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Israeli Ultra-Orthodoxy

Credit and Credibility

Hadas Weiss

In recent decades, members of Israeli ultra-Orthodoxy have been exhibiting self-denial, stringency, and unwillingness to enter the workforce despite material hardships. Public discourse has long considered theirs an 'intentional poverty', yet the parsimoniousness attributed to them and its presumed intentionality are losing credibility. I use the concept of credit—in both its economic and its normative sense—to analyze social regulation among Israeli ultra-Orthodoxy. I look at the community's efficiency in redistributing its members' resources through interconversion of social and material goods. I go on to identify the limits that self-regulation comes up against under capitalist pressures and show how these pressures express themselves in ultra-Orthodox norms and practices. Finally, I relate credit and credibility to the larger issue of excess in the present day.

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Godless People and Dead Bodies

Materiality and the Morality of Atheist Materialism

Jacob Copeman and Johannes Quack

Atheists are not the only people who donate their bodies, yet the practice is strikingly prevalent in a variety of atheist circles. We concentrate here on the Indian case, exploring body donation as a key instance of the material culture of atheism. Recent efforts to reinvigorate study of the material culture of religion are to be welcomed, but they should be extended to non-religion in order to address the irony that sees scholars representing materialism as an abstract doctrine and, hence, as immaterial. Body donation holds value for Indian atheists as a bridge between 'positive' and 'negative' modes of atheist thought and action. It also provides a ready-made solution for atheist activists keen to circumvent the cadaver-centered death rituals they find so redundant.

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‘Coming to Look Alike’

Materializing Affinity in Japanese Foster and Adoptive Care

Kathryn E. Goldfarb

In contemporary Japan, non-biological family ties are not easily legible as kinship. This article examines how parents of adopted and fostered children in Japan mobilize material similarity to represent their kinship relationships as existing objectively in the world, untainted by socially suspect desires. Material resemblance is taken up as a semiotic framework through which people self-reflexively interpret the signs that are understood as relatedness, what I call ‘kinship technologies’. Focusing on two local categories used to conceptualize non-biological kinship (kizuna and en), this article explores how long-lasting relational ties are embodied through caring proximity and physical similarity. However, difference always lingers within similarity: the borderlines between family and non-family; made connections or inherent, ineffable ties; and observable markers of otherness, such as race and ethnicity.

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Natures of Naturalism

Reaching Bedrock in Climate Science

Martin Skrydstrup

By exploring the multiple natures of a naturalist cosmology within the empirical terrain of climate science, this article examines what remains of the nature-culture divide in the Anthropocene. While scientists are familiar with critiques of scientific realism and work within a repertoire of multiple natures, they also maintain the boundary between the epistemic object (climate) and the material object (ice). While for science studies, the main object of science is socio-material practices, such as ice core drilling, for the scientists this drilling is more of a theatrical performance for the public and the funders. I argue that the tension between science and science studies can be circumnavigated by a double move: remaining faithful to the ways in which scientists draw modern boundaries, but also eliciting their reflexive ways of dealing with multiple natures from within a naturalist cosmology.

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Anticipating Relations

Beyond Reciprocity and Obligation in the Ger Districts of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Elizabeth Fox

In the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar, known as ger districts, a growing number of rural-to-urban migrants live without access to formal urban infrastructure or regular incomes. Under these challenging material conditions, personal networks take precedence, providing and regulating access to employment and meat provisioning. Looking beyond discussions of anticipation among migrants focusing on the goals of migration, I interrogate the role of anticipation in the making and maintaining of relational networks. Existing analyses of such networks in Mongolia have generally relied on idioms of reciprocity or obligation. Focusing instead on material transfers and transactions among ger district residents reveals such networks to be more ambiguous and prone to failure than notions of reciprocity or obligation can easily accommodate. This article argues that the productive contradiction within the concept of anticipation – encompassing both expectative waiting and pre-emptive action – can illuminate new aspects of these relations and networks in action.

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Gerben Zaagsma

This article discusses the importance of Yiddish for our understanding of European Jewish histories and highlights some of the particularities of using Yiddish materials in historical research and the problems involved in doing so. There is a wealth of Yiddish materials available for historians yet many sources still need to be catalogued and disclosed. At the same time it is often not easy for historians to acquire the necessary linguistic skills to use Yiddish sources in their research, both because of practical reasons and a lack of awareness of the specific linguistic needs of historians. Opening up the field of Yiddish to historians though is very important to understand the rich and varied histories of Europe's Jews better, particularly before the Holocaust.

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Caring for men in contemporary Russia

Gendered constructions of need and hybrid forms of social security

Rebecca Kay

This article explores gendered constructions of care and need and the ways in which these affect men's social security in contemporary Russia. It is suggested that gendered caring practices, besides overburdening women and devaluing their labor, also contribute to a trivialization of men's needs and their marginalization in, and/or exclusion from, complex forms of social security. Social security is understood to encompass both material and emotional support structures and networks, involving both state and nonstate actors. It is argued that hybrid forms of provision are emerging, with new actors challenging and blurring strict categorizations of state/nonstate, formal/informal, and material/ emotional in their contribution to social security. The article draws on a study of the Altai Regional Crisis Center for Men and its attempts to identify men's needs for social support, to provide appropriate forms of care, and to enhance the social security of men in the Altai Region of Western Siberia.

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Chris Buck

In this article I argue that Fanon articulates a more complex relationship between his notion of radical freedom and slavery reparations that allows for the possibility of demanding the latter without sacrificing the former. While at times Fanon seems to posit a simple dilemma according to which one must choose between freedom and reparations, he also describes a vicious cycle in which the taking of material reparations appears to be a precondition for freedom, yet the claim for reparations appears to come at the cost of adoption of a constraining cultural identity. In other words, the process of attaining the material conditions necessary for radical freedom through slavery reparations can have the opposite effect of inhibiting freedom. The question of the possibility of taking reparations without sacrificing freedom becomes a question about the possibility of thinking about enslaved Africans and their descendants as a collective entitled to reparations without positing a constraining cultural identity.

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A Hybrid New World... or Not?

Transformation versus Hybridisation in Early Modern World

Fatima Essadek

During the last three decades, early modern scholarship has drawn heavily on twentieth-century theorisation to analyse the socio-cultural conditions in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. An example of such scholarly endeavours is the attempt to appropriate the concept of hybridity to explain the constitution of cultural identity. This article re-evaluates this critical trend by reviewing the model of hybridity in relation to early modern cultures; it simultaneously proposes the existence of another cultural pattern that is here labelled ‘cultural transformation’. The article also contends that hybridisation is more manifest in the domain of material culture: the ethno-cultural characteristics of early modern communities made them more receptive towards accepting and integrating material objects but less welcoming towards assimilating beliefs, values or cultural practices from other nations.

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Valentina Mitkova

This article focuses on Bulgarian women writers’ activities, their reception, and their problematic existence in the context of the modernizing and emancipatory trends in Bulgarian society after the Liberation (1878–1944). The analysis is based on the concept of the (intellectual) hierarchy of genders and mechanisms of gender tutelage, traced in the specifics of women’s literary texts, their critical and public resonance, and the authors’ complicated relation with the Bulgarian literary canon. The question is topical, given the noticeable absence of women writers in the corpus of Bulgarian authors/ literary texts, thought and among those considered representative in terms of national identity and culture. The study is based on primary source materials such as works by Bulgarian women writers, the periodical press from the period, various archival materials, and scholarly publications relevant to the topic.