Jean-Paul Sartre's account of the Look in Being and Nothingness is not straightforward and many conflicting interpretations have arisen due to apparent contradictions in Sartre