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Martin Holbraad

This issue includes our First Book Symposium, a new feature for Social Analysis that replaces the book reviews section we have had for a number of years. In each regular issue of the journal, we shall be devoting this feature to a single book written by a first-time author, which in one way or another develops new potentials for anthropological analysis (this being the core intellectual mission of our journal). The book will be subjected to sustained critique by relevant scholars, to which the author will then respond. We hope that this more focused approach will allow for a deeper engagement with emerging currents of analysis than what the shorter book review format allows, providing also a platform for books by scholars who are not already established and well known.

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Grey Gardens and the Problem of Objectivity

Notes on the Ethics of Observational Documentary

Mathew Abbott

This article turns to the Maysles brothers’ 1975 film Grey Gardens to problematize the philosophical assumptions at work in debates about objectivity and direct cinema. With a suitable picture of documentary objectivity we can avoid endorsing the claim that no film can be objective or the corollary that only documentaries that reflexively acknowledge the biases of their makers can succeed aesthetically or ethically. Against critics who have attacked Grey Gardens for its problematic claims to objectivity as well as theorists defending it for how it undermines objectivity, I argue that the film’s objective treatment of its subjects is part of its aesthetic and ethical achievement. In the context of observational documentary, being objective does not mean taking a purely dispassionate stance toward one’s subjects, but treating them without prejudice or moralism and letting them reveal themselves.

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The Value of Nation

Bureaucratic Practices and the Lived Experience in the French Naturalization Process

Sarah Mazouz

Drawing on ethnographical observations made in the Naturalization Office of a prefecture of the Paris region, and on interviews carried out with bureaucrats and French citizens who have been naturalized, this article examines both the institutional process of granting citizenship as well as its impact on subjectivities. It investigates the assumptions and broad judgments that underlie the granting of French citizenship to see how norms and values linked to this procedure circulate between bureaucrats and applicants. It focuses on the idea of “deservingness,” linked to the act of being granted French citizenship, to determine how bureaucrats from the Naturalization Office and French naturalized citizens differently appropriate this notion. By addressing the articulated difference between bureaucratic practice and lived experience, this article aims to highlight the political, moral, and ethical dimensions at stake in the procedure of making foreigners into French citizens.

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Virtually a Historian

Blogs and the Recent History of Dispossessed Academic Labor

Claire Bond Potter

A contemporary history of higher education in the United States is being written on the Internet. Academic bloggers interrupt and circumvent the influence of professional associations over debates about unemployment, contingent labor, publishing, tenure review, and other aspects of creating and maintaining a scholarly career. On the Internet, limited status and prestige, as well as one's invisibility as a colleague, are no barrier to acquiring an audience within the profession or creating a contemporary archive of academic labor struggles. At a moment of financial and political crisis for universities, these virtual historians have increasingly turned their critical faculties to scrutinizing, critiquing, and documenting the neoliberal university. Although blogging has not displaced established sources of intellectual prestige, virtual historians are engaged in the project of constructing their own scholarly identities and expanding what counts as intellectual and political labor for scholars excluded from the world of full-time employment.

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In this open issue of German Politics and Society we are pleased to present

a number of contributions that address major aspects of current

debates in Germany. In our lead article, Helga Haftendorn sheds

light on the critical foreign policy triangle of Bonn, Paris, and Washington.

Always essential to the well being of each of these three

countries during the postwar period (indeed, an absolute cornerstone

to the flourishing of liberal democracies of the West), this triangular

relationship is about to experience major shifts in the years to

come. With the French openly challenging the Americans on all

fronts of public life—political, strategic, economic, cultural, even

moral—diplomacy will certainly become a good deal more complicated

for the new German government, as it tries to walk this

increasingly strained tightrope between Washington and Paris.

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"Ceremonies of Renewal"

Visits, Relationships, and Healing in the Museum Space

Laura Peers

Access to heritage objects in museum collections can play an important role in healing from colonial trauma for indigenous groups by facilitating strengthened connections to heritage, to ancestors, to kin and community members in the present, and to identity. This article analyzes how touch and other forms of sensory engagement with five historic Blackfoot shirts enabled Blackfoot people to address historical traumas and to engage in ‘ceremonies of renewal’, in which knowledge, relationships, and identity are strengthened and made the basis of well-being in the present. The project, which was a museum loan and exhibition with handling sessions before the shirts were placed on displays, implies the obligation of museums to provide culturally relevant forms of access to heritage objects for indigenous communities.

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Mater Litigans

Mothering Resistance in Early Eighteenth-Century Rome

Caroline Castiglione

This microhistory analyzes the efforts of a widowed mother, Teresa Boncompagni, to maintain custody of her only daughter, Cornelia. Teresa protested her brother-in-law's legal right to Cornelia's custody. The mother's resistance combined a savvy understanding of the Roman judicial system with an insistence upon the centrality of motherly affection and maternal daily care to the child's well-being. She argued that the concept of free will necessitated a period of childhood exempt from family pressure to marry the man her brother-in-law had chosen. Although Teresa's adversaries pronounced her views outrageous, and maternal affection and advocacy would later be sanitized to include affection but to exclude women's resistance, Teresa's efforts succeeded in convincing even her enemies that a good mother knew how to fight legally and that the emotional bond epitomized by affective mothering was paramount to the healthy development of the child.

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Daniel O'Shiel

Sartrean conceptions of the Ego, emotions, language, and the imaginary provide a comprehensive account of "magic" that could ultimately give rise to a new philosophical psychology. By focusing upon only one of these here—the imaginary—we see that through its irrealizing capabilities consciousness contaminates the world and bewitches itself in a manner that defies simple deterministic explication. We highlight this with an explication of what Sartre means by "nihilation" and the "analogon," and introduce a concrete example of nostalgia, hoping to lay the scene for a detailed study into the dynamic between our ontological freedom and its constitution and experience of phenomena as enchanting and bewitching. "Magical being" must therefore involve a deep, Sartrean analysis that explicates ontological freedom as becoming concretely engaged in both the real and irreal alike, whereby the imaginary as magic can lead to the most insane, as well as the most artistic, incantations.

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Walking Without Purpose

Sensations of History and Memory in Nagasaki City Rupert Cox

Rupert Cox

This article engages with two well-known episodes in Nagasaki's history by examining the everyday relationships between the discursive space of museums and the embodied space of walking. It is an examination of the exhibitive strategies and image conventions of sixteenth-century painted screens, namban byôbu, which depict the contact between Iberian visitors and city residents, and photographs of the trauma inflicted on victims of the atomic bombing of 1946. These two images collide in the presentation of the city to tourists, and I examine the ways that a new program of guided walks creates the opportunity for participants to experience commonplace sounds as the ephemeral residue of history. These sensations are made possible by the peripatetic routes that the guides, being long-term residents of the areas, create out of their own experiences.

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Natalya Gramatchikova

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.