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Reality is What You Can Get Away With

Fantastic Imaginings, Rebellion and Control in Terry Gilliam's Brazil

Ben Wheeler

It is my intention here to explore the fictional and non-fictional texts that may have informed (or are at least isomorphic to) the sentiments articulated in this seminal dystopian film. The film centres on the struggles of protagonist Sam Lowry (Jonathon Pryce), a cog in the impersonal machinery of the bureaucracy that governs Brazil's society who desires anonymity within consensus reality, but in his dreams is a winged warrior fighting noble battles with symbolic adversaries. Sam finds he is increasingly unable to successfully reconcile or differentiate these paradoxical existences as they begin to bleed into one another throughout the film.

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Introduction

Repatriation and Ritual, Repatriation as Ritual

Laura Peers, Lotten Gustafsson Reinius and Jennifer Shannon

This special section of Museum Worlds explores the entire process of repatriation as a set of rituals enacted by claimants and museum staff: a set of highlighted performances enacting multiple sets of cosmological beliefs, symbolic systems, and political structures. Some of the rituals of repatriation occur within the space of Indigenous ceremonies; others happen within the museum spaces of collections storage and the boardroom; others, such as handover ceremonies, are coproduced and culturally hybrid. From the often obsessive bureaucracy associated with repatriation claims to the affective moment of handover, repatriation articulates a moral landscape where memory, responsibility, guilt, identity, sanctity, place, and ownership are given a ritual form. Theory about ritual is used here to situate the articles in this section, which together form a cross-cultural examination of ritual meaning and form across repatriation processes.

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“China gives and China takes”

African traders and the nondocumenting states

Shanshan Lan

Based on ethnographic research in South China’s megacity Guangzhou, this article examines the gaps and contradictions in the central and local Chinese states’ efforts to regulate migrant traders from Africa. I identify economic interests, everyday racism, and ideological concerns as three major factors in shaping the nonrecording tactics of the Chinese states. The article argues that nonrecording is a practical tactic pursued by both the central and local states in order to balance multiple and conflicting interests at the regional, national, and international scales. Due to tensions between different levels of state authorities, China’s policies toward migrants from Africa are marked by sporadic shifts between recording, nonrecording, and derecording, which contribute to the illegibility of issues of immigration in state bureaucracy.

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Conjuring "the people"

The 2013 Babylution protests and desire for political transformation in postwar Bosnia-Herzegovina

Larisa Kurtović

In June 2013, a breakdown in the routine functioning of state bureaucracy sparked the largest and up to that point most significant wave of protests in postwar Bosnia-Herzegovina, named the Bosnian Babylution. The protest centered on the plight of newborn babies who, because of this particular administrative problem, could no longer be issued key documents, even to travel outside the country for life-saving medical care. These events exposed the profound nature of the representational crisis gripping this postwar, postsocialist, and postintervention state that has emerged at the intersection of ethnic hyper-representation and the lived experience of the collapse of biopolitical care. Yet, as this analysis shows, this crisis has also helped unleash new forms of political desire for revolutionary rupture and reconstitution of the postwar political.

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Facing bureaucratic uncertainty in the Bolsa Família Program

Clientelism beyond reciprocity and economic rationality

Flávio Eiró and Martijn Koster

Clientelism is often analyzed along lines of moral values and reciprocity or an economic rationality. This article, instead, moves beyond this dichotomy and shows how both frameworks coexist and become entwined. Based on ethnographic research in a city in the Brazilian Northeast, it analyzes how the anti-poverty Bolsa Família Program and its bureaucracy are entangled with electoral politics and clientelism. We show how the program’s beneficiaries engage in clientelist relationships and exchanges to deal with structural precariousness and bureaucratic uncertainty. Contributing to understanding the complexity of clientelism, our analysis demonstrates how they, in their assessment of and dealing with political candidates, employ the frames of reference of both reciprocity and economic rationality in such a way that they act as a “counterpoint” to each other.

