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Ka Lin, Laurent J.G. van der Maesen, Des Gasper and Dan Mao

This first issue of the International Journal of Social Quality is a new launch and is at the same time the continuation of the former European Journal of Social Quality. The European journal came into existence in 1999 and six volumes were published in the period up to 2006: twelve issues in total. The aim was to develop a new theoretical framework to analyze social realities in European societies and consider their policy implications. The European Journal sought to broaden the scope of understanding about citizens’ well-being and to interpret how the constitution of society and its various component institutional arrangements affect social quality and personal welfare from a new perspective.

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Russia’s ‘Other Ummah’

From ‘Ethnic Shi’ism’ to Ideological Movement?

Bruno De Cordier

Since the beginning of the Syrian War, ties between Russia and the Shia sphere are primarily examined in terms of geopolitics, while little attention is being paid to the indigenous as well as immigrant Shia populations in Russia itself. Depending on the motives and circumstances that brought and bring various individuals and groups to more actively-professed Ja’fari Shi’ism, these can become the most active champions of its cause, or of social movements inspired by this persuasion. As such, the Shia element in Russia might become more relevant and present than its low-profile minority state suggests.

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Andrew Ward

The nature of health care, a multifaceted system of reimbursements, subsidies, levels of care, and trade-offs between economics, values and social goods, makes it both a problematic area of policy and critical to the well-being of society. In the United States, provision of health care is not a right as in some countries, but occurs as a function of a complex set of cross-subsidized mechanisms that, according to some analysts, exclude from coverage those who may be in the most need of it. Accordingly, this article examines some of the issues involved in making decisions on how to justly expand health insurance.

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Mordechai Kremnitzer and Shiri Krebs

Democracy is not just about free and fair elections. It requires at least some minimal substantial guarantees, such as freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, that formulate and enable free choice of autonomous and equal agents. These notions are well founded in Israeli constitutional law, but in recent years it seems that this basic understanding of the democratic process is weakening, especially as reflected in the actions of the Knesset. Several recent examples of Knesset legislation processes suggest that Israeli democratic culture is being eroded, as some of democracy’s fundamental notions are abandoned in favor of national-chauvinism and intolerance.

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Modernisation and Social Change

The Impact on Iranian Elderly Social Networks and Care Systems

Mary Elaine Hegland, Zahra Sarraf and Mohammad Shahbazi

Anthropological field research in Iran, mainly in the village of Aliabad and in nearby Shiraz in south-west Iran, has documented radical social, cultural, religious and economic change over the last 28 years. Increasing emphasis on the nuclear rather than the extended family and pressures for geographic and social mobility have profoundly influenced the lives of the elderly. The traditional family system of support for elders - with regard to emotional and social needs, as well as financial assistance and physical care - is breaking down. Social scientists, social workers and health personnel must focus on adequately addressing the needs and concerns of the Iranian elderly in the twenty-first century and on developing alternative systems to deal with key elderly issues of health, well-being and social incorporation.

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Julian Hanich

This article explores the question of what we are actually afraid of when we are scared at the movies. It is usually claimed that our fear derives from our engagement with characters and our participation through thought, simulation, or make-believe in fearful situations of the filmic world. These standard accounts provide part of the explanation why we are afraid—this article complements them by showing that we often literally fear for ourselves as well. Concentrating on an anticipatory subspecies of cinematic fear dubbed “dread,” the article argues that we often fear a negative affective outcome, namely our own fearful experience of shock and/or horror that usually ends scenes of dread. By looking at viewers' action tendencies and actions proper activated in dreadful moments, the article suggests that we appraise scenes of dread as potentially harmful to our current (and even future) psychological well-being. Dread thus turns out to be a specific kind of metaemotion.

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Securing Intergenerational Kin Relationships and a House of One's Own

Muslims' Ways of Ageing Well in Kerala, India

Willemijn de Jong

The author explores trajectories of creating well-being with regard to old age in a poor Muslim community in Kerala, India. Theoretically, she draws on the nonstate-led concept of 'inclusive social security' and links it with the anthropology of the house. In doing so she takes approaches of 'making' kinship, gender, age as well as citizenship into account. Care and respect for the elderly result from strong but gendered intergenerational kin relationships in and around the house, which they establish for a large part themselves. Governmental and civil provisions play an enabling or supplementary role. Elderly women, particularly widows, benefit from property relationships that are less gendered. Surprisingly, there is a remarkable tendency of creating house ownership, and thus of bargaining power, for women in this community. It is suggested that this is effected by a combination of Muslim inheritance rules, recent dowry-giving practices and Kerala's matrilineal history.

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Aquatics, Play, and Eroticism

Beside the Seaside with Lewis Carroll

John Bale

This article explores some of the sports and leisure activities of Lewis Carroll. He is well known for his playfulness in his writings but relatively few works have explored what he was doing in his holiday time. Away from the ivory towers of Oxford University, he would travel to the south coast to explore the seaside towns such as Brighton and Eastbourne. He was well aware of the games and sports of the Victorian age and acquired an interest in aquatics. He was interested in young girls and watched then playing on the beach, recording them in his diary. As a spectator it is impossible to know what his motives were but they suggest that play has a negative side – i.e., the player being played with.

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Girlhood and Ethics

The Role of Bodily Integrity

Mar Cabezas and Gottfried Schweiger

Our concern is with the ethical issues related to girlhood and bodily integrity—the right to be free from physical harm and harassment and to experience freedom and security in relation to the body. We defend agency, positive self-relations, and health as basic elements of bodily integrity and we advocate that this normative concept be used as a conceptual tool for the protection of the rights of girls. We assume the capability approach developed by Martha Nussbaum as an ethical framework that enables us to evaluate girls’ well-being and well-becoming in relation to the potential, and often subtle, threats they face. The capability approach can be understood as a theory of justice, and, therefore, as an ethical and political approach. An enriched concept of bodily integrity can help in the design of better policies to address gender biases against girls because it could contribute to seeing them as active agents and valid participants.

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Regenerating Life in the Face of Predation

A Study of Mortuary Ritual as Sacrifice among the Siberian Chukchi

Jeanette Lykkegård and Rane Willerslev

This article describes in detail a mortuary ritual among the Chukchi of Northern Kamchatka and points to its remarkable affinity with an ideal-typical reindeer sacrifice. We argue that this connection between human cremation and sacrifice plays a key role in the people’s attempt to maintain and ensure continuation of their particular kind of life in a cosmos that is replete with numerous other, mostly hostile, life forms. The article describes all stages of the ritual and contextualizes the ritual in the literature on sacrifice. We argue that seeing Chukchi mortuary rituals as a way of transforming any death into a blood sacrifice calls into question well-established understandings of sacrifice as a means of diverting human violence. We suggest that ritual blood sacrifice may instead be seen as a way of protecting the sacrificial victim against violent forces and in doing so, securing the well-being of the community as a whole.