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Achieving the Ordinary

Everyday Peace and the Other in Bosnian Mixed-Ethnicity Families

Keziah Conrad

In Bosnia, 20 years aft er a war of ethnic cleansing, mixed-ethnicity families swim against the stream of nationalist separatism that insists all Bosnians should be neatly sorted into ethnic categories. When asked about their experiences, however, mixed families in Sarajevo during fieldwork from 2011 to 2012 repeatedly insisted that they were just “ordinary,” “normal” families. In this article, I look closely at an ordinary evening in the life of one such family, examining how they achieve this atmosphere of everydayness within which ordinary kin relationships are sustained despite the volatility of diff erences in ethnic and religious affi liation. Using a conversation analytic approach and building on the work of ordinary ethics theorists, I argue that the sense of being an ordinary family is an accomplishment constituted through active intersubjective work.

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Afterword

Reversing the world—What austerity does to time and place

Theodoros Rakopoulos

Instead of taking for granted that austerity is unidirectionally associated with Europe, the anthropology of austerity should be paying attention to the situatedness of its effects. The levering potential that a comparative analysis of austerity allows is precious, for it opens new critical perspectives on our understanding of temporal and geographical consciousness. An antipode of perspective invites a more historical analysis of a phenomenon that unsettles the conceived understandings of Europe’s position.

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Agony and the Anthropos

Democracy and Boundaries in the Anthropocene

Amanda Machin

The Anthropocene diagnosis, in which humanity has become a disruptive geological force, indicates an irresolvable political paradox. The political demos is inevitably and necessarily bounded. The Anthropocene, however, heralds the anthropos—the globalized more-than-human identity. The anthropos challenges the maintenance of political boundaries, yet any robust response to ecological predicament must be underpinned by a decisive demos. This article, informed by theories of political agonism, suggests that this paradox importantly provokes ongoing political contestation of the inevitable yet contingent exclusions from politics and the proper place of political boundaries in the Anthropocene. The article concludes that the Anthropocene diagnosis provides an opportunity for a lively democratic politics in which the demos is always prompted to reimagine itself and asks, who are “we” in the Anthropocene?

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Theodore Powers and Theodoros Rakopoulos

This introduction posits that austerity is an instantiation of structural adjustment programs (SAPs) and thus must be revisited in two ways, involving its historical and geographical rendering. First, anthropological accounts should think of austerity in the long term, providing encompassing genealogies of the concept rather than seeing it as breach to historical continuity. Second, the discipline should employ the comparative approach to bring together analyses of SAPs in the Global South and austerity measures in the Global North, providing a more comprehensive analysis of this phenomenon. We are interested in what austerity does to people’s temporal consciousness, and what such people do toward a policy process that impacts their lives. We find, in this comparative pursuit, instead of Foucauldian internalization, dissent and dissatisfaction.

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Ruy Llera Blanes

In this article, through a set of ethnographic vignettes from fieldwork conducted in Angola since 2015, I discuss the political semantics of crisis and austerity, and simultaneously outline an itinerary of a “traveling austerity” between Portugal and Angola, exposing the interconnectedness and mutual binding of both political and economic contexts. Invoking stories of migrant workers in Luanda and the work of local “financial activists” protesting against financial inequality in Angola, I question the relevance of national-based approaches to austerity politics, explore conceptualizations of austerity beyond its “original,” mainstream Eurocentric setting, and argue towards the necessity of analyzing transnational intersections in the study of austerity.

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Austerity in Africa

Audit cultures and the weakening of public sector health systems

James Pfeiffer

Austerity across Africa has been operationalized through World Bank and IMF structural adjustment programs since the 1980s, later rebranded euphemistically as poverty reduction strategies in the late 1990s. Austerity’s constraints on public spending led donors to a “civil society” focus in which NGOs would fill gaps in basic social services created by public sector contraction. One consequence was large-scale redirection of growing foreign aid flows away from public services to international NGOs. Austerity in Africa coincides with the emergence of what some anthropologists call “audit cultures” among donors. Extraordinary data collection infrastructures are demanded from recipient organizations in the name of transparency. However, the Mozambique experience described here reveals that these intensive audit cultures serve to obscure the destructive effects of NGO proliferation on public health systems.

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Commentary

Uneven development, the politics of scale, or global austerity?

Ida Susser

This afterword discusses the analysis of “austerity” and globalization and the possible parallels between a history of structural adjustment policies in the Global South combined with further cuts in social funding of recent years with the experience of “austerity” in Europe following the 2008 economic crisis. Questions with respect to the ways in which uneven development and the history of colonialism might complicate the experience in the Global South despite parallel governing strategies are raised. In addition, I suggest the consideration of scale in terms of the implementation of global versus national or local policies, the different scales at which resistance occurs, and the historical circumstances in which classes or subaltern groups coalesce might be important further considerations in this analysis.

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Echoes of austerity

Policy, temporality, and public health in South Africa

Theodore Powers

South Africa’s post-apartheid era has been marked by the continuation of racialized socioeconomic inequality, a social situation produced by earlier periods of settlement, colonization, and apartheid. While the ruling African National Congress has pursued a transformative political agenda, it has done so within the confines of neoliberal macroeconomic policy, including a period of fiscal austerity, which has had limited impact on poverty and inequality. Here, I explore how policy principles associated with austerity travel across time, space, and the levels of the state in South Africa, eventually manifesting in a public health policy that produced cuts to public health services. In assessing these sociopolitical dynamics, I utilize policy process as a chronotope to unify diverse experiences of temporality relative to austerity-inspired public health policy.

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Martin Holbraad

This issue includes our First Book Symposium, a new feature for Social Analysis that replaces the book reviews section we have had for a number of years. In each regular issue of the journal, we shall be devoting this feature to a single book written by a first-time author, which in one way or another develops new potentials for anthropological analysis (this being the core intellectual mission of our journal). The book will be subjected to sustained critique by relevant scholars, to which the author will then respond. We hope that this more focused approach will allow for a deeper engagement with emerging currents of analysis than what the shorter book review format allows, providing also a platform for books by scholars who are not already established and well known.

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Is Labor Green?

A Cross-National Panel Analysis of Unionization and Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Camila Huerta Alvarez, Julius Alexander McGee and Richard York

In this article, we assess whether unionization of national workforces influences growth in national carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per capita. Political-economic theories in environmental sociology propose that labor unions have the potential to affect environmental conditions. Yet, few studies have quantitatively assessed the influence of unionization on environmental outcomes using cross-national data. We estimate multilevel regression models using data on OECD member nations from 1970 to 2014. Results from our analysis indicate that unionization, measured as the percentage of workers who are union members, is negatively associated with CO2 emissions per capita, even when controlling for labor conditions. This finding suggests that unionization may promote environmental protection at the national level.