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Scale and Number

Framing an Ideology of Pastoral Plenty in Rural Mongolia

Joseph Bristley

Much recent anthropology reflects on how scales are contested and contingent products of heterogeneous social interactions, not the ‘ontological givens’ (sensu Carr and Lempert) described in earlier scholarship. This article examines the importance of number in the formation of scales of measurement. It does so regarding a pastoral Mongolian scale of livestock-counting based on the number ten thousand, or tüm[en]: a qualitative-cum-quantitative term suggesting plenty and abundance. Drawing on literature on the anthropology of number, and bringing it into dialogue with studies of scale and ideology, this article argues that number is not just a means for calibrating pre-existing scales. Instead, as something endowed with particular qualities and conceptual stability, number can be mobilized to produce ideologically charged scales of measurement.

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Marie Puysségur

In this article, I explore the use of space in Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank and Céline Sciamma’s Bande de Filles, two films that depict the experiences of 15-year-old girls in a British housing estate and a Parisian banlieue respectively. The spatial motifs related to identity that circulate throughout the films establish a regime of flux, ambiguity, and reversibility that contributes to a depiction of female adolescence as unfixed and unsettled. I argue that both films, in their focus on the lived experience of their protagonists, investigate the landscape of economically and socially peripheral spaces to develop a specifically female approach to contemporary coming-of-age narratives that takes into account the difference that gender makes.

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Claudia Mitchell

This first issue of Girlhood Studies in 2020 brings together a collection of articles and reviews that pose, as a whole, critical questions about the ways in which conventional yet imaginative textual genres such as literature, film, and comics can sometimes line up in fascinating ways with the imaginative texts of space and place in the metro underground transport network of Helsinki or the farming communities of Scotland.

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Traversing Fields

Affective Continuities across Muslim and Christian Settings in Berlin

Omar Kasmani and Dominik Mattes

This article, a reflection on collaborative fieldwork involving a Sufi Muslim and a Pentecostal Christian setting in Berlin, examines whether distinct and diverse religious groups can be brought into a meaningful relation with one another. It considers the methodological possibilities that might become possible or foreclose when two researchers, working in different prayer settings in the same city, use affect as a common frame of reference while seeking to establish shared affective relations and terrains that would otherwise be implausible. With two separately observed accounts of prayer gatherings in a shared urban context, we describe locally specific workings of affect and sensation. We argue that sense-aesthetic forms and patterns in our field sites are supralocal affective forms that help constitute an analytic relationality between the two religious settings.

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Hendrik Paasche, Katja Paasche and Peter Dietrich

Geoscientists invest significant effort to cope with uncertainty in Earth system observation and modeling. While general discussions exist about uncertainty and risk communication, judgment and decision-making, and science communication with regard to Earth sciences, in this article, we tackle uncertainty from the perspective of Earth science practitioners. We argue different scientific methodologies must be used to recognize all types of uncertainty inherent to a scientific finding. Following a discovery science methodology results in greater potential for the quantification of uncertainty associated to scientific findings than staying inside hypothesis-driven science methodology, as is common practice. Enabling improved uncertainty quantification could relax debates about risk communication and decision-making since it reduces the room for personality traits when communicating scientific findings.

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What Makes a Panther a Panther?

Genetics, Human Perceptions, and the Complexity of Species Categorization

Catherine Macdonald and Julia Wester

Species categorizations can involve both scientific input and conservation questions about what should be preserved and how. We present a case study exploring the social construction of species categories using a real-life example of a cougar subspecies (Puma concolor stanleyana) purposefully introduced into Florida to prevent the functional extinction of a related subspecies of panther (P. c. coryi). Participants in an online sample (n = 500) were asked to make categorization decisions and then reflect on those decisions in an open format. Analysis of coded responses suggest people may experience “species” as both a social and biological construct, and that the question of what species people think an animal belongs to cannot be answered in isolation from questions about how that animal fits into larger social and biological systems.

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Where to from Here?

Emerging Conversations on Girls' Literature and Girlhood

Dawn Sardella-Ayres and Ashley N. Reese

In this article, we seek to articulate a genre theory-centered definition of girls’ literature, and interrogate its subgenre, the girl’s bildungsroman, as contextual, cultural sites of rhetoric regarding girls and girlhood. By exploring English-language North American girls’ literature, we identify it within a framework of genre as social action, tracing the protagonists’ maturation into the socially determined roles of wife and mother. We explore the ways in which the girl’s bildungsroman follows a home-away-home model, but with the end result of socially acceptable community integration, rather than the boy’s bildungsroman’s culmination in heroic independent identity via quests and adventures.

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Olga Nieuwenhuys

Having worked on children’s labor of reproduction from the very beginning of my career as an anthropologist, Jan Newberry and Rachel Rosen’s piece, which engages with the complex and thorny issue of “women and children” from a feminist framework, intrigued me. The piece is interesting because it contributes to resuscitate social reproduction theory, a conceptual framework that has only recently been rescued from the academic limbo to which it had been relegated since the 1980s under the influence of postmodernist critique. This influence has resulted for children in an overstated focus on the individual child’s agency that evades altogether addressing children’s roles in the wider political economy. But can returning to the notion of social reproduction fill the gap? I suggest that, though Newberry and Rosen enrich the theory with such notions as “temporality” and “financialization,” the conceptual framework remains too abstract to account for children’s role. I begin describing my personal experience with social reproduction, which started in in the 1970s, to then discuss Newberry and Rosen’s proposal to revive the notion. I argue that the proposal overstates the role of women in social reproduction and suggest three lines of enquiry that may help better acknowledge what children, among others, contribute. I finally discuss why I feel social reproduction theorizing may benefit from thinking in terms of a “global womb” in which children and women find themselves, both socially and geographically, locked.

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Women and children together and apart

Finding the time for social reproduction theory

Jan Newberry and Rachel Rosen

In what ways, and to what effects, are proliferating temporalities of appropriation in financialized capitalism transforming or transformed by those of social reproductive labor? More specifically, how are woman-child relations affected when social reproduction becomes a site of immediate, not just indirect, capital accumulation through relations of debt? To answer these questions, we take up species-being as the labor relation that anchors socially necessary labor and links women and children by attending to three temporal modalities of accumulation via social reproductive labor: scholarization, (re)familization, and debt servicing. We argue that differentiated tempos in the appropriation of surplus value, operating to “fix” contradictions between capital’s short- and long-term interests, are critical sources of tension between women and children in the meeting of needs. Producing and mapping divergent rhythms of appropriation on to different groups may both link diverse women and children, and put their interests at odds.

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"Your debts are our problem"

The politicization of debt in Azerbaijan

Tristam Barrett

Unlike in other countries with debt-saddled populations, the issue of consumer debt has been weakly politicized in Azerbaijan. There have been no social movements of the kind that occurred around the financial crises in the United States, the European periphery, or even in Ukraine’s post-revolution attempt at a “financial Maidan.” The lack of a public politics of debt left banks to act as predators, using a weak court system to intimidate people and obtain repayment of debts. Yet the constraints to the public sphere within which a contentious politics might unfold does not mean no such politicization exists. Using the example of Antikollektor, a successful anti-debt-collection agency in Baku, this article demonstrates the usefulness of building an understanding of civil society outside of the reductivist frames that shape recent debates over the authoritarian backlash against foreign-funded organized civil society in the former Eastern Bloc.