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Instrumental Europe

Practices of Daily Engagement with the European Union

Marysia Galbraith and Thomas M. Wilson

Religious organisations that secularise their community outreach to gain European Union (EU) funding, border-city residents whose consumption practices exploit cross-border economic disparities, EU member states that protect their domestic labour market by restricting access to legal work and medical care for citizens of new member states, recently admitted citizens who nevertheless take advantage of increased opportunities for mobility to improve their economic and social standing, and even in some cases use their scepticism about membership to promote their personal or national interests within the EU – all of these examples point to the complex and varied ways in which instrumentality figures in day-to-day dealings with the European Union. This special issue of AJEC seeks to contribute to the anthropological study of the European Union by examining ways in which various individuals, groups and institutions use the EU to pursue their political, economic and social goals at local, national and transnational levels within Europe.

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Emanuel Stelzer

Love suicide was a situation lavishly employed by playwrights in early modern England. We generally regard as tragic heroes the dramatic starcrossed lovers who kill themselves onstage and we see their death as the sensationally pathetic climax of the play. On the other hand, in Elizabethan and early Stuart society, suicide, or, as it was called, ‘self-slaughter’ or ‘self-murder’, was considered both as a crime and as one of the most dreadful sins a Christian could possibly commit. I would suggest that the tension between these two conflicting views on suicide had a relevant emotional impact on the audiences to whom these plays were originally addressed. In order to prove this, I wish to analyse in particular domestic plays which stage the range of responses elicited within a community that has to cope with the suicide of one of its members.

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Women’s Rights and Sovereignty/Autonomy

Negotiating Gender in Indigenous Justice Spaces

Shannon Speed, María Teresa Sierra, Lynn Stephen, Jessica Johnson and Heike Schaumberg

In recent years in both the United States and Latin America, indigenous peoples have taken increasing control over local justice, creating indigenous courts and asserting more autonomy in the administration of justice in their tribes, regions, or communities. New justice spaces, such as the Chickasaw District Courts in Oklahoma and the Zapatista Good Governance Councils in Chiapas, work to resolve conflict based largely on indigenous ‘customs and traditions.’ Many of the cases brought before these local legal bodies are domestic cases that directly involve issues of gender, women’s rights and culture. Yet the relationship between ‘indigenous traditions’ and women’s rights has been a fraught one. This forum article considers how these courts emerged in the context of neoliberalism and whether they provide new venues for indigenous women to pursue their rights and to challenge gendered social norms or practices that they find oppressive.

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Debt, Peonage and Dependency in the kafalah System

Hadrami Migratory Experience in Kuwait

Abdullah M. Alajmi

Studies of immigrants in Kuwait focus on structural aspects overlooking sociohistorical elements and meso-level relationships that develop through migration. This ethnography shows that the immigrant's perspective and the history of the relationship between the receiving society and the immigrant community are both essential for establishing broader and thicker analyses of reality. It argues that because Hadramis and Kuwaiti sponsors were historically linked in personal exchanges originating in the Kuwaiti domestic realm, the meaning and practices of sponsorship comprise a unique migratory and work experience. Normally the immigrant–sponsor relationship is conveyed in terms of pseudokinship, yet references to moral debts and dependency reveal forms of exploitation and dominance. Hadrami–Kuwaiti relationships do not produce significant economic outcomes for the sponsor. Rather, Hadramis are symbolically valued within local hierarchies. This symbolic value has sustained a solid Hadrami presence in Kuwait and secured an income for retiring immigrants at home.

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Place of Birth and Concepts of Wellbeing

An Analysis from Two Ethnographic Studies of Midwifery Units in England

Christine McCourt, Juliet Rayment, Susanna Rance and Jane Sandall

This article is based on analysis of a series of ethnographic case studies of midwifery units in England. Midwifery units1 are spaces that were developed to provide more home-like and less medically oriented care for birth that would support physiological processes of labour, women’s comfort and a positive experience of birth for women and their families. They are run by midwives, either on a hospital site alongside an obstetric unit (Alongside Midwifery Unit – AMU) or a freestanding unit away from an obstetric unit (Freestanding Midwifery Unit – FMU). Midwifery units have been designed and intended specifically as locations of wellbeing and although the meaning of the term is used very loosely in public discourse, this claim is supported by a large epidemiological study, which found that they provide safe care for babies while reducing use of medical interventions and with better health outcomes for the women. Our research indicated that midwifery units function as a protected space, one which uses domestic features as metaphors of home in order to promote a sense of wellbeing and to re-normalise concepts of birth, which had become inhabited by medical models and a preoccupation with risk. However, we argue that this protected space has a function for midwives as well as for birthing women. Midwifery units are intended to support midwives’ wellbeing following decades of professional struggles to maintain autonomy, midwife-led care and a professional identity founded on supporting normal, healthy birth. This development, which is focused on place of birth rather than other aspects of maternity care such as continuity, shows potential for restoring wellbeing on individual, professional and community levels, through improving rates of normal physiological birth and improving experiences of providing and receiving care. Nevertheless, this very focus also poses challenges for health service providers attempting to provide a ‘social model of care’ within an institutional context.

