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Black Market Fictions

Au bon beurre, La traversée de Paris, and the Black Market in France

Kenneth Mouré

Jean Dutourd's novel Au bon beurre (1952) and Claude Autant-Lara's film La Traversée de Paris (1956) offer the best-known depictions of black market activity in Occupied France, appreciated by audiences who had lived through the war. This article looks at the black market stories they tell and their reception in France in the 1950s. It focuses on the fictional stories in relation to the historical experience from which they were drawn, and analyzes their selective representation of behaviors and the key relationships on which black market activity relied. Both works capture widely shared Occupation experiences of food shortages and exploitation. They highlight popular resentment of profiteers, the ability of the wealthy to escape wartime hardship and postwar justice, and the corruption and incompetence of the state in managing shortages and postwar purges.

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Bruno Latour

This article reflects on the traditional distinction between scientific laboratories experimenting on theories and phenomena and a political outside where non-experts make do with human values, opinions, and passions. Since today all people are engaged in emerging collective experiments on matters as varied as climate, food, landscape, health, urban design, and technical communication as consumers, militants, and citizens, they can all be considered co-researchers. Co-researching has consequences for our understanding of nature and demands a renewed attention to “multinaturalist” politics. It also questions the division of labor between experts and nonexperts. The article finishes with a call to “dis-invent” modernity so that we “moderns” can finally become ordinary humans again.

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The seed and the citizen

Biosocial networks of confiscation and destruction in Canada

Birgit Müller

While farmers set up conditions for the development of plants, the seeds they help grow into plants determine conditions for the farmers. Modern plants not only have agronomic characteristics but also intellectual property rights, phytosanitary regulations, and classifications attached to them. Interacting with their seeds creates fields of property and power, situations of possibility and impossibility, in which farmers and breeders operate. The biosocial networks from which seeds emerge are animated by bureaucratic measures, property relations, and research and cultivation practices that I will explore in action. Seeds not only become what they are in multifarious networks of natural, cultural, and political agencies, but their emergence and coevolution with humans is ruptured through deregistration, persecution, confiscation, and destruction of proprietary seeds. This article will take the reader from the fields of farmers in Saskatchewan to seed breeders in Saskatoon and ultimately to public meetings organized by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in Ottawa.

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Softly, softly

Comparative silences in British stories of genetic modification

Cathrine Degnen

Since the late 1990s genetically modified foods, crops, and products have provoked a great deal of controversy in Britain. This article does not challenge the presence of debate over genetic modification in Britain, but rather calls attention to public silences on genetic modification that have often been overlooked. Drawing on multi-sited fieldwork in two parts of the north of England, I explore the ways in which these silences were not equally present across both fieldsites. I argue that this is partly due to the intersection of local histories with the ideological framing of genetic modification by the British government as a question of and for scientific expertise. I also explore how silence on the topic may be a form of what Sheriff (2000) has termed ‘cultural censorship’. Finally, I discuss the theoretical and methodological difficulties of studying and writing about silence, proposing that silences can importantly highlight issues of political and social salience.

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Martin Thomas

Focusing on the gendarmerie forces of the three French Maghreb territories, this article explores the relationships between paramilitary policing, the collection of political intelligence, and the form and scale of collective violence in the French Empire between the wars, and considers what, if anything, was specifically colonial about these phenomena. I also assess the changing priorities in political policing as France's North African territories became more unstable and violent during the Depression. The gendarmeries were overstretched, under-resourced, and poorly integrated into the societies they monitored. With the creation of dedicated riot control units, intelligenceled political policing of rural communities and the agricultural economy fell away. By 1939 the North African gendarmeries knew more about organized trade unions, political parties, and other oppositional groups in the Maghreb's major towns, but they knew far less about what really drove mass protest and political violence: access to food, economic prosperity, rural markets, and labor conditions.

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Marjorie Harness Goodwin

Making use of videotaped interactions of lunchtime conversations among multi-ethnic preadolescent peers (based on three years of fieldwork in LA) this ethnographically based study investigates the embodied language practices through which girls construct friendship alliances as well as relationships of power and exclusion. Girls display “best friend” relations not only through roles they select in dramatic play, such as twins married to twins in “house,” but also through embraces and celebratory handclaps that affirm alliances. Older (sixth grade) girls assert their power with respect to younger fourth grade girls through intrusive activities such as grabbing food from lunchboxes, insults, and instigating gossip; younger girls boldly resist such actions through fully embodied stances. Relations of exclusion are visible not only in seating arrangements of a marginalized “tagalong” girl with respect to the friendship clique, but also highlighted in the ways she is differentially treated when an implicit social norm is violated.

