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'An Expensive Death'

Walter Benjamin at Portbou

John Payne

As we returned south in the gloaming to Portbou, the doubts resurfaced. The Right is gathering strength again, not least in France and Spain. The borders may be open within Europe, but they remain largely closed to refugees and asylum-seekers from beyond Europe's borders. These nameless people include the bodies washed up every week on the shores of the Straits of Gibraltar, Africans trying in vain to escape tyranny, war and hatred and - the greatest oppression of all - poverty. What happened at Portbou is important to all of us. We all need to descend that staircase, confront our own mortality, confront the harm we do every day to one another and to our planet. The crimes that are committed by soldiers, police and bureaucrats - in our names.

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Did Policy Change Work?

Oregon Women Continue to Encounter Delays in Medicaid Coverage for Abortion

Bayla Ostrach

Women in poverty experience greater delays in the process of seeking abortion. Timely access to both safe abortion care and early prenatal care reduces morbidity and mortality among pregnant women. This article examines the impacts of a policy change intended to facilitate poor women's applications for pregnancy-related Medicaid (a federally funded, state-administered health coverage programme for the poorest Americans), in Oregon (Western U.S.). The mixed-methods data from this applied anthropology study demonstrate that though health coverage waiting times grew shorter on average, poor women and the clinic staff who cared for them continued to perceive delays in obtaining Medicaid coverage for abortion. Implementation of the Affordable Care Act in the U.S.A. (aka Obama-care) is now thought to be contributing to a return to greater delays in accessing prenatal care and abortion. More research and advocacy are needed to improve access to reproductive health care through state Medicaid programmes.

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Peter Marcuse

This article examines the conceptual structure of the Social City Program as it has been formulated in legislation and applied in practice. It raises serious questions as to the actual impact of the program as formulated, and suggests that conceptual clarity may help both to expose its flaws and to propose alternate positive potentials. The program has a complex intellectual underlay, and clarity in the concepts used can avoid some potential dangers in its implementation. More specifically, integration is not the opposite of exclusion, and inclusion is not the same as reducing poverty. Spatial clustering can either support or weaken solidarity. Enclaves and ghettos are not the same thing, although both reflect a clustering of population groups. Finally, emphasizing "social capital" can be a way of highlighting the strength of the oppressed or blaming them for their own oppression-and these distinctions are loaded with consequences for policy.

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Social Quality in Everyday Life

Changing European Experiences of Employment, Family and Community

Sue Yeandle

In this article the concept of 'social quality' is invoked as a way of exploring the impact, relevance and potential of policy and social structural developments for citizens' everyday lives. As a concept, 'social quality' embraces a range of themes each of which has received extensive sociological attention: social cohesion and solidarity as crucial elements in both citizenship and in social institutions such as family, neighbourhood and workplace; autonomy and empowerment as central to the individual's sense of identity and self-worth; economic security, which underpins everyday life and enables people to engage in everyday activities and to approach their future without fear of poverty; and social inclusion, the involvement of individuals in social, economic and cultural aspects of collective life.

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Social Capital and Health

Research Findings and Questions on a Modern Public Health Perspective

Ota de Leonardis

This article aims at contributing to the discussion on the features of public health systems consistent with the broader definition of health – broader than the strictly bio-medical one – which is currently accepted in the related literature. The questions it raises are on how social capital influences well-being, and on whether and how it can be recognized and cultivated as a basic resource for health, and integrated into the health systems. In the first part, research literature on the ways health conditions are correlated with both poverty and social capital is briefly discussed. In the second part, several cases on health prevention and rehabilitation programs are analysed in some detail, as they appear to improve the health conditions of a community by investing in its 'social capital'. The main insights are on how to combine social protection with individual agency.

