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What's Love Got to Do with It?

The Race of Freedom and the Drag of Descent

Elizabeth A. Povinelli

As long as there was race, there was the savage. Tribes would come later as those who invented their descending lines and segmentable surfaces projected them into the classical past of gens and phatries. And as long as there were savages, there were infidels. Christianity, defeated in the old Jerusalem, established a New Jerusalem through conquest and settlement, conversion and genocide, enslavement and rectitude in the Americas and Pacific. Some savages would be bestowed with cultures and some religions with the power of enlightenment. And yet, in the shadow of the enlightenment project, all of these social figures and social histories seem to collapse into a unilinear process of historical descent—the Crusades begat voyages of discovery, which begat the problem of the twentieth century, namely, the color line and the international division of colonizer and colonizer, the North and the South, the East and the West, the politics of recognition and the refusals of secularism— and a univocal problem of race, racialization, and racism. Race seems to have begat race: what makes discourse of tribalism, racism, and the savage slot seem ‘the same’ and seem different than the national citizen/subject is that they are all the effect of the same razza (lineage). Their actual social divergences and specificities are bled out. “But he who listens to history finds that things have no pre-existing essence, or an essence fabricated piecemeal from alien forms” (Foucualt 1984: 78).

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The Politics of Moral Order

A Brief Anatomy of Racing

Diane Austin-Broos

Franz Fanon and Elva Cook point out that race is more than simply a cognitive system of classification. Race is also inscribed on bodies and realized in geographies of space (Williams 1989). David Harvey (2001) has developed the latter theme in his account of the ‘moral geographies’ that symbolize relations between nation-states. His discussion calls attention to the ways in which a state gives value to place across various types of terrain. Spatializing race and class in the towns and cities of a state involves creating stigmatized zones that are naturalized. These zones are described as ‘slum’, ‘ghetto’, ‘fringe camp’, and the like. They suggest detritus and morass, islands of disturbed moral order residing within the state. ‘Reserve’, ‘homeland’, ‘quarter’, and ‘hinterland’ may seem more benign but can be turned to similar effect in any national discourse. Both in cities and interstate, these are spaces to ‘go around’. It becomes appropriate to know such places only through received knowledge and without the contaminating risk of actual engagement.

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Reviews

Books and Films

Kamyar Abdi and Soheila Shahshahani

BOOKS

Davis, Eric (2005), Memories of State: Politics, History, and Collective Identity in Modern Iraq (Berkeley: University of California Press). 398 pages, 19 figs. ISBN:0-520-23546-0. US$27.50.

Trafton, Scott (2004), Egypt Land: Race and Nineteenth-Century American Egyptomania (Durham and London: Duke University Press). 367 pages, figs, illstrns. ISBN 0-8223-3362-7. US $23.95.

FILM

Osku’yi, Mehrdad (2000) The Widower (21 minutes), (2000) My Mother’s Home: Lagoon (32 minutes), (2003) Beyond the Burqa (52 minutes), Young Iranian Cinema Society.

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John Hartigan Jr.

These are challenging times for people who think critically about race. The intellectual edifice upon which many scholarly interventions against racist thought and practice have developed over the last few decades is in the process of crumbling. The simple but profound assertion that race is socially constructed is being assailed in a variety of intellectual forums and may soon become untenable as a basis for effectively countering widespread racial perceptions and beliefs.1 Actually, the efficacy of the social constructionist stance, as with most ‘social’ explanations for politically charged and complex problems, has at best maintained only a tenuous hold in the public imagination.2 The challenge, then, is to find a better and more effective means of both objectifying and analyzing racial dynamics. This task begins by assessing why social construction is vulnerable in the first place, by delineating its weak points as an analytical framework, and by questioning the ways it either succeeds or fails in adequately representing and interpreting the nuance and complexity of racial relations.

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Disappearing Act

Race and the Neo-liberal State

Jason Antrosio

Since the 1990s, many countries have jettisoned a focus on economic development in favor of promoting markets and market efficiency. Much has been written on the influence of these neo-liberal economic policies and the linked idea of globalization. Less noticed is that this shift from a developmentalist ideology to neo-liberal reform has often been paired with an ideology that casts the state as neutral with respect to race, ethnicity, and even nationality. Indeed, while the heyday of wholesale adoption of neo-liberal economic policies may be receding, the neo-liberal state appears to be a more enduring feature. There is a need to examine more closely the neo-liberal ideology that pairs economic reforms with a neutral state, and a need to understand how this ideology is involved in the creation of racialized identities and racist practices.

