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Policing production

Corporate governmentality and the Cultivation System

Albert Schrauwers

This article reexamines the Cultivation System in early nineteenth-century Java as part of an assemblage of Crown strategies, programs, and technologies to manage the economy—and more particularly, “police” the paupers—of the “greater Netherlands.” This article looks at the integrated global commodity chains within which the System was embedded, and the common governmental strategies adopted by the Dutch Crown to manage these flows in both metropole and colony. It focuses on the role of an early corporation, the Netherlands Trading Company, that also served as the administrator of poverty-relief efforts in the Eastern Netherlands where cotton cloth was produced. The article argues that corporate governmentality arose as a purposive strategy of avoiding liberal parliamentary scrutiny and bolstering the “enlightened absolutism” of the Crown. By withdrawing responsibility for the policing of paupers from the state, and vesting it in corporations, the Crown commercialized the delivery of pauper relief and reduced state expenditure, while still generating large profits.

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Tomas Max Martin

Ugandan prison staff both criticize and welcome human rights as a reform agenda that brings about insecurity as well as tangible improvements. In practice, human rights discourse is malleable enough for prison officers to cobble together a take on human rights that enables them to embrace the concept. The analysis of the emic notion of “reasonable caning” illustrates this malleability as staff concurrently take stands against inhumane violence and continue to legitimize caning while aligning with human rights. Human rights are locally negotiated, and it is argued that human rights reform cannot simply be analyzed as a submissive or opposing reaction to the top-down export of powerful global discourses. The embrace of human rights that unfolds in Ugandan prisons is rather a productive and multifaceted effort by prison officers to get purchase on legal technologies and reconceptualizations of prison management practices that affect their lives.

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Rationalizing risk

Arguing over safety on the Firth of Forth

Achim Schlüter and Peter Phillimore

This article examines the centrality of 'safety' in Grangemouth's recent politics. Scotland's main petrochemical center is a town dominated for well over fifty years by a major BP complex. In a context of extensive redundancies at BP, new insecurities surrounding the future of the company's Grangemouth site, and a series of recent accidents, as well as controversy over planning applications from other chemical companies, the town has been pushed into unusually searching questioning about both safety and economic security. This article explores the different lines of reasoning and rationalization on risk, safety, and the future advanced by regulators, BP, and residents and their political representatives. We emphasize how important the familiarity of petrochemical technology has been in public responses to the question of safety, in contrast to many environmental risk controversies. And we argue that safety has provided a focus for social, moral, economic, and political perspectives on the town's present circumstances and future prospects to be played out.

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Introduction

GMOs—Global objects of contention

Birgit Müller

Genetically modified organisms in agriculture have become objects of contention, crystallizing some of today’s major political and social controversies. As human-made objects that are alive and have agency, they invite the anthropologist to follow their trajectories and to analyze the power relationships and political economies of meaning in which they are inscribed. Taking as a point of departure Hans Jonas’s principle of responsibility for the unknown effects of technological developments, this article questions why a culture of urgency is attached to GMOs in spite of the unpredictable consequences that may arise when they are set free into the environment. As naturally reproducing objects that have intellectual property rights attached to them they raise issues of political governance and of economic power and control. They provoke not only repertoires of contention but also silences that speak about the link between technology and policy in con- temporary societies.

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GMOs in the laboratory

Objects without everyday controversy

Christina Holmes

This article explores the lack of controversy over genetically modified objects (GMOs) in the daily life of a research laboratory in Canada. Scientific perceptions of GMOs and the types of knowledge valued in scientific research contribute toward an absence of discussion on the wider social implications of GMOs. Technical and epistemic knowledge are crucial for the success of a scientific project, whereas discussion of the social values involved may be allocated to particular settings, people, or research stages. GMOs, within scientific circles, are seen as many individual projects with different goals, rather than as a single object. Therefore, according to this view, it is inappropriate to be opposed to or to support GMOs in general, without first ascertaining the specifics of a particular project. How then are scientists engaged in seemingly local, distinct projects seen as globally defending this technology? Scientific expertise unevenly translates into political voice, transforming into silences as well as debates.

