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Modernisation and Social Change

The Impact on Iranian Elderly Social Networks and Care Systems

Mary Elaine Hegland, Zahra Sarraf, and Mohammad Shahbazi

Anthropological field research in Iran, mainly in the village of Aliabad and in nearby Shiraz in south-west Iran, has documented radical social, cultural, religious and economic change over the last 28 years. Increasing emphasis on the nuclear rather than the extended family and pressures for geographic and social mobility have profoundly influenced the lives of the elderly. The traditional family system of support for elders - with regard to emotional and social needs, as well as financial assistance and physical care - is breaking down. Social scientists, social workers and health personnel must focus on adequately addressing the needs and concerns of the Iranian elderly in the twenty-first century and on developing alternative systems to deal with key elderly issues of health, well-being and social incorporation.

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Changes in Moral Values about the Family

Adoption Legislation in Norway and the US

Signe Howell

Legislation about personal behavior, such as family law, clearly manifests concerns about individual and relational rights and duties. With a focus on adoption laws in Norway and the US and on two international conventions (the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption), I examine different cultural values regarding childhood and parenthood, both historically and comparatively. Accompanying the recent growth of transnational adoption in Western Europe and North America, issues about what might constitute 'the best interest of the child' have become central in influential welfare circles of European countries that receive children in adoption and are reflected on a global level through the conventions.

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Vying for credibility in the US Congress

Legitimating symbols in the debate over immunization and autism

Maya Ponte

Throughout the debate in the United States Congress over whether vaccines cause autism, legitimizing symbols that index cultural values have played a prominent role in the establishment of credibility. While both sides sanctify the role of science in producing credibility, they draw on different images of what science is and where its legitimacy stems from. Those who favor the vaccine hypothesis frame science as a populist endeavor, the results of which are open to critique by all. Those against the vaccine hypothesis frame science as an elitist endeavor, the results of which may only be critiqued by fellow scientists. While both of these images derive their significance from the cultural history of the United States, they have a markedly different impact on the interpretation of evidence. From within the populist frame, personal experience and direct observation are highly valued. From within the elitist frame, epidemiological evidence trumps personal experience. Due to the incorporation of dueling images of science, the US debate over autism may be viewed as a debate between rival cultural values.

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Ariela Zycherman

ABSTRACT

The expansion and intensification of agriculture is a major driver of deforestation in tropical forests and for global climate change. However, over the past decade Brazil has significantly reduced its deforestation rates while simultaneously increasing its agricultural production, particularly cattle and soy. While, the scholarly literature primarily attributes this success to environmental policy and global economic trends, recent ethnographic depictions of cattle ranchers and soy farmers offer deeper insight into how these political and economic processes are experienced on the ground. Examples demonstrate that policy and markets provide a framework for soy farming and ranching, but emerging forms of identity and new cultural values shape their practices. This article argues that to understand the full picture of why Brazil’s deforestation rates have dropped while the agricultural industry has flourished, the culture of producers must be present in the analysis.

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Soraya Tremayne

This article examines the interface between modernity and traditional cultural values. It suggests that Iranian society, in spite of its Islamic theocratic regime, is on one level an open society and has shown a surprising degree of flexibility in adapting to change. Yet on another level, Iran remains a closed society with strong cultural ties that act as unifying factors controlling the boundaries of interaction between the old and the new. One of the manifestations of the deep-rooted values that determine the form and extent of the acceptance of modernity is the consideration of one’s ‘face’ in public. ‘Face’ acts as a regulating agent directing the choices people make vis-à-vis societal change. The article concludes that social interactions and decisions taken by individuals in all public aspects of their lives, regardless of class, age, ethnic origins or gender, continue to be profoundly influenced by ‘face’.