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Land, Nation and Tourist

Moral Reckoning in Post-GFC Iceland

Mary Hawkins and Helena Onnudottir

Abstract

Land is central to Icelandic identity. It is birthright, heritage, a site of memory and belonging; mountains and fjords are the stuff on which Icelandic dreams are made. Land is made culture through story and song, told at family gatherings, and sung at schools and on hiking trips. Icelandic identity was built on this imagining, coupled to a vision of Icelanders as an exceptional people, a Viking race. The events of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), which exposed institutional corruption, caused many Icelanders to doubt the Viking image. At the same time, Iceland has been invaded by tourists. This article, based on participant observation, a survey and interviews, argues that one significant effect of the post-GFC foreign invasion has been a transformation of the cultural and moral order in Iceland, away from the boasting Viking and towards a new set of values within which land and nature occupy an even more central place.

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Joseph Webster

In Gamrie, an Aberdeenshire fishing village home to 700 people and six millennialist Protestant churches, global warming is more than just a 'hoax': it is a demonic conspiracy that threatens to bring about the ruin of the entire human race. Such a certainty was rendered intelligible to local Christians by viewing it through the lens of dispensationalist theology brought to the village by the Plymouth Brethren. In a play on Weberian notions of disenchantment, I argue that whereas Gamrie's Christians rejected global warming as a false eschatology, and environmentalism as a false salvationist religion, supporters of the climate change agenda viewed global warming as an apocalyptic reality and environmentalism as providing salvific redemption. Both rhetorics - each engaged in a search for 'signs of the end times' - are thus millenarian.

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An Ordinary Place

Aboriginality and 'Ordinary' Australia in Travel Writing of the 1990s

Robert Clarke

Recent Australian travel narratives are distinguished by the way they represent Indigenous Australian cultures. Moreover, the experience of white Australian culture in recent travel writing by visiting authors like Bill Bryson (In a Sunburned Country/Down Under, 2000), Annie Caulfield (The Winners' Enclosure, 1999), and Mark McCrum (No Worries, 1997) is influenced by the authors' experiences of Aboriginality and Australia's heritage of colonialism and race relations. Following a trend in contemporary travel writing to explore ordinary life, the works of Bryson, Caulfield and McCrum seek 'ordinary Australia' and discover, through encounters with Aboriginality, a place and culture far removed from either the stereotypes of tourist brochures, or the quirky characters that inhabit the soap operas and films that have advertised Australia to the rest of the world.

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Nation Building and the Battle for Consciousness

Discourses on Education in Post-Apartheid Namibia

Mattia Fumanti

Education carries strong emotional connotation in Africa, not least for its association with emancipation, liberation, and social mobility. Drawing on research conducted in Northern Namibia, this essay examines how education is conceived by a cadre of elite, educated professionals working in the Ministry of Basic Education regional offices. It contrasts these officials' views with those of white settlers, many of whom, in contrast, place their faith in the market, not in a regulatory state—and certainly not in a regional educational office. Whereas elite officials deploy images of education for purposes of state making and state ceremonialism, white businessmen use education to undo officials' authority, with the effect, implicitly, of reinscribing apartheid visions of race and governance. This article draws on, and offers ethnographic evidence in support of, a body of theoretical work on state-ritualized uses of education, civil religion, and the moral character (and counter-morality) of state education.

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Classifying the “ideal migrant worker”

Mexican and Jamaican transnational farmworkers in Canada

Janet McLaughlin

This article analyzes the ideology and practice of multi-unit competition that pervades neoliberal subjectivities and produces the “ideal” flexible worker within contemporary global capitalism. It demonstrates how state and capitalist interests converge to influence the selection of the ideal transnational migrant worker, how prospective migrants adapt to these expectations, and the consequences of such enactments, particularly for migrants, but also for the societies in which they live and work. Multiple levels of actors—employers, state bureaucrats, and migrants themselves—collude in producing the flexible, subaltern citizen, which includes constructions and relations of class, race, gender, and nationality/citizenship. The case study focuses on Mexican and Jamaican participants in Canada's Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, a managed migration program that legally employs circular migrant farmworkers from Mexico and several English-speaking Caribbean countries in Canadian agriculture.