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Anthropologists and the Challenges of Modernity

Global Concerns, Local Responses in EU Agriculture

Marion Demossier

The article examines developments and challenges faced by both anthropologists and rural communities since the 1960s. It argues that a shift in methodological and thematic terms has occurred, raising a number of issues for the establishment of a research agenda on the anthropology of Europe. The most important shift concerns the recon figuration of rural Europe, from the farm or village to more 'complex' social settings in which the presence of the state, bureaucracies, new social actors and markets are integrated into local phenomena. Attached to this rescaling is the issue of how anthropologists define their fieldwork and the objects of their study. Finally, heritage and conservation, which are at the heart of the process of a European core identity and of a European rural imaginary, provide a new critical framework to think about the connection between local concerns and global changes.

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Reitter Paul and Brett Wheeler

Like so much else in Kafka, the motif of reading has been discussed hotly and often—from Walter Benjamin's early essay, through seminal studies by Walter Sokel and Heinz Politzer, to poststructuralist analyses of how Kafka foregrounds the instability of language and verbal communication. In this large body of criticism, we find abundant interest in how, for Kafka, certain problems of understanding have a particularly modern character, e.g., in how they are connected to particularly modern conditions. These include the waning metaphysical authority of traditional texts and, most obviously, the rise of bureaucracies that deal programmatically in obfuscation. But Kafka's works engage substantially with what we might call the topos of reading in a modern—and often urban—setting in other ways as well, in ways that have received only passing treatment from scholars. Newspaper reading, for example, has a prominent role in "The Judgment," Kafka's breakthrough text, yet its significance has gone largely unexamined.

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The Culture Industries

Symbolic Economies and Critical Practices

Malcolm Miles

Art has become a ubiquitous if at times convenient solution to problems of urban regeneration and social division. Generally, it takes the form of commissioned works or projects in development schemes, supported by state bureaucracies and funding agencies, which view the arts as expedient in relation to problems produced by other areas of policy, from unemployment to social exclusion. Currently, a shift can be detected in arts policy toward a restatement of the aesthetic approach characteristic of the post-war years, in which art does best what art alone does. At the same time, there has been a growth of new, mainly collaborative art practices, constituting a dissidence reliant on art's structures of support while seeking to subvert their intentions. The article outlines the perceived role of art in urban economic development, suggests that a shift in policy is taking place, and describes the new cultural dissidence through specific cases.

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Management Speak

Indigenous Knowledge and Bureaucratic Engagement

Sally Babidge, Shelley Greer, Rosita Henry and Christine Pam

In this article we examine the concept of 'indigenous knowledge' as it is currently used in resource management discourse. In the process of engaging with government agents and researchers in the bureaucracy of resource management, indigenous knowledge is a powerful concept in the legitimization of local indigenous practice as well as the recognition of resource and socio-environmental management aspirations. Our use of the phrase 'management speak' frames our analysis of these bureaucratic engagements as process (management) and dialogue, rather than a 'space'. We do so in order to gain insights into the politics and practice of these engagements that might go beyond recognition of indigenous interests and toward more practical approaches. Our discussion draws on research conducted at Yarrabah Aboriginal Community in northern Queensland in relation to marine resource management in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

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Jos D. M. Platenkamp

This article presents an analysis of the canoe racing ritual conducted in the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers bordering the town of Luang Prabang in North Laos as part of an annual ritual cycle. It focuses upon the ways in which the socio-political order, articulated in the ritual, is valorized in reference to a model of cosmological sovereignty that is manifested in offerings brought to aquatic spirit manifestations of a primordial King and his Queen-Consorts. It identifies the present-day changes in the ritual that have been implemented by the socialist Lao state as part of an endeavor to replace the principle of monarchic sovereignty with the authority of the state and to supplant the socio-cosmological understanding of society with a corporate model of bureaucracy and market economy variables.