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Disaggregating the electoral roll

Electioneering and the politics of self knowledge

Alexander Thomas T. Smith

Following their ‘wipe-out’ at the 1997 General Election, Scottish Conservatives worked from the assumption that they had endured their own ‘crisis’ in representation. The material consequences of this ‘crisis’ entailed losses of !nancial and other resources, knowledge and political legitimacy. This article describes how some Conservative activists addressed this ‘crisis’ in the period leading to the 2003 local Government and Scottish Parliament elections. Their efforts to render the secret ballot transparent in order to discern the voting intentions of potential supporters both demonstrated and re!ected their efforts to manage this crisis. Despite legal constraints, they constructed an imaginary of thousands of local voters’ preferences through a variety of discursive instruments, which allowed Party activists to disaggregate the electoral roll in order to apprehend a new whole – the Conservative electoral base. This, in turn, enabled a Conservative politics of self-knowledge, as a form of empowerment for these activists.

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Emily Ridge

This article probes the complex relationship between mobility and maternity in the works of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century writers, including Mona Caird, Grant Allen, Elizabeth Von Arnim, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, among others. The maternal role came under intense scrutiny from the fin de siècle and the freedom of the mother was a source of contention at a time when women were embracing new opportunities for adventurous travel more broadly. Where did parental expectation or responsibility enter into the women and travel picture? This article explores various attempts to conceive of a free motherhood during the period and to conceive of the womb as something dynamic and empowering rather than burdensome. Finally, honing in on bag-womb analogies, it asks what it meant for a woman to "carry," both materially and metaphorically, in the context of turn-of-the-century debates surrounding female mobility and motherhood.

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Carlo Barone and Gianluca Argentin

In July 2015, the so-called Good School reform was approved. This measure introduces several novelties in the school sector, including an increase in resources. The reform was strongly promoted by Prime Minister Renzi, who has simplified the traditional processes of engagement with the teachers’ unions. The aim is to empower school principals and teachers in a meritocratic framework, to overcome the lack of job stability for teachers by establishing new mechanisms of recruitment, and to open schools to extracurricular activities and vocational experiences. These important innovations, which are needed to improve the existing state of affairs, sound more like announcements rather than concrete commitments. In fact, there is a gap between the communication dimension of the reform, which is very effective, and its actual design, which in many aspects is approximate. There is therefore a real risk that the future implementation of the Good School reform might be less substantive than originally perceived.

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Sami Schalk

American Girl is a multi-product brand that is marketed transnationally through discourses of gendered empowerment and education. While previous scholarship has commented on how American Girl encourages normative gender roles, consumerism, and limited notions of diversity, no scholars, to my knowledge, have discussed disability in relation to the brand. This article explores the representation of disability in the American Girl contemporary line through an analysis of books and doll accessories. Unlike issues of gender, race and class, which appear central to American Girl’s depiction of contemporary girlhood, disability is a literal and metaphoric accessory in the brand. I contend that this representation of disability as supplementary is a prime example of ablenationalism explicitly targeted at girls.

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From the Ottoman to the American Empire

Syrian Narratives of Global Power

Kathleen Reedy

This article examines Syrian narratives of global power, ranging from the Ottoman era to the present day. Despite the country's relatively peripheral status in international politics, the stories of its people always feature Syria as a central figure in global policy and intrigue. When viewed not merely as speculation or conspiracy theories but as a form of speech act, these narratives can be seen as having an effect on relationships between different groups of people in relation to and among Syrians. This 'identity work' allows Syrians to order their own world through discussions of global power and gives them a sense of agency. Thus, 'talking about the powerful' actually serves to empower a local, 'marginalized' population, momentarily reversing the whole concept of peripheralization.

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The Poetics of Anti-Americanism in Greece

Rhetoric, Agency, and Local Meaning

Elisabeth Kirtsoglou and Dimitrios Theodossopoulos

In this article we examine the content and rationale of anti-Americanism in Greece, drawing ethnographic information from two urban centers, Patras and Volos. We pay special attention to the conspiracy theory attributes of this rhetoric, and, instead of dismissing it or seeing it primarily as a manifestation of nationalist thinking, we attempt to unpack the threads of meaning that make it so appealing in local contexts. We look in particular at the etiology of blame within this particular discourse and try to explain the specific readings of history and politics that make it significant in local contexts. We argue that Greek anti-Americanism has an empowering potential for local actors, as it provides them with a certain degree of discursive agency over wider political processes that are beyond their immediate control.

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Ambivalent Atheist Identities

Power and Non-religious Culture in Contemporary Britain

Lois Lee

In Britain, most non-theists and atheists do not identify themselves as such in explicit terms, yet non-theistic cultural threads are interwoven through everyday discourses. This article calls for more extensive ethnographic engagement with these more diffuse—and therefore less visible and less commonly researched—forms of non-religious culture. Based on exploratory fieldwork conducted in South East England, it draws attention to one set of these indistinct non-religious forms: 'authentic' and 'inauthentic' ambivalent atheist and non-religious self-understandings and self-representations. It demonstrates how these identities may be subjectively meaningful and culturally significant and how they may be simultaneously empowering and disempowering. Scrutiny of ambivalent atheist identities points to complicated dynamics between non-religion and power and the value of attending to poorly or unmarked non-religious cultures through ethnographic work.

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Ramin Jahanbegloo

The article deals with Mohandas K. Gandhi's theory of democracy and its related civic practices. It indicates the relation between Gandhi's idea of civic duty and his idea of democracy, and argues that few would dispute that Gandhi was one of the most original and transformative thinkers of democracy. The article maintains that among his many notable contributions, Gandhi is rightly credited with emphasizing on the ideas of citizenship duty, truth in politics, genuine self-rule, and ethically enlightened democracy. In addition to advocating self-sustaining villages and communal cooperation, Gandhi developed an idea of non-liberal democracy reducing individualism, economic greed, and laissez-faire by insisting on a duty oriented and spiritually empowered participative democracy. Nearly seven decades after his death, Gandhi stands as one of the most significant and relevant non-Western theorist of democracy.

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Monique Deveaux

This article examines several obstacles to the deliberative inclusion of women where traditional cultural-political authority exist alongside national democratic institutions. Drawing on the example of land reform in post-apartheid South Africa, the article argues that introducing deliberative democratic procedures to local cultural-political institutions may fail to achieve the inclusion and/or empowerment of subordinated members, such as rural women. I discuss three ways that deliberative interventions might be made more inclusive in such contexts: first, by using strategic exclusion to amplify the voices of disenfranchised community members and/or to make possible parallel deliberation by them; second, by legitimizing and supporting the informal political practices of more disempowered group members (e.g., informal protests, political activism); and third, by fostering the political capacities of disempowered citizens in both formal and informal political life.

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Theatres of virtue

Collaboration, consensus, and the social life of corporate social responsibility

Dinah Rajak

In recent years transnational corporations have become major players in the development arena. The rise of corporate social responsibility (CSR) elevates corporations as leaders in a new orthodoxy of business-led development that promotes empowerment through “the market” as the panacea for global poverty. This vision has recruited support from disparate actors, turning combatants into collaborators. This article is based on thirteen months of multisited fieldwork, tracking the performance of CSR through the circuit of conventions and policy forums that constitute the social life of CSR. I argue that by claiming the confluence of doing good business and doing good, commitment to the market logic of maximisation is not only maintained, but endowed with a moral legitimacy and celebrated as the elusive win-win solution for which the development industry continues to search.