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(Un)seen Seas

Technological Mediation, Oceanic Imaginaries, and Future Depths

Stephanie Ratté

Remote technologies and digitally mediated representations now serve as a central mode of interaction with hard-to-reach sea spaces and places. This article reviews the literature on varied scholarly engagements with the sea and on the oceanic application of technologies—among them geographic information systems, remotely operated vehicles, and autonomous underwater vehicles—that allow people to envision and engage with deep and distant oceanic spaces. I focus on the extension of a digital and disembodied human presence in the oceans and the persistence of frontier fictions, in which the sea figures as a site of future-oriented possibilities. Finally, I ask what the emphasis on “seeing” through technological mediation means for how we imagine vast spaces, and consider how these elements of the oceanic imaginary can be productively complicated by drawing attention to the materiality of the oceans and the scalar politics of dynamic spaces.

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Gramsci in and beyond resistances

The search for an autonomous political initiative among a subaltern group in the Beninese savanna

Riccardo Ciavolella

Stemming from a Gramscian approach, this article engages with the anthropological debate about subaltern groups’ forms of resistance by using the case of marginalized Fulani groups of pastoral and nomadic origins in northwest Benin. Their experiences seemingly confirm contemporary theories on resistance, which emphasize subaltern people’s capacities to tactically circumvent exploitation and exclusion and to handle contradictions between different “moral economies.” Nevertheless, one should question the impact of small-scale reactions that remain on the infrapolitical level and the emancipatory role that political theories give to tactical forms of resistance of dispersed subjectivities while refusing collective strategies. Grounding Gramscian theories in ethnography, this article wonders about the possibilities and limits of margins to turn into the scene of an “autonomous political initiative” of a subaltern group.

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Krzysztof Lalik

The autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan Region currently prides itself not only in its political autonomy and rapid economic development but also in promotion of the idea of human rights and the rule of law. It can be understood that modernising processes may inevitably lead to atrophy of traditional customs and social organisation of Kurdish society. One can easily discern that many cases of disputes among the inhabitants of the Kurdistan Region are processed according to judiciary principles that contradict the official legal doctrines. The examination and comparison of this mechanism in the previous century and nowadays led the author to the conclusion that the unofficial system of justice actually refers to the old tribal mechanism of solving feuds that has been repeatedly practised by bygone Kurdish generations.

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T.S. Kalandarov and A.A. Shoinbekov

This article describes some aspects of funeral rites among indigenous people of the Badakhshan autonomous region in Tajikistan, for most of whom the religious denomination is Ismailism. The ceremonies focus on ritual purification and seeing off the soul of the deceased person into another world. A set of obligatory rituals and rites are described, including lamp lighting, mourning rules, and memorial foods and celebrations. After analysing a wide range of data, the authors conclude that Western Pamir Ismailites believe that a dead body is inhabited by a corpse demon that brings harm to people. Although the described customs and rituals are generally Muslim and reflect features of the traditional Pamir world view, they are most probably part of the region's pre-Islamic heritage.

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The Writer's Responsibility in France

From Flaubert to Sartre

Gisèle Sapiro

Based on the notion of legal responsibility, the article establishes a connection between the social conditions of production of literature and the ethical principles that founded the commitment of writers as intellectuals in France from the nineteenth century to the post-World War II period. While the penal responsibility of the author is imbued with a belief in the power of words, the trials were in turn often the occasion for writers like Flaubert and Baudelaire to define their own ethics of responsibility against the values of conventional morality and political conformity through which their work was liable to condemnation. Articulating these ethical principles affirmed the writer's independence from political and religious authorities and contributed to the emergence of an autonomous literary field, as defined by Pierre Bourdieu. The figure of the writer as a public intellectual best embodied by Zola and Sartre emerged on the basis of this code of ethics.

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The Collectivisation of Pleasure

Normative Sexuality in Post-1966 Romania

Erin K. Biebuyck

This article examines several sex manuals from Nicolae Ceauşescu’s Romania for the ideologically-infused sex norms they contain. These manuals constructed a sexual ideal that located pleasure in the marital couple rather than in the individual, defining ‘normal sexuality’ as heterosexual and privileging its collective significance as an act for reproduction over the experience of pleasure by an individual. This collective model of pleasure was key to the construction of the communist subject as a member of a collective rather than as an autonomous individual. While this collective subject had roots in Romanian pre-communist traditions, communist sex experts rejected conventional gender roles according to which women are subordinate to men. Subsequent comparisons with contemporaneous American sex manuals reveal that the Romanian communist discourse on pleasure differed significantly from that of popular American sex advice of the same period.

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Renata Jambrešić Kirin and Reana Senjković

This article shows how the model of the ideal patriotic woman, established through propaganda activities between two competitive ideologies in Croatia during the Second World War, have been transformed and adapted to accommodate diverse genres of memory culture from 1945 until the present day. In order to indicate the inter- relation of media-ideological constructs and self-definition, the authors have compared cultural representation models of ‘acceptable’ and ‘obnoxious’ females in war time with ethnographical interviews conducted with women at the celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of the Antifašistički front žena (Women’s Anti-Fascist Front, AFŽ) Istrian Conference in 2004. The contrast between recollections and culturally constructed official memory shows how the memories of women, as autonomous historical subjects, resist the imposed collective amnesia on the anti-fascist movement, although these women also leave many ‘unsuitable truths’ untold about their subordinate role within the anti-fascist movement.

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A Working Model of a Sacred Place

Exhibits Appearing in Dreams and Other Miracles in a Small Museum at the Edge of the World

Elena V. Liarskaya and Anna Kushkova

Based on materials from expeditions to the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug during 2006 and 2007, this article discusses the role of a small museum in the local society of a district administrative center. The article focuses on a specific class of sacred Nenets objects in the museum's collection, called locally babushka (grandmother) and a “working model“ of a sacred site that is itself a sacred site for local residents, both indigenous and Russian, to explore the social relationships forged by the museum and its collection among local residents of all ethnicities. The museum and its objects are not removed from social life and rendered dead and preserved under glass. They remain alive in a network of relationships between human and non-human persons.

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Kirill Istomin

Existing explanations of the high rates of alcoholism and suicide among the numerically small indigenous peoples of the Russian North, Siberia, and the Russian Far East relate these social diseases to external factors such as state politics, or the economic, demographic, or socio-cultural situation. However, these reasons do not explain how exactly these factors influence the consciousness of indigenous people and determine the behavior patterns leading to alcohol consumption or suicide. This research report empirically tests the hypothesis that the group-specific attribution style that makes these people more pessimistically assess reasons and causes of events happening to and around them can play a role. The results of quantitative research conducted among teenagers representing both indigenous and non-indigenous populations of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Region and the Republic of Komi generally confirm this hypothesis.

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Gary Bruce

In order to situate the current debate on whether the Federal Commission for the Files of the State Security Service of the former German Democratic Republic (the Stasi Archive) should cease to be an autonomous institution in the larger context, this article traces the history of the Stasi Archive and of the Stasi Files Law since 1989. Key to understanding the Stasi Archive and access to its files is the 1989 revolution which saw demonstrators demand access to information gathered by the secret police. Although the research quasimonopoly that the Stasi Archive enjoys would be ended by integration into the federal archives, file access for Stasi victims-the raison d'être of the archive-would be jeopardized. Calls for the dismantling of the Stasi archive are, therefore, premature. Some criticism can be directed at the vetting and trial process in East Germany since 1989, but it is important to remember that the Stasi Archive acted only in a support capacity for those activities.