. 232 pp. ISBN: 978-1-5095-3120-2.

Miller, Theresa L. 2019. Plant Kin: A Multispecies Ethnography in Indigenous Brazil. Austin: University of Texas Press. 328 pp. ISBN 978-1-4773-1740-2.

Aistara, Guntra. 2018. Organic Sovereignties: Struggles Over Farming in an Age of Free Trade. Seattle: University of Washington Press. 272 pp. ISBN 978-0-295-74311-0.

Drew, Georgina. 2017. River Dialogues: Hindu Faith and the Political Ecology of Dams on the Sacred Ganga. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. 264 pp. ISBN: 978-0-8165-4098-3.

Folch, Christine. 2019. Hydropolitics: The Itaipú Dam, Sovereignty, and the Engineering of Modern South America. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 272 pp. ISBN: 978-0-6911-8659-7.

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Capturing Crisis

Solar Power and Humanitarian Energy Markets in Africa

Jamie Cross

Abstract

Goudebou refugee camp in northern Burkina Faso has emerged as a testing ground for international efforts to find market-based solutions to the delivery of basic energy services in humanitarian contexts. This article follows energy researchers, humanitarian practitioners and entrepreneurs as they work to capture a market for energy here by mapping consumer demand, generating evidence that can prove the willingness of refugees to pay and securing contracts for the supply of solar powered technologies. Their efforts reveal the moral and material logics of humanitarian interventions in the field of energy, and point to the continued significance of ‘crisis’ for the making of Africa's energy politics, subjects and futures.

Open access

Carceral Repair

Methane Extraction in Lake Kivu, Rwanda

Kristin Doughty

Abstract

This article, based on ethnographic fieldwork in 2016–2019, examines methane extraction operations in Lake Kivu on the Rwanda/DRC border as a lens into understanding how energy futures in Africa are imagined and enacted within national projects of post-war reconstruction. In 2005, scientists suggested that the lake's dissolved methane risked oversaturation within the century. This spurred state-backed projects to simultaneously prevent a natural disaster and harness the methane to meet Rwanda's rising electrification needs. Two companies are currently building and operating methane-fuelled power plants. The article suggests that these energy projects, an integral part of the overall architecture of social repair in Rwanda, reproduce and generate forms of captivity and entrapment that are central to understanding the lived politics of ‘carceral repair’, a generation after genocide.

Open access

Civilization as the Undesired World

Radical Environmentalism and the Uses of Dystopia in Times of Climate Crisis

Stine Krøijer

Abstract

Unlike the concept of utopia, an explicit concern with dystopia is almost completely absent from anthropology. This article describes the technologies or uses of dystopia among a group of radical environmental activists in Germany. Dystopia means an undesired or frightening society or place, and, according to the activists, describes our current society and civilization—a consumerist lifestyle and overexploitation of nature that will inevitably lead to environmental collapse. This image is used politically to create estrangement and to make distance from undesired others and their practices. The article suggests that an analytical attention to the political technologies of dystopia might be of broad relevance for efforts to understand politics at our present historical conjuncture where utopias seem to have disappeared from mainstream political life.