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Interrogating the Meanings of Dolls

New Directions in Doll Studies

Miriam Forman-Brunell

The articles in this issue demonstrate that dolls are ubiquitous cultural forms central to girlhood and young womanhood. Yet understanding the historical and contemporary significance of dolls is a relatively recent development. Th e age-old trivialization of girls and devaluation of youth cultures led to the customary disregard of dolls as legitimate sources of documentary evidence even among scholars. It was not until the late nineteenth century that changing notions of childhood first gave rise to research on children, and a new appreciation of the meanings of play. In 1896, G. Stanley Hall, the founder of the child-study movement, a professor of psychology, and president of Clark University, co-authored with A.C. Ellis the pioneering, “A Study of Dolls,” in which he argued that doll play taught girls key lessons in femininity and maternity. Although Hall argued that “the educational value of toys was enormous” (160), dolls once again lapsed into scholarly obscurity. It was during the late 1930s that Mamie Phipps Clark, then a Master’s student in psychology, used dolls to study the self-esteem of African American children. Th e subsequent doll studies she conducted with her husband, Kenneth Clark, played a role in the 1954 landmark desegregation decision, yet failed to perpetuate doll research. It was on the (high) heels of Barbie who debuted a few years after Brown v. Board of Education, that dolls became the focus of a lively (and still on-going) discourse among parents and pundits but not among academics about their social meanings in the lives of girls.

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Owen White and Elizabeth Heath

This introduction to the dossier “Wine, Economy, and Empire” surveys the place of economic history in the field of French Empire studies over the last twenty years. Drawing upon the concept of “economic life” as defined by William Sewell, the authors argue that a renewed focus on economic activity within the French Empire offers new opportunities to interrogate commonplace ideas about chronology, imperial forms, and structures of power. The article briefly examines some of the specific avenues of inquiry opened by a conception of economic life as socially “embedded,” while highlighting recent works that exemplify the possibilities of this approach for scholars of empire.

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Elizabeth C. Macknight

This special issue of Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques derives from panel sessions for the Irish-Scottish Academic Initiative (ISAI) conference held at the University of Aberdeen in October 2009. The conference marked the tenth anniversary of the founding of Aberdeen’s Research Institute of Irish and Scottish Studies. It was also the first ISAI conference to feature panel sessions dedicated to the study of gender in Irish and Scottish history. The overarching theme of the conferenceGlobal Nations? Irish and Scottish Expansionencouraged discussion of the ways in which the history and heritage of Ireland and Scotland are interpreted and understood both within those countries and abroad. In the two panels on gender, history, and heritage we sought to interrogate past and present notions of Irish and Scottish identity through the lens of gender by bringing together speakers from universities and the heritage sector.

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Black October

Comics, Memory, and Cultural Representations of 17 October 1961

Claire Gorrara

The brutal police repression of the demonstration of 17 October 1961 stands as a stark reminder of the violence of French colonialism. A continuing official reluctance to acknowledge these traumatic events has led individuals and groups to seek alternative routes for recognition. This article explores one of these alternative routes: the comic book, and specifically Octobre Noir, a collaboration between writer Didier Daeninckx and graphic artist Mako. By analyzing the reframing of 17 October 1961 within the comic form, this article argues that Octobre noir offers a site for interrogating the relationship between history and memory. This is achieved by exchanging a cultural narrative of police brutality and Algerian victimization for a narrative of legitimate protest and Algerian political agency. Octobre noir exemplifies the value of the comic book as a vector of memory able to represent the past in ways that enrich historical analysis and inter disciplinary debate.

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Introduction

Theorizing Boys’ Literacies and Boys’ Literatures in Contemporary Times

Garth Stahl and Cynthia Brock

This special issue of Boyhood Studies, entitled “Contemporary Boys’ Literacies and Boys’ Literatures,” is composed of international cutting-edge research focused on boys’ formal and informal literacy practices, boys’ engagements with a variety of texts, as well as gender-focused/gender-critical teaching practices in the literacy classroom. The articles interrogate how boys are positioned and how they position themselves within their acquisition of literacy skills. The research presented highlights the diversity and complexity of boys’ literacy practices. The scholars contend that how we define literacy is undergoing change alongside significant alterations to traditional cultural practices associated with boyhood. We see attention drawn to how these literacy practices operate in relation to the formation of boys’ masculinities in terms of how they do boyhood in contemporary times.

