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Plural Modernity

Changing Modern Institutional Forms—Disciplines and Nation-States

Filipe Carreira da Silva and Mónica Brito Vieira

The article begins with the assumption that modernity is undergoing a profound change. The focus is on the structural transformation of two typical modern institutional regimes: the academic discipline and the territorial nation-state. Their demise as the predominant institutional forms in the realms of science and politics signals the end of the modern project—or at least the need for its profound redefinition. It is suggested that such a redefinition entails a radical conceptual shift in the social sciences and that the meta-theoretical expression of this shift can be designated as 'dialogical pluralism'. At a theoretical level, both modernization theories and the recent program of 'multiple modernities' are rejected. A plural modernity, with several distinct varieties, seems a more promising perspective.

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The Mendès France Milk Regime

Alcoholism as a Problem of Agricultural Subsidies, 1954–1955

Joseph Bohling

In 1954, Pierre Mendès France committed the state to curbing alcoholism as part of an effort to reorient important agricultural sectors and improve French economic performance, using milk as a symbol of his government's new direction. While Mendès France's milk drinking was often portrayed as the whim of a maverick politician, this article shows instead that it was the expression of a broadly based movement to modernize the economy. Challenging the view of an insular state that exclusively served the powerful alcohol lobbies, this article contends that the success of alcohol reform hinged on Mendès France's ability to overcome parliament and pit other economic sectors and a public health movement against those lobbies. Although it would require the more centralized authority of the Fifth Republic to implement lasting reforms to the alcohol sector, the Mendès France government helped raise public awareness about the purported link between alcoholism and agricultural subsidies that kept uncompetitive producers on the land at the taxpayer's expense.

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Dafna Halperin

This study aims to identify future care preferences and examine the associations between personal resources, filial expectations, and family relations and the preferences of independent elderly Jews and Arabs aged 65 and over, using mixed methods. Data were collected using structured interviews of 168 Jews and 175 Arabs; additionally, 20 Jews and Arabs were interviewed in depth to enable more detailed analysis. The main findings show the effects of the modernization and individualization processes on elder preferences. Significant differences were found between Jews and Arabs for most variables. Whereas Jews' first preference was formal care, with mixed care following as second, Arabs preferred mixed care to other types. Differences in several factors associated with preference for mixed care were also noted, including in categories that were identified in the qualitative phase, such as 'dignity' versus 'honor' and the meaning of 'home'.

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Encompassing Empowerment in Ritual, War, and Assassination

Tantric Principles in Tamil Tiger Instrumentalities

Michael Roberts

This study highlights the Tantric threads within the transcendental religions of Asia that reveal the commanding role of encirclement as a mystical force. The cyanide capsule (kuppi) around the neck of every Tamil Tiger fighter was not only a tool of instrumental rationality as a binding force, but also a modality similar to a thāli (marriage bond necklace) and to participation in a velvi (religious animal sacrifice). It was thus embedded within Tamil cultural practice. Alongside the LTTE's politics of homage to its māvīrar (dead heroes), the kuppi sits beside numerous incidents in LTTE acts of mobilization or military actions where key functionaries approached deities in thanks or in preparation for the kill. These practices highlight the inventive potential of liminal moments/spaces. We see this as modernized 'war magic'—a hybrid re-enchantment energizing a specific religious worldview.

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A political ontology of seeds

The transformative frictions of a farmers' movement in Europe

Elise Demeulenaere

This article follows the trajectory of a French farmers' movement that contests the seed production and regulation system set in place during agricultural modernization. It focuses on the creativity of the movement, which ranges from semantic innovations (such as “peasant seeds”) to the reinvention of onfarm breeding practices based on new scientific paradigms, and includes new alliances with the social movements defending the commons. The trajectory of the movement is shaped by its encounters—with scientists, other international seed contestations, and other social movements—and by the productive frictions they create. This in-depth reframing of the activities connected to seeds contributes to building a counternarrative about farmers and seeds that reopens spaces for contestation. In this counternarrative, “peasant seeds” play a central and subversive role in the sense that they question the ontological assumptions of present seed laws.

