Since 1994, the Zapatista political autonomy project has been claiming that “another world is possible”. This experience has influenced many intellectuals of contemporary radical social movements who see in the indigenous organization a new political alter-native. I will first explore some of the current theories on Zapatism and the crossing of some of authors into anarchist thought. The second part of the article draws on an ethnography conducted in the municipality of Chenalhó, in the highlands of Chiapas, to emphasize some of the everyday practices inside the self-proclaimed “autonomous municipality” of Polhó. As opposed to irenic theories on Zapatism, this article describes a peculiar process of autonomy and brings out some contradictions between the political discourse and the day-to-day practices of the autonomous power, focusing on three specific points linked to economic and political constraints in a context of political violence: the economic dependency on humanitarian aid and the “bureaucratic habitus”; the new “autonomous” leadership it involved, between “good government” and “good management”; and the internal divisions due to the return of some displaced members and the exit of international aid.
Views from its day-to-day praxis
Mid-nineteenth-century Russian ethnography used fiction, artistry and education to enlighten the masses. Maksimov’s One Year in the North became one of the first examples of this new style of ethnography. Maksimov constructs ‘cultural masks’ regarding northern people (Samoyeds, Lapps, Karels, Zyrians). His impressions are developed out of long traditions and personal characterisations, such as: ‘little brothers’, blacksmiths, tricksters, ‘friends of deer and dogs’. The most interesting positions on his ‘evolutionary ladder’ are the first and the last, which belong to the Samoyeds and the Zyrians. Samoyeds find themselves partly outside the human space, but they are most diverse in the aspect of artistry. Zyrians, on the other hand, constitute a concern to their well-being. Maksimov’s biases are typical for this period of ethnographic development. Although Maksimov appreciates the spoken word, his colonial discourse replaced it by repulsion for Finno- Ugric languages. Artistry in the text of ‘ethnographic fiction’ enriches scientific discourse.
Cutting and Connecting—'Afrinesian' Perspectives on Networks, Relationality, and Exchange
Knut Christian Myhre
This introduction sketches the history of anthropological network analysis and examines its influence and significance with regard to contemporary conceptual and theoretical concerns in the discipline. It is argued that recent Melanesian ethnography is an effect of, and owes a debt to, certain mid-twentieth-century developments in Africanist anthropology. These debts allow for the elicitation of concepts and concerns from Melanesianist anthropology and their deployment in the analysis of African ethnography. Such deployment may in turn explore the limits of these conceptual constructs and allow for their return in distorted and extended forms. As demonstrated by the contributors to this special issue, the historical relationships between Melanesian ethnography and Africanist anthropology hence enable an exchange of theoretical gifts and traffic in analytics that cut the network and separate the two regions, thus allowing for a new form of anthropological comparison.
An Ordinary Tragedy in Now-Capitalist Albania
‘Business as usual’ in contemporary Albania takes place between different and conflicting systems of meaning and value. Drawing from ethnographic material collected in Tirana, Albania, this article examines the complexities of social and economic life in a city where distinct moral economies routinely clash with the capitalist principle of profit. Starting from the ethnographic impulse to learn how two local booksellers made sense of the contradictory systems of meaning operating in their everyday lives, the analysis shows how a grinding of discordant value systems produced the more general paradox of an ‘ordinary tragedy’.
Ethnography between the Virtue of Patience and the Anxiety of Belatedness Once Coevalness Is Embraced
In view of this issue's focus on time and temporalities, I want to discuss a distinctive problem concerning the ethnographic representation of fieldwork experiences. Faced with increased time pressure to complete degree work and the present trend that emphasizes efficiency in graduate training, scholars are finding traditional ideals of temporality in research to be challenged as a professional standard of ethnography at the outset of their careers. To me, this compelling development in the current evolution of social and cultural anthropology needs detailed discussion in reassessing the norms of the long-established ethos of anthropological research.
Dilemmas of the Present and the Past
An honest statement to begin with would be that the place of anthropology in Russian society is something of a relativity puzzle. Some can define its place but are not sure what exactly anthropology is. Others can define what anthropology is but are not quite sure what place it occupies. A few suppose they know both. The majority are not aware that either exists.
The issue is a complex one, and I do not have a handy equation to reduce it to a single meaningful set of answers, but I will try to delineate some of the facets that shape its general contours.
Anthropological Approaches to the Study of Children in the Middle East
Erika Friedl and Abderrahmane Moussaoui
For several reasons there exist only relatively few ethnographic studies of children in the Middle East or in the diaspora. Accordingly, the articles in this issue of Anthropology of the Middle East represent thematically and theoretically highly divergent projects, all based on ethnographic topics and methodologies. Geographically they encompass different locations, and thematically they range from the history of childhood in Iran to matters of socio-cultural integration in Austria; from legal matters concerning youths in Algeria to socio-psychological problems of schoolchildren in Lebanon and to parent-child dynamics in Morocco. The short research, book and conference reports in this issue emphasize approaches and topics in critical anthropology as applied to the Middle East.
The Poetry and Relationality of Animal Bodies in Kilimanjaro
Knut Christian Myhre
This article extends Malcolm Ruel's notion of 'non-sacrificial ritual killing' to explore the mode of butchering and the sharing of meat among the Chagga-speaking people of Tanzania. It is argued that these processes are forms of elicitation and decomposition that can be illuminated by analytics developed from Melanesian ethnography. However, it is shown that these processes emerge as such only when the language use surrounding and pertaining to butchering is taken into consideration. On this basis, it is argued that butchering constitutes a poetic enunciation that both distorts and expands the mode of revelation and the relational form described from Melanesia. Finally, it is claimed that this entails an alternative relationship between language and life that recasts the relation between vernacular and analytical language, as well as between theory and ethnography.
Affective States—Entanglements, Suspensions, Suspicions
Mateusz Laszczkowski and Madeleine Reeves
The aim of this special issue is to bring a critical discussion of affect into debate with the anthropology of the state as a way of working toward a more coherent, ethnographically grounded exploration of affect in political life. We consider how the state becomes a 'social subject' in daily life, attending both to the subjective experience of state power and to the affective intensities through which the state is reproduced in the everyday. We argue that the state should be understood not as a 'fiction' to be deconstructed, but as constituted and sustained relationally through the claims, avoidances, and appeals that are made toward it and the emotional registers that these invoke. This article situates these arguments theoretically and introduces the subsequent ethnographic essays.
Erin R. Eldridge
Coal ash, the waste generated at coal-burning power plants, is one of the largest waste streams in the United States, and it contains a range of contaminants, including arsenic and mercury. Disasters at coal ash waste sites in recent years have led to increased public scrutiny of coal ash in communities and have sparked policy debates, lawsuits, and complaints throughout the country. With emphasis on federal and state coal ash policies since the 1970s, this article highlights the synthesis of government and corporate power in coal ash politics, and the bureaucratic processes affecting communities near coal ash sites. Based on ethnographic research following the 2008 Tennessee Valley Authority coal ash disaster, as well as preliminary research on the “social life” of coal ash in North Carolina, this article specifically offers ethnographic insight into the lived experiences of social and ecological violence created, perpetuated, and normalized through bureaucratic processes.