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Capitalism, Violence and The State

Crime, Corruption and Entrepreneurship in an Indian Company Town

Andrew Sanchez

In the Tata company town of Jamshedpur, incisive popular discourses of corruption posit a mutually beneficial relationship between ‘legitimate’ institutions and organised criminality, a dynamic believed to enable pervasive transformations in the city’s industrial and financial infrastructures. This article situates this local discourse within the wider body of anthropological work on South Asian corruption, noting a discursive departure from the hegemonic, personalised and essentially provincialising corruption models encountered by many researchers. The article interrogates the popular model of crime and corruption in Jamshedpur through a focus upon the business practices of local violent entrepreneurs, exploring the extent to which their negotiations with corrupt institutions and ‘legitimate’ capital may indeed inform their successes. Drawing analytic cues from material on organised crime in the former USSR, this article identifies a mutually beneficial relationship between political influence, violence and industrial capital in an Indian company town.

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Introduction

Overcoming the Quantity-Quality Divide in Economic Anthropology

Sandy Ross, Mario Schmidt and Ville Koskinen

In anthropology, sociology, and the humanities, money’s quantity is usually conceptualized as objectifying, creating abstract indexes of value, and as representing and enforcing abstraction, economic or otherwise. It is this link between quantity and abstraction that is partly responsible for questionable dichotomies opposing money’s numerical quantities and its qualities. Contributors to this special issue interrogate these dichotomies by exploring material and qualitative aspects of quantities in the history of economic thought, through British jewelers, blood money payments in Germanic law codes, and the everyday use of money in Russia, Kenya, and Cuba and among Brazilian Gypsies. Our introduction frames these engagements by presenting phenomena that blur differences between quality and quantity: part-whole relations, recursivity, set partitioning and infinities, and hysteresis and elastic thresholds.

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Rachel Douglas-Jones and Justin Shaffner

Capacity building is a pervasive idea that has received little critical treatment from anthropology. In this introduction, we outline the growing use of the idea of ‘capacity building’ within and beyond development settings, and highlight mechanisms by which it gains footholds in both policy and practice. This special issue centres and questions its histories, assumptions, intentions and enactments in order to bring ethnographic attention to the promises it entails. By bringing together cases from different sectors and continents, the collection pursues capacity building’s self-evident character, opening up what capacities themselves are thought to be. By not taking capacity building’s promises for granted, the articles collected here have two aims: to interrogate the means of capacity building’s ubiquity, and to develop critical purchase on its persuasive power.

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Canon Fire

Decolonizing the Curriculum

Andrew Sanchez

Despite sustained critical attention to the politics of knowledge, contemporary anthropology disproportionately engages with ideas produced by academics based in European and North American universities. The ‘decolonizing the curriculum’ movement speaks to core areas of anthropological interest while making a critical comment on the academic structures in which anthropologists produce their work. The articles in this collection interrogate the terms on which academic work engages with its own history, and ask how the production of knowledge relates to structures of race, gender and location. The collection considers the historical, political and institutional context of the ‘decolonizing the curriculum’ movement, the potential impact that the movement might make on education and research, and the major challenges facing it.

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Trouble in Para-sites

Deference and Influence in the Ethnography of Epistemic Elites

Paul Robert Gilbert

Through his enduring efforts to interrogate the regulative ideals of fieldwork, George Marcus has empowered doctoral students in anthropology to rethink their ethnographic encounters in terms that reflect novel objects and contexts of inquiry. Marcus' work has culminated in a charter for ethnographic research among 'epistemic communities' that requires 'deferral' to these elite modes of knowing. For adherents to this programme of methodological reform, the deliberately staged 'para-site' – an opportunity for ethnographers and their 'epistemic partners' to reflect upon a shared intellectual purpose – is the signature fieldwork encounter. This article draws on doctoral research carried out among the overlapping epistemic communities that comprise London's market for mining finance, and reviews an attempt to carve out a para-site of my own. Troubled by this experience, and by the ascendant style of deferent anthropology, I think through possibilities for more critical ethnographic research among epistemic elites.