Facing death with equanimity and with a honed, trained body is an expression of sheer power. When a group of like-minded individuals confronts an oppositional force with equal mental and bodily capacities, whether on a sports field or in a warring conflict, the result is power compounded. Each article in this special section ‘confronts’ such powers. Together they explore several regionally specific projects in Asia in which dying for a cause is seen as a virtue.
Empowering the Body and 'Noble Death'
Michael Roberts and Arthur Saniotis
Collective Action and Subjective Power in the Greek Anti-Austerity Movement
Atalanti Evripidou and John Drury
Greece has been one of the countries which most severely suffered the consequences of the global economic crisis during the past two years. It has also been a country with a long tradition of protest. The present paper reports a study in which we examined the ways in which people talk about subjective power and deal with the outcome of collective action in the context of defeat. Subjective power has recently become a prominent field of research and its link to collective action has been studied mainly through the concept of collective efficacy. The current study explored questions based on recent social identity accounts of subjective power in collective action. We examined participants’ experiences of subjective power before and after Mayday 2012, in Greece. Two different collective action events took place: a demonstration against austerity and a demonstration to support steel workers who were on strike. In total, 19 people were interviewed, 9 before the demonstrations and 10 after. Thematic analysis was carried out. Protest participants talked about power in terms of five first-order themes: the necessity of building power, unity, emotional effects, effects of (dis)organization, and support as success. The steel workers we spoke to experienced the events more positively than the other interviewees and had different criteria for success. Theories of collective action need to take account of the fact that subjective power has important emotional as well as cognitive dimensions, and that definitions of success depend on definitions of identity.
The 2013 Anti-Government Protests in Istanbul, Turkey
Colin W. Leach, Ayşe Betül Çelik, Rezarta Bilali, Atilla Cidam and Andrew L. Stewart
By happenstance, we found ourselves in Istanbul, Turkey in early June 2013 only days after a mass anti-government protest developed in and around Gezi Park. In addition to informal discussions and interviews with academics and others, we visited the protest site and traveled throughout Istanbul to directly experience the atmosphere and events. We also conducted two studies of Turks’ participation in, and views of, the protests. This paper recounts the events in Istanbul that summer and reviews our own, and other, social science research on the protests and the protestors. We focus on who the protestors were and why they protested, as opposed to the less engaged actions of visiting the protests or following them in the media.
Civil Society and Urban Agriculture in Europe
Mary P. Corcoran and Joëlle Salomon Cavin
This special issue comprises articles by social and environmental scientists, most of whom participated in a working group on governance models and policy contexts of the COST Action TD1106 Urban Agriculture Europe during the period 2012–2016. All have a particular interest in the potentialities of urban agriculture as mediated through civil society actors to contribute to, shape, and transform urban policies in the intersecting fields of land use and access; food and urban ecosystems; education and environment; and history, heritage, and cultural practice. The collaborative, interdisciplinary, and bottom- up character of the contributions broadens and deepens our knowledge of urban agricultural practice across Europe.
Participating in and Witnessing Fair Trade and Women’s Empowerment in Transnational Communities of Practice
The popularity of fair trade products has engendered new possibilities for consumer citizens in the global North to demonstrate solidarity with producers in the global South. Fair trade enthusiasts not only buy labelled products as an act of solidarity with producers in Darjeeling’s tea plantations; but also extend their affective solidarity by voluntarily visiting certified production sites to witness how fair trade affects workers’ livelihoods. Fair trade as transnational praxis has inadvertently pushed justice seeking and delivery to a non-state sphere that is not accountable to the workers in terms of citizenship rights; however, it must address the bargaining power of producers since wages and benefits are baseline determinants of quality of life. Fair trade-engendered solidarity practices erase the complex history of workers’ struggle with the state and established systems of power through collective bargaining. These acts in turn produce new kinds of transnational praxis affecting the plantation public sphere.
Electioneering and the politics of self knowledge
Alexander Thomas T. Smith
Following their ‘wipe-out’ at the 1997 General Election, Scottish Conservatives worked from the assumption that they had endured their own ‘crisis’ in representation. The material consequences of this ‘crisis’ entailed losses of !nancial and other resources, knowledge and political legitimacy. This article describes how some Conservative activists addressed this ‘crisis’ in the period leading to the 2003 local Government and Scottish Parliament elections. Their efforts to render the secret ballot transparent in order to discern the voting intentions of potential supporters both demonstrated and re!ected their efforts to manage this crisis. Despite legal constraints, they constructed an imaginary of thousands of local voters’ preferences through a variety of discursive instruments, which allowed Party activists to disaggregate the electoral roll in order to apprehend a new whole – the Conservative electoral base. This, in turn, enabled a Conservative politics of self-knowledge, as a form of empowerment for these activists.
Staff on the Emergency Department 'Shop Floor'
Mark Powell, Stephanie Glendinning, Vanesa Castán Broto, Emma Dewberry and Claire Walsh
In this article we consider the impact of shock in hospital emergency departments where people seek urgent medical care and access hospital services. We define shock as an unexpected event or set of circumstances, for although emergency departments plan for uncertainty, shock moments are when protocols and procedures fail to meet operational demands. We reveal how, depending on the professional experience and personality of staff, shocks are experienced and defined in a variety of ways. On some occasions shocks result in critical departmental failure, while at other times they generate new working practices. Shocks can empower individuals through celebrating teamwork and a sense of belonging, to take personal responsibility at a range of 'shop-floor' scales. These emotional and embodied engagements contribute to the operational resilience of the department.
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.
The Case of Expert Clients in Swaziland
Following the call by UNAIDS in 2006 to involve people living with HIV (PLHIV) in treatment programmes, expert clients were recruited to provide services within healthcare settings as volunteers alongside paid health workers. Swazi law requires employment contracts for anyone working in a full-time capacity for three months, complicating the status of expert clients. This article traces the genesis of the volunteer framework used to engage PLHIV in the provision of HIV care in Swaziland and describes how the quest for PLHIV to be involved coupled with donors’ promotion of the Greater Involvement of People Living with HIV/AIDS (GIPA) principle have together resulted in PLHIV serving as low-cost workers, disempowering the very people GIPA was meant to empower. I call for review of GIPA-based policies and a paradigm shift regarding a non-medically trained cadre of workers in an era of acute healthworker shortages in resource-limited countries hard hit by HIV.
‘Cosmetic’ Investments in the Body
This article discusses the impact of skin colour inequality in the individual aspirations and prospects of social inclusion and success, social mobility aspirations, professional ambitions and career opportunities. Ethnographically, it studies specific forms of cosmetic investments and self-optimisation in Portugal and its effects on the micropolitics of bodies, correlating the agency of individuals (how they empower themselves maximising certain aspects and minimising others) with the ways in which a European white appearance circulates as a form of capital and commodity, creating body narratives that are very much racialised. By inquiring the actual European understanding of value in bodies, we can also understand the colonial legacy and how it is reproduced through the mutation of bodies.