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Robbie Davis-Floyd

Preface

This is the first in what we intend to be a series of practically focused and reflective articles by anthropologists who work in policy or practice, discussing and sharing their experiences of ‘engaged’ anthropology.

—Christine McCourt, Editor, May 2011

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The urban public sector as commons

Response to Susser and Tonnelat

Jane Collins

Susser and Tonnelat’s article on the three urban commons is both visionary and heartening. Its counterpastoral polemic glorifies urban modes of sociality and the forms of common property fostered by urban life. The authors find in cities communities of experience that cross class lines and create inadvertent coalitions around shared problems. They argue that specific components of what has been called “the right to the city” need to be understood as “commons”—collective property that is neither fully public nor private but shared by individuals as they go about everyday life in urban settings.

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Niklas Hultin

This article examines the discourse surrounding the circulation of legal information in urban Gambia. It argues that ideas of information sharing suggest that Gambian law is fundamentally opaque, not simply in that it is not transparent but that it is only partially known. Drawing on the insights of Marilyn Strathern and other 'Melanesianists', the article further proposes that information sharing is a kind of relation and that opacity is a way of cutting relations. This in turn presents a way of apprehending African law that differs from the current emphasis on illegality and sovereignty in Africanist legal anthropology and focuses instead on emendation as a modality of engaging the law.

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Carl Knight

Earlier versions of the five articles of this edition of Theoria were presented at a conference held at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg in March 2010.1 Although they are diverse in style and content, all address the shared theme of the conference and this edition — ‘Poverty, Charity, Justice’.

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Asif A. Ghazanfar and Stephen V. Shepherd

Because the visual neuroanatomy and neurophysiology of monkeys are largely similar to ours, we explore the hypothesis that the same cinematographic techniques that create a visual scene for us likely create one for these close kin. Understanding how monkeys watch movies can illuminate how film exploits the capacities we share with our simian relatives, what capacities are specific to humans, and to what extent human culture exerts an influence on our filmic experience. The article finds that humans and monkeys share a basic capacity to process sensory events on the screen. Both can recognize moving objects and acting individuals, and both prefer looking at motion pictures of social behaviors over static images. It seems clear that some of the same things that make movies “work“ for human brains also work for the brains of our nonhuman relatives—excepting two critical features. First, humans appear to integrate sequential events over a much larger time frame than monkeys, giving us a greater attunement to the unfolding narrative. Moreover, humans appear to have special interest in the attention and intentional states of others seen on the screen. These states are shared through deictic cues such as observed gazing, reaching, and pointing. The article concludes that a major difference in how humans and monkeys see movies may be declarative in nature; it recognizes the possibility that movies exist as a means of sharing experience, a skill-set in which the human species has specialized and through which humans have reaped unprecedented rewards, including the art of film.

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Dirk Eitzen

The impetus for this special issue of Projections was personal, not just academic.

I am deeply, religiously committed to nonviolence. I have three sons

and a daughter that I have tried to raise to share this commitment. Yet I really

relish the occasional violent entertainment and I have been fairly free in sharing

this pleasure with my children. This has led to considerable moral anxiety.

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Paul R. Mendes-Flohr

This article challenges the view that religious tolerance is promoted by affirming what the respective faith communities have in common. Rather, it proposes that genuine interfaith dialogue acknowledges difference and celebrates our distinctive paths to the life of the spirit as refracting our shared humanity.

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Humera Khan

The subject of this conference is one that has occupied me for perhaps longer than I wish to remember, and I do appreciate being given the opportunity to share some of my deliberations with you today. There are many tangents to this story; therefore, for the sake of coherence I have focussed on areas that hopefully will be of some interest to this conference.

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Sicily

An Anthropological Meeting Point

Christian Giordano

On the basis of their shared research and teaching on Sicily since the 1970s, the author contrasts his own Mediterraneanist approach and German scholar Ina-Maria Greverus’ utopian view of the European south as an outstanding experience of an intellectual encounter. Respectful debates of disputatious positions are a rare gift in the academic world of today.

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Bruce Kapferer

The present issue is composed of independently submitted articles that share particular themes. Both Bar-On Cohen and Gamliel, in their thorough groundedness in the detailed empirical description of practice (martial arts and Yemenite Jewish women’s wailing, respectively) explore critically major conceptual theoretical concerns at the heart of contemporary anthropology.