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Thomas Hylland Eriksen

Abstract: Sometimes attempts to reduce volatility have the opposite effect. A naturally flexible system which is regimented and disciplined to a fixed shape loses its ability to adjust to shifting circumstances. This is a recurrent theme in the anthropology of globalisation, where the dynamics between the fixed and the fluid are no less important than the more commonplace local–global contrast. Modernity produces infrastructures, institutions and practices that are unable to adapt smoothly to changing ecological conditions, giving priority to standardised models rather than solutions tailored to fit assemblages with unique characteristics. This article discusses two cases from Norway – a controversy over a bridge in an ecologically vulnerable area and a mudslide leading to considerable material damage and the loss of ten lives – as a means of looking into the scalar gaps and the relationship between stability and volatility in a society committed to technological control.

Résumé : Parfois, les tentatives de réduction de la volatilité ont l‘eff et inverse. Un système naturellement flexible qui est enrégimenté et discipliné à une forme fixe perd sa capacité à s‘adapter aux circonstances changeantes. Il s‘agit d‘un thème récurrent dans l‘anthropologie de la mondialisation, où la dynamique entre le fixe et le fluide n‘est pas moins importante que le contraste local-global, plus commun: la modernité produit des infrastructures, des institutions et des pratiques qui sont incapables de s‘adapter en douceur aux conditions écologiques changeantes, privilégiant des modèles standardisés plutôt que des solutions adaptées à des assemblages aux caractéristiques uniques. Cet article traite de deux cas en Norvège – une controverse sur un pont dans une zone écologiquement vulnérable et une coulée de boue entraînant des dégâts matériels considérables et la perte de dix vies – afin d‘examiner les écarts scalaires et la relation entre stabilité et volatilité dans une société engagée dans la maîtrise technologique.

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Thomas Hylland Eriksen

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Keeping the recipe

Norwegian folk costumes and cultural capital

Thomas Hylland Eriksen

Enlisting culture in the service of commercial or political interests inevitably leads to a simplification and standardization of form. This article addresses the tensions between these standardizing processes and discourses of cultural authenticity, raising questions concerning copyright to cultural products and, more widely, the economics of cultural tradition. Empirically, the article is a study of the Norwegian bunad, a folk dress which exists in numerous regional varieties and carries a profound symbolic significance as a marker of regional and national identity. However, the authenticity of particular bunads or other folk costumes is often hotly contested. At the same time, entrepreneurs have begun to produce bunads in low-cost countries, thereby violating a principle considered by many as sacred, that bunads should be sewn by local women. The article reveals what is at stake for the various actors involved, and suggests some comparisons.

Open access

Thomas Hylland Eriksen

Open access

Thomas Hylland Eriksen

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Thomas Hylland Eriksen

Since the early 1960s, Scandinavian anthropologists have made considerable contributions to the study of ethnicity, an early high point having been reached with the 1967 Wenner-Gren conference leading to the publication of Ethnic Groups and Boundaries in 1969. Later Scandinavian research on ethnicity and social identification more generally has been varied and rich, covering all continents and many kinds of majority/minority relations. However, over the last twenty years, anthropologists have increasingly focused on the study of the relationship between immigrant minorities and the majorities in their own countries. There are some significant general differences between ethnicity research overseas and at home, shedding light on the theoretical constructions of anthropology as well as the 'double hermeneutics' between social research and society. It can be argued that anthropology at home shares characteristics with both European ethnology (with its traditional nation-building agenda) and with sociology (which, in Scandinavia, is almost tantamount to the sympathetic study of the welfare state), adding a diluted normative relativism associated with the political views of the academic middle class (to which the anthropologists themselves, incidentally, belong). The article reflects on the consequences of embroilment in domestic politics for anthropological theory, using the experiences of overseas ethnicity research as a contrast to ethnicity research at home, where anthropologists have been forced, or enabled, to go public with their work.

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THOMAS HYLLAND ERIKSEN

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THOMAS HYLLAND ERIKSEN

Open access

Franz Krause and Thomas Hylland Eriksen

Abstract: This article proposes volatility as a term with which to approach some of the challenges that shape the current world. We develop this term as an analytical concept and perspective by thinking with people and ecologies from the margins, where uncertainty and rapid transformations have long been the order of the day. An approach focusing on volatility as a social and ecological condition provides an opportunity to consider what life in a radically uncertain world means and does to its inhabitants, which may offer useful lessons to those of us who are currently being forced to let go of their illusionary certainties. The article introduces a special issue elaborating volatility as a concept and perspective in various contexts and from different angles.

Résumé : Cet article propose la volatilité comme un terme permettant d’aborder certains défis qui façonnent le monde actuel. Nous développons ce terme en tant que concept analytique et perspective en réfléchissant avec les populations et les écosystèmes en marge, où l’incertitude et les transformations rapides sont depuis longtemps à l’ordre du jour. Une approche axée sur la volatilité en tant que condition sociale et écologique permet d’examiner ce que signifie de vivre dans un monde radicalement incertain, notamment pour ses habitants - une approche qui peut donner des leçons utiles à ceux d’entre nous qui sont actuellement contraints de se défaire de leurs certitudes illusoires. L’article introduit un numéro spécial qui élabore la volatilité comme concept et perspective dans divers contextes et sous différents angles.

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Waste and the superfluous

An introduction

Thomas Hylland Eriksen and Elisabeth Schober

The anthropology of waste, drawing on Mary Douglas’s seminal work as well as later studies of landfills, ragpickers, environmental crises and even social exclusion, is a prism through which to view and understand the crises of neoliberal globalisation. This introduction reviews the literature and identifies some themes in the anthropology of waste, some of which are explored in the subsequent contributions to this special section.