We never seek out frustration, but it almost always finds us. Seasoned field researchers, anthropologists pride themselves on their ability to handle life’s curve balls, from visa problems to cultural misunderstandings to difficulties in gaining access to informants. These curve balls go hand in hand with the home runs: all are moments in fieldwork, wherever, however, and among whomever conducted, and each moment has a story.
Methods and Forms of Collaboration in the Anthropology of Public Policy
Tara Schwegler and Michael G. Powell
Why We Should Be Careful about the Stories We Use to Tell Other Stories
Within the field of climate change adaptation research, “stories” are usually simply mined for data, developed as communication and engagement technologies, and used to envision different futures. But there are other ways of understanding people’s narratives. This article explores how we can move away from understanding stories as cultural constructs that represent a reality and toward understanding them as the way in which adaptation is lived. The article investigates questions such as the following: As climate adaptation researchers, what can and should we do when we are told unsolicited stories? How can storytelling, as a way of life rather than as a source of data, inform and elaborate scientific approaches to adaptation research and planning? In this article, I move away from the literature that seeks to develop narrative methods in adaptation science. Instead, I focus on stories that we do not elicit and the world-making practice of storytelling.
She had to carry a bag of heads. Blood was dripping from the bag. The armed men made her laugh about this. When they arrived, the bag was emptied and she saw the heads of her children. This happened in Sierra Leone toward the end of the twentieth century. An account of the event was given by the woman who had been forced to carry the bag. Hers is a story of cruelty and suffering, reminiscent of similar stories told and sometimes recorded over the millennia. It is a story about the twin constellation of cruelty and suffering, perpetration and victimhood. Cruelty is the intentional inflicting of suffering. It is suffering plus agency. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it can also be to delight in or be indifferent to the pain or misery of others and to act in a merciless, hard-hearted fashion. There is, of course, also suffering without cruelty and perpetration: there can be no cruelty without suffering, but there can be suffering without cruelty. Human beings can and do suffer without anyone in particular being responsible for the suffering (although magical and conspiratorial thinking, with their belief in excessive agency, will attempt to identify a perpetrator, someone to hold accountable). Contemporary politics of life, with its focus on the maximization of vitality, is likely to define suffering as an absence of intervention, as an act of omission.
In February 2017, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a damning report of human rights abuses perpetrated against the Rohingya. The report was based on interviews with Rohingya fleeing from Myanmar since 9 October 2016, with research continuing up to January 2017. Many recounted personal experiences of violence and physical, life-threatening harm. The report received some attention among humanitarian agencies (many of which have been banned from accessing Rakhine state) but was largely ignored by the international press. Headlines that week focused on the Trump administration’s attempts to defend its travel ban. This poem contains fragments and modifications of the report. It is not an attempt to supplant the voices of those at the heart of the report, but—by stripping down its language—an attempt to make (and mend) our ways of reading (and hearing) their stories.
In The Practice of Everyday Life, de Certeau likens himself to a Solar Eye reading the city spread out like a text below. He compares this all-seeing position to the enmeshed position of those whose intermingled footsteps pass through the city streets, writing stories that deliberately elude legibility. These two ways of experiencing the city offer a theoretical frame through which I will explore both the administration of protest spaces, and protesters’ ongoing attempts to subvert and evade those controls. In doing so, this contribution will examine the way in which the police practice of kettling depends upon the police’s ability to draw a series of distinctions between ‘good’ protesters who comply with state demands, and ‘bad’ protesters who err from official routes. It will go onto to explore the way in which the practice of maptivism impacts upon protesters’ ability to occupy city spaces and resist the totalizing administrations of the state.
Cinemas of Boyhood, Part I
These are ripe times to study boyhood in cinema. Even though male characters have undoubtedly dominated cinema roles from the start, boys’ stories have not been consistently produced or appreciated. Since the publication of Where the Boys Are: Cinemas of Masculinity and Youth, a collection edited by Murray Pomerance and Frances Gateward in 2005, there has been increasing academic interest in boyhood representation through movies, as demonstrated by the articles collected here. This interest follows the expansive concerns of pop psychology texts at the turn of the century that took up the political and emotional consequences of boys’ behavior, such as Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood by William Pollack (1999), Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys by Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson (2000), and The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism is Harming Our Young Men by Christina Hoff Sommers (2001).As is evident in their titles, this research joined the chorus of a prevailing masculinity in crisis theme that has permeated gender studies in recent years: boys have been troubled by the pressures of patriarchy, the demands of feminism, and the culture of capitalism, and thus are in need of rescue and protection from these influences.
Barbara Jane Brickman
In their new groundbreaking study reviewed in this special issue, The Trans Generation: How Trans Kids (and Their Parents) are Creating a Gender Revolution (2018), sociologist Ann Travers details the experiences of transgender children in the US and Canada, some as young as four years of age, who participated in research interviews over a five-year period. Establishing a unique picture of what it means to grow up as a trans child, Travers offers numerous examples of daily life and challenges for children like, for example, Martine and Esme, both of whom sought to determine their own gender at an early age: Martine and her family recount how at the age of seven she responded to her upcoming appointment at a gender clinic by asking if the doctor would have “the machine where you walk in as a boy and walk out as a girl,” while Esme’s story begins in preschool and leads to the care of a “trans-affirmative doctor” (168) from the age of six and the promise of hormone blockers and estrogen at the onset of puberty. Although Travers’s work is devoted to and advocates for trans children as a whole, its implications for our understanding of and research into girls and girlhood cannot be understated. What does it mean to “walk out” of that machine in the doctor’s office “as a girl?” What happens when you displace the seemingly monumental onset of puberty from its previous biological imperatives and reproductive futures? How might feminist work on girlhoods, which has sought to challenge sexual and gender binaries for so long, approach an encounter with what Travers calls “binary-conforming” or “binary-identifying” (169) trans girls or with the transgender boys in their study who, at first, respond to the conforming pressures of adolescence very similarly to cisgender girls who will not ultimately transition away from a female identity?