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Resistance, Rebirth, and Redemption

The Rhetoric of White Supremacy in Post-Civil War Louisiana

Marek D. Steedman

Did white supremacists successfully appeal to a right of resistance in Louisiana in the 1870s? I argue that they did. White supremacists self-consciously defended their own actions within the framework of an Anglo-American discourse of resistance against tyrannical government, and they broadly succeeded in convincing fellow (white) citizens. Can we deny them the cover of legitimacy this tradition affords? We might suggest that a right to resist is rendered void by the fact that white supremacists were resisting constitutional democracy itself. I argue against this strategy (or, more precisely, for a right to resist constitutional democratic government), and suggest that the problem is not what white supremacists were fighting against. The right to resist is bound up with a defense of the just demands of the people, and this claim, as articulated by white supremacists, rests on decidedly shaky ground. Deciding the issue, however, is a matter of political contestation.

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An Inconvenient Expertise

French Colonial Sailors and Technological Knowledge in the Union Française

Minayo Nasiali

In the 1950s, French shipping companies began to replace their old fleet of steamships with new diesel ships. They also began to lay off sailors from French Africa, claiming that the changing technology rendered their labor obsolete. The industry asserted that African sailors did not have the aptitude to do other, more skilled jobs aboard diesel vessels. But unemployed colonial sailors argued differently, claiming that they were both able and skilled. This article explores how unemployed sailors from French Africa cast themselves as experts, capable of producing technological knowledge about shipping. In so doing, they shaped racialized and gendered notions about labor and skill within the French empire. The arguments they made were inconvenient, I argue, because colonial sailors called into question hegemonic ideas about who could be modern and who had the right to participate in discourse about expertise.

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Maneuvering Whiteness in France

Muslim Converts’ Ambivalent Encounters with Race

Juliette Galonnier

This article examines the meanings of Whiteness in France by focusing on the specific case of White converts to Islam. By becoming Muslim, converts enter religious spaces in which they are a numerical minority. Usually unmarked and unnoticed, their Whiteness is now very much visible, prompting interrogations about their racial categorization. Faced with moral dilemmas on how to best position themselves ethically while holding a position of dominance, White converts to Islam resort to a variety of strategies to portray themselves as “good Muslims” and “good Whites.” Relying on ethnography and in-depth interviewing, this article explores the contradictions, inconsistencies, and ambivalences that characterize White identities in the French context.

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Culture Trumps Scientific Fact

‘Race’ in US American Language

Augustine Agwuele

in this century, however, it has become clear that human populations are not unambiguous, clearly demarcated, biologically distinct groups. (AAA Statement on Race) 1 For whatever reason, the concept and consciousness of ‘race’ eluded me in Africa

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“A Pretty Girl of Sixteen“

Capturing the Contradictions of Female Adolescence in the Nancy Drew Series

Kate Harper

This article explores the construction of female adolescence in the first three texts of the Nancy Drew Mystery series: The Secret of the Old Clock (1930), The Hidden Staircase (1930), and The Bungalow Mystery (1930). It reviews, briefly, the development of the concept of adolescence and its gendered implications, particularly the association of female adolescent sexuality with delinquency. I argue that the Nancy Drew series rejects the construction of adolescence as a period of turmoil and emotional instability, as well as the prescription of constant adult supervision. The character of Nancy Drew also captures the contradictory messages of female adolescence in the 1930s when girls were represented as sexually attractive and aggressive but were denied sexual desire.

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Carrying Religion into a Secularising Europe

Montserratian Migrants' Experiences of Global Processes in British Methodism

Matthew Wood

Migrants to Europe often perceive themselves as entering a secular society that threatens their religious identities and practices. Whilst some sociological models present their responses in terms of cultural defence, ethnographic analysis reveals a more complex picture of interaction with local contexts. This essay draws upon ethnographic research to explore a relatively neglected situation in migration studies, namely the interactions between distinct migration cohorts - in this case, from the Caribbean island of Montserrat, as examined through their experiences in London Methodist churches. It employs the ideas of Weber and Bourdieu to view these migrants as 'religious carriers', as collective and individual embodiments of religious dispositions and of those socio-cultural processes through which their religion is reproduced. Whilst the strategies of the cohort migrating after the Second World War were restricted through their marginalised social status and experience of racism, the recent cohort of evacuees fleeing volcanic eruptions has had greater scope for strategies which combat secularisation and fading Methodist identity.