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Pauline Gardiner Barber

This article addresses the politics of class, culture, and complicity associated with Philippine gendered-labor export. Several examples drawn from multisited ethnographic research explore two faces of class: migrant performances of subordination contrasted with militancy in the labor diaspora. With few exceptions, the literature on Philippine women in domestic service has emphasized disciplined subjectivities, the everyday dialectics of subordination. But class is also represented in these same relationships, understandings, and actions. Alternatively, the political expressions of Philippine overseas workers, and their supporters, is a feature of Philippine migration that is not often mentioned in writing concerned with migrant inequalities. This article proposes a reconciliation of these two faces of class expression by exploring how new media, primarily cell-phone technologies, enhance possibilities for organized and personal resistance by Filipino migrants, even as they facilitate migrant acquiescence, linked here to gendered subordination and class complicity, in the contentious reproduction of the migrant labor force.

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Giovanni da Col and Caroline Humphrey

As with the preceding companion issue (Social Analysis 56, no. 1), this special issue is concerned with the ways in which fortune, luck, and chance are conceived in a range of different societies and how these concepts are employed to negotiate the contingencies and uncertainties of everyday life. Taken together, the articles gathered in this second collection deal with human attempts to project their desire for mastering uncertainties about the future while solving the moral predicaments of fortune’s proportions and their management in everyday life. Ranging from Melanesian and Greek gamblers to online gamers and Siberian hunters, from lay Chinese mathematicians of fate to young Mongolians, the ethnographies in this special issue reveal the creative potentials of practical matrixes for calculating luck and mobilizing diverse ‘technologies of anticipation’ of the future. A few of the articles present rites to invoke fortune, gambling, or games as practices to master contingency and as generative fields of agentive creativity and subjectivity.

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Sergey V. Sokolovskiy

This article is a case study of the emergence and construction of politically salient social classifications that underpin such phenomena as ethnicity and nationalism in contemporary Russia. Official recognition of ethnic group in Russia often entails political visibility and special status with an associated set of legal provisions. In addition to 'titular peoples' of the republics, the Russian legal system has several legal categories based on ethnicity, such as indigenous peoples and national minorities, whose members claim and attain special status and associated rights. In order to ensure these rights, the state administration needs reliable information on the numbers of people in such categories.

The article analyzes ethnic and languages categorization in the population census of 2002, describes the related census technology, comments on legal definitions of indigenous peoples in Russia, and within this framework elaborates on the topic of indigeneity construction. It also provides an interpretation of the numerical threshold employed in federal laws on indigenous peoples.

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'Being in Between'

Art-Science Collaborations and a Technological Culture

James Leach

Recent experimental collaborations in the United Kingdom have brought artists and scientists together in order to explore new possibilities for research. There is a particular sense of timeliness felt by organizers and participants of these projects that, in part, mirrors concerns about the trajectory and implications of scientific research more generally in society. Faith in the transformative power of technology is combined with explicit concerns over how much control humanity is able to exert over the dynamic of technological development. Highlighting an analogy with Papua New Guinean ritual, I suggest that the scheme discussed here is one of a number of ways in which people attempt to take control over powerful forces beyond their everyday experience—in this case, the apparently 'runaway' character of technological development and the implications that this development has for social change. The article is framed by a discussion of the role of social-scientific evaluation in the scheme.

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On Being 'Natural' in the Rainforest Marketplace

Science, Capitalism and the Commodification of Biodiversity

Sandra Bamford

A recent article in the popular journal Scientific American begins with the claim that scientists have succeeded in “cracking the code of life.” Two decades ago, such an announcement would have been met with wonder and amazement. Today, it is likely to elicit a far more subdued response. Over the past few years, we have grown accustomed to reading about the “miracles” of modern science. The expanding use of new reproductive technologies, genetic engineering, prosthetics, and cloning to name but a few of the most astonishing advances, have allowed us to become habituated to the dizzying pace of scientific discoveries. The ability of science to impress us with its seemingly impossible feats has become “extraordinarily ordinary” over the past five years (Hayden 1998).