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Oneness and ‘the church in Taiwan’

Anthropology Is Possible without Relations but Not without Things

Gareth Paul Breen

Abstract

Worldwide followers of the late Chinese Christian reformers Watchman Nee and Witness Lee share a central concern with human-divine ‘oneness’, but there are different understandings in different localities about how such oneness works. I utilize one such difference by analyzing group unity in Euro-America using Taiwanese understandings of oneness, which involve things (selfsame unities) but not relations. Experimenting with Dumontian, Strathernian, and object-oriented anthropologies, I show that anthropological analysis is currently possible (a) by emphasizing things, (b) by emphasizing relations, and (c) entirely without relations. Anthropology entirely without things, however, has not yet been achieved. I conclude by suggesting reasons why we might want to attain this final possibility in our approach to things and/or relations.

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Ontological Opportunism

Reanimating the Inanimate in Physics and Science Communication at CERN

Anne Dippel

Understanding inanimate ‘nature-as-such’ is traditionally considered the object of physics in Europe. The discipline acts as exemplary discursive practice of scientific knowledge production. However, as my ethnographic investigation of doing and communicating high energy physics demonstrates, animist conceptions seep into the ontological understanding of physics’ ‘objects’, resonating with contemporary concepts of new materialism, new animism and feminist science and technology studies, signifying an atmospheric shift in the understanding of ‘nature’. Drawing on my fieldwork at CERN, I argue that scientists take an opportunist stance to animate concepts of ‘nature’, depending on whom they’re talking to. I am showing how the inanimate in physics is reanimated especially in scientific outreach activities and how the universalist scientific cosmology overlaps with indigenous cosmologies, as for example the Lakota ones.

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Tim Ingold

Abstract

This article asks what part prehistory could play in establishing a posthumanist settlement, alternative to the humanism of the Enlightenment. We begin by showing how Enlightenment thinking split the concept of the human in two, into species and condition, establishing a point of origin where the history of civilization rises from its baseline in evolution. Drawing on the thinking of the thirteenth-century mystic, Ramon Llull, we present an alternative vision of human becoming according to which life carries on through a process of continuous birth, wherein even death and burial hold the promise of renewal. In prehistory, this vision is exemplified in the work of André Leroi-Gourhan, in his exploration of the relation between voice and hand, and of graphism as a precursor to writing. We conclude that the idea of graphism holds the key to a prehistory that not so much precedes as subtends the historic.

Open access

Olivia Mason and Nick Megoran

Abstract

The increased reliance of universities on a pool of highly skilled but poorly paid casualised academic labour for teaching and research has emerged as a defining feature of higher education provision under neoliberal New Public Management. Based on seventeen visual timeline interviews with academics in the North East of England, this article augments and extends existing studies of precarity through a framing of dehumanisation and humanisation. Specifically, we suggest that casualisation is dehumanising in four ways: it renders individuals invisible; it leaves them vulnerable to exploitation; it denies them academic freedom; and it hampers them in constructing a life narrative projecting into the future. We conclude that casualisation is not simply the product of a reprehensible political economy, but that it is an afront to the very meaning and dignity of being human.

Open access

Refugees and Fish Fingers

How Visegrad Policymakers Used Emancipatory Narratives to Establish a ‘Right to Reject’

Lucia Najslova

Emancipatory narratives and acts often emerge in struggle against injustice and marginalisation. This article shows the ease with which they can be employed to justify the denial of rights. The space-time is ‘post-socialist’ Eastern Europe, more specifically, the Visegrad platform set up in the 1990s to facilitate entry of three such states into the European Union (EU). The ethnography begins in 2015, when Arab and/or Muslim refugees appeared in Europe in what most EU politicians deemed as unsettling numbers. I read moments from conversations with policymakers and activists, as well as archive material, through lenses of solidarity and sovereignty. This approach allows us to see that delegitimisation of others’ rights can well be a product of relational insecurity, in this case, frustration in the Visegrad’s ‘policy world’ with the region’s recent Westernisation.