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Freedom and loss in a human landscape

Multinational oil exploitation and the survival of reindeer herding in north-eastern Sakhalin, the Russian Far East

Emma Wilson

Sakhalin's multinational offshore oil and gas projects signify hope for the region's economic regeneration. They also pose an environmental threat to the livelihoods of local natural resource-users, including Sakhalin's few remaining reindeer herders. For the herders over the past century, industrial development, particularly in relation to the domestic onshore oil and gas industry, has been associated with environmental degradation and loss of pastures, family cohesion, language and culture. The herders contrast the physical and mental freedom they enjoy living on the land to the constraint of village life. Their survival strategies are based on a certain freedom from authority and the formal law. Their desire for freedom is also manifested in a reluctance to engage with outsiders who could have a significant influence on their future. This paper explores the survival strategies of reindeer herding households and enterprises and the ways that they engage with outsiders such as state officials, NGOs and oil companies. The offshore oil and gas projects could result in further loss of important pastures and pollution of water sources, while project benefits may not reach some of Sakhalin's communities that are more isolated. However, the projects have catalysed global interest in the fate of Sakhalin's native peoples, oil company consultations have enabled herders to voice their concerns about the projects, and oil company-sponsored programmes may provide opportunities for the revival of herding and the reinforcement of native identity. This article considers some of the tensions between economic independence and security, between the democratic right to participate in planning processes and the desire to be free from state regulation, authority and outside intervention.

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From Rhetoric to Practice

A critique of immigration policy in Germany through the lens of Turkish-Muslim women's experiences of migration

Sherran Clarence

The largest group of migrants in Germany is the Turkish people, many of whom have low skills levels, are Muslim, and are slow to integrate themselves into their host communities. German immigration policy has been significantly revised since the early 1990s, and a new Immigration Act came into force in 2005, containing more inclusive stances on citizenship and integration of migrants. There is a strong rhetoric of acceptance and open doors, within certain parameters, but the gap between the rhetoric and practice is still wide enough to allow many migrants, particularly women, to fall through it. Turkish-Muslim women bear the brunt of the difficulties faced once they have arrived in Germany, and many of them are subject to domestic abuse, joblessness and poverty because of their invisibility to the German state, which is the case largely because German immigration policy does not fully realise a role and place for women migrants. The policy also does not sufficiently account for ethnic and cultural identification, or limitations faced by migrants in that while it speaks to integration, it does not fully enable this process to take place effectively. Even though it has made many advances in recent years towards a more open and inclusive immigration policy, Germany is still a 'reluctant' country of immigration, and this reluctance stops it from making any real strides towards integrating migrants fully into German society at large. The German government needs to take a much firmer stance on the roles of migrant women in its society, and the nature of the ethnic and religious identities of Muslim immigrants, in order to both create and implement immigration policy that truly allows immigrants to become full and contributing members to German social and economic life, and to bring it in line with the European Union's common directives on immigration.

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Kathryn Robinson

In imagining Indonesia’s future, its character as a country with the world’s largest Islamic population emerges as a critical issue. In the post-Suharto period, some commentators have seen the emergence of Islamist politics as a threat to newly attained freedoms. No sooner had women been freed from the constraints of ‘state ibuism’, i.e., the official policy promoting the role of wife and mother (ibu) of the New Order (see Suryakusuma 1996), which endorsed patriarchal familism as a cornerstone of authoritarian politics, than they faced a new kind of patriarchal authority in the demands for the enactment of shari’a as state law. For example, during her 2005 visit to Australia, Indonesian feminist commentator Julia Suryakusuma raised the specter of Islam as the greatest current threat to gender equity and to women as social actors in civic life, whose rights in the domestic sphere are now protected by the state. The growing influence of Middle Eastern Islam in Indonesia, evidenced by funding for organizations, translations of publications, and the increase in Islamist rhetoric, has caused alarm among many observers. This apprehension draws on the stereotype of the Middle East as the source of all that is ‘bad’ about Islam, taken as an undifferentiated whole. But this view of Islam fails to acknowledge debates within Islam and diversity in Islamic practice, not the least of which are the varieties of Islam that can be found throughout the Indonesian archipelago. These diverse practices have emerged as local communities and indigenous polities responded in distinctive and often unique ways during the long period of Islamic conversion, beginning from the thirteenth century.