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Vital Energy

The Current of Relations

Stephen Gudeman

'Vital energy' is a central idea in the economies of Panama and Colombia. Known as 'strength' or 'force', and assembled from the environment, this current connects all activities in the local economies and establishes relationships, from kin to strangers. Humans compose vital energy, but its sources are limited, and it is expended in use. Its availability is a gift from God and part of the unpredictable fortune that faces everyone. This economy exhibits a contrast between a social current and a market currency. It offers a materialist perspective, provides a critique of standard economics, suggests that sharing rather than reciprocity or rational choice is the 'fundamental' economic practice, and shows how an economy may be a kind of ritual legitimated by a belief in divine power that is displayed through personal fortune.

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'It's Got to Be the Patient's Decision'

Practicing Shared Decision-making in the U.K. Renal Units

Ikumi Okamoto

In modern medicine, patient choice and involvement in treatment decision-making are increasingly recognised as an important issue in improving the quality of healthcare, and in recent years the concept of shared decision-making has attracted attention as a new approach in the medical encounter. This model is particularly appropriate in life-threatening situations in which no best treatment exists and there are trade-offs between benefits and risk of available treatments. In this article, I demonstrate how clinical uncertainty makes shared decision-making difficult in practice, using the case of elderly patients with end-stage renal failure based on data collected by interviewing renal healthcare professionals in the U.K. I then propose the possibility of 'patient choice' becoming a burden for some elderly patients and the institutionalisation of shared decision-making, and discuss the importance of building a good relationship between healthcare professionals and patients to facilitate shared decision-making.

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‘Is Anthropology Legal?’

Anthropology and the EU General Data Protection Regulation

Cassandra Yuill

In May 2018, the European Union (EU) introduced the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) with the aim of increasing transparency in data processing and enhancing the rights of data subjects. Within anthropology, concerns have been raised about how the new legislation will affect ethnographic fieldwork and whether the laws contradict the discipline’s core tenets. To address these questions, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London hosted an event on 25 May 2018 entitled ‘Is Anthropology Legal?’, bringing together researchers and data managers to begin a dialogue about the future of anthropological work in the context of the GDPR. In this article, I report and reflect on the event and on the possible implications for anthropological research within this climate of increasing governance.

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Common Humanity and Shared Destinies

Looking at the Disability Arts Movement from an Anthropological Perspective

Andrea Stöckl

This article will bring together two strands of anthropological theories on art and artefacts, the disability arts movement and the phenomenological approach to the study of material things. All three of these different perspectives have one thing in common: they seek to understand entities – be they human or nonhuman – as defined by their agency and their intentionality. Looking at the disability arts movement, I will examine how the anthropology of art and agency, following Alfred Gell's theorem, is indeed the 'mobilisation of aesthetic principles in the course of social interaction', as Gell argued in Art and Agency. Art, thus, should be studied as a space in which agency, intention, causation, result and transformation are enacted and imagined. This has a striking resonance with debates within the disability arts movement, which suggests an affirmative model of disability and impairment, and in which art is seen as a tool to affirm, celebrate and transform rather than a way of expressing pain and sorrow. I will use case studies of Tanya Raabe-Webber's work and of artistic representations of the wheelchair in order to further explore these striking similarities and their potential to redefine the role of art in imagining the relationship between technology and personhood. I will finish by looking at Martin Heidegger's conceptualisation of the intentionality of things, as opposed to objects, and will apply this to some artwork rooted in the disability arts movement.

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Robbie Davis-Floyd

Preface

This is the first in what we intend to be a series of practically focused and reflective articles by anthropologists who work in policy or practice, discussing and sharing their experiences of ‘engaged’ anthropology.

—Christine McCourt, Editor, May 2011

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The urban public sector as commons

Response to Susser and Tonnelat

Jane Collins

Susser and Tonnelat’s article on the three urban commons is both visionary and heartening. Its counterpastoral polemic glorifies urban modes of sociality and the forms of common property fostered by urban life. The authors find in cities communities of experience that cross class lines and create inadvertent coalitions around shared problems. They argue that specific components of what has been called “the right to the city” need to be understood as “commons”—collective property that is neither fully public nor private but shared by individuals as they go about everyday life in urban settings.

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Carl Knight

Earlier versions of the five articles of this edition of Theoria were presented at a conference held at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg in March 2010.1 Although they are diverse in style and content, all address the shared theme of the conference and this edition — ‘Poverty, Charity, Justice’.

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Dirk Eitzen

The impetus for this special issue of Projections was personal, not just academic.

I am deeply, religiously committed to nonviolence. I have three sons

and a daughter that I have tried to raise to share this commitment. Yet I really

relish the occasional violent entertainment and I have been fairly free in sharing

this pleasure with my children. This has led to considerable moral anxiety.

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Bruce Kapferer

The present issue is composed of independently submitted articles that share particular themes. Both Bar-On Cohen and Gamliel, in their thorough groundedness in the detailed empirical description of practice (martial arts and Yemenite Jewish women’s wailing, respectively) explore critically major conceptual theoretical concerns at the heart of contemporary anthropology.

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‘Yassaba’ or the Fear of Being Abandoned

Adapting Health-promotion Messages to Incorporate Local Meanings in Guinée Forestière

Maria Cristina Manca

Health promotion is dependent upon sharing information with local populations and adapting health-care services to make them more acceptable, and is an essential part of any Ebola intervention. Listening to the concerns of local communities and engaging them as active participants ensures that health promotion messages are relevant, acceptable and understandable as well as culturally appropriate. Ebola is associated with fear and death, thus understanding the significance and meanings of life, death, disease and sickness for the Kissi of Guinea Forestière (Guinea) is essential for ensuring acceptable health services. Community engagement was essential for this research to gain the trust of the Kissi and to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and information to reduce the transmission of the Ebola virus. This technical account is based on three periods of ethnographic fieldwork and health promotion activities conducted in Guinea between May 2014 and February 2015.