Anthropological studies on causality in South Asia in the past decades have focused mostly on local idioms of 'mis fortune', with very little attention being paid to ideas of 'fortune' and 'luck'. This article, based on fieldwork carried out among astrologers and their clients in Banaras, shows that astrology provides an ideological framework for the conceptualization and management of fortune in present-day urban India. According to astrologers' analyses of horoscopes, 'destiny' (bhāgya, lit. 'allotted share') is conceived as a form of wealth acquired at birth that can be augmented or diminished as a result of planetary influences and personal choices. The author suggests that, beyond the Sanskrit tradition, the semantics of destiny can be linked to decisionmaking processes and values of achievement that mark the lives of middle- and upper-class families in contemporary India.
Managing Fortune in Astrological Counseling in Contemporary India
Sharing and Negotiating Social Knowledge Through Space and Bodily Practice
This article takes the reader on a journey around the spaces of west African houses, and shows how the social world is replicated in the built environment. Based on the case study, this article argues that architecture serves as a model of the outside world to its inhabitants. Knowledge about the social order is embodied by moving through the architectural space. In this particular case, the society's kinship system and kin relations are encoded in the compounds' architectural spaces. This article traces how this order is created, read, and reproduced by its inhabitants, and argues that the house serves as a model of the social (kinship) order. I article conclude by showing that the emic architectural model of the local kinship systems allows for a higher complexity than verbal descriptions can. This article contributes to an anthropology of the house and discusses questions of collective knowledge and memory. It offers considerations of the nature of emic models and cognitive maps, and explores how these maps are shared and reproduced.
Teen Moms Use Digital Photography to Share their Views
Leanne Levy and Sandra Weber
If we took the time to listen attentively and carefully to pregnant teenagers and teen mothers what would we hear? If we invited them to articulate their messages to the adults who interact with them, speak to those who judge them, and give advice to their peers, what would they say? Th is photo-essay addresses these related questions by presenting some of the findings of an arts-based activist research project called TEEN M.O.M. (Mirrors of Motherhood). One of the goals of the project was to examine how a media production program, implemented within the context of an existing community organization, can empower teenage girls in diffi cult circumstances to share their views. In a series of workshops, the participants were invited, off ered guidance, and equipped to produce their own images—digital photographs, drawings, and collage work—so as to make visible their views on the personal and social issues that aff ect them directly. (In this photo-essay we concentrate on their photographs and off er comments taken from their writing and from video-taped interviews.) For two hours each week for thirteen weeks, the project gave these young mothers time away from their daily responsibilities and provided them with a safe space in which to focus single-mindedly on creating their images. Th e project culminated in an exhibition in which their work was shown to members of the community, policy makers, family and friends.
Today medical research funded by resourceful commercial companies and philanthropic organizations increasingly takes place in much less resourceful settings across the globe. Recent academic studies of this trend have observed how global inequalities have shaped the movements of this research, and how human subjects who make their blood and bodies available are at risk of exploitation. In Lusaka, people expressed their fears of being used by transnational medical research projects in various idioms of concern. While such concerns were always latent, people were generally eager to join the projects. Concerns were often backgrounded in favor of pragmatic attention to—and active creation of—possibilities that might stretch well beyond the purpose and time limit of individual research projects. The article illuminates how intimately the ambiguities and possible scenarios of exploitation inherent in transnational medical research projects are intertwined with scenarios of possibility.
Movement, Aesthetics and Shared Understanding
Jo Vergunst and Anna Vermehren
This article presents reflections on the theme of sociality from a mass-participation art event in the town of Huntly in north-east Scotland in 2009. Drawing on Alfred Schütz's notion of the 'consociate' and related concepts, our efforts are directed towards understanding the nature of sociality that the event created for the people involved in it. We consider slowness as an actual experience through pacing and cadence, and also the tensions between experience and the requirement that art should have measureable impact.