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Sabine Hofmeister

This article is based on the thesis that wilderness as a cultural value emerges where it has been lost as a geographical and material phenomenon. In Europe the idea of wilderness experienced a surprising upswing at the end of the twentieth and beginning of the twenty-first century, with wilderness tours, wilderness education, and self-experience trips into “wilderness” becoming widely established. Also, protection of “wilderness areas” which refers to such different phenomena as large forests, wild gardens, and urban wild is very much in demand. Against this background, the article looks into the material-ecological and symbolic-cultural senses of “wilderness” in the context of changing social relations to nature. Three forms of wilderness are distinguished. Adopting a socio-ecological perspective, the article builds on contemporary risk discourse.

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Gabriele Shenar

Focusing on the aesthetic, moral, and affective economies of one-day multisite pilgrimage tours of Indian-Jewish Israelis to the tombs of tzaddikim (“righteous persons”) as well as venerated sites of biblical figures in Israel, the article explores how the neoliberal idea of entrepreneurial competitiveness assists in mobilizing and sustaining culturally valued moral and aesthetic inclinations. Furthermore, it foregrounds the “multisensoriality” of religiously defined practice, emotion, and belief and their role in the production of an Indian-Jewish ambiance and the narratives that it elicits. Clearly, throughout their pilgrimage, Indian-Jewish Israelis carve out their own spaces in which they author the sacred sites and cultural landscapes that they visit through aesthetic engagement, embodied ritual, and, more generally, sensory enactment. However, in order to achieve the desired ambiance, Indian-Jewish pilgrims must to some extent become entrepreneurs or consumers in Israel’s flourishing market of folk veneration both with regard to homegrown and imported saintly Jewish figures.

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‘Fight Abortion, Not Women’

The Moral Economy Underlying Russian Feminist Advocacy

Michele Rivkin-Fish

This article traces the conceptual emergence and development of feminist-oriented abortion politics in urban Russia between 2011 and 2015. Examined as an example of local adaptions of global reproductive rights movements, Russians’ advocacy for abortion access reflects commitments and tensions characterising post-Soviet feminism. Specifically, I show how calls to preserve women’s access to legal abortion have drawn on both socialist-inspired ideals of state support for families and liberal-oriented ideas of individual autonomy. Attention to the logics underlying abortion activists’ rhetoric reveals the specific historical sensibilities and shifting cultural values at stake in the ways progressive Russian activists construe justice. The analytic concept of ‘moral economy’ brings into relief how their advocacy evokes ideal visions of reciprocal obligations and uncertainties in both state-citizen relations and intimate relations. I argue that contextualised analyses of local feminist abortion politics may enrich global debates for reproductive rights and justice.

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Elena Kovalaschina

This article examines the ideals of G. N. Potanin and N. M. Iadrintsev, who were the architects of the federalist Siberian oblastnichestvo movement of the second half of the 19th nineteenth century and beginning of the 20th twentieth century. In their day, the work of the oblastniki on the cultural specificity of native Siberian peoples had a great influence on popular opinion, on the popularization of ethnological theory, and on the general social and political credo to reform policy towards these people. The oblastniki rejected both ethnocentrism and Eurocentrism in the comparison of various peoples. Their eventual acceptance of cultural relativism, the idea of equality of cultural values between peoples, and need for a civil understanding of human history were all closely linked to their political program of promoting regionalism. Their regionalist idea put forth the idea that every social and cultural unit had the right to an independent existence and to have control over their own development.

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Attraction, Amusement, and Anxiety

Aging Women in Varanasi

Sheleyah A. Courtney

This article explores socio-cultural practices with regard to aging women in Vārānāsī, a city in North India. It is based on 17 months of field research carried out in 1999-2000 among marginalized Hindu women. I argue that aging is a continuous process that is characterized by the specific psychological patterns that form throughout a woman's life history. These patterns are demonstrated by women's particular types of behaviors and demeanors and, in turn, permit others to ascribe to them—in varying combinations and ratios—specific cultural values or qualities. I argue that these attributes are the critical ones that inform the cultural construction and designation of being 'middle-aged' and 'older' as it pertains to Hindu women of Vārānāsī.