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Life in the ant trails

Cocaine and caustic circuits in Bissau

Henrik Vigh

This article looks ethnographically at the cocaine trade in and through Bissau, Guinea-Bissau. It clarifies some of the less obvious aspects of illegal cross-border trade and ties the minor flow of drugs, often trafficked by the desperate and disenfranchised, to larger global dynamics. While international media and commentators alike frequently depict transnational organized crime as a pathogen attacking the healthy global order, a closer look at the Bissau cocaine trade clarifies that the trade is neither external nor parasitical but integral to it. The trade’s grasp of Bissau is anchored in enduring critical circumstance, stretching from the social to the political, and displays several ironic feedback loops and interdependencies linking misfortune in time and space. The article thus shows how negative conditions may travel and circulate in a manner that ramifies vulnerability across economic and political borders.

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Love and Violence

Sartre and the Ethics of Need

Katharine Wolfe

Beginning with a study of need and its relationship to violence in Sartre’s Critique of Dialectical Reason, this paper argues that need, in the midst of scarcity, can both be a catalyst for violence and a force in the service of love. It warns against an antagonistic view of need and of ethics that emerges in Sartre’s Critique, drawing on Sartre’s own ongoing commitments to existentialism and also on the work of Primo Levi. In particular, it warns against the danger of reducing an ethics of need to one of Manichean violence. It also introduces the concept of ‘second-person needs’, which include (but are not limited to) needs of one’s own for the needs of others to be met. This concept is resonant with the idea of authentic love introduced in Sartre’s earlier, unfinished Notebooks for an Ethics, with the suggestions concerning a concrete, material ethics offered in Sartre’s Rome Lecture of 1964, as well as with Sartre’s concept of the fused group in the Critique itself.

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Love as Resistance

Exploring Conceptualizations of Decolonial Love in Settler States

Shantelle Moreno

In this article, I weave together connections between notions of decoloniality and love while considering implications for decolonial praxis by racialized people settled on Indigenous lands. Through a community-based research project exploring land and body sovereignty in settler contexts, I engaged with Indigenous and racialized girls, young women, 2-Spirit, and queer-identified young adults to create artwork and land-based expressions of resistance, resurgence, and wellbeing focusing on decolonial love. Building on literature from Indigenous, decolonizing, feminist, and post-colonial studies, I unpack the ways in which decolonial love is constructed and engaged in by young Indigenous and racialized people as they navigate experiences of racism, sexism, cultural assimilation, and other intersecting forms of marginalization inherent in colonial rule. I uphold these diverse perspectives as integral components in developing more nuanced and situated understandings of the power of decolonial love in the everyday lives of Indigenous and racialized young peoples and communities.

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Hyun-Gwi Park

This article presents an ethnographic study of watermelon cultivators in the Russian Far East and how they approach and respond to climatic risk. For watermelon cultivators, the spatial boundaries of climatic risk are perceived as the baseline condition for the watermelon market, in which cultivators compete with each other by dealing with uncertainties caused by weather changes. While the market is linked to the spatial boundaries of climatic risk, this connection is only meaningful when there are weather changes that differently affect individuals within the boundary; weather changes that affect individual performance in the competitive watermelon market is perceived according to a recursive and cyclic timescale, rather than a linear one as discussed by most theories of the Anthropocene.

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Jane Stadler

In conversation with Carl Plantinga’s persuasive account of emotion and the ethics of engagement in Screen Stories, this article considers how audiences engage with film and television in an emotive, evaluative manner that is mediated by technology. Because sensory experience and immersive technologies set screen media apart from forms of storytelling such as literature and because technological developments affect the formal strategies of screen media, I argue that the distinctiveness of and differences between film and television warrant attention. I focus on the ethical implications of sustained engagement with immersive narratives and technologies in contemporary television and algorithmic culture.

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Novices in bureaucratic regimes

Learning to be a claimant in the United Kingdom

Michelle Obeid

This article tracks the learning experiences of a refugee mother in negotiating her housing rights during her first months of settlement in the United Kingdom. New migrants often experience bureaucracy as “novices” in unfamiliar legal and bureaucratic regimes. By contrast to common depictions of bureaucracies as predominant sites of disenchantment and frustration, I attend ethnographically to the ways in which novice claimants come to trust and value bureaucratic encounters as productive spaces that reveal to them the vocabulary of legitimacy as they learn to inhabit official categories and forge bureaucratic personhoods. I suggest an understanding of migrants’ previous knowledge of non-Western bureaucratic regimes shapes their experiences of ambiguity in bureaucracy.

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Organized criminals, human rights defenders, and oil companies

Weaponization of the RICO Act across jurisdictional borders

Lindsay Ofrias and Gordon Roecker

This article examines how the world’s arguably largest oil disaster, in the heart of Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest, has become a testing ground for new global forms of corporate power and the criminalization of dissent. Following the ongoing “trial of the century” between Chevron Corporation and plaintiffs representing tens of thousands of smallholder farmers and indigenous people affected by the disaster, we look at how the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act has been applied against the affected people and their lawyers to sidestep the norm of international comity and alter the parameters for pursuing environmental justice. Specifically, we point to how the case—and a new crop of cases following suit—has threatened to criminalize the use of “lawfare” as a “weapon of the weak.”

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Parallel Lives

Remembering the PCF and CGT

George Ross

Philippe Herzog and Jean-Louis Moynot were members of the top leaderships of the Parti Communiste Français (PCF) and the Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT), respectively. Each participated in and lived through the dramatic years from the 1960s through the 1980s when both organizations first supported Union de la Gauche and then turned away from it, eventually precipitating both into decline in ways that would transform eventually the French political and trade union left. The strategic shifts underlying these deep and significant changes were traumatic for those who lived through them. Herzog and Moynot have recently published memoirs detailing their experiences of this period and their political lives thereafter. Both books, in different ways, give us new and important understandings of what happened during a critical moment of change in French politics.

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Pathologizing Latinas

Racialized Girlhood, Behavioral Diagnosis, and California's Foster Care System

Isabella C. Restrepo

Scholars of the welfare system have explored the racialized criminalization of mothers of color who are punished by the foster care system, through control of their children, when they are unable to meet the ideals of middle-class motherhood but have yet to fully articulate a language to understand the ways in which this criminalization and punishment extends to youth once they are placed in the foster care system. Using ethnographic interviews with agents of the care system, I explore the ways in which the system pathologizes Latinas’ quotidian acts of resistance and survival like their use of silences through the behavioral diagnosis of Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). I argue that California’s foster care system is an arm of the transcarceral continuum, marking girls of color and their strategies of resistance as pathological, thereby criminalizing them through the diagnosis of behavioral disorders.

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People, Clouds, and Roots

Between the Unseen, the Seen, and the Unforeseen

Yunita T. Winarto, Sue Walker and Rhino Ariefiansyah

Various studies reveal the paradox of farmers’ local knowledge. Farmers are equipped with traditional cosmology and detailed empirical knowledge of their agricultural habitats. However, these same knowledge frameworks seem to contribute to entrapping farmers in a mind-set that prevents them from understanding the diverse unintended consequences of changes in their environment. To avoid this, we utilize the learning arena of science field shops (SFSs) to help farmers better understand the relationships at work from the “clouds to the roots and in between”, and to address ongoing changes and vulnerabilities in the environment. This article seeks to explain the changes that occurred to farmers following the learning they acquired from SFSs and its impact on their anticipation and decision making.