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Materiality as an Agency of Knowledge

Competing Forms of Knowledge in Rachel’s Tomb in Tiberias

Nimrod Luz

Materiality has become a compelling register through which to examine religious manifestations and matters of belief. There is a mounting awareness among scholars of both the tangible aspects of religion and the ways in which material objects are never neutral. Following these theoretical developments, I argue that materiality can serve as a form of agency for a particular version of knowledge to become conventional and accepted as true. This emerging materiality codifies a certain version of the truth. However, such validation through matter is often challenged and categorized as fake or a myth. To illustrate my argument, I explore the newly emerging site of Rachel’s Tomb in Tiberias and the competing versions of truth surrounding it. I contend that its new materiality, which has evolved in recent years, serves as a way of validating the site’s new mythology. However, among locals, who are familiar with the site’s previous materiality, this new knowledge is pejoratively labeled as fake or mythical.

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Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh and Juliano Fiori

In this interview with Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Juliano Fiori—Head of Studies (Humanitarian Affairs) at Save the Children—reflects on Eurocentrism and coloniality in studies of and responses to migration. In the context of ongoing debates about the politics of knowledge and the urgency of anticolonial action, Fiori discusses the ideological and epistemological bases of responses to migration, the Western character of humanitarianism, the “localization of aid” agenda, and the political implications of new populisms of the Right.

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The Modernity of Political Representation

Its Innovative Thrust and Transnational Semantic Transfers during the Sattelzeit (Eighteenth to Nineteenth Centuries)

Samuel Hayat and José María Rosales

Representation is a major and multifaceted concept of modern politics. Through open and regular elections, it shields the democratic character of representative governments, compelling politicians to pursue the interests of their constituencies and become responsive to their demands. But since the concept of representation is so embedded in the day-to-day workings of democratic regimes, it has largely lost significant traces of its history that shed light on its political dawn. The instrumentalization of the concept by representative governments in order to assess their democratic legitimacy obfuscates its seminal ambiguities and the history of conflicts about its meaning and institutional functions.

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Jenanne Ferguson

This is my first full issue as the new editor of Sibirica, and I want to provide a brief overview of my previous involvement with the journal. I am a linguistic and sociocultural anthropologist who works primarily in the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) on issues related to language maintenance, language practices, urbanization, and verbal art. I have been working with Sibirica in some capacity for the past ten years, beginning as a graduate student assistant to editors Alexander King and then John Ziker. I then joined the group of associate editors in 2014 after I completed my PhD. I will strive to continue the legacies of my predecessors who have grown this journal to what it is today by supporting and developing its strong, multidisciplinary focus.

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The Mysterious Mr Le Queux

War Novelist, Defence Publicist and Counterspy

Roger T. Stearn

This article presents what is widely considered to be the best biographical account of the life of the controversial popular author, journalist and amateur spy, William Le Queux. The article originally appeared in Soldiers of the Queen, the journal of the Victorian Military Society, and is reproduced here with their kind permission in order to bring it before a new audience. It documents Le Queux’s life, from the little that is known about his early career through to his high-profile involvement in defence scaremongering before and during the First World War to his subsequent lapse into postwar obscurity.

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Negotiating Girl-led Advocacy

Addressing Early and Forced Marriage in South Africa

Sadiyya Haffejee, Astrid Treffry-Goatley, Lisa Wiebesiek and Nkonzo Mkhize

Increasingly, researchers and policymakers recognize the ability of girls to effect social change in their daily lives. Scholars working across diverse settings also acknowledge the key influence of individual, family, and societal structures on such activism. Drawing on our work with girls in a participatory visual research project in a rural community in South Africa, we consider examples of partnership and collaboration between the adult research team and the young participants. We highlight their agency in mobilizing adults to partner and support community and policy change to address traditional practices of early and forced marriage in this setting. We conclude that collaborative engagement with adults as partners can support activism and advocacy led by girls in contexts of traditional leadership.

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Neoliberalism, Hedonism and the Dying Public

Reclaiming Political Agency through the Exercise of Courage

Grant M. Sharratt and Erik Wisniewski

While the pursuit of hedonism is legitimated by neoliberal governmentality, its disciplining and isolating forces prevent individuals from being fulfilled by their pursuit of pleasure. Concomitantly, this hedonism (pursuing pleasure to avoid pain) causes individuals to withdraw from public political life. In this article we argue that, instead of attempting to pursue pleasure through the experience of material comfort, individuals ought to orient themselves towards membership in substantive political associations. Further, we argue that it is through such membership that one can attain genuine fulfilment, while simultaneously reclaiming agency, both on individual and collective terms. Though individuals must be willing to take on the risk of pain, their membership in substantive political associations provides genuine fulfilment, while also allowing for the construction of new worlds through political action.

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Neoliberalism, the Left and the Rise of the Far Right

On the Political and Ideological Implications of Capitalism’s Subordination of Democracy

Costas Panayotakis

After analyzing the tension between capitalism and liberal democracy, this article explores two ways that the political left has tried to navigate this tension. Both these strategies prevent parties of the left and the center-left from exposing capitalism’s undemocratic implications, while also helping to discredit political democracy. Unable to unify working people and ordinary citizens against the suffering that capitalism inflicts on them, the left inadvertently makes it possible for the far right to channel people’s discontent in ways that attack liberal democracy and turn working people against each other. Last but not least, the discrediting of democracy that results from these processes gives rise to a vicious cycle by also encouraging the adoption of neoliberal policies, which further intensify the subordination of democratically elected governments to capitalist interests.

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Non “Religious” Knowing in Pilgrimages to Sacred Sites

Greek Cypriots’ “return” Pilgrimages to the Monastery of Apostolos Andreas (Cyprus)

Evgenia Mesaritou

Even though pilgrimages may often be directed toward what can conventionally be seen as “religious” sacred sites, religious and ritual forms of knowledge and ignorance may not necessarily be the only, or even the most prominent, forms in their workings. Focusing on Greek Cypriots’ return pilgrimages to the Christian-Orthodox monastery of Apostolos Andreas (Karpasia) under the conditions of Cyprus’s ongoing division, in this article I explore the non “religious” forms of knowing and ignoring salient to pilgrimages to sacred religious sites, the conditions under which they become relevant, and the risks associated with them. Showing how pilgrimages to the monastery of Apostolos Andreas are situated within a larger framework of seeing “our places,” I will argue that remembering and knowing these places is the type of knowledge most commonly sought out by pilgrims, while also exploring what the stakes of not knowing/forgetting them may be felt to be. An exclusive focus on “religious” forms of knowledge and ignorance would obscure the ways in which pilgrimage is often embedded in everyday social and political concerns.

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Noncitizens’ Rights

Moving beyond Migrants’ Rights

Sin Yee Koh

In this reflective essay, I argue that it is timely to think of noncitizens’ rights rather than migrants’ rights per se. Using insights gained from my research on expatriates in Brunei and Malaysia, I show how expatriates become institutionalized as perpetual noncitizens and therefore systematically excluded from the assemblage of rights afforded to “recognized” residents. In other words, like their relatively underprivileged migrant counterparts, expatriates are also subjected to differentiated rights tied to their noncitizen status. Linking this insight to my reading of recent scholarship on “forced transnationalism” and “hierarchies of deservingness,” I discuss how these conceptual tools could be useful in advancing a research agenda on noncitizens’ rights. Finally, I reflect on the role universities can play in supporting and advancing this agenda.