Studies on Religious Anti-syncretism in the Western Rhodopes, Bulgaria
This essay questions the thesis of the supposed syncretic nature of the religion of Bulgarian-speaking Muslims, an idea still espoused in Bulgarian ethnography and popular among the Rhodope Christian population. It examines the Muslim motivations for attending Christian holy places in the Rhodopes, particularly the Monastery of St George in Hadzhidimovo, to gather evidence from the actual participants. It shows that the local Muslims and Christians offer incompatible interpretations of the Muslim practice. Furthermore, it takes into account Muslim and Christian testimonies on how Muslims behave in the monastery of St George, and how their gestures are interpreted by both groups. Although the Muslim narratives betray a rather anti-syncretic attitude to Christianity, the Christians sometimes tend to see them as actual crypto-Christians. In my conclusions I stake out a position in the recent polemic between Glenn Bowman and Robert Hayden concerning the specificity of interactions between dissenters at sacred shrines.
Anthropology and the EU General Data Protection Regulation
In May 2018, the European Union (EU) introduced the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) with the aim of increasing transparency in data processing and enhancing the rights of data subjects. Within anthropology, concerns have been raised about how the new legislation will affect ethnographic fieldwork and whether the laws contradict the discipline’s core tenets. To address these questions, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London hosted an event on 25 May 2018 entitled ‘Is Anthropology Legal?’, bringing together researchers and data managers to begin a dialogue about the future of anthropological work in the context of the GDPR. In this article, I report and reflect on the event and on the possible implications for anthropological research within this climate of increasing governance.
Class, Gender, and Ethics in Visual Research with Girls
Janet Fink and Helen Lomax
In our article we consider the ethical challenges engendered by participatory visual research with girls. Drawing on photographs taken by and of girls we explore how to reconcile the challenges generated by disseminating images of girls while supporting them to have a voice in research. Our concerns are focused on how to maintain the integrity of girls’ visual voices while protecting them from any harm that may result from revealing visual information about them. This issue has become increasingly germane for visual sociology since developments in digital technology and visual culture mean that images can circulate instantaneously and in perpetuity, potentially stripping them of their creators’ intentions and infusing them with new and unintended meanings. We consider different approaches to resolving our ongoing ethical dilemma and examine their potential for honoring the flesh-and-blood girl’s right to be heard amidst concerns about her digital visibility.
Looking at the Disability Arts Movement from an Anthropological Perspective
This article will bring together two strands of anthropological theories on art and artefacts, the disability arts movement and the phenomenological approach to the study of material things. All three of these different perspectives have one thing in common: they seek to understand entities – be they human or nonhuman – as defined by their agency and their intentionality. Looking at the disability arts movement, I will examine how the anthropology of art and agency, following Alfred Gell's theorem, is indeed the 'mobilisation of aesthetic principles in the course of social interaction', as Gell argued in Art and Agency. Art, thus, should be studied as a space in which agency, intention, causation, result and transformation are enacted and imagined. This has a striking resonance with debates within the disability arts movement, which suggests an affirmative model of disability and impairment, and in which art is seen as a tool to affirm, celebrate and transform rather than a way of expressing pain and sorrow. I will use case studies of Tanya Raabe-Webber's work and of artistic representations of the wheelchair in order to further explore these striking similarities and their potential to redefine the role of art in imagining the relationship between technology and personhood. I will finish by looking at Martin Heidegger's conceptualisation of the intentionality of things, as opposed to objects, and will apply this to some artwork rooted in the disability arts movement.
Proper Forms of Sharing and Being Together
Maja Hojer Bruun
The Danish concept of faellesskab (community) is explored in this article. Faellesskab covers different kinds of belonging and notions of proper togetherness in Danish society, ranging from neighborhood relations at the local level to membership in society at the national level. In investigating the ideals and practices of faellesskab in housing cooperatives, the article shows how people establish connections between these different scales of sociality. It argues that the way people live together in housing cooperatives, in a close atmosphere of egalitarian togetherness, is a cultural ideal in modern Denmark. The more recent commercialization of cooperative property has, however, caused concern. While some believe that faellesskab can still be practiced in the small enclaves of autonomous cooperatives, others fear that this ideal is threatened by economic inequalities.