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Piracy, Protection, and the Anthropology of Law at Sea

Geoffrey Hughes, Naor Ben-Yehoyada, Judith Scheele, and Jatin Dua

Follow the relationship: A note on Jatin Dua’s Captured at Sea: Piracy and Protection in the Western Indian Ocean

Protection recaptured: Reflections on Jatin Dua’s Captured at Sea: Piracy and Protection in the Western Indian Ocean

Protection’s possibility: On histories and geographies of concepts

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Freedom, Salvation, Redemption

Theologies of Political Asylum

Elizabeth Shakman Hurd


The politics of religious asylum is ripe for reassessment. Even as a robust literature on secularism and religion has shown otherwise over the past two decades, much of the discussion in this field presumes that religion stands cleanly apart from law and politics. This article makes the case for a different approach to religion in the context of asylum-seeking and claiming. In the United States, it suggests, the politics of asylum is integral to the maintenance of American exceptionalism. Participants in the asylum-seeking process create a gap between Americans and others, affirming the promise of freedom, salvation, and redemption through conversion not to a particular religion or faith but to the American project itself. This hails a particular kind of subject of freedom and unencumbered choice. It is both a theological and a political process.

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“I am a dead woman”

Embodying and resisting dependency among women living with HIV in Papua New Guinea

Holly Wardlow


HIV/AIDS can be understood as “an epidemic of signification” (Treichler 1987) not only about dangerous sexuality but also about dangerous relations of dependence. I begin by examining newspaper articles and nongovernmental organization reports to show how they pose alarmist questions about AIDS-related dependency, such as who will care for “AIDS orphans” and how will labor deficits be managed. I then turn to the Papua New Guinea context and focus on the experiences of women living with HIV who often narrate themselves as embodying state dependencies on foreign aid for their antiretroviral medications. In contrast, they typically resist their kin's attempts to position them as wayward dependents who should be grateful for being given food and shelter.

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Imagined individuality

Cultivating separated personhood in Cuba and beyond

Ståle Wig


If no man is an island, if we are inherently social creatures, how should we understand people's claims to be valuable individuals, separate from their environment? Based on ethnographic research among self-employed Cuban market traders, this article analyses performances of imagined individuality to understand how people cultivate a notion of themselves as separate from social ties. In Cuba, work in the growing private sector provides a foundation upon which people assert personal independence. In order to cultivate and realize these notions of individuality, one needs to fulfill gendered expectations of material distribution. Hence, to assert personal independence requires the mobilization of unequally distributed resources.

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Immigrant Sanctuary or Danger

Health Care and Hospitals in the United States

Beatrix Hoffman


Hospitals have for centuries been considered safe havens for immigrants and people on the move. However, immigrants and migrants who seek health care have also been targeted for exclusion and deportation. This article discusses the history of how hospitals and health care facilities in the United States have acted both as sanctuaries and as sites of immigration enforcement. This debate came to a head in California in the 1970s, when conservatives began attacking local public health facilities’ informal sanctuary practices. Following the California battles, which culminated in Proposition 187 in 1994, immigrant rights movements have increasingly connected calls for sanctuary with demands for a right to health care.

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Jean Comaroff and John Comaroff


Our closing reflection on the collection of articles in this issue argues that the modernist bourgeois figure of the autonomous individual, founded from the first on a Promethean fiction, has long hidden the sorts of dependencies, interdependencies, and intradependencies intrinsic to social life everywhere. This is all the more so in the twenty-first century, under conditions in which the relations between capital and labor, patterns of sociality and social reproduction, and Euromodernity itself are undergoing wide-ranging changes, changes that are deepening the tensile coexistence of human autonomy and entanglement.

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In the shade of the chinar

Dushanbe's affective spatialities

Malika Bahovadinova


This article evaluates the ongoing reconstruction of Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, from the perspective of the affective registers it has elicited: from the despair of those who fondly remember the city's earlier Soviet facade to those who have benefitted from the expansion of housing stock and green space across the city center. Exploring these positions and the role of statist conceptions of modernity, personal and political memories of space, and the emotions called forth by urban redevelopment, the article elaborates on the place of affect and sentimental politics in the processes of city beautification and development. It argues that the despair experienced by city residents in their protests against redevelopment projects has both enabled and constrained citizens in terms of their participation in Dushanbe's urban development, economic redistribution, and the politics of memory.

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States of Displacement: Middle Eastern Refugees, Internally Displaced Persons and Asylum Seekers in Global Context

Lucia Volk and Marcia C. Inhorn


The plight of forcibly displaced persons may have lost the spotlight in the global news cycle due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Middle Eastern refugee crisis has continued unabated. Nearly 80 million people have been forcibly displaced, including millions of Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Syrians, and Yemenis. In this special issue, anthropologists highlight different states of displacement – protracted, repeated and recent – amongst Middle Eastern populations that have fled to Germany, Greece, Jordan and Turkey. Amidst profound precarity, refugees manage to negotiate new geographies of displacement, re-create a sense of home, plan their reproductive futures, organise protests to claim their asylum rights, and engage in activism and solidarity. Featuring nuanced ethnographic studies, this special issue bears witness to refugees’ fortitude and resilience.

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“It's a Big Umbrella”

Uncertainty, Pentecostalism, and the Integration of Zimbabwe Exemption Permit Immigrants in Johannesburg, South Africa

Tinashe Chimbidzikai


This article questions the dominant narrative that considers displaced persons as victims, powerless, and lacking agency to shape their individual and collective conditions. Based on an ethnographic study of largely Zimbabwe Exemption Permit holders living in Johannesburg, the article argues that Pentecostalism offers an alternate worldview that draws on religious beliefs and practices to express triumph over everyday adversities and vicissitudes of forced mobility. The article concludes that such beliefs and practices embolden and espouse individual and collective agency among “born-again” migrants, as they mobilize religious social networks for individuals to make sense of the uncertainties engendered by displacement.

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The Janus face of austerity politics

Autonomy and dependence in contemporary Spain

Susana Narotzky


How is social reproduction possible in a context of precarious employment and austerity policies that have defunded welfare? The paradox of autonomy and dependence is present in intergenerational relations of support and conflict at various scales. It emerges, on the one hand, in the neoliberal injunction to be individually responsible for one's own present and future wellbeing, an aspiration that is impossible to fulfill. On the other hand, it is expressed in the increasing recourse by younger active cohorts to the care work and assets of their older kin— in particular retirement pensions and a home. Finally, policy calls to transform the pension system oppose younger and older generations in the accountings of social security financial sustainability and question the fairness of existing public pension schemes.