Based on ethnographic fieldwork in the highlands of Barinas, this article investigates the impact of “twenty-first century socialist” policies on the Andean peasantry and the relationships established as part of Venezuela’s ongoing agrarian reform. The analysis explores the historical and material-cultural factors surrounding coffee production in the Andes and the dynamics that have shaped a small group of growers. It examines the recent efforts of the Venezuelan government to increase domestic coffee production and support internal growers, suggesting that attempts to insert the state into the rentier structure of the coffee economy have somewhat inadvertently reinforced a working-class consciousness. The ethnographic vignette illustrates the present relationship of state functionaries to coffee growers and narrates their analysis of the conditions, showing the contradictory effect these relations have on the social awareness of growers.
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Alena V. Ivanova
This article covers the process of identity construction in children; this process defines the focus of Russian educational policy, which also provides a venue for alternative ways to implement it. The article presents research on designing a system to form national, regional, and ethnocultural identity in children of the indigenous people of the North via the curriculum and teaching aids. The article examines regions of Russia inhabited by indigenous small-numbered peoples, as well as their distinctive features, which have a significant impact on the process of identity construction in children of the North. This has revealed the specific character of the large formation of positive types of identity within the educational system.
Nimbin, Australia, from 1973
This article brings together the ideas of protest and counterculture in a productive engagement. If protest is understood as publicly bearing witness in opposition to something, then countercultures often do this as rejections of dominant cultures that are folded into everyday life in order to create spaces for possible futures. The countercultural experiments undertaken in the region around Nimbin, Australia, are an example of such space creation. Using interviews, presentations, and archival materials collected at a 2013 community conference marking the 40th anniversary of the 1973 Nimbin Aquarius Festival, I will explore these experiments in the context of countercultural protest. The Festival not only gathered together people under the banner of the counterculture, but provided a unique space for gathering around common matters of concern to create an ongoing countercultural community. This community continues to develop practical knowledge regarding sustainable living and innovations in grassroots environmental protest.
Matthew P. Romaniello
Russian imperialism continues to leave a strong imprint on indigenous cultures across Siberia, and throughout the Russian Federation and the post-Soviet republics. Imperialism is invasive and persistent, and it might be impossible to escape its consequences. In 1986, African novelist and postcolonial theorist Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o published his influential essay collection, Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature. One of his arguments is that no postcolonial subject could be free from the constraints of imperialism until she or he succeeded in freeing the mind from the trap of an imposed (and foreign) language. Ngũgĩ’s experience was based on his own life growing up in Kenya, but his lesson is as applicable to Siberia as it is for East Africa. For indigenous Siberians, language and education are at the forefront of the ongoing postcolonial struggle to maintain their cultural identities in modern Russia.
Giovanni A. Travaglino and Benjamin Abrams
Since its inception, Contention has aimed to illuminate our understanding of activism and political behavior across a full variety of contexts and settings. By examining political behavior across multiple geographical and social sites, we can explore unique opportunities to expand the horizon of our theoretical frameworks, test the generalizability and applicability of our claims, and gain a stronger grasp of how different structural arrangements and historical trajectories might shape political action.
Il/legality and solidarity in housing struggles in (post)socialist Sofia and Caracas
Mariya Ivancheva and Stefan Krastev
This article presents the results of a collaborative ethnographic inquiry in contemporary Sofia and Caracas. Combining historical research and ethnography, we compare the ways in which a former and a current left-wing regime treat urban squatting. In both cities, squatters tend to be poor families escaping homelessness. In Sofia, “squatters”—usually of Roma origin—inhabit unregulated spaces deemed illegal after 1989. In Caracas, homeless families have been officially encouraged to squat but not declared legal occupants. A historical comparison shows both socialist governments turn a blind eye to extralegal housing practices. Benign, informal housing arrangements function to display solidarity with marginalized groups as a form of popular legitimacy. Yet, without formalized state protection, such arrangements produced a “surplus” population, vulnerable vis-à-vis global processes of capitalist reorganization.
This article argues that G. E. Lessing should be viewed as one of the German Enlightenment’s foremost thinkers of peace alongside his contemporary Immanuel Kant, whose contribution to thinking peace in the eighteenth century is already well recognised. It makes this case by examining two of Lessing’s late works: the 1779 drama Nathan the Wise and the 1780 essay The Education of the Human Race. The dialogue between faith and reason characteristic of Enlightenment discourse is at the heart of both texts, but here it is argued that peace is a crucial third moment. While in Nathan Lessing asserts the need to find peace between the forces of faith and reason in a literary register, in the Education essay he does so in a more explicitly theoretical mode.
The anthropological conundrum
Douglas R. Holmes
Fascism in our time is emerging not as a single party or movement within a particular nation-state but rather as a dispersed phenomenon that reverberates across the continent nested within the political contradictions of the European Union. Rather than focusing on a specific group to determine whether it is or is not “fascist,” we must look at how diverse parties and movements are linked together in cross-border coalitions revealing the political ecology of contemporary fascism and the intricate division of labor that sustains it. Underwriting contemporary fascism is an “illiberal” anthropology that can colonize every expression of identity and attachment. From the motifs and metaphors of diverse folkloric traditions to the countless genres of popular culture, fascism assimilates new meanings and affective predispositions.
This article examines the 1994–1995 controversy surrounding President François Mitterrand’s past involvement with Vichy France through the concept of “the gray zone.” Differing from Primo Levi’s gray zone, it refers here to the language that emerged in France to account for the previously neglected complicity of bystanders and beneficiaries and the indirect facilitation of the injustices of the Vichy regime. The affair serves as a site for exploring the nuances and inflections of this concept of the gray zone—both in the way it was used to indict those accused of complicity with Vichy, and as a means for those, like Mitterrand, who defended themselves by using the language of grayness. Paying attention to these invocations of the gray zone at this historical conjuncture allows us to understand the logic and stakes of both the criticisms of Mitterrand and his responses to them, particularly in terms of contemporaneous understandings of republicanism and human rights.
Toward an Explanation of Inconsistencies between Framing and Policies
Henri Bergeron, Patrick Castel and Abigail C. Saguy
The French news media has framed “obesity” largely as a product of corporate greed and social inequality. Yet, France has—like other nations including the United States—adopted policies that focus on changing individual-level behavior. This article identifies several factors—including food industry lobbying, the Ministry of Agriculture’s rivalry with the Ministry of Health and alliance with the food industry, and competition with other policy goals—that favored the development of individual-level policy approaches to obesity in France at the expense of social-structural ones. This case points to the need to more systematically document inconsistencies and consistencies between social problem framing and policies. It also shows that national culture is multivalent and internally contradictory, fueling political and social struggles over which version of national culture will prevail at any given moment.