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Perspectives from the Ground

Colonial Bureaucratic Violence, Identity, and Transitional Justice in Canada

Jaymelee J. Kim

Abstract

While traditionally underrepresented in transitional justice studies, anthropological study of culture, ethnography, and processes can contribute valuable insight into colonial bureaucracies and dynamics of power. This article uses an ethnographic approach and a colonial bureaucratic violence theoretical foundation to analyze negative perceptions of transitional justice at the ground level. Participants included facilitators, government officials, nonprofit organizations, and Indigenous community members; research occurred during implementation of transitional justice (2011–2014) for a period of 12 months. Specifically, I argue that the relationship between transitional justice and colonial bureaucratic violence encourages negative views of transitional justice. Instead, ethnographic data first reveals that bureaucratic processes within transitional justice challenge Indigenous identities. Second, Indigenous survivors in British Columbia, Canada, largely view transitional justice on a continuum of colonial bureaucratic violence. Using a colonial bureaucratic violence framework, this article provides insight and nuance into perceptions of transitional justice at the local level.

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A Phone without Names

Distrust and Duress in Côte d’Ivoire

Kathrin Heitz-Tokpa

Abstract

The anthropology of war has provided intimate analyses of how communities deal with hardship in violent conflicts. These clearly affect such communities’ social fabric, but exactly how is little understood. This article uses the lens of trust and distrust to analyze the effects of violent conflict on social relations. Through an ethnographic case study of a nurse during the 2002–2011 violent conflict in Côte d’Ivoire, I show how his trust in social norms, political opponents, and strangers in general became transformed into distrust. He stopped saving names in his phone to protect himself and people in his phone. The case highlights how experiences of duress can create distrust and how distrust can prolong conditions of duress by hindering the rebuilding of social trust.

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Eliza Guyol-Meinrath Echeverry

Abstract

For decades, Canadian-based corporate development projects have been linked to acts of violence in countries all over the world. These acts include sexual violence, destruction of property, community displacement, the use of forced labor, and other forms of violence. While Canada has repeatedly failed to pass legislation holding Canadian-based corporations accountable for human rights abuses committed abroad, Canadian courts are increasingly asserting their jurisdiction over cases of development-related violence. Analyzing two ongoing court cases—Caal v. Hudbay, regarding sexual violence in Guatemala, and Araya v. Nevsun, regarding forced labor in Eritrea— this article examines the potential and limits of law to address the bureaucratic mechanisms and grounded experiences of corporate-development-related violence, and the changing relationship between states, corporations, law, and human rights in the modern global era.

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Therese Sandrup

Abstract

In this article, I draw on ethnographic data from previous fieldworks among Turkish immigrant families in a Norwegian suburb (2008–2009) and, more recently, on preventative actions against radicalization (2015–2016). As point of departure, I outline two events considered morally outrageous by many of my interlocutors: the Gaza War (2008–2009) and the repression of the Syrian civil uprising in 2011. By contextualizing moral outrage and analyzing certain incidents as “triggers” among people who are already outraged, I aim at providing a better understanding of that emotion’s generic power. I will also give an example of how a “trigger” incident can provide an emotional outlet. In seeing moral outrage as a kind of “prism” through which people negotiate values around right and wrong, good and bad, I will argue that these negotiations might as well result in generating emotional relief and to restored integrity.

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Afterword

So What Is the Anthropology of Buddhism About?

David N. Gellner

ABSTRACT

This afterword considers the history of the subfield of the anthropology of Buddhism in light of the essays in this special section of Religion and Society. Anthropologists have sought to combat conventional assumptions about Buddhism and have long made contributions to the study of Buddhism, the state, nationalism, and politics. As part of a maturing field, they have also made contributions through the study of Buddhism to many other subfields of anthropology, including morality, spirit possession, the emotions, and materiality. It is no longer necessary for the anthropology of Buddhism to be overwhelmingly concerned with the authenticity and identity of its subjects.

