How hard is it to think ‘critical junctions’? How far have we really traveled ‘after primordialism’, to quote the title of Arjun Appadurai’s seminal essay (1996)? How far, in other words, have we gone beyond the anthropology of ‘culture-people- place’? And are we now really perceiving in its stead the overlapping webs of trans-local and transnational influences, coming together in particular combinations and sequences at particular nodes in space, that Eric Wolf two and more decades ago was urging us to look for? Are we getting closer to this global anthropology?
Fighting with the greater good
This article introduces a series of ideas about the categories of science and politics, by way of actor network theory, Gell's theories of index and agency, and governmentality studies. It explores the ways in which science has become a discursive element in contemporary government, and examines the tensions between the purifying categorizations of politics and science, and the re-embedding (or hybridizing) of science into national political discourse. What emerges is a series of practices by which science is nationalized, domesticating the ideal of a generalized science into localized political debates at both national and sub-national levels, practices which may be transformed at national boundaries. While we acknowledge that science in practice is not abstract or generalizable (since it must engage with a world which is not abstracted), it is the abstracting and purifying work attributed to science which makes it attractive as a political alibi for particular political projects. Rather than seeing science as politics by other means, perhaps we should be examining the creation of a rehybridized science-politics.
As provincialized Europe expands
For the new Eastern citizens of the European Union, the sprawling map of the budget airlines signifies an emergent geography of citizenship that weaves the continent together. Predictably, such spatial practices highlight the huge inequalities involved as well as the associated contrastive imaginations of what this new Europe could be about.
On the cheap
September 2003, while getting on a heavily overpopulated train from Cluj-Napoca to Blaj, Romania, there was not a single quiet compartment available. Or rather: there was only one such place, occupied by just a single young, pretty and overly sexy woman in her mid-twenties. As she sees me looking through the corridor window, she opens the door, asks in English where I am from, and then invites me into her strangely private space. As the train leaves the station she closes the curtains at the corridor side. A few minutes later the door and then the curtains are opened by the train conductor, a man in his fifties. He comes close to the young woman and points his finger at me. The woman apparently needs to explain who I am and why I am here.
Nineteen eighty-nine was for me, like for so many other Europeans and in particular Central Europeans, a year of miracles. In mid-November of that year I was traveling through the United States and giving papers on working class culture, anthropology, and history. Whenever I was asked where I came from I always answered “from the continent of the revolutions.” What a joy. But I was sad that I had traveled west rather than east.
My native country, the Netherlands, has just been sucked into its next cycle of popular culturalist violence. Last week (November 2, 2004) in Amsterdam, the filmmaker T. Van Gogh was shot from his bike, his throat slit, and stabbed through the heart by a 26-year-old Dutch Moroccan. Van Gogh had recently produced (with Hirsi Ali, see Focaal 42) an intentionally offensive and facile drama, Submission, broadcast on television, about perceived Islamic intrusions on the female body.
After the commons—commoning!
Commoning over time generates customs in common and therefore commonalities. The political mobilizations of the past years may well be understood as a form of urban commoning. However, while such mobilizations may sometimes understand themselves as anticapitalist, one should resist the apparently logical idea (1) that the use values offered by an urban commons are inevitably the opposite of surplus value, (2) that the urban commons will not just in theory but in practice be “open for everyone,” (3) and that such commons are necessarily horizontalist and universalist, as the Left might claim. Historical fascism and the rise of the new Right in Europe and the United States show that there is an exclusivist and hierarchical commons against the market too.
Harvey, Graeber, and the reunification of anarchism and Marxism in world anthropology
New books discussed in this article:
Graeber, David. 2011. Debt: The first 5,000 years. New York: Melville House.
Graeber, David. 2013. The democracy project: A history, a crisis, a movement. London: Allan Lane.
Harvey, David. 2011. The enigma of capital and the crises of capitalism. London: Profile Books.
Harvey, David. 2012. Rebel cities: From the right to the city to the urban revolution. London: Verso.
Harvey, David. 2013. A companion to Marx’s Capital, volume 2. London: Verso.
Lazar, Sian. 2008. El Alto, rebel city: Self and citizenship in Andean Bolivia. Durham, NC, and London: Duke University Press.