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Ritualizing the Everyday

The Dangerous Imperative of Hospitality in Apiao, Chiloé

Giovanna Bacchiddu

Based on an analysis of ethnographic data collected in Apiao, Chiloé, this article offers a view of relations as inescapably fraught connections between different entities. These relations are articulated in highly ritualized hospitality practices involving reciprocal exchange of food and drinks in a domestic space. Cutting across established, contrasting analytical categories, such as consanguines/affines and friends/enemies, hospitality practices reveal the immanence of otherness. Relations can occur only among different/differentiated individuals and are always expressed through an alternation of the contingent positions of host and guest, where one offers and another receives. In hospitality interactions, sameness is denied and transformed into otherness, revealing the importance of asymmetry and disclosing the latent hostility and potential danger implicit in relations. The other is first and foremost a dangerous and unpredictable guest.

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The Alaas

Cattle Economy and Environmental Perception of Sedentary Sakhas in Central Yakuti

Csaba Mészáros

Thermokarst depressions in the permafrost environment of Yakutia (northeastern Siberia) provide fertile hayfields for Sakha cattle economy. These areas of open land in the boreal forest are called alaas in Sakha language. At this northern latitude cattle breeding is particularly in demand of nutritious fodder, because cows spend nine months on average in winter stables. Therefore alaases are the focus of Sakha environmental perception. Sakhas not only dwell in alaases, but through their economic activities, they modify and maintain them. This process is based on control and domination rather than on procurement of food by a “giving“ environment. Villagers in Tobuluk (central Yakutia) consider the areas surrounding their village as controlled islands of alaases (hayfields) in a sea of uncontrolled forest. This article examines Sakha environmental perception in which landscapes and cardinal directions evoke and define each other, and characterize those who reside there. Due to the subsequent transformations of Sakha economy and lifestyle by the Soviet and Russian state administration in the last 100 years (collectivization, centralization, and decollectivization) the way that Sakhas interact with their surroundings has transformed radically within the four generations causing profound differences in the way generations relate to, interact with, and understand alaases.

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India travels and transitioning Luxembourg

Appropriate thresholds and scales of change

Katy Fox

This is a new year’s letter written by the founder of the Centre for Ecological Learning Luxembourg (CELL) to the executive board on the occasion of a journey to India. CELL is an independent, volunteer-led grassroots nonprofit organization founded in 2010 and based in Beckerich. CELL’s scope of action is the Greater Region of Luxembourg, hence its mode of operating through decentralized action groups in order to establish and maintain community gardens, food co-ops, and other social-ecological projects in different parts of Luxembourg. CELL also develops and organizes various courses, provides consultancy services for ecological living, participates in relevant civil society campaigns, and does some practical research on low-impact living. The broad objective of CELL is to provide an experimental space for thinking, researching, disseminating, and practicing lifestyles with a low impact on the environment, and learning the skills for creating resilient post-carbon communities. CELL is inspired by the work of the permaculture and Transition Towns social movements in its aims to relocalize culture and economy and, in that creative process, improve resilience to the consequences of peak oil and climate change.

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Heike Weber and Gijs Mom

The final months of 2014 have seen many critical events in respect to mobility: Apple introduced its Apple Watch, a cyborg technology that adds a novel, substantially corporeal layer to our “always on” connectedness—what Sherry Turkle has termed the “tethered self.”1 Moreover, it is said to revolutionize mobile paying systems, and it might finally implement mobile body monitoring techniques into daily life.2 Ebola is terrorizing Africa and frightening the world; its outbreak and spread is based on human mobility, and researchers are calling for better control and quantifi cation of human mobility in the affected regions to contain the disease.3 Even its initial spread from animals to humans may have had its origin in human transgressions beyond traditional habitats, by intruding into insular bush regions and using the local fruit bats as food. Due to global mobility patterns, the viral passenger switched transport modes, from animal to airplane. On the other hand, private space fl ight suff ered two serious setbacks in just one week when the Antares rocket of Orbital Sciences, with supplies for the International Space Station and satellites on board, exploded, and shortly after, SpaceShipTwo crashed over the Mojave Desert. Th ese catastrophic failures ignited wide media discussion on the challenges, dangers, and signifi cance of space mobility, its ongoing commercialization and privatization, and, in particular, plans for future manned space travel for “tourists.”4