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Belonging in a New Myanmar

Identity, Law, and Gender in the Anthropology of Contemporary Buddhism

Juliane Schober

ABSTRACT

“To be Burmese is to be Buddhist” is a slogan commonly identified with the dawn of nationalism in the country known today as Myanmar, where violence between Buddhist, Muslim, and ethnic communities has increasingly jeopardized liberalizing reforms. How do contemporary forms of Theravada Buddhist discourse shape ideas of belonging in a multi-religious and ethnically diverse Myanmar following the dissolution of military rule in 2011? How do digital technologies and globalizing communication networks in this nation influence rapidly changing social identities, anxieties, and imaginaries that Brigit Meyer identifies as ‘aesthetic formations’? In this article, I trace diverse genealogies of belonging to show how contemporary constructions of meaning facilitate religious imaginaries that may exacerbate difference by drawing on past ideologies of conflict or may seek to envision a new and diverse Myanmar.

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Ayse Serap Avanoglu, Diana Riboli, Juan Javier Rivera Andía, Annalisa Butticci, Iain R. Edgar, Matan Shapiro, Brooke Schedneck, Mark Sedgwick, Suzane de Alencar Vieira, Nell Haynes, Sara Farhan, Fabián Bravo Vega, Marie Meudec, Nuno Domingos, Heidi Härkönen, Sergio González Varela, and Nathanael Homewood

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The Chaco Skies

A Socio-cultural History of Power Relations

Alejandro Martín López and Agustina Altman

ABSTRACT

This article looks into notions of the sky among the Guaycurú aboriginal groups in the Argentine Chaco within the context of the socio-religious changes they have undergone since the eighteenth century. By using ethno-astronomy and anthropology of religion perspectives, and based on our own ethnographic and documentary work, we have analyzed both the continuities and the ruptures in the Guaycurú skies. In doing so, we have found that social relations between humans and non-humans shape the Guaycurú experience of celestial space. These bonds have a strongly political character as they are structured around power asymmetries. The colonial experience, including Christian missions, has imposed modernity on these groups as an overall horizon of possibilities. However, the Guaycurú have sought to redefine modernity, creating their own ‘modernity paths’.

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Eschatology, Ethics, and Ēthnos

Ressentiment and Christian Nationalism in the Anthropology of Christianity

Jon Bialecki

ABSTRACT

Christian nationalism, a long-running and arguably increasingly influential political force, appears to consist mainly of an open set of affectively charged but cognitively underdetermined concepts and images that are capable of being constituted in a number of widely divergent forms. Despite this potential variety, the various instantiations of Christian nationalisms documented by the anthropology of Christianity tend to have similar features, even as they are actualized in quite different milieux and understood as being responses to quite different threats. Drawing on ethnographic work in the United States, this article argues that this recurrent crystallization of Christian nationalism into the specific form under certain conditions—the adoption of a temporally ambivalent eschatology, an ethics oriented around mimesis, and, most of all, an outward-facing ressentiment—works to self-catalyze the production of a racialized Christian nationalism that envisions itself at once as an entitled majority and as an embattled minority.

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The Ethics of Collective Sponsorship

Virtuous Action and Obligation in Contemporary Tibet

Jane Caple

ABSTRACT

A significant strand of anthropological work on Buddhist generosity practices in Therāvādin and Tibetan Buddhist societies has examined their role in reproducing and reinforcing social and economic hierarchies. Inspired by the recent ‘moral turn’ in anthropology, this article addresses the moral dimensions of these practices by analyzing debates, decisions, and judgments about what to sponsor and how to do so during times of accelerated ‘modernizing’ change. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in northeastern Tibet (Amdo) conducted between 2008 and 2015, I focus on a mode of collective sponsorship that has, in different contexts, been considered good, problematic, or even wrong. The moral grounds for such evaluations show that sponsorship is evaluated and experienced not only as a Buddhist practice but also as a social and economic practice with direct consequences for both individuals and communities. The moral stakes of generosity practices are shown to extend beyond individual ethics to the common good.