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Catherine Alexander

This article focuses on controversial plans by the government to rebuild Aisha Bibi, a small, crumbling mausoleum in southeastern Kazakhstan, and thereby hitch its symbolic potency to the nationalist drive. There has never been one commonly accepted account of the building in terms of when and by whom it was created. Nonetheless, it has long been a site of pilgrimage for many different groups and, since the Soviet period, a source of scientific interest. Plans to construct a replica building have brought the multitude of previously co-existing narratives into sharp relief as the new version threatens to oust the others, effectively making one narrative claim exclude others. Further, as is the nature of all representations, the replica will halt and contain the unboundedness and perishability of the mausoleum which, for many local narratives, is an essential part of Aisha Bibi.

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Softly, softly

Comparative silences in British stories of genetic modification

Cathrine Degnen

Since the late 1990s genetically modified foods, crops, and products have provoked a great deal of controversy in Britain. This article does not challenge the presence of debate over genetic modification in Britain, but rather calls attention to public silences on genetic modification that have often been overlooked. Drawing on multi-sited fieldwork in two parts of the north of England, I explore the ways in which these silences were not equally present across both fieldsites. I argue that this is partly due to the intersection of local histories with the ideological framing of genetic modification by the British government as a question of and for scientific expertise. I also explore how silence on the topic may be a form of what Sheriff (2000) has termed ‘cultural censorship’. Finally, I discuss the theoretical and methodological difficulties of studying and writing about silence, proposing that silences can importantly highlight issues of political and social salience.

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The Firedrake

Local Society and Train Transport in Zhejiang Province in the 1930s

Ding Xianyong

The Hangzhou-Jiangshan railway across Zhejiang province was built in the early 1930s, connecting the mountainous interior to the coastal area. The construction in the context of military strategy enjoyed high government attention and was implemented with personnel and a workforce brought into the area. Drawing on literary writings, archival documents, and oral histories, this article traces the range of attitudes, reactions, and activities among the inhabitants of rural towns and villages in the area of Quzhou and Jinhua as well as migrants who had left for cities such as Shanghai and Hangzhou. The name “redrake” created by locals captures attitudes of mingled apprehension in the fact that a dragon, which is always associated with water, becomes a re-creature; curiosity and excitement in the association with dragon lantern processions; and practical usefulness in the closeness to the train that is literally a “re-vehicle” in Chinese.

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Imposed Politics of Cultural Differences

Managed Multiculturalism in Israeli Civil Society

Zvika Orr

This article analyzes the processes by which multicultural discourses and practices are implemented and adapted in local settings. Based on five years of ethnographic fieldwork in an Israeli NGO that promotes economic and social rights, this work examines the micro-politics of multiculturalism and the complex uses of this concept by various Jewish and Arab actors in the organization. The research shows how multicultural notions concerning Arab culture were introduced by the Jewish actors in order to depoliticize Jewish-Arab relations and preserve the balance and stability within the organization. By adopting characteristics of state multiculturalism—in a country where multiculturalism is not an aspect of official government policy—the Jewish actors attempted to produce social change while preserving central elements in the hegemonic Zionist-nationalistic worldview.

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City, Community, Nation, State

Participation and Spectacle

Judith Kapferer

The events and sites of a national holiday (17 May in Bergen, Norway) are the grounds from which to draw out meanings of nationalism and tradition, and analyze ideologies of egalitarianism and individualism in a social democratic welfare state. My project has two aims: to open up and deconstruct aspects of the material and symbolic life of the city, and to engage an examination of patterns of local and national community life in relation to shifting evaluations of localism and nationalism within the a changing state formation. Bergen can be thought of as a case study of social order and control, with women, children, and reverence for home life, highlighted in the town’s celebrations. The symbolism of the day discovers community and state in a difficult relation between domestic communities and nationalist ideology in the maintenance of governmentality, a relation mediated by the city itself.

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Something Better

Hegemony, Development, and Desire in Guatemalan Export Agriculture

Edward F. Fischer and Peter Benson

This article examines non-traditional export production of broccoli, snow peas, and other crops in Guatemala. Focusing on Maya farmers, exporters, and government development officials, we trace the production of the desire to grow these crops, to make some extra money, and to enhance local and national economies. We find that the export business has left farmers shortchanged even as it has opened new possibilities of algo más (something more or better). We examine how this empirical paradox has emerged from the convergence and divergence of power relations and affective desires that produce the processes known as 'hegemony' and 'resistance'. We conclude by considering alternative ethnographic strategies for understanding the multifarious connections between power and desire, hegemony and culture.

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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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Christine McCourt

In opening this 2009 volume of Anthropology in Action, it seems important to comment on what are self-consciously interesting times. The first quarter of the year has already witnessed the inauguration of Barack Obama as US president, bitter and destructive bombing campaigns in Gaza, and further financial shocks in the world’s markets, with a seeming domino effect of wealthy capitalist institutions turning to national governments for support. Global and local relations, networks, identities and conflicts have been brought into sharp focus by world events, but anthropology is rarely visible in the news, and anthropologists rarely called upon to comment, despite a wealth of potentially valuable knowledge. Applications of anthropology are becoming gradually more accepted within the academy, but seem to have come only a short distance in terms of public profile or ability to influence national and trans-national policies.

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Jonathan Magonet

This article describes some of the formative years of the Standing Conference of Jews, Christians and Muslims in Europe (JCM) and gives an overview of some landmarks in the growth and expansion of interfaith dialogue in the intervening forty years since its creation. What was originally seen as a peripheral religious activity for a few people on the margins of their respective religious communities has become a major area of religious commitment, the subject of academic study and of interest to local government and international politics, with journals devoted to the subject. One consequence is that in the past the different religious traditions might have sought to create their own theology that defines what another faith is or should be; now they need a theology that accepts and finds ways of living with other faiths as they understand and define themselves to be.

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Jean-François Loudcher

From 1945 to 1947, and then again from 1953 to 1977, Jean Minjoz served as mayor of Besançon and set up a “system” of government that allowed him to maintain power while insuring the development of the city. What was that system and how did it develop? By examining the sports politics of the city, this article reveals how the municipal sports commission and the city council worked out a subtle balance between amateur sports and the promotion of professional soccer. The political, professional, and athletic implications of this approach led representatives of the big clubs as well as the local councillors to support a basic minimum level of sports infrastructure, which in turn enabled the mayor to realize his own agenda for the city's social development program and to assure him the vote of his electorate. This politics of compromise can be categorized as republican elitist.