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“Space without people”

Austro-German Filmmaker, Bestselling Author and Journalist Colin Ross Discovers Australia

Siegfried Mattl

In 1929 prominent Austro-German filmmaker and author Colin Ross visited Australia with his family for several months. In his literary and cinematic work on Australia Ross establishes a perplexing argument: Australia’s “nordic myth” (the White Australia policy) exposes the continent to the peril of an Asian invasion. In accordance with concepts of cultural hegemony within the framework of the so-called German liberal imperialism and driven by Germany’s ambition to reestablish a presence in its former colonial realm, he advocates for the forced immigration of South European laborers to the continent to populate the vast “empty space” of Australia and guard against the menacing consequences of a British-Japanese pact. This article discusses the visual and literary strategies employed by Ross to popularize geo-political thinking in Germany, thereby inducing a shift in the travelogue genre from appealing to “colonial desire” to promoting the politics of an emerging imperialism.

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Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

The Shaping of a Community-Building Discourse among Israeli Pagans

Shai Feraro

This article charts the recent development of Modern Paganism in Israel (1999–2012) and analyzes the discourse maintained by Israeli modern-day Pagans when discussing questions of organization and of religious-political rights. As such it deals with the complexities of identifying oneself as a (Jewish-born) Pagan in Israel, the nation state of the Jewish people. I argue that although Israeli Pagans may employ a community-building discourse, they constantly fear the perceived negative consequences of public exposure. They see the bond between (Jewish) religion and the state in Israel as a main factor in the intolerance and even persecution that they expect from the government and from Haredim (“ultra-Orthodox” Jews). The result of this discourse during the first ten years or so of the presence of Modern Paganism in Israel can be seen through the metaphor of a dance, in which participants advance two steps, only to retreat one.

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Amir Har-Gil and Inbal Ben-Asher Gitler

Architecture and landscape constitute key aspects of fictional realistic drama in film and television. In fictional films whose plots take place on Israeli kibbutzim, on-site cinematography is a central means of achieving a realistic and dramatic portrayal of the communal settlement and its social space. In this article, we investigate five productions filmed on location at Kibbutz Yakum. We argue that these filmic representations of architecture and landscape reify the image of the kibbutz as an introverted society that denies individuals their privacy and upholds the centrality and presence of community. By comparing the actual sites with their presentation in films, we show that the physical space of the kibbutz was filmed selectively in a manner that immortalizes its communal, 'classical' image, which in reality no longer exists. The kibbutz's transformation from a communal to a privatized society is purposely veiled in these films, preserving the kibbutz's established image.

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Hebrew Literature in the ‘World Republic of Letters’

Translation and Reception, 1918–2018

Yael Halevi-Wise and Madeleine Gottesman

This article charts the international reception of modern Hebrew literature over the last hundred years. It brings large-scale data on the translation of Hebrew literature into conversation with current studies on the dissemination of ‘small’ languages around the world. We pay special attention to publishing trends, genres, literary awards, and other indicators of international recognition. More broadly, we question the scope and definition of a body of literature whose ancient traces have become invisible through translation and whose international readership includes, to some extent, members of its ‘own’ nation who do not share, however, the same language, territory, or cultural experiences. Our goal is to provide a more nuanced understanding of the presence of Hebrew literature beyond its national borders.

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Aging Away

Immigrant Families, Elderly Care, Ethnography and Policy

Rita Henderson

This article considers how immigrant retention relates to family obligations, drawing a complex portrait of a common family dilemma involving the care of aging kin. The ethnographic life-history approach offers an important perspective on how health and well-being are not simply structured by formal access to institutions of care, but by the socio-cultural, economic and geographic flexibility of families to accommodate their needs. Analysis draws on the interdependant migration histories of a family of six adult sisters originating in Tanzania. In the case of this family, the dilemma surrounding the care of aging parents is not so much caused by migration's disruption of traditional filial obligations. Instead, it is the effect of social pressures stirred in both sending and receiving countries, which frame opportunities for eventual social integration, relocation or sometimes reluctant repatriation. A reflexive approach argues for the active presence of ethnographers in policy debates.

