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Global privatized power

Heritage politics and private military contractors in Iraq

Maria Theresia Starzmann

The practice of archaeologists and other heritage specialists to embed with the US military in Iraq has received critical attention from anthropologists. Scholars have highlighted the dire consequences of such a partnership for cultural heritage protection by invoking the imperialist dimension of archaeological knowledge production. While critical of state power and increasingly of militarized para-state actors like the self-proclaimed Islamic State, these accounts typically eclipse other forms of collaboration with non-state organizations, such as private military and security companies (PMSCs). Focusing on the central role of private contractors in the context of heritage missions in Iraq since 2003, I demonstrate that the war economy's exploitative regime in regions marked by violent conflict is intensified by the growth of the military-industrial complex on a global scale. Drawing on data from interviews conducted with archaeologists working in the Middle East, it becomes clear how archaeology and heritage work prop up the coloniality of power by tying cultural to economic forms of control.

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The Aporia of Power

Crisis and the Emergence of the Corporate State

Bruce Kapferer

The argument focuses on the corporate state as an increasingly significant political assemblage that has enabled new configurations of power with related social effects. Here the discussion proceeds from Karl Polanyi's thesis in The Great Transformation. A critical idea that Polanyi pursued related to the state production of economism and individualism, which prepared the ground for the expansion of capital in its globalizing form. The essay develops this idea, indicating that the nationalist capitalism of the state led to a radical change in the political and social orders of states, gradually giving rise to the corporate state assemblage. The emphasis here is on the corporate state as a socio-political order that places radically distinct structural dynamics into impossible conjunction, leading to progressively disastrous social effects concerning poverty and the emergence of new configurations in which war and violence take specific shapes.

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The “power of silence”

Spirituality and women's agency beyond the Catholic Church in Poland

Agnieszka Kościańska

This article looks at various models of women's agency in Poland in the context of religion. Based on fieldwork among members of two feminized religious milieus—a new religious movement the Brahma Kumaris and an informal Catholic fundamentalist group—this article discusses the role of silence in ritual and everyday life as a form of agency. From the perspective of feminist discourse, particularly Western liberal feminism, silence is often interpreted as a lack of power. Drawing on informants' experiences, under Polish gender regimes, particularly as they relate to the organization of public and private spheres, silence is shown to be a fundamental component of agency. The analysis of silence displays the complexity of religious issues in Poland and serves as a critique of assumptions about religious homogeneity and the pervasiveness of religious authority in Poland.

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Pentecostalism and Egalitarianism in Melanesia

A Reconsideration of the Pentecostal Gender Paradox

Annelin Eriksen

Unity Yu we yu tri be yu wan/you who are three but one Mekem Mifala I kam wan/make us become one Blong mifala I save mekem wok blong yu/so we can work with you Unity hemi paoa blong jos/Unity is the power of the church Unity hemi hat blong wan nation

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Mathijs Pelkmans and Rhys Machold

This article aims to reinvigorate analytical debates on conspiracy theories. It argues that definitional attempts to set conspiracy theories apart from other theories are flawed. Blinded by the “irrational” reputation of conspiracy theories and deluded by the workings of institutionalized power such approaches fail to recognize that there are no inherent differences between the two categories. We argue that assessments of conspiracy theories should focus not on the epistemological qualities of these theories but on their interactions with the socio-political fields through which they travel. Because “conspiracy theory” is not a neutral term but a powerful label, attention to processes of labeling highlights these larger fields of power, while the theories’ trajectories illuminate the mechanisms by which truth and untruth are created. As such, this article offers a way forward for assessing both the truth and use value of conspiracy theories in the contemporary world.

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Johannes Fabian

These comments—made originally in my role as discussant for the panel in Ljubljana—address the recent history of the question of world anthropologies and identify three issues for further critical debate: (1) hegemonic claims concerning our discipline (including the issue of hegemony within our discipline), (2) the difference between power and authority, and (3) reasons that alterity continues to be a crucial concept in post-colonial anthropology.

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Género, desarrollo y políticas públicas

La doble discrepancia de las aristas del poder

Edith Kauffer

Abstract

Presently, international development organizations have adopted gender perspectives in all policy spheres as a transversal approach as a result of a process that has transited through different foci since the 1950s. Nonetheless, different studies have highlighted the fact that implementation is limited beyond the recurring discourses of governments, non-governmental organizations and funding agencies. We can speak of a discrepancy between rhetoric and practice around gender in development policies, a subject that lies on the edges of power. Furthermore, there is another discrepancy between policy analysis and a gender perspective, where we find little research that achieves a theoretical articulation between two traditions that somehow seem irreconcilable. This article aims to initiate a reflection on that which it identifies as a double discrepancy between gender and policies focused on the edges of power: the failure to integrate gender in development policies and the difficult theoretical articulation of gender within policy. Faced with this double discrepancy, the article proposes some points of convergence around an inclusion of power relations both as a goal of development policies and a policy analysis.

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Blackout

Freedom, without Power

Christopher Allsobrook

This article attributes the conception of 'freedom-without-power' which dominates contemporary Western political philosophy to a reification of social agency that mystifies contexts of human capacities and achievements. It suggests that Plato's analogy between the structure of the soul and the polis shows how freedom is a consequence, rather than a condition, of political relations, mediated by inter-subjective contestation. From this basis, the article draws on the work of Raymond Geuss to argue against pre-political ethical frameworks in political philosophy, in favour of a more contextually sensitive, self-critical approach to ethics. Such reciprocal ethical-political integration addresses problems of ideological complicity that may arise if freedom is discretely abstracted from history and power in political philosophy. Finally, the article roughly reconstructs a critical account of African identity from writings of Steven Biko to illuminate symptoms of 'meritocratic apartheid' in South Africa today which Thad Metz's influential pre-political conception of ubuntu obscures, by abstracting the figure of African personhood from politically significant historical conditions.

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Lesley Gill

Debates about the relationship of anthropology to the U.S. national security establishment are not new, and anthropologists are now forced to confront the issue again. Since the 11 September attacks, the U.S. military has stepped up efforts to recruit anthropologists to fight the so-called "war on terror," and a group of self-identified "security anthropologists" have organized for more recognition and legitimation within the American Anthropological Association. The article considers what is new about the current controversy, and it examines the issues at stake for anthropologists and the people who they study. It argues that anthropologists need to raise anew basic questions about their disciplinary and intellectual endeavors and that they must re-educate themselves on the realities of power.

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'Your Heart Is Not Warm Unless You Steal!'

Constructions of Theft and Stealing

Ada I. Engebrigtsen

A proverb common in Romania, generally referring to gypsies, claims that 'your heart is not warm unless you steel'. During the author's fieldwork in a village in Transylvania it was, obvious, however, that the moral judgement on theft and stealing varies greatly according to context. The article discusses the social construction of theft in different empirical contexts and historical periods from wartime looting in India to theft of state property in Romania and how the definition and judgement in each case are embedded in social relations and social structures. The article's main objective is to unmask social relations of power and domination that are often hidden behind definitions and judgements concerning the acquisition of the property of others. Thus theft cannot be understood as either legal or moral; instead, it ties together the moral and the legal, the collective and the individual, objects and persons in different ways in different contexts.