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Contemporary Megaprojects

An Introduction

Seth Schindler, Simin Fadaee and Dan Brockington

There is renewed interest in megaprojects worldwide. In contrast to high-modernist megaprojects that were discrete projects undertaken by centralized authorities, contemporary megaprojects are often decentralized and pursued by a range of stakeholders from governments as well as the private sector. They leverage cutting-edge technology to ‘see’ complex systems as legible and singular phenomena. As a result, they are more ambitious, more pervasive and they have the potential to reconfigure longstanding relationships that have animated social and ecological systems. The articles in this issue explore the novel features of contemporary megaprojects, they show how the proponents of contemporary megaprojects aspire to technologically enabled omnipresence, and they document the resistance that megaprojects have provoked.

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Patrick H. Hutton

Scholarly interest in the topic of nostalgia has come late to discussions of the workings of memory, a popular topic in contemporary historiography, but its moment may at last have arrived, bringing with it perspectives unappreciated a generation ago. As an emotional response to time’s passage, nostalgia has long been viewed with suspicion. From the dawn of the modern age, critics have explained that it plays into life’s illusions, drifting into sentimental idealization of a past on the fast track to obsolescence. From the earliest critical commentaries on its nature in the late seventeenth century, nostalgia has been equated with homesickness, futile longing for lost places, lost times, and lost causes. For the most part, it was diagnosed as a psychological disorder that immobilized individuals susceptible to the tug of its emotions. It was in this guise that discussion of its nature entered the lexicon of medical discourse during the nineteenth century. The impairments of those who suffered from its sadness were real. The remedy was to awaken them to life’s present realities, and so to teach them to adapt with vigor to their own times.

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Friederike Eigler

Since the end of the Cold War and the reconfiguration of the map of

Europe, scholars across the disciplines have looked anew at the geopolitical

and geocultural dimensions of East Central Europe. Although geographically

at the periphery of Eastern Europe, Germany and its changing discourses

on the East have also become a subject of this reassessment in

recent years. Within this larger context, this special issue explores the

fraught history of German-Polish border regions with a special focus on

contemporary literature and film.1 The contributions examine the representation

of border regions in recent Polish and German literature (Irene

Sywenky, Claudia Winkler), filmic accounts of historical German and Polish

legacies within contemporary European contexts (Randall Halle, Meghan

O’Dea), and the role of collective memory in contemporary German-Polish

relations (Karl Cordell). Bringing together scholars of Polish and German

literature and film, as well as political science, some of the contributions

also ponder the advantages of regional and transnational approaches to

issues that used to be discussed primarily within national parameters.

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Nguyen Van Suu

Đô'i Mó'i, the name given to the economic reforms initiated in 1986 in Vietnam, has renewed the party-state's ambitious scheme of industrialization and has intensified the process of urbanization in Vietnam. A large area of land has been converted for these purposes, with various effects on both the state and society. This article sheds light on how land conversion has resulted in farmers' resistance and in what way and to what extent it has transformed their livelihoods in the transitional context of contemporary Vietnam. The article argues that agricultural land use rights remain an important asset for Vietnamese farmers, containing great value and meaning for them besides forming a means of prod

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Contemporary Girls Studies

Reflections on the Inaugural International Girls Studies Association Conference

Victoria Cann, Sarah Godfrey and Helen Warner

As we move towards the second International Girls Studies Association Conference, to be held at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, in February 2019, we reflect on the work of the scholars and practitioners who presented at our first conference in April 2016, in Norwich, UK. In this special issue of Girlhood Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal we highlight the diversity of articles presented at the conference that provided us with a sense of the breadth of research in girls studies to date.

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Contemporary citizenship debates

The search for firm footing on shifting terrains

Harlan Koff and Carmen Maganda

In many ways, the sociopolitical events of 2016 and 2017 have brought to life many of the conceptual debates surrounding the nature and importance of citizenship. The election of President Donald Trump in the United States (US), the rejection of the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC, and the vote on Brexit in the United Kingdom (UK), amongst other significant world events, have in many ways indicated a “crisis of citizenship” as disenchanted voters rejected their countries’ political establishments as much as they rejected specific policy proposals or platforms. Even the 2017 election of Emmanuel Macron as president of France over the nativist/populist candidate Marine Le Pen (which may have saved the European Union) represented an important realignment of the French political system.

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Paul Brodwin

The articles in this special issue tackle a problem at the heart of medical anthropology today—a problem that bedevils our methods, theoretical ambitions and public stance in the world. How should we rank the relative importance of local cultural meanings, on the one hand, and large-scale political and economic forces, on the other? That is, how should we train our sights on both culture and politics as we study the social contexts of suffering and apply our expertise to the worlds of policymaking and service delivery? How do we keep ‘culture’ and ‘politics’ in motion (and both are very broad analytical terms) without lapsing into one-sided analyses that champion the one term at the expense of the other? The following articles significantly advance the debate about such issues. They offer powerful theoretical models of the dialectic between culture-specific illness idioms and the operations of power that constrain people’s lives. They also re-think the very notion of culture in light of the complex networks—connecting individuals to nationstates, empires, NGOs, pharmaceutical firms and global capital—in which medical anthropologists increasingly work.

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Nadia Ferrer

In current and future situations of trans-global crises, social dissent and related practices of resistance cut across conventional country boundaries. Expressions of dissent and resistance pursue change through unconventional practices not only to challenge current governance, but to re-invent participation. They seek to impact society by transforming acquired values, subjectivities and knowledge. Despite these transformations of people’s subjectivities, majoritarian theories examining social movements still focus on finding rational patterns that can be instrumentalized in data sets and produce generalizable theoretical outcomes. This paper problematizes how social theory makes sense of collective action practices on the ground. Everyday non-discursive practices prove productivity-led theories' increasing disengagement with their object while challenging the excessive bureaucratization of scientific knowledge (Lyotard, 1997). That is, people experiment collectively with their capacities, and create their own initiatives and identities which do not follow determined patterns but do-while-thinking. The dichotomist approach of majoritarian debates in collective action theory is critically analysed by introducing the work of ‘minor authors’ and ‘radical theorists’. The fundamental purpose of this paper is to open a discussion space between the field of social action theories and activism knowledge, hence encouraging the creation of plateaus that blur academic boundaries and construct new subjectivities beyond “the indignity of speaking for others” (Deleuze in Foucault et al., 1977. p. 209). Drawing on the experience of the 15th of May 2011 in Spain, I analyse how radical theory reflects on current movements and collectives."

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Henrike Rau

Ireland’s transition from a predominantly rural to a (sub)urban society over the course of the twentieth century coincided with fundamental changes in its socio-cultural and environmental fabric (Corcoran et al. 2007; Moore and Scott 2005; Punch 2004).1 In particular, the recent suburbanization of many Irish towns and cities has raised interesting questions about the spatial organization of human social life. How important is public space for democratic participation? What kinds of spaces do people require to engage with others, or to get involved in community activities? Can we use spatial resources more sustainably and, if so, what are the consequences of such a transition for public and private spaces?

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Jonathan Magonet

It is a sad duty to record in this issue the death of three people who in very different ways contributed to contemporary Jewish life in Europe.