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Francesc Bellaubi

Abstract

Surrounded by mountains and forests, Lake Turgoyak in the Southern Urals (Russia) is a popular tourist destination. However, the many resorts and camps as well as the high number of visitors have had a negative environmental impact on the lake. Taking Lake Turgoyak as a case study, the research examines the values in the human-geosphere relationship, framed as a geoethical dilemma revisiting the concept of the noosphere. The formulation of geoethical dilemmas, as a way to explore the values that underpin the technocratic artifacts on which humans relate to the geosphere, reveals a spiritual dimension that shapes cultural identities that, in turn, unfold in eco-ideologies of resistance in hope.

Open access

Staying Tuned

Connections beyond ‘the Field’

Geoffrey Hughes and Anna-Maria Walter

Abstract

Ethnographers today find themselves experimenting with new approaches to digital ethnography amid pandemic-related restrictions on research. Yet such developments only accelerate a broader trend toward the dissolution of the traditional ethnographic ‘field’ due to new communications technologies and the emergence of a globalized ‘knowledge economy’. Through six contributions from around the world, this forum explores how the emergence of a more diffuse, interconnected ethnographic field is impacting fieldwork's status as a rite of passage, creating new affective entanglements and shifting power relationships between researchers and participants. Despite the potential for influence and surveillance that new technologies cede to already powerful institutions, the discussions underline how ethnographic interlocutors are auteurs in their own right—and that ethnographers are also often bit characters in other people's stories.

Open access

The triple-sidedness of “I can't breathe”

The COVID-19 pandemic, enslavement, and agro-industrial capitalism

Don Nonini

On Juneteenth, Friday, June 19, 2020, unionized workers of the Durham Workers Assembly of Durham, North Carolina, held a rally in front of Durham Police Headquarters to “defund the police” in support of the national Black Lives Matter movement protesting in massive numbers in the streets of US cities and being met with overwhelming police repression. Black Lives Matter marches in the streets of cities and towns of the United States continued, as the world looked on.

Open access

We Were There

Rethinking Truth with Midiativistas in Rio de Janeiro

Raffaella Fryer-Moreira

Abstract

The popular uprising in Brazil between 2013 and 2014 led to the emergence of midiativistas, media activists who produced audiovisual testimony from the front lines of protests. Their reports were grounded in their act of ‘being there’ and bearing witness, and the affective encounters that their position made possible. Their first-hand accounts were situated, partial, and deemed more convincing because they rejected the mainstream media's claims to ‘objective truth’ – as a view from everywhere that is simultaneously a view from nowhere (and no-one) – in favour of situated truth, witnessed directly, unsettling traditional divisions between representation and reality, and questioning the conditions (and relations) through which knowledge is produced. This ethnographic engagement with the knowledge practices of others, and the role of witnessing within them, reflects on anthropological knowledge practices more broadly, and how they may be conceived otherwise in light of empirical variants from our fields.

Open access

When Facebook Is the Internet

A Halfie Anthropologist Grapples with Evolving Social Media Connectivity

Rosa Cordillera A. Castillo

Abstract

My social media engagement with research interlocutors is shaped by my positionality as a ‘halfie’ anthropologist based abroad who conducts ethnographic research on violence and peacemaking in the Philippines and the diaspora. On the one hand, social media connectivity facilitates certain research processes, networking, activism, and solidarity building. Yet with social media's security issues and amid shifting political tides, such connectivity poses ethical and security risks, resulting in social media-specific ethical concerns. I demonstrate these points through an account of my engagement with Facebook, a ubiquitous platform for communicating among Filipinos. In the process, I reflect on some of the ways in which social media connectivity between researcher and interlocutors reconfigures the relationality, temporality, hierarchies, and affect of the ethnographic ‘field’.

Open access

Who cares about the cargo?

Container economies in a European transshipment port

Hege Høyer Leivestad

Abstract

While the shipping container has been hyped as the most potent symbol of global trade, it is simultaneously a unit of measure, a medium of exchange, and a material abstraction of heterogeneous use value. This article places the container and its anonymized cargo as part of the everyday logistics of commodity circulation in the Spanish Port of Algeciras Bay—a transshipment hub at the Strait of Gibraltar. By disentangling the shipping container's multiple repertoires, this article focuses on how the shipping container transforms and converts the value of cargo and mediates logistics labor in the port.

Open access

Witnessing and Testimony as Event

Israeli NGOs, Palestinian Witnesses, and the Undoing of Human Rights Bureaucracy

Omri Grinberg

Abstract

This article shows that human rights NGOs sustain their relevance not by producing testimony texts and witness subject positions, but rather through the social and performative dimensions of events in which witnessing is transformed into testimony. The interactional dimensions between witness and documenter are usually omitted from textual representations due to NGOs’ rigid bureaucratic writing, and are also largely overlooked by scholars. Witnessing and testimony are analysed as spatiotemporal sites and occasions of contending with violence and colonialism. Through the peculiar case of Palestinian witnesses and Israeli NGOs’ sustained commitment to witnessing and testimony, despite shared acknowledgement of the failures of human rights, the event is theorized as malleable enough to be reshaped by its participants. These additional interactional layers may undermine the very logics of human rights witnessing and testimony.

Open access

Witnessing the Unseen

Extinction, Spirits, and Anthropological Responsibility

Liana Chua

Abstract

This article draws on two research projects – one on orangutan conservation, and the other on religious change among indigenous Bidayuh communities – to reflect on the relations, technologies and processes involved in producing witnesses and witness-able truths. I compare two forms of witnessing: visualizations of environmental crisis and orangutan extinction, and modes of encountering invisible entities among Bidayuhs. Both involve the challenge of making the unseen visible or apprehensible and thus addressable. But whereas the first entails a crisis-laden visual imaginary that turns witnessing into a form of human stewardship over the environment, the second involves a more relational encounter involving mutual adjustment and responsivity to obligations and commitments. I suggest that this latter mode of witnessing invites us to reimagine both the crisis logic of environmental visualizations and ideals and practices of anthropological witnessing.

Open access

Asale Angel-Ajani, Carolyn J. Dean, and Meg McLagan

Abstract

This special feature presents curated excerpts from two virtual conversations that the editors (Liana Chua and Omri Grinberg) held with anthropologist and author Asale Angel-Ajani, historian Carolyn J. Dean and anthropologist and filmmaker Meg McLagan on the theme of witnessing. Beginning with the participants’ reflexive discussions of how they came to work on witnessing, the conversations delve into several intertwined questions and debates. These include the politics and impacts of witnessing; the performativity of witnessing and the subjectivities involved; the evolving place and practice of witnessing in the contemporary post-truth, digitally saturated milieu; the ‘dark side’ and other problematics of witnessing; how different disciplines witness and represent witnessing; and the question of what scholars can do to witness or bear witness in the present.

Open access

Jon Schubert

Abstract

Cargo shipping, as emblematic stand-in for globalization, peddles a seductive imagery of frictionless transnational trade and just-in-time logistics. Backed by the normative might of transnational institutions, instruments such as UNCTAD's Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) are being rolled out across “developing countries,” promising the rationalization, acceleration, and “dematerialization” of customs processing, while countries themselves introduce efficiency reforms to smoothen the flow of goods. This article charts the intensive work required to produce this fantasy of frictionless trade around the Atlantic port of Lobito, Angola. In a context where imports have dropped by 50 percent to 60 percent since 2014 due to lower oil prices, this article traces how actors involved in making this import-dependent economy work deal with the seeming failure of promises of transnationally connected economic growth.