Once conceptualized as self-evident connections between discrete social units systematized through ethnographic fieldwork, relations are being increasingly treated as instantiations of local ontological theories. The ethnography of indigenous South America has provided a source of inspiration for this analytical shift. As manifested in the contributions to this special issue, at the core of indigenous practices and discourses on relations lies a tension between ‘dependence on otherness’ and an ‘ethics of autonomy’. In this introduction, we revisit this tension by focusing on the ‘taming of relations’, a process through which subjects attempt to maintain the autonomy of each being vis-à-vis their relational constitution dependent on others. We argue that rather than being a necessary condition, autonomy is always a partial outcome of relations linking human and non-human others.
Marcelo González Gálvez, Piergiorgio Di Giminiani, and Giovanna Bacchiddu
Tom Hall and Robin Smith
This article considers welfare and the city and the ways in which pedestrian practices combine in the management and production of urban need and vulnerability as manifest in the experience and supervision of urban homelessness. The article combines writings on urban maintenance and repair with recent anthropological work on wayfaring (in which cities seldom figure). Fieldwork undertaken with rough sleepers, welfare workers and city managers in the city of Cardiff , Wales, provides the empirical basis. The main body of the article is organized around three walks through the centre of Cardiff with individuals variously implicated in care, repair and welfare in the city. In closing we assert the importance of a politics of street welfare in city space.
Relationships between Tourism and Work among Young Canadians in Edinburgh
Working holiday-maker programmes have facilitated a growing cohort of mobile young people who have an ambiguous status as both worker and tourist. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted among Canadian working holiday-makers in Scotland, this paper shows how working holiday-makers are situated in an ambiguous, contradictory position as working tourists, and are streamlined towards particular social and professional fields in which work-leisure boundaries are blurred. Although these blurred boundaries seem contradictory, they benefit employers who require an educated yet temporary work-force, while also meeting the desires of working holiday-makers for a lifestyle that is flexible, social, far from the pressures of friends and family, and that puts them in regular contact with other young foreigners who, like them, are at transitional points in life.
The politics and ethics of collaboration among World Anthropologies
The articles in this theme section are based on papers presented at a three-session workshop on World Anthropologies at the 2008 Biennial Conference of the European Association of Social Anthropologists in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Drawing on analyses of the position of anthropological disciplinary practices in Poland, Spain, Hungary, and the US, as well as their global reception, these articles ask important and timely questions about where anthropologists conduct their research, what professional and academic societies they join, what types of relationships they should forge with scholars who live in the country or nation in which they conduct fieldwork, and how they should engage with other disciplines beyond anthropology. As these articles demonstrate, practices of collaboration are enmeshed in politically, socially, and geographically grounded histories. Although at some level this may not be a surprise to readers, specific issues remain well worth examining further and discussing within the profession.
Migration, politics, and multiculturalism in a Finnish suburb
Migration politics in Finland are centered around “social integration” and “multiculturalism.” While the stated aims of such politics are equality and social mobility, the results are often contradictory, perpetuating the hierarchies and inequalities they propose to overcome. Utilizing Guy Debord’s notion of the “society of the spectacle,” I argue that there is a neoliberal Integration Spectacle that projects the appearance of societal change but is, in reality, an immobilizing force that works to obscure a particular racialized social order. I draw on my fieldwork in and around Varissuo, an international working-class suburb on the edge of Turku, western Finland, to analyze how both migrant residents of the area and the professionals within the so-called integration economy engage with, reproduce, and deal with this discrepancy.
Communicating the Impact of a Family Music Project to Wider Audiences
There has been increasing pressure for anthropologists to communicate their ideas and thinking to new publics and so actively engage in national and international debates relating to their field. However, this is not an unproblematic practice and the politics of representation requires anthropologists to consider the sometimes conflicting dimensions of the moral, ethical, political, social, personal and academic. My fieldwork with families linked to In Harmony Liverpool, a children's music project in England, involved inviting participants variously to take part in interviews, draw maps of musical sites in their homes, construct playlists of favourite songs and take photographs of sites in their homes where music 'happens'. As my aim is to produce a visual and audio display to communicate with wider audiences, I consider the issues of representation, authenticity, potential damage and 'othering' in the planning of the research and how this shaped data collection and the plans for dissemination.
A Japanese–Korean Recipe for Post-conflict Reconciliation
Stephanie Hobbis Ketterer
Mimicking research and practice that demonstrates the importance of seemingly mundane acts for resolving protracted conflicts, this article enquires into the potential contributions of food-related practices to post-conflict reconciliation. Based on fieldwork with a Japanese–South Korean reconciliation initiative (Koinonia), the argument is made that food-related practices can create the spatio-temporal conditions necessary to mitigate successfully situations that may otherwise be characterised by misunderstandings, animosity and an unwillingness to move beyond dividing lines. It is demonstrated that food-related practices have the capacity to influence reconciliation positively throughout the three stages that are perceived as vital for building lasting relationships between conflicting parties: encouragement of participation in reconciliation events (stage 1), encouragement of positive interaction during reconciliation events (stage 2) and sustainability of reconciliation events after participants re-enter daily life and the likely negative perceptions of the Other therein (stage 3).
Fragmented solidarities among construction workers in Nepal
Dan V. Hirslund
Despite a history of labor militancy in past decades, Nepal’s large construction sector remains unorganized and lacks social protection, prompted by high levels of informality. Based on ethnographic fieldwork among construction laborers in Kathmandu, this article argues that labor subsumption to capital in the construction industry takes place through a systemization of expertise through which access to work is negotiated. I show how this “culture of informality” shapes labor relations and creates a semblance of transparency and justice in otherwise chaotic and fiercely competitive labor communities. Drawing on concepts from political and urban anthropology to probe how informality indexes forms of power, I argue that authority and status become distributed through processes of distinction and thereby extend and deepen inequalities permeating contemporary industrial relations.
Bolivia is currently immersed in the Education Revolution, based on the implementation of a socio-community education system built upon a series of principles, among which intracultural, intercultural and pluri-lingual education is a fundamental pillar. I conducted ethnographic fieldwork from 2008 to 2010 in a school that put into practice some of these postulates. This article focuses on the articulation of curriculum content, practice and new education policies. The school claimed to carry out what the new law proposed in the context of intraculturalism, interculturalism and multilingualism. This study focused on the articulation of practice and curriculum in the school, regarding the tenets of the new law, and the consequences in relation to racism and essentialization of culture.
Although this issue of the journal is not a themed issue, the articles included here provide an encouragement and opportunity to think and reflect on the nature of ethnographic fieldwork, how it has or has not changed over the years, and about the ethical implications of anthropological research. The studies they describe prompt questions for me about how anthropologists (or other researchers) should be engaged with their ‘subjects’ and in what manner. How far have ‘subjects’ been transformed into participants, and what does the researcher give to and gain from this transformation? Is the anthropologist’s engagement with the field an obligation that anthropologists have shied away from, or something which is too easily assumed to be a good thing?