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Anthropology Meets History

Investigating European Societies

Christian Giordano

This article analyses the difficult relation between anthropology and history. The point, therefore, is to show how anthropology conceptualises the past differently from history as a discipline. Beginning with the differences between anthropology and history in terms of the concept of time, the article highlights that while for history time is concrete, objective and exogenous to human beings, for anthropology it is characterised by its being condensed, collectively subjective and endogenous. By analyzing actual examples, the article shows that the anthropologist is not interested in the past per se, but rather in the past as a dimension of the present. Accordingly, actualised, revised and manipulated history as well as the role of the past in the present need to be taken into account. Consequently, history and the past have their own specific efficiency because they are also a form of knowledge and social resource mobilised by single individuals or groups to find their bearings and act accordingly in the present and likewise to plan the future.

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Sicily

An Anthropological Meeting Point

Christian Giordano

On the basis of their shared research and teaching on Sicily since the 1970s, the author contrasts his own Mediterraneanist approach and German scholar Ina-Maria Greverus’ utopian view of the European south as an outstanding experience of an intellectual encounter. Respectful debates of disputatious positions are a rare gift in the academic world of today.

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Governing ethnic diversity in rainbow nations

The politics of citizenship and multi-culturalism in Peninsular Malaysia—the case of Penang

Christian Giordano

The present article analyzes how, after its independence in 1957, Malaysia has been able to manage the difficult coexistence among its three numerically most relevant ethnic groups (Malay, Chinese and Indian). This complex situation, a legacy of the British colonial-like plural society, has been governed via a specific model of multi-racial citizenship, which is significantly unlike the Western European ones in which, as a rule, the equivalence between nationality and citizenship predominates. Starting from the specific example of Penang in Peninsular Malaysia, the article intends to highlight two points. Firstly, that citizenship must be perceived as an agonistic process with competition, tensions and conflicts as well as permanent negotiations. Secondly, that the Occidental agenda, based on liberal principles, can no longer be regarded as the only valid one. Therefore, believing that the Western type of citizenship could be a universalistic institution exportable anywhere is misleading. Consequently, citizenship ought to be analyzed instead as a 'concrete abstraction' that is set up in strict correlation with the specific historical contexts and with particular circumstances of a sociological nature, relative to the characteristics of each society.

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Catherine Alexander, Veronica E. Aplenc, August Carbonella, Zaindi Choltaev, Thomas Hylland Eriksen, Paola Filippucci, Christian Giordano, Caroline Humphrey, Deema Kaneff, Alexander D. King, Silke von Lewinski, Michaela Pohl, Hermann Rebel and Zala Volčič

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