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Eric Langenbacher

One of the most important developments in the incipient Berlin Republic's memory regime has been the return of the memory of German suffering from the end and aftermath of World War II. Elite discourses about the bombing of German cities, the mass rape of German women by members of the Red Army, and, above all, the expulsion of Germans from then-Eastern Germany and elsewhere in Central and Eastern Europe have gained massive visibility in the last decade. Although many voices have lauded these developments as liberating, many others within Germany and especially in Poland—from where the vast majority of Germans were expelled—have reacted with fear. Yet, do these elite voices resonate with mass publics? Have these arguments had demonstrable effects on public opinion? This paper delves into these questions by looking at survey results from both countries. It finds that there has been a disjuncture between the criticisms of elites and average citizens, but that the barrage of elite criticisms leveled at German expellees and their initiatives now may be affecting mass attitudes in all cases.

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Shari’a and ‘traditional Tatar Islam’

From Flexibility to Protection

Rozaliya Garipova

Like all the elites of post-Soviet Muslim countries, the political elite and religious officials in Russia have been in the search of a moderate and strictly national Islamic identity, to keep the Muslim population of Russia separate from Arab or Turkish versions of Islam that could be politicised and thus had the potential to undermine the state structure. ‘Tatar traditional Islam’ emerged through this framework.

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Elites and their Representation

Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives

Jean-Pascal Daloz

The term “elite” was introduced in the seventeenth century to describe commodities of an exceptional standard and the usage was later extended to designate social groups at the apex of societies. The study of these groups was established as part of the social sciences in the late nineteenth century, mainly as a result of the work of three sociologists: Vilfredo Pareto, Gaetano Mosca and Roberto Michels. The core of their doctrine is that at the top of every society lies, inevitably, a small minority which holds power, controls the key resources and makes the major decisions. Since then, the concept of elite(s) has been used in several disciplines such as anthropology, history or political science, but not necessarily in reference to this “classical elite theory.” The concept is strongly rejected, however, by many “progressive” scholars—precisely because of its elitist denotation.

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Diego von Vacano

The article argues that Plato's Laws contain an implicit conception of freedom, particularly in Book III. It proposes that, while the concept is not treated systematically by Plato, it merits attention due to its presence in the text. I argue that there is a Form of Freedom in the book. It is comprised of two dimensions: an organic and a civic component. They are mediated by human agency. However, freedom in its ideal form is only possible for a select intellectual elite that can grasp these two dimensions. This elite is composed of a few wise elder men who take up the task of lawmaking as a ludic or playful enterprise. I also argue that degeneration away from true freedom is possible when political elites mislead a community away from Plato's ideal, such as with Cyrus in Persia. Ultimately, Plato's idea of freedom tells us that liberty is only truly available to a select few, not to a broad citizenry. Thus, freedom and democracy are not tied intimately but are opposed to each other.

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The Economics of Decolonisation

Institutions, Education and Elite Formation

Nicola Viegi

Modern economic growth theory gives a central role to ‘institutions’ in understanding the ability of an economy to break development constraints. This article briefly reviews a growing economic literature that focuses on African economic history in order to identify the linkages between institutional development and economic growth. Because present-day African institutions are often direct descendants of the colonial experience, colonial economic and political institutions have been the main focus of this literature. This article instead proposes to analyse closely the role that the colonial education had in the process of decolonisation and in African postcolonial history. Because of the importance of education in the process of economic development, an education system aimed mainly at co-opting an elite in the ways of the coloniser might be a significant obstacle in generating innovation and creativity necessary for the process of economic development.

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Paul Robert Gilbert

This article draws on ethnographic work carried out in London and Dhaka as part of a multisited project exploring the production of investment opportunities for (predominantly British) companies in Bangladesh. Focusing on the ready-made garments (RMG) sector in the run-up to, and in the wake of, the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse, I trace aid-funded attempts to improve Bangladesh’s investment climate and engagements with these initiatives by brokers seeking to “rebrand” Bangladesh as an investment destination and by RMG factory-owning businesspeople based in Dhaka. Writing against the “postcritical turn,” I suggest that responding to the explicit recognition by business elites of their own complicity in the exploitation of garment workers provides an entry point for a critical account of private sector development that enhances, not curtails, ethnographic understanding.

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Security for whom?

Anthropologists and repressive state elites

Gustavo Lins Ribeiro

The most important political and ethical issues in North American anthropology today concern anthropologists' relationships with the "security and intelligence communities." The call for anthropological participation in warfare has never been so intense, yet recruitment of anthropologists is not new for hegemonic anthropologies. Their relationships with state power have a long history of contradictory political and professional engagements. After a brief discussion of the notion of national security and its intimate relations to nation-state projects and elites, I consider the importance of culture and anthropological knowledge for politicians and conclude first that anthropologists need to be aware of how the discipline and its uses are part of much larger power relations and constraints, and second that anthropological knowledge is already always political.

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“The Shadow Class”

Immigration and Class in Contemporary South Asian/American Fiction

Maryse Jayasuriya

This article explores the representation of non-elite immigrants from South Asia to the United States in the fiction of Kiran Desai and Ameena Hussein. The works of these two writers shift the conventional representation of South Asian immigration to the United States as a middle and upper class phenomenon to a representation of the ways that non-elite South Asian immigrant experiences connect with the experiences of immigrants from around the world whose mobility is limited and whose imagined version of their prospective host country is shaped by incomplete and even illusory information.

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Janet McDonald

In elite boys’ schools there is a level of anxiety about the perceived place of the curricular subject drama and how it might interact or interfere with the ironclad essentialist and homogenous masculinity promoted by elite all-boys’ schools. The feminization of the drama and the suspicion of males who “do drama” create a duplicitous tension for boys who take the subject as they walk the gendered tightrope between the expected public display of the “muscular Christian” and the tantalizing “drama faggot.” This paper offers some reflections about observations on and interviews with boys who “do drama” inside the male-only worlds of the Great Public School (GPS) of Brisbane, Australia. In these schools I observed masculinities were constantly disrupted (perhaps uniquely) in the drama classroom and explored by male drama teachers who provided a space in which to playfully interrogate the “muscular Christian ideal” of a boys’ school.

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Nation Building and the Battle for Consciousness

Discourses on Education in Post-Apartheid Namibia

Mattia Fumanti

Education carries strong emotional connotation in Africa, not least for its association with emancipation, liberation, and social mobility. Drawing on research conducted in Northern Namibia, this essay examines how education is conceived by a cadre of elite, educated professionals working in the Ministry of Basic Education regional offices. It contrasts these officials' views with those of white settlers, many of whom, in contrast, place their faith in the market, not in a regulatory state—and certainly not in a regional educational office. Whereas elite officials deploy images of education for purposes of state making and state ceremonialism, white businessmen use education to undo officials' authority, with the effect, implicitly, of reinscribing apartheid visions of race and governance. This article draws on, and offers ethnographic evidence in support of, a body of theoretical work on state-ritualized uses of education, civil religion, and the moral character (and counter-morality) of state education.