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The Power of Letters

Mapping out a Judaism for Today with an Editorial Masterplan

Walter Homolka

It all started with the re-emergence of the German progressive movement in the early nineteen-nineties of the twentieth century. When progressive Jews had nothing more than an urge to find a positive Jewish identity from the sources of the liberal Jewish tradition a common prayerbook became the unifying factor. With no roofs over their heads and no funding for the establishment of community centres this prayerbook gave a strong message of togetherness. Published in two volumes (based on Siddur and Machzor of the RSGB in Great Britain, edited by Jonathan Magonet) in 1997, Seder haTefillot soon spread over all our congregations and far beyond in all German-speaking countries and became the movement prayerbook of the Union of Progressive Jews in Germany. It was accompanied by the Pessach Haggadah as edited by Michael Shire.

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The Power of Music

Issues of Agency and Social Practice

Norman Long

This article aims to contribute to the increasingly rich body of ethnographic and sociological studies that focus on processes of musical practice. After a brief introduction to the significance of music in social life, it outlines the advantages of adopting an actor-oriented analysis that gives close attention to issues of agency and emergent socio-cultural forms. This is followed by a brief encounter with the dynamics of musical performance as perceived by members of the Guarneri Quartet, after which two contrasting musical scenarios are analyzed in depth. The first focuses on music and ritual practices in the Peruvian Andes, and the second on the English musical renaissance of the early twentieth century. The article closes with a brief comment on the need to examine in depth the social components of musical composition and performance.

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Power, politics, and places

What's not neo-liberal?

John Clarke

I am delighted by the generous and critical engagement that Peter Little, Don Nonini, and Neil Smith have brought to my uneven and unsteady thoughts about neo-liberalism. I hope that this response maintains the tone and style of their thoughtful and thought-provoking comments. They all make examining the times and places of neoliberalism a central concern.

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Power/Knowledge Failure

Epistemic Practices and Ideologies of the Secret Police in Former East Germany

Andreas Glaeser

This paper traces the epistemic practices and ideologies that Stasi (East Germany's former secret police) used to construct the GDR peace and civil rights movements during the 1980s as one of the GDR's key enemies. In particular, the paper addresses the question of how communications in organized social encounters that are hierarchized by a cultivation of secrecy (legitimized by a Manichaean worldview) and corresponding myths about the distribution of knowledge and the proximity to an absolute social good have shaped interpretive processes. The particular epistemic style of Stasi is analyzed as a peculiar conflation of ethics and epistemology which was, ironically, profoundly undialectic, that is monothetic, and thus unable to react constructively to interpretive failures in response to a fast changing environment.

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Saskia Richter

This article uses the biography of the activist and Green Party co-founder Petra Kelly in order to rethink the Greens' founding process and to articulate a new conception of charismatic political leadership. It shows how Kelly used her activism in the new social movements as the basis for her leadership role in the Greens, and how her ongoing work in the peace movement provided her a means of maintaining power within the nascent party during the early 1980s. By examining Kelly's contributions to the Greens' approach to politics, the article shows that she was more than just a figurehead for the new party. Most importantly, the article shows that throughout her career as an activist and politician, Kelly used her biography to establish credibility and to support her unique style of charismatic leadership. The German public's response to Kelly reveals the influence of this charismatic leadership and shows how her movement-driven and biographically informed approach, which brought personal experiences and emotions into politics, was part of a larger transformation of the political in West Germany during the 1970s and 1980s.

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Demonstrating resistance

Politics and participation in the marches of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo

Victoria Ana Goddardl

This article explores ways in which the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo confronted the state on the violence perpetrated during Argentina's "dirty war" during the 1970s and early 1980s. Focusing particularly on the Marches of Resistance initiated during the last years of the military regime in 1981, the article argues that their resistance had an important effect on political culture, encouraging participation and innovative forms of political action. At the same time, shifts in political conditions also caused internal changes in the Mothers' movement. A discussion of the circumstances that resulted in a schism within the movement and current divergences in conducting the marches leads to reflections on different interpretations of the political.

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Steve Reyna

This essay is concerned with where the current of global political and economic events runs. It addresses this concern by erecting an argument in three stages. First, a string being theory (SBT) is outlined. Second, this theory is used to formulate an SBT approach to imperialism, one that might be imagined as Lenin by alternative (theoretical) means, emphasizing the role of violent force. The 'seven deadly sirens'—generalizations that predict the exercise of violent force under different conditions in imperial systems—are introduced. Third, certain post-1945 US government uses of violence are analyzed in terms of their fit with the seven sirens' predictions. Oil depletion is considered as contributing to systemic crisis in capital accumulation, and its role in Gulf War II is explored. It is concluded that US government violence is consistent with the sirens' predictions. The essay terminates with speculation about where the current runs.

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Peter Soppelsa

Chandra Mukerji, Impossible Engineering: Technology and Territoriality on the Canal du Midi (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009).

Sara Pritchard, Confluence: The Nature of Technology and the Remaking of the Rhône (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011).

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Assemblies and the struggle to diffuse power

Ethnographic examples and contemporary practices

Stefano Boni

The article is focused on the practical mechanisms of assembly management in egalitarian settings in a comparative perspective: on the one hand, I examine assemblies in what may be termed classic ethnographic settings (principally East African pastoralists); on the other hand, I turn to meetings in recent social movements (the Occupy movement in the United States and Slovenia; the 15M in Spain; Greece and Bosnia). I have two principal aims. First, I wish to identify and evaluate similarities and differences in the running of meetings with regard to processes of consensus building; the coordination of assemblies through the creation of roles and the menace of leadership; and the management of place, time, and speech. Second, I aim to evaluate current social movements' use of alterpolitics, intended as the practical and imaginary reference to group meetings of the historical, sectarian, or ethnic other.

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Dorothee Schaper

First, I want to say thank you for the invitation to speak here to you on the ‘holy mountain’ from a Protestant perspective. With me, you get a reverend from the Protestant church in Rhineland. I live with my bicultural family in Cologne and I work for the section on theology, ecumenics and interreligious dialogue at the Melanchthon Academy, the place for Protestant adult education in Cologne. For a long time it has been a place for Christian-Jewish and Christian-Muslim dialogue, and sometimes we succeed to talk as all three together. For example at the evangelischen Kirchentag in Cologne we organised an Abraham center and we signed the Cologne Peace Declaration, signed by representatives from synagogues, mosques and the churches.