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Hege Høyer Leivestad and Johanna Markkula

Abstract

This introduction proposes an anthropology of global cargo circulation by placing the maritime shipping industry at the center of global capitalism. With “container economies” we refer to the maritime global circulation of cargo that is sustained by an undervalued labor force, dependent upon unstable logistics infrastructures and driven by speculative capital. Container economies, we argue, are produced by adding, moving, and destroying value through the maritime supply chain. In this introduction, we reflect upon the implications of containerization and its wider consequences for logistics labor. We argue that maritime logistics and labor is best understood by taking into account their wider networks of dependency expressed through kinship relations, ethnicity and coexisting regimes of value.

Open access

Liana Chua and Omri Grinberg

Abstract

This introduction sets the scene for the special issue through an overview of extant anthropological approaches to witnessing and a discussion of the collection's three main themes: truths, technologies and transformations. It lays the groundwork for a distinctly anthropological approach to witnessing in three ways. First, by drawing together disparate ethnographic takes on witnessing, it expands the anthropological analysis of witnessing beyond its conventional foci (e.g. legal or media settings). Second, it makes a case for attending not only to witnessing's semantics and subjectivities but also to its structural, relational, performative and material dimensions. Finally, it puts ethnographic analyses of witnessing in dialogue with reflexive discussions of anthropological witnessing, asking what each can bring to the other. In a ‘post-truth’ moment, when our interlocutors are producing their own testimonies and representations, it is vital to rethink what it means for anthropologists to (bear) witness – and who/what we do it for.

Free access

Introduction

Posthuman? Nature and Culture in Renegotiation

Kornelia Engert and Christiane Schürkmann

Abstract

The contributions in this special issue focus on different phenomena and conceptual approaches dealing with “the Posthuman” as a discourse of renegotiating nature-culture-relationships that has emerged over the past decades. The selected articles from fields of sociology, political science, and social anthropology demonstrate how to work with and discuss posthumanistic and post-anthropocentric perspectives, but also how to irritate and criticize universal assumptions of particular posthuman approaches empirically and theoretically. The introduction aims to position the particular contributions in a field of tension between de- and re-centering human beings and human agency.

Open access

Felix Girke

Abstract

Anthropologists’ arrival stories have long served to justify, naturalize, and domesticate—often through humor—the fraught moment of entering unasked into other people's lives. This textual convention has been thoroughly critiqued, but no comparable attention has been paid to the analogous moment of departure from the field. The digital age enables both sides to maintain contact, a shift that negates the finality of earlier departures. This article engages the changes wrought by digital media that allow us to remain connected to the field. While this seems a humane affordance, it also means that it is no longer feasible to cleanly sever ties established ‘there’. When anthropologists leave the field, the field will likely follow them—on Facebook or Instagram.

Open access

The Limits of Knowing Other Minds

Intellectual Disability and the Challenge of Opacity

Patrick McKearney

Abstract

New care workers in Britain typically struggle to understand, on their initial encounters, people who communicate atypically due to their intellectual disabilities. But they are required to provide care that is attuned to these individuals’ desires and intentions. Why, then, does a care organization called L'Arche UK make it harder for carers to learn what is going on inside these people's minds? I argue that doing so does not prevent the acquisition of essential knowledge, but rather trains new carers to relate to those with intellectual disabilities as opaque. This creates a more involved relationship that opens up the possibility of forms of status and intimacy otherwise closed to such people—thereby raising questions about the supposedly fundamental role that transparency and knowledge play in knowing others.

Restricted access

Franziska von Verschuer

Abstract

Since the mid-twentieth century global modernization of agriculture, seed banking has become a core technoscientific strategy to counteract agrobiodiversity loss and ensure future food security. This article develops a post-anthropocentric reading of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault as a nodal point of global ex situ conservation efforts. Based on qualitative expert interviews, I explore the rationality of crisis and salvation that underlies these efforts and discuss its roots in an anthropocentric relation to nature as a resource. By arguing that the latter produces the crises that conservation measures intend to counteract, I show how the Seed Vault conserves this resource-orientation. I then illustrate a concurrent unruliness of more-than-human worldly becoming the embracing of which, I argue, is a way for conservationism to cultivate different, non-crisic futures.

Open access

Malfunctioning Affective Infrastructures

How the “Broken” Road Becomes a Site of Belonging in Postindustrial Eastern Siberia

Vasilina Orlova

Abstract

Smoothly functioning infrastructures are “unnoticeable”; they attract attention upon a breakdown. When infrastructure does not function as intended, it does not stop working altogether. Rather, it functions in unprecedented ways. This article argues that in the process of malfunctioning, infrastructure not only facilitates engagement, but also produces an affect. This ethnography shows how the “broken road” (razbitaia doroga) in rural postindustrial Eastern Siberia becomes a site around which belonging and relating unfold. The broken road functions as infrastructure acquiring a capacity to be affective precisely as it malfunctions. The affect that people experience in connection to the malfunctioning piece of infrastructure has components of anger and annoyance, a sense of unity, sociality, and camaraderie, as well as the feelings of belonging to a certain group.

Open access

Multiscalar moral economy

Global agribusiness, rural Zambian residents, and the distributed crowd

Tijo Salverda

Abstract

This article addresses the relevance of the moral economy concept in light of unequal socioeconomic relations between a European agribusiness and rural residents in Zambia. It argues that the moral economy concept offers a helpful heuristic device for analyzing how relationships are constituted, negotiated, and contested among interdependent actors with “opposing” socioeconomic interests. To explain the dynamics of their relationships, however, the moral economy concept has to extend beyond its usual, spatially restricted (i.e., local) focus. Instead, “external,” distant, non-local actors, such as foreign critics concerned about “land grabbing,” also influence the local character of moral-economic exchanges between the agribusiness and rural residents. Hence, the article proposes a multiscalar perspective to account for the influence of a wider array of actors.

Open access

The Neighbourhood as Home Away from Home?

Potentials and Dilemmas of Homemaking in the Public Among the Somali Swedes in Rinkeby, Stockholm

Aurora Massa and Paolo Boccagni

Home, as a special attachment to (and appropriation over) place, can also be cultivated in the public urban space, under certain conditions that we explore through a case study in Rinkeby, Stockholm. This article analyses various forms of homemaking in the public among the Somali-Swedes who live there. It shows how, in the case of vulnerable immigrants, a neighbourhood feels like home insofar as it facilitates a continuity with their past ways of living, sensuous connections with a shared ‘Somaliness’, reproduction of transnational ties, and protection from the sense of being ‘otherised’ that often creeps among them. However, homemaking in the public is ridden with contradictions and dilemmas, including those of self-segregation. The grassroots negotiation of a sense of home along these lines invites a novel approach into the everyday lived experience of diverse neighbourhoods in European majority-minority cities.

Open access

“Nowhere near Somalia, Mom”

On containerizing maritime piracy and being good men

Adrienne Mannov

Abstract

Just as containerized goods appear to flow seamlessly across the planet's oceans, internationalized and standardized certificates present seafaring labor as uniform and seamless. But underneath these certificates are the intimate and unequal entanglements of local masculinity norms, age, and kinship ties that sustain the maritime labor supply chain. In this article, we follow how three young, male seafarers from eastern India find ways to contain piracy risks at work and poverty risks at home, and their sense of obligation as men, sons, husbands, and fathers. By delving into the unequal conditions for industrial male workers from the Global South, this article demonstrates how containerized maritime labor commodities are not uniform but are dependent upon economic inequality and intimate kinship ties to be productive.