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Arctic Earthviews

Cyclic Passing of Knowledge among the Indigenous Communities of the Eurasian North

Tero Mustonen and Ari Lehtinen

This article examines the mechanisms and manners of maintaining the communal knowledge systems of the indigenous peoples of the circumpolar North. This is accomplished by paying attention to the concerns of distinguished community elders who have experienced the entwining of indigenous traditions and modernization during their lives. The article also introduces the concept of earthview, identifying the ethical and spiritual insights that inform the community-specific everyday skills of living in the North. The conclusion highlights the human/nonhuman cycles of intergenerational knowledge renewal that are mostly practical and oral by nature. The emergence of new elders is therefore critically grounded on the personal and communal skills of passing on the intimate knowledge of sensing changes in nature. By emphasizing the role of oral communication we underline that this knowledge (of earthviewing) only remains while being shared in everyday conditions and routines of land and life. We dedicate this article to the memory of Professor Vasilii A. Robbek.

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Hélène Périvier and Rebecca Rogers

This article considers how women adopted a “scientific” statistical language at the end of the nineteenth century to draw attention to their role in the moral and social economy. It explores in particular the messages contained in La Statistique générale de la femme française, a series of eighteen murals that the moderate feminist Marie Pégard sent for exhibition at the Woman’s Building at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. The article begins by considering the place statistics held in France in the final decades of the century within the context of universal exhibitions. It then examines Pégard’s choice of quantified categories of social analysis to convey a sustained argument about the comparative weight of women in a modernizing French economy. The article seeks to understand how contemporaries read and interpreted the graphs, and how this mode of rendering visible the issue of women’s work played into the politics of an emerging feminist movement.

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Daisuke Miyao

The process of modernization in Japan appeared as a separation of the senses and remapping of the body, particularly privileging the sense of vision. How did the filmmakers, critics, and novelists in the 1920s and 1930s respond to such a reorganization of the body and the elevation of vision in the context of film culture? How did they formulate a cinematic discourse on remapping the body when the status of cinema was still in flux and its definition was debated? Focusing on cinematic commentary made by different writers, this article tackles these questions. Sato Haruo, Ozu Yasujiro, and Iwasaki Akira questioned the separation of the senses, which was often enforced by state. Inspired by German cinema released in Japan at that time, they explored the notion of the haptic in cinema and problematized the privileged sense of vision in this new visual medium.

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State of Uncertainty

Educating the First Railroaders in Central Sakha (Yakutiya)

Sigrid Irene Wentzel

In July 2019, the village of Nizhniy Bestyakh in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutiya), the Russian Far East, was finally able to celebrate the opening of an eagerly awaited railroad passenger connection. Through analysis of rich ethnographic data, this article explores the “state of uncertainty” caused by repeated delays in construction of the railroad prior to this and focuses on the effect of these delays on students of a local transportation college. This college prepares young people for railroad jobs and careers, promising a steady income and a place in the Republic’s wider modernization project. The research also reveals how the state of uncertainty led to unforeseen consequences, such as the seeding of doubt among students about their desire to be a part of the Republic’s industrialization drive.

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Distributing Responsibilities in an Agricultural Ecosystem

Insights from the Lake Naivasha Water Basin in Kenya

Gaële Rouillé-Kielo

This article explores the responses to acknowledged anthropogenic transformations of Lake Naivasha in Kenya, whose ecosystem is considered to have been disturbed by the intensification of agricultural uses of natural resources (notably land and water) over the last half century. It examines the ways in which a “payments for environmental services” (PES) project has been implemented, reflecting the rationale of ecological modernization. This article aims to challenge the environmental narrative that supports the project by revealing its oversimplifications. Empirical data demonstrates how the environmental issues addressed by the project are embedded in historically inherited land trajectories. This in turn forces us to reflect on the necessary question of responsibility, an issue at the heart of the debate since the emergence of the Anthropocene concept.