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Ta' Pinu

Ritualised Empathy on the Doorstep of Heaven

Philip Kao

This article explores the miracles and ex-votos (votive offerings) associated with the Ta' Pinu shrine on Gozo, Malta's northernmost island. Drawing from ethnographic data, analysis of various personal accounts, and observations of people's interactions with the bricolage of Ta' Pinu ex-votos, I seek to show that Gozitans perform a highly personal yet ritualised form of empathy in the context of miracle worship. The miracles associated with Ta' Pinu are thus seemingly 'contagious' and meaningful, because they elicit existential connections and reflections on the nature of supplication and Gozitan social relations.

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When Frost Happens

A Case Study of an Organization Committed to Care

Philip Kao

This article draws from my time spent working as a caregiver in a 350-plus resident not-for-profit Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) in the American Midwest. Caregivers working in CCRCs provide care and support to elderly residents who live out the rest of their lives in these transitional 'homes'. Yet even these organizations are transforming and changing the way care is being constructed and delivered. This paper examines how a long-term care facility (LTCF) is grappling with specific discourses about the nature of person-centred care, and its self-professed commitment to the journey of life. I show ethnographically how an organization centred on the business of care deals with the process of ageing, and that while the life course has been subject to forms of social and medical regimen, the ageing person is ontologically greater than his or her experiences in the nursing home, no matter how totalizing the institution.

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Vita Peacock and Philip Kao

What is the relation between our own daily activity and the organizations that almost all of us are members of? This seemingly simple question has dominated the social study of organizations for over a century, and the responses to it can be very broadly parcelled out into three alternative perspectives.

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Shelling from the ivory tower

Project Camelot and the post–World War II operationalization of social science

Philip Y. Kao


This article is a historical examination of several watershed episodes in the militarization of US social science. It offers an assessment of the actual “science” underpinning such initiatives as Project Camelot, and traces how American anthropology in its reaction to Project Camelot and Cold War studies moved from certain kinds of scientific/knowledge production toward others. By critiquing the intellectual foundations of Project Camelot alongside other examples of action-oriented social science, this article examines the connections between functionalism and the conceptual bias toward social order. What linked development, militarism, and imperialism was a more often than not oversimplified view of human behavior. In order to comprehend how models of development and modernization continue to shape American hegemony, this article scrutinizes a particular history of “military modernity.”