This issue’s forum continues a lively discussion of Nigel Rapport’s notion of ‘cosmopolitan politesse’ that was previously featured in these pages in the summer of 2018. Rapport has long proposed this sort of politesse as a ‘form of virtue’ and ‘good manners’ (2018: 93) premised on ‘the ontological reality of human individuality’, which in turn necessitates an ‘interactional code’ according to which we must presume both ‘common humanity’ but also ‘distinct individuality’ to the point where we ‘classif[y] the Other in no more substantive fashion than this’ (92). Given anthropology’s history of intricately taxonomising humans according to various criteria, this is indeed a challenging proposal – all the more so in the context of legal anthropology, where being subject to specific norms and laws is often taken to be constitutive of distinctive subjectivities, sensibilities and survival strategies. In this issue, Don Gardner responds, directing his critical attention towards the notion of personhood undergirding Rapport’s plea for a revitalised Kantian liberalism in an era of resurgent xenophobia and ethnonationalism. In the process, we see two accomplished scholars taking positions within (and consciously outside of) a whole range of classical debates in the Western philosophical cannon with pressing relevance for contemporary legal anthropology, from nature versus nurture to free will versus determinism, individualism versus collectivism and structure versus agency.
Cosmopolitan politesse, continued
Kinship, State and Social Media Conflict in Networked Jordan
Geoffrey Fitzgibbon Hughes
The local uptake of new media in the Middle East is shaped by deep histories of imperialism, state building, resistance and accommodation. In contemporary Jordan, social media is simultaneously encouraging identification with tribes and undermining their gerontocratic power structures. Senior men stress their own importance as guarantors (‘faces’), who restore order following conflicts, promising to pay their rivals a large surety if their kin break the truce. Yet, ‘cutting the face’ (breaking truces) remains an alternative, one often facilitated by new technologies that allow people to challenge pre-existing structures of communication and authority. However, the experiences of journalists and other social media mavens suggest that the liberatory promise of the new technology may not be enough to prevent its reintegration into older patterns of social control.
Ugly Emotions and the Politics of Accusation
Geoffrey Hughes, Megnaa Mehtta, Chiara Bresciani and Stuart Strange
Ugly emotions like envy and greed tend to emerge ethnographically through accusations (as opposed to self-attribution), de-centring the individual psyche and drawing attention to how emotions are deployed in broader projects of moral policing. Tracking the moral, social dimension of emotions through accusations helps to account concretely for the political, economic and ideological factors that shape people’s ethical worldviews – their defences, judgements and anxieties. Developing an anthropological understanding of these politics of accusation leads us to connect classical anthropological themes of witchcraft, scapegoating, and inter- and intra-communal conflict with ethnographic interventions into contemporary debates around speculative bubbles, inequality, migration, climate change and gender. We argue that a focus on the politics of accusation that surrounds envy and greed has the potential to allow for a more analytically subtle and grounded understanding of both ethics and emotions.