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Guarding the Body

Private Security Work in Rio de Janeiro

Erika Robb Larkins

Drawing on 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork in the private security industry, this article focuses on the training of low-level guards, examining the centrality of the body and embodied experience to their work in hospitality settings. In a racially stratified society in which lower-class, dark-skinned bodies are oft en equated with poverty and criminality, security guards are required to perform an image of upstanding, respectable, law-abiding citizens in order to do their jobs protecting corporate property. Guards learn techniques of body management at security schools as part of their basic training. They also learn how to subdue the bodies of others, including those of white elites, who represent a constant challenge to their authority. Working from my own experiences as a student in private security schools, I argue for the relevance of an understanding of the body and its significations to private security work.

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‘Abd al-Raḥīm Kamāl's Dahsha

An Upper Egyptian Lear

Noha Mohamad Mohamad Ibraheem

This article investigates the pivotal cultural and socio-political issues affecting Egyptian society that ‘Abd al-Raḥīm Kamāl, a young Egyptian scriptwriter, represents in his television series Dahsha (Perplexity, 2014). This Ṣaʿīdī (Upper Egyptian) adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear raises issues including widespread and grinding poverty, the marginalization of women, the stigma attached to illegitimate children, and the continuing dependence upon patriarchal leadership, with Egypt’s 2011 revolution hovering in the background. Kamāl’s divergences from Shakespeare’s play in terms of characterization and plot create a different, culturally oriented interpretation of Lear. The article also examines the effects of transposing Lear from the stage into a different medium – the television screen. Finally, it distinguishes between the two literary concepts of ‘adaptation’ and ‘proximization’ by analysing how Egyptian audiences and critics responded to the series.

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Echoes of austerity

Policy, temporality, and public health in South Africa

Theodore Powers

South Africa’s post-apartheid era has been marked by the continuation of racialized socioeconomic inequality, a social situation produced by earlier periods of settlement, colonization, and apartheid. While the ruling African National Congress has pursued a transformative political agenda, it has done so within the confines of neoliberal macroeconomic policy, including a period of fiscal austerity, which has had limited impact on poverty and inequality. Here, I explore how policy principles associated with austerity travel across time, space, and the levels of the state in South Africa, eventually manifesting in a public health policy that produced cuts to public health services. In assessing these sociopolitical dynamics, I utilize policy process as a chronotope to unify diverse experiences of temporality relative to austerity-inspired public health policy.

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Austerity in Africa

Audit cultures and the weakening of public sector health systems

James Pfeiffer

Austerity across Africa has been operationalized through World Bank and IMF structural adjustment programs since the 1980s, later rebranded euphemistically as poverty reduction strategies in the late 1990s. Austerity’s constraints on public spending led donors to a “civil society” focus in which NGOs would fill gaps in basic social services created by public sector contraction. One consequence was large-scale redirection of growing foreign aid flows away from public services to international NGOs. Austerity in Africa coincides with the emergence of what some anthropologists call “audit cultures” among donors. Extraordinary data collection infrastructures are demanded from recipient organizations in the name of transparency. However, the Mozambique experience described here reveals that these intensive audit cultures serve to obscure the destructive effects of NGO proliferation on public health systems.

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Against ethnicity

Ring composition and conflict resolution

Paul Richards

Ethnicity—once the preserve of anthropologists and folklorists studying disappearing tribal and peasant cultures—has become an important element in the models and explanations of a broader community of social scientists seeking to comprehend post-Cold War social disorder. But is ethnicity equivalent to variables such as resource competition or poverty? Ethnicity can be viewed as an epiphenomenon. The argument has major consequences for the way ethnic conflicts are analyzed and resolved. The article considers neo-Durkheimian conceptual tools for uncovering mechanisms generative of ethnic epiphenomena, and explores a neo-Durkheimian approach to conflict resolution. Specifically, Mary Douglas's ideas on ring composition are extended to include the ethnomusicological project of the Hungarian composer Béla Bartók, and then applied to epiphenomena emerging from the protracted civil conflict in the West African country of Sierra Leone.