Open access

Jenanne Ferguson

The three articles that comprise this issue of Sibirica engage with the complexities of dialogic relationships to place. What do people bring to a place? What does place catalyze for people? The authors come from diverse disciplinary backgrounds and bring disparate frameworks from human geography, cultural anthropology, and philosophy; in each article, they engage with both the immediate present and the broader arc of time and reflect on the pragmatic and practical dimensions of relationships with a place to those more spiritual and ineffable.

Open access

Chiara Cocco and Aleida Bertran

Abstract

The Festival of Sant'Efisio has been carried out for centuries in Sardinia, Italy, to honor a vow made to the Saint after a plague in the seventeenth century. As a result of the global health crisis in 2020, the Festival was performed mainly through social media. Studying this event under such conditions accentuated the inherent complexity of interpreting ethnographic data from religious festivals, in which the body, emotions, and participation play a fundamental role. Emphasizing the hybridity of online and offline worlds, we reflect on how fieldwork has been transformed by COVID-19 through a reflexive account of the methodological challenges of online festival ethnography.

Open access

Eliseu Carbonell, Laurent Sébastien Fournier, Lara Houston, Maarja Kaaristo, Agnieszka Pasieka, and Markéta Slavková

Review: Kockel, Ullrich; Clopot, Cristina; Tjarve, Baiba; and Nic Craith, Máiréad (2020) Heritage and Festivals in Europe. Performing Identities. London: Routledge. 213 pp. ISBN: 978-0-367-18676-0.

Máiréad Nic Craith, (2020) The Vanishing World of The Islandman. Narrative and Nostalgia, London, Palgrave Macmillan, Palgrave Studies in Literary Anthropology.

Martínez, Francisco and Patrick Laviolette (2019) Repair, Brokenness, Breakthrough: Ethnographic Responses. Oxon & New York. Berghahn Books. 340 pp., 69 illus., bibliog., index, ISBN 978-1-78920-331-8, $135.00 /  99.00 Hb

Anu Lounela, Eeva Berglund and Timo Kallinen (eds) (2019) Dwelling in Political Landscapes: Contemporary Anthropological Perspectives. Studia Fennica Anthropologica 4 (Helsinki: The Finnish Literature Society), 293 pp., ISBN 978-951-858-087-7

Michał Buchowski (ed) (2019) Twilight Zone Anthropology. Voices from Poland. RAI/Sean Kingston Publishing. Vol. 2 of the RAI Country Series (series editor David Shankland)

Tom Scott-Smith (2020) On an Empty Stomach: Two Hundred Years of Hunger Relief. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 268 pp., Hardcover $35.00, ISBN: 9781501748653.

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“Rights of Things”

A Posthumanist Approach to Law?

Doris Schweitzer

Abstract

We can identify a legal vanishing point within neo-materialist and posthumanist approaches—either explicitly, for example, when things are regarded as political actors or contractual partners; or implicitly, when authors hint at the anthropocentric limitations of the granting of rights to human beings. Conversely, “rights of things” appear as a posthumanist approach to law as they decentralize “the human.” But do “rights of things” actually surmount the strict divide between humans (persona) and nonhumans (res) within law? By referring to three empirical cases—animal rights, rights of nature, and robot rights—I will argue that “rights of things” do not necessarily push against the anthropocentrism of law. Rather, we can identify a re-centralization of humans within a given milieu. Thus, the critical impact of the concept “rights of things” must be reconsidered; furthermore, we can draw some conclusions for the theoretical approaches of New Materialism and Posthumanism itself.

Open access

Selfies and Self-Fictions

Calibrating Co-presence in and of ‘the Field’

Liana Chua

Abstract

Through what fictions do anthropologists become co-present in ‘the field’? And what happens when ‘the field’ becomes co-present in anthropologists’ lives? In this article, I reflexively contrast two experiences of fieldwork connectedness: first, the changes to my interactions with Bidayuh villagers in rural Borneo since 2003, and, second, my recent engagement with the social media-scape of orangutan conservation. Both examples shed light on the methodological and ethical questions about the self-fictions through which anthropologists create our presence in the field—and how those fields assert their presence beyond our research projects. Recent technological developments, I suggest, thus underscore fundamental questions of how to calibrate fieldwork relations and where to locate the boundaries and openings of the anthropological self—a process that we cannot entirely control.