Field trips play a significant role in the building of expert knowledge of numerous institutions. So why is their nature and significance for knowledge production rarely discussed in the anthropology of expertise? In this paper, I draw on the particular instance of an expert field trip undertaken by a disaster management organization in the Indian state of Odisha in the aftermath of Cyclone Phailin in 2013. I show that field trips are contingent practices defined by their sequential logic, relationships, interests, and by the personal perceptions of people who undertake them. The choice of personnel to carry out this field exercise is fundamental and depends on institutional views of aims and understandings of what constitutes expertise. In line with E. Summerson Carr’s argument that expertise is something people “do” rather than “hold”, I show that enacting expert status serves to assert power and to enable its holder to achieve their aims.
An Urban Journey into Violence and Back
A strange contradiction haunts the urban experience of Ahmedabad, a city strongly divided along class and communal lines. The city's Sabarmati river is traversed by seven modern bridges, which, instead of being a solution to the problem of separation, have assumed its very form. In ordinary life, as well as during extraordinary events, residents of the city use these bridges not only to span space and gain access to the other half of the city, but also to escape and confine, project and expiate, and even to remain hidden while in full view. This article describes experiences of separation in Ahmedabad and how these experiences become expressed in reference to its bridges. In other words, urban structures, intended to overcome physical space and represent the modern promise of connectivity, become, instead, embodiments of division.
Ravi K. Raman
Through a case study of an anti-cola struggle in a south Indian village, this paper promotes the conceptual treatment of subaltern cosmopolitanism in the contemporary context of anticorporate social movements. In this situation the multiple issues raised by a local movement, such as livelihood, sustainability, and human rights, sensitize each of the new social agencies involved, within and outside the borders of the local state, and help forge a solidarity network across borders with their universally relevant concerns of environmental ethics and livelihood rights. It is further suggested that it is precisely the new politics of ecology and culture articulated by the subalterns that constructs an enduring and viable future for social movements.
Animals and Human Knowledge
The domestication and use of animals is an integral part of the history of technology, as beasts were used to improve the efficiency of agricultural, military, and transportation activities. Individuals and social groups often had to be introduced along with animal technologies, as the domestication, breeding, training, and handling of animals was a culture that could not be immediately learned. In the age of European empires, several ethnic groups were imported along with the animals that they tended. This article highlights the role of humans as part of animal technologies, as an important anthropological component when technologies that involve animals are introduced to new settlements and areas. Using three case studies in which animal technologies from Asia were introduced to other parts of the world, it can be seen that humans are an essential and integral component of animal technologies.
Rabindranath Tagore's America, in Letters and Lectures
The Indian writer Rabindranath Tagore visited the United States several times, though his second trip in 1916-1917 seems to have generated the most excitement. On the verge of American entry into World War I, the Nobel prize-winning writer embarked on an extensive lecture tour critiquing the excesses of nationalism and imperialism. The visit generated a number of remarkable texts, including a series of important letters to family and friends written on the trip and the four long lectures collected and published in 1917 as Nationalism. I argue that the lectures on “Nationalism,” can and should be read as a form of “reverse Orientalist” travel writing, where Tagore aimed to show Americans how their own political and economic system could be seen as rather similar to the European powers. Tagore uses the lectures to develop a series of metaphors for the modern, instrumentalist deployment of power in the nation-state and the colonial world, against which he posited an ideal of modern man cultivated and “perfected,” rather like a work of art.
Race, Global Capital, and The Making of the English Working Class
W. E. B. Du Bois noted that the nineteenth-century US slave plantation corresponded with the factory in its worst conceivable form. This article expands upon Du Bois's insight to consider the emergence of the English working class in correspondence with American settler slavery and colonial projects within the British Empire. From above, elites theorized about the exploitation of labor as a world historical project to compare the enslaved, the colonized, and the English worker against one another. From below, proletarian intellectuals imagined the freedom of English laborers through the condition of the enslaved in the American South and Jamaica and the colonized in South Asia. By placing these histories from above and below together, this article argues that it is impossible to conceive of the English working class making itself and being made at remove from the enslaving and colonizing projects of global capital.
Today and Tomorrow
Cycle rickshaws continue to play an important role in meeting the mobility demands in South Asian cities. Current transport policies, however, do not support their use. Rickshaws are viewed as a cause of congestion and a profession in which rickshaw owners exploit poor people. This article presents data from published studies to argue against those views. Data from Delhi metro users suggests that as cities expand their public transport services, rickshaws will continue as an important feeder mode in the future. Recent studies also suggest that if separate lanes are created for non-motorized vehicles (which can be used by bicycles as well), then rickshaws and motorized vehicles will experience less congestion and non-motorized vehicles will be exposed to lower traffic crash risk. This article advocates the collection of relevant data concerning rickshaw trips and the number of rickshaws in future travel surveys and that appropriate infrastructures should be designed to facilitate their movement.
This article explores what it means to decolonize feminism in the university today. Pushing against the idea that feminism in the university is disengaged from broader struggles, the article suggests a complex relationship between feminism as a knowledge project and as a political one. While feminism has had a long-standing decolonizing imperative within the university, equally challenging has been the decolonization of feminism. The #MeToo era has foregrounded the universalizing horizon of feminism, posing new challenges for this project. Arguing for a more complex understanding of generations and the politics of location in these debates, the article draws on a recent and not so recent feminist archive, such as the articulation of ideas of intersectionality and the ways in which multiple feminisms have been understood, in order to explore decolonizing feminism today.
Corporate land invasion, people's power, and the Left in India
Tanika Sarkar and Sumit Chowdhury
This article discusses the events at Nandigram in West Bengal where in 2006-7, a Left Front government collaborated with an Indonesian corporate group to forcibly acquire land from local peasants and construct a Special Economic Zone. The events are placed against the broad processes of accumulation by dispossession through which peasants are losing their land and corporate profits are given priority over food production. The article looks at the working and implications of the policies and the way in which a Communist Party-led government had become complicit with such processes over the last decade. It critically examines the logic that the government offered for the policies: that of the unavoidable necessity of industrialization, demonstrating that industrialization could have been done without fresh and massive land loss and that industries of the new sort do not generate employment or offset the consequences of large scale displacements of peasants. The article's central focus is on the peasant resistance in the face of the brutalities of the party cadres and the police. We explore the meaning of the victory of the peasants at Nandigram against the combined forces of state and corporate power, especially in the context of the present neo-liberal conjuncture.
Craig Jeffrey. Timepass: Youth, Class, and the Politics of Waiting. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2010. vii + 221 pages.
Manuela Ciotti. Retro-Modern: Forging the Low-Caste Self. London, New York, and New Delhi: Routledge, 2010. xvii + 292 pages.