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Spaces for Transdisciplinary Dialogues on the Relationship between Local Communities and Their Environments

The Case of a Rural Community in the Calchaquí Valley (Salta, Argentina)

Martha Crivos, María Rose Martínez, Laura Teves and Carolina Remorini

Our ethnographic research focuses on the perception and use of components of the natural environment in terms of routine activities carried out by the residents of a rural community in the Calchaqui Valley (Salta, Argentina). Life in this community is characterised by the presence of traditional subsistence activities – agriculture, cattle farming, textile manufacturing and ancestral medical practices – coexisting with business ventures focused on monoculture and export, tourism centred on landscape intervention and promotion of native products, and the growing key role of public policies in the areas of health and human development. In this context, a joint reflection on viability and sustainability of local and global practices and resources must be undertaken. Implementing intersectoral forums and focus-group discussions, governmental and non-governmental actors, researchers and local people must work conjointly to achieve a fresh patrimonial awareness of livelihood strategies based on their long interaction with a specific environment.

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Ritual Infrastructure

Roads to Certainty in Two Brazilian Religions

Inger Sjørslev

This article compares the ways in which two different religions in Brazil generate roads to certainty through objectification, one through gods, the other through banknotes. The Afro-Brazilian religion Candomblé provides a road to certainty based on cosmological ideas about gods whose presence in ritual is made indubitable through performance and social consensus. Candomblé has historically gained its spiritual force by being both marginal to mainstream religion and spatially peripheral. In contrast, the Neo- Pentecostal Universal Church of the Kingdom of God is located in easily accessible places within urban life. There is a certain parallel between these different locations and the difference in ritual roads to certainty in the two religions. The article draws out connections between different levels of infrastructure – material, spatial and ritual. The comparison between the two religions points to a social imaginary that in both cases has to do with how to deal with indeterminacies in life through objectification.

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T.M. Luhrmann

My proposal is that local theory of mind – what I call here the ‘infrastructures of mind’ – shapes the way people recognize and experience supernatural presence. That is, I argue that the local cultural invitation to imagine thoughts, mental images and inner sensations in particular ways – as potent, powerful and dangerous, for instance, or as the heart of an authentic self – will affect the way people recognize and experience God’s voice. I compare interview data from similar churches in the US, Ghana and Chennai, to show that there are systematic differences in the way people experience God and that these differences appear to reflect culturally different understandings of mind. The often-unnoticed infrastructures of the thing that thinks – the way we think about our thinking – alters not only our mental experience but also the very texture of our reality.

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Receiving the Gift of Cognitive Disability

Recognizing Agency in the Limits of the Rational Subject

Patrick McKearney

How valuable can people with mental disabilities be to others? In this article I present ethnographic material on L’Arche, a Christian charity that provides care. I describe how carers there are trained to see cognitive disability as producing not simply an absence of rational agency, but also the presence of a quite different way of actively inhabiting the world. I argue that, by learning to recognize and value this unusual kind of agency, carers in L’Arche subvert the terms of a recent philosophical debate about the worth of people with cognitive disabilities. They demonstrate that people can value others not just as rational moral subjects, or simply as passive objects of care, but also as charismatic and intuitive agents who actively depart from standard norms of personhood.

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Guillaume Lecomte

The comic book series La Vie secrète des jeunes is a sardonic account of French young people’s behaviours witnessed from the voyeuristic viewpoint of its author-illustrator, Riad Sattouf. Despite its caricatural and non-photorealistic visual style, the work conveys a strong sense of authenticity, mixing truth claims borrowed from established non-fiction traditions (journalism, autobiography and documentary). It is also a rare example of a non-fiction comic turned into live action. This article considers the comic and its TV adaptation, and discusses film’s ability to adapt an account of truth rooted in comics ontology. The article first provides a theoretical structure that details the intricacy of repeating the truth from comic to film. Second, it highlights the way in which the comic develops its authenticity by constantly reaffirming Sattouf’s presence and subjectivity. The article aims to show that the adaptation anonymises this viewpoint in order to re-construct the authenticity of its reality.