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Navigating Unpredictable Sites

Methodological Implications of Positioning during and after Fieldwork in Conflict Societies

Eva Gerharz

Abstract

This article discusses the relationship between the researcher and a field affected by armed conflict. Based on ethnographic research in Sri Lanka during the ceasefire of 2002, it investigates how deep polarization that emerges in the course of a violent conflict determines the researcher’s scope for positioning vis-à-vis the different groups. The article argues that the unpredictibility of the research site necessitates careful navigation of the self and requires thorough reflection on the consequences of particular moves at the point of decision making. In order to maintain relationships with different sides, there is a need to deal carefully with sensitive issues, both during and after fieldwork. This article pleas for a balance between pragmatism and ethics.

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The Many Faces of the State

Living in Peace and Conflict in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh

Nasir Uddin and Eva Gerharz

ABSTRACT

Reconsidering the trend in anthropology to conceptualize the multifaceted nature of the state and to focus on the local social dynamics beneath the institutional framework of the state, we argue that “state” is not a single governing entity but rather a multilayered body of practices at various levels of the society. We configure “state” as constructed, imagined, and negotiated by people in their everyday life in four dimensions: zones of limited statehood depicted as “peripheries,” “local state” by which the center governs locales, “public discourse” that represents dominant notions of “stateness,” and ambivalent positioning of political elites who represents state in the margin. This argument is substantiated with the reference to the case of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, a southeastern part of Bangladesh.

Open access

Introduction

Rethinking an ‘Islamic Utopia’

Andrea Priori and Eva Gerharz

Abstract

This article argues for a non-normative and pluralistic approach to the study of utopia among Muslim people. The authors employ the contributions to this special section as a starting point to redress a number of ethnocentric biases clouding the relationship between utopia and Islam. They criticize arguments that deny Muslims the ability to produce ‘genuine’ utopias, highlighting commonalities between a religious culture and the secular culture in the West that has endorsed the notion of utopia. At the same time, the contributors show how in scholarly research a normative and prejudicial concept of ‘Islamic utopia’ has obscured the variety of forms that utopianism assumes among Muslim people, particularly the youth. This article envisages an inductive approach that takes into account both the different positionalities from which the concepts of Islam and utopia are appropriated and the diverse political outcomes that are produced.

Free access

Introduction

Interrogating Aspirations through Migratory Mobilities

Supurna Banerjee and Eva Gerharz

While questions focused around social, economic, and physical movement have long been central to human lives, state policies, and economic regimes, the ‘mobility turn’ in academic scholarship has often seen a straightforward association of mobility as an upward trajectory mitigating socioeconomic inequality, as well as equating physical movement emerging from migration with mobility. Here, however, we argue that the relationship between migration and mobility is hardly so automatic, and needs to be considered in its complexities and contradictions. Rather than uncritically celebrating mobility, we consider it as a lens through which disruptions, inequalities, differential access, and the role of identities can be understood.