Lawsuits are representational arenas, as well as legal events. They serve as integrative spaces for power relations, symbolic orders, and moral economies. This article focuses on the ‘social lives’ of two lawsuits brought by indigenous communities to litigate issues arising from oil extraction on their territories: the Texaco lawsuit in the Ecuadorian Amazon and the Beaver Lake Cree Nation lawsuit in Alberta, Canada. I analyze the narratives of indigeneity and modernity that they challenge, as well as their potential to order and disorder social fabrics beyond the legal sphere. I argue that lawsuits are ethnographic dramas that make visible how various social actors ‘order’ the world into categories, such as ‘value’, ‘modernity’, ‘commons’, and ‘sovereignty’, and in the process render legible the constructed nature of symbolic life.
Indigenous ‘Oil Lawsuits’ as Sites of Order and Disorder Making
My ethnography of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon (2005–2010) points to a strong disposition towards suspicion associated with refugeeness. This, in turn, highlights politico-moral economies of trust, indexed by honour, that become what I call boundary-maintenance disciplinary practices. The dynamics of suspicion and trust, propelled by social crisis and uprooting, shape all groups, from their social support systems and marriages to collective political, ethnic and religious allegiances. Uprooting tends to be associated with displacement of the subject's social order, bringing about an intensified sense of intra-group bonds and a concomitant suspicion towards those outside this group. This, in turn, heightens a necessity on the part of refugee subjects to reflect and shape networks of trust, expressed in a moral idiom, even when decisions are known to be political. This article analyses some of the dynamic between suspicion and trust in conditions of social crisis and refugeeness.
‘The history of the Zulu people is the history of myself’.1 In Africa, as elsewhere, the notion of tradition is bound up with the discourses of ethnicity and nationalism. Typically invoking pre-colonial identities as the basis of peoplehood, such narratives of common descent are imbued with a strong sense of ‘pastness’, orientating the modern self in traditional terms. Anderson explains this invocation of tradition as a feature of the inverted nature of ethnic narratives of common descent.2 More common are accounts which focus on the ‘loss of meaning’ brought about by modernisation and the psychic security offered by an idealised past. Recent theories look to supplant this sense of tradition as reaction with a sense of tradition as creation. One example is Lonsdale’s argument that the affirmation of ethnicity in post-colonial Africa, with its associated invention of tradition, must be seen in the context of internal debates over civic virtue as pre-colonial moral economies are re-structured by the state and capitalism.
Diversely echoing Gail Weiss (1999) and Paul Stoller and Cheryll Olkes (1987), I hold that maleficent fetishes that sustain lethal sorcery shape and enact, yet pervert, their proper contours of embodied interactions and transactions. These interactions are being absorbed and consumed, if not devoured, by the sensual order of the uncanny and by forces of abjection. From my immersion in the life of the Yaka people in Kinshasa and south-west Congo, I am aiming at some endogenous understanding of how interacting bodies – or more precisely, intercorporeal awareness – can conform to (attune to) and become subordinated to (and implicated by) the frenzy of the transgressive and annihilating ‘forces’ mobilised by maleficent fetishes and lethal sorcerous violence. I contend that the mysterious field of sorcery and maleficent fetishes among the Yaka seems to foster among complicitous pairs some pre-reflective and interpersonal awareness of their body in the fold of (embracing) images, fantasies, experiential gestalts and desire of sorts. This primary entwinement of (inter)corporeal capacities, ‘forces’, cultural expectations and horizons of significance may help us to comprehend innovatively the sensual articulation of a genuine epistemology and a groping for moral economy in the very mood of transgression and perversion. This merging of desire, intercorporeality and sensing out of things paradoxically ties in with the pursuit as well as the obliteration of ethics. Such intermingling shows up in people’s manifold search to tame or, for other purposes, to stir up forms of unsettling, rupture, paradoxes, indeterminacy, categorial and ontological aporias, perversion or even destructive violence.
Between Religion, Regulation, and Globalization
Jacobsson 2000: 1 ). Busch (2000) argues that by stipulating norms for behavior and creating uniformity, standards are part of the ‘moral economy’ of the modern world, a relevant point when it comes to the emergence and expansion of kosher standards