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Caroline Humphrey

From a distance—I was glued to television and newspapers in Cambridge—nothing dramatic seemed to be happening in the Siberian provinces of Russia in 1989. All attention was focused on the amazing events in Germany, Czechoslova- kia, Romania, and Bulgaria; yet I remember not only my astonishment at the tumbling of regimes but also constant twinges of regret and impatience that I could not be there.

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Caroline Humphrey

The article discusses Soviet sailors' experiences away from home and seaborne social relations—the particular sociality brought to the Black Sea region by ships and sailors. The officers and sailors employed by the Black Sea Fleet had much wider horizons than ordinary Soviet citizens—and the small temporary society of the ship interpenetrated with the varied Black Sea inhabitants in limited but significant ways. They contrasted “high seas” of the world's great oceans, the setting for dangerous, daring and profitable exploits, with the enclosed drudgery of the Black Sea routes. The article shows how the Cold War inflected the imaginaries and practices of seamen and others. It argues that an anthropology of the sea can develop an analysis that combines regional specificities with visions that extend beyond the local and national.

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To Smile and Not to Smile

Mythic Gesture at the Russia-China Border

Caroline Humphrey

This article examines the role of smiling as a performative gesture at the northeast border between Russia and China. It argues that the border is a place where ‘myth’ in the sense proposed by Roland Barthes is manifest in the comportment of people when they see themselves as representing the civilization of one side or the other. In this situation, smiling and not smiling are elements of particular communicative registers that enact political myths in life. Highly gendered, these agentive-performative gestures exist amid other functional and affective registers, which can override them. The article also discusses the ‘helpers’ who mediate in cross-border trade, whose image is also sometimes subject to mythic imagination.

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Caroline Humphrey

In the rethinking of cosmopolitanism that has been under way in anthropology the emphasis in the European tradition of thought, pertaining to humanity in general and universal values, has been replaced by focus on specific and new cosmopolitan peoples and sites. Cosmopolitanism ceases to be only a political idea, or an ideal, and is conceptualized also in terms of practice or process. A vocabulary of 'rooted cosmopolitanism', 'vernacular cosmopolitanism' and 'actually existing cosmopolitanisms' has emerged from the characteristically anthropological acknowledgment of diversity and inevitable attachments to place. This article accepts such an approach, but argues that it has neglected the presence and intense salience of the ideas of cosmopolitanism held by nation states. Such ideologies, especially those promulgated by authoritarian states, penetrate deep into the lives and thoughts of citizens. The article draws attention to the binary and contradictory character of nation state discourse on cosmopolitanism, and to the way this creates structures of affect and desire. The Soviet concept of kosmopolitizm is analyzed. It is contextualized historically in relation to the state discourse on mobility and the practice of socialist internationalism. The article argues that although the Stalinist version of kosmopolitizm became a poisonous and anti-Semitic accusation, indeed an instrument of repression, it could not control the desire created by its own negativity. Indeed, it played a creative and integral part in the emergence of a distinctive everyday cosmopolitanism among Soviet people.

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Trading places

Post-socialist container markets and the city

Caroline Humphrey and Vera Skvirskaja

This article discusses a vast, new and semi-legal marketplace of shipping containers on the outskirts of Odessa, Ukraine. It is suggested that such markets, which have sprung up at several places in post-socialist space where routes intersect, have certain features in common with mediaeval trade fairs. However, today's markets have their own specificities in relation to state and legal regimes, migration, and the cities to which they are semi-attached. The article analyzes the Seventh Kilometer Market (Sed'moi) near Odessa as a particular socio-mythical space. It affords it own kind of protection and opportunities to traders, but these structures may be unstable in a changing economic climate.

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Introduction

The Black Sea as region and horizon

Caroline Humphrey and Vera Skvirskaja

The introduction first outlines different perspectives on the Black Sea: in history, as a site of imperial conflicts and a buffer zone; in area studies, as a “region”; and in anthropology, as a sea crisscrossed by migration, cultural influences, alternative visions, and often a mutual turning of backs. We then discuss the Black Sea in the context of maritime ethnography and the study of ports, “hero cities”, pipelines, and political crises. The following sections consider Smith's notion of the “territorialization of memory” in relation to histories of exile and the more recent interactions brought about by migration and trade. In the concluding section we discuss how the Black Sea has appeared as a “horizon” and imaginary of the beyond for the peoples living around its shores.

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Fortune in the Wind

An Impersonal Subjectivity

Caroline Humphrey and Hürelbaatar Ujeed

For Mongols, fortune is not just acquired or lost accidentally. Rituals are held to create an upsurge of fortune, to beckon, absorb, contain, and act upon it. This article focuses on two kinds of fortune-sülde (potency) and hiimori (vitality)-and the ritualized means to restore these qualities that otherwise become depleted of their own accord. It is argued that these ideas of fortune are ways of linking subjects to cosmological forces 'out there'. The paradox is that, by binding fortune into their bodies in an attempt to garner invincibility, bravery, and energy, people resonate to pulses that glide among, and fly beyond, their other constitutive physical bodily elements. Such occasions when sülde and hiimori are in play call into being a certain kind of person who seems to be rendered, at least for a moment, at one with the void.

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Giovanni da Col and Caroline Humphrey

As with the preceding companion issue (Social Analysis 56, no. 1), this special issue is concerned with the ways in which fortune, luck, and chance are conceived in a range of different societies and how these concepts are employed to negotiate the contingencies and uncertainties of everyday life. Taken together, the articles gathered in this second collection deal with human attempts to project their desire for mastering uncertainties about the future while solving the moral predicaments of fortune’s proportions and their management in everyday life. Ranging from Melanesian and Greek gamblers to online gamers and Siberian hunters, from lay Chinese mathematicians of fate to young Mongolians, the ethnographies in this special issue reveal the creative potentials of practical matrixes for calculating luck and mobilizing diverse ‘technologies of anticipation’ of the future. A few of the articles present rites to invoke fortune, gambling, or games as practices to master contingency and as generative fields of agentive creativity and subjectivity.

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Introduction

Subjects of Luck—Contingency, Morality, and the Anticipation of Everyday Life

Giovanni da Col and Caroline Humphrey

This introduction illustrates the modalities in which different societies imagine the tension between the impersonal and individual- ized aspects of fortune and fate. After briefly discussing the role of contingency, fortune, and gambling in the formation of subjectivities, we outline how different societies confront the moral conundrums arising from fortune's unequal distribution in the world. We highlight how luck orientations presentify the future by the deployment of what we name 'technologies of anticipation'. Luck and fortune can be seen as conceptual techniques for short-circuiting temporal subjectivities by creating a crack in time-a space of 'compossibility'-where events deemed to be fatal and inevitable become negotiable. We conclude with a reflection on dice, randomness, and acts of gambling in which not merely subjectivities but the fate or fortune of larger social aggrega- tions-including the cosmos-is deemed at stake.

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Giovanni da Col and Caroline Humphrey

This special issue and its following companion issue (Social Analysis 56, no. 2) are concerned with the ways in which fortune, luck, and chance are conceived in a range of different societies and how these concepts are employed to negotiate the contingencies and uncertainties of everyday life. More specifically, the articles included in these special issues show how, by juxtaposing different cultural images and positions, any engagement with these concepts in local cosmologies and systems of thought lead different societies to imaginatively formulate novel worldviews and to creatively rearrange preconceived notions and categories of relatedness and vitality. Taken together, the contributions to these special issues describe societies peopled by agents who seek to (re)connect with the ultimate sources of vitality and potentiality and to appropriate them in order to reconfigure their notions of prosperity and efficacy.