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An Afternoon of Productive Play with Problematic Dolls

The Importance of Foregrounding Children's Voices in Research

Rebecca C. Hains

Bratz dolls, popular among pre-adolescent girls, have been the subject of widespread criticism. Many scholars, activists, educators, and parents have argued that the scantily clad fashion dolls contribute to the sexualization of girls that has been decried by the American Psychological Association, among others. As is often the case in studies of girls' popular culture, however, these conversations about the problems with Bratz have rarely incorporated the voices of girls in the brand's target audience. To address this gap, this article analyzes an afternoon of Bratz doll play by a small group of African-American girls, aged between 8 and 10 years. This article suggests that although critical concerns about Bratz' sexualization are warranted, the dolls' racial diversity may benefit some girls' play, enabling them to productively negotiate complex issues of racial identity, racism, and history while paying little attention to the dolls' sexualized traits.

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Worst Conceivable Form

Race, Global Capital, and The Making of the English Working Class

Zach Sell

W. E. B. Du Bois noted that the nineteenth-century US slave plantation corresponded with the factory in its worst conceivable form. This article expands upon Du Bois's insight to consider the emergence of the English working class in correspondence with American settler slavery and colonial projects within the British Empire. From above, elites theorized about the exploitation of labor as a world historical project to compare the enslaved, the colonized, and the English worker against one another. From below, proletarian intellectuals imagined the freedom of English laborers through the condition of the enslaved in the American South and Jamaica and the colonized in South Asia. By placing these histories from above and below together, this article argues that it is impossible to conceive of the English working class making itself and being made at remove from the enslaving and colonizing projects of global capital.

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Introduction

The middle class-ification of Britain

Jeanette Edwards, Gillian Evans, and Katherine Smith

The articles collected in this special section of Focaal capture, ethnographically, a particular moment at the end of the New Labour project when the political consequences of a failure to address the growing sense of crisis among working-class people in post-industrial Britain are being felt. These new ethnographies of social class in Britain reveal not only disenchantment and disenfranchisement, but also incisive and critical commentary on the shifting and often surprising forms and experiences of contemporary class relations. Here we trace the emergence of controversies surrounding the category “white working class“ and what it has come to stand for, which includes the vilification of people whose political, economic and social standing has been systematically eroded by the economic policies and political strategies of both Conservative and New Labour governments. The specificities of class discourse in Britain are also located relative to broader changes that have occurred across Europe with the rise of “cultural fundamentalisms“ and a populist politics espousing neo-nationalist rhetorics of ethnic solidarity. This selection of recent ethnographies holds up a mirror to a rapidly changing political landscape in Britain. It reveals how post-Thatcherite discourses of “the individual“, “the market“, “social mobility“ and “choice“ have failed a significant proportion of the working-class population. Moreover, it shows how well anthropology can capture the subtle and complex forms of collectivity through which people find meaning in times of change.

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Transitory Citizens

Contentious Housing Practices in Contemporary South Africa

Kerry Ryan Chance

This article examines the informal housing practices that the urban poor use to construct, transform, and access citizenship in contemporary South Africa. Following the election of Nelson Mandela in 1994, the provision of formalized housing for the urban poor has become a key metric for 'non-racial' political inclusion and the desegregation of apartheid cities. Yet, shack settlements—commemorated in liberation histories as apartheid-era battlegrounds—have been reclassified as 'slums', zones that are earmarked for clearance or development. Evictions from shack settlements to government emergency camps have been justified under the liberal logic of expanding housing rights tied to citizenship. I argue that the informal housing practices make visible the methods of managing 'slum' populations, as well as an emerging living politics in South African cities.