in my own case to undertaking anthropological fieldwork in Britain as part of a learning how to belong ( Rapport 1993 , 1994 ) – but it was not enunciated as replacing one ‘tribal’ identity with another. To be British was to be human, a cosmopolitan
Goodness, Justice, Civil Society
virtue of the imposition of alien and alienating labels, categories and taxonomies, Simmel (1971) described as ‘tragic’ (cf. Rapport 2017) . We distort the Other’s identity when we ‘know’ them in the conventional and collectivising terms of a symbolic
Finding Perpetrators and Switchboard Operators in Post-Authoritarian Argentina
Antonius C.G.M. Robben
In conducting fieldwork among perpetrators of state violence, it is a major methodological problem to gain access to competing factions within the research population. Ethnographers often succeed in finding access to at least one faction but this successful rapport might then immediately close off other factions that mistrust the ethnographer’s politics, intentions, or alleged sympathies. The ethnographic challenge is to find intermediaries or switchboard operators, as they are called in this article, who have established informal channels of communication between hostile factions. Switchboard operators have the following characteristics: discretion, neutrality, lack of formal power, disinterestedness, trustworthiness, and they act as a conduit of communication. This article describes how switchboard operators were located in Argentina, and how they played a crucial role in my fieldwork among a broad spectrum of military perpetrators who had terrorized the Argentine people between 1976 and 1983 with enforced disappearances and state repression.
Paul Rabinow and George E. Marcus, with James D. Faubion and Tobias Rees, Designs for an Anthropology of the Contemporary (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008), viii+141 pp. ISBN 9780822343707.
A response to Don Gardner
I am grateful (once more) for the attention Don Gardner has paid to my work, in particular to arguments pertaining to individuality and its relation to the aspirations of the social sciences. Let me begin with overlaps he sees between us: (a) prevailing images of what anthropology needed to be, historically (in order to be an adequate science) have led to too great an emphasis on developing taxonomies of cultural variation, along with the generalising and essentialising descriptions this entailed; (b) some of social science’s taken-for-granted vocabulary (such as ‘role’ or ‘status’) hampers our understanding of the nature of human agents and the springs of that agency; (c) questions of will and freedom, choice and moral responsibility are subtle and important; engaging with these is a necessary step for strengthening the social sciences, which cannot escape their philosophical roots. Notwithstanding, Gardner would take me to task for my understanding of causation, for not adopting a reasonable view on the hoary issue of ‘free will’ and for not taking account of post-genecentric accounts of human-evolutionary process.
On 20 June 2006, Andrew Irving and I took a class of students to the Montreal Holocaust Museum. The students were attending Irving’s course, “Deathly Encounters: The Anthropology of Death, Consciousness, and the Body,” at Concordia University. He had arranged for a guided tour of the museum exhibit and for the class to hear the testimony of one of Montreal’s large number of Holocaust survivors.
This article is an interweaving of three strands: an account by Imre Kertesz of his experiences in Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War, which he published as the novel, Fateless; an account of a walking tour in Suffolk that the German Anglophile, W. G. Sebald, published as the travelogue, The Rings of Saturn; and my own account of visiting the Auschwitz memorial site, which has been constructed on the edge of the Polish city still bearing the same name. Linking the three strands is the issue of the phenomenology of walking: the consciousness that is capacitated by this activity and the accompanying power to interpret one's life and surroundings in imaginative ways. Kertesz would walk the Nazi lager without stopping for death; Sebald would walk the Suffolk landscape without admitting the passage of time; I would walk Auschwitz without falling victim to the systemic constructions of others. For all, the physical activity is linked to becoming conscious of certain symbolic patterns in time and space. Walking, this article concludes, entails both a phenomenological objectivity, which may be appreciated by virtue of a common human embodiment, and a phenomenological subjectivity: an individual consciousness engaging in imaginative projects of disembodiment and otherness.
Melissa Demian, Nigel Rapport, Katherine Dow, James Weiner, and Stephanie Riak Akuei
‘Everyday Diplomacy’ in Field Relations during the Russia-Ukraine Conflict
‘insider’ status which can build rapport, trustworthiness and openness ( Ergun and Erdemir 2010: 18 ). For Ergun and Erdemir, the insider/outsider distinction is therefore ‘frequently situational, depending on the prevailing social, political, and cultural
Goodness, justice, civil society
This comment focuses less on the three hopes expressed in Nigel Rapport’s title than on the conception of individuality and its relation to the aspirations of the social sciences that underpins his case for cosmopolitan politesse. First, I want to say that Nigel Rapport’s industry is astonishing. He reads widely, across many genres, and has written a great deal aimed at persuading us of two things: that the social sciences suffer from fundamental shortcomings, and that they are implicated, if not complicit, in communitarianism and other worrying tendencies of our age. Possibly social anthropology’s most ardent, resilient and ‘poetic’ reformer, he offers us here a digest of one of his many publications concerned with establishing the central importance to anthropology – and to the possibility of a decent world – of what his friend, Michael Jackson, calls ‘the human microsphere’. Because of Rapport’s many different journeys through this microsphere, it is not possible here to cover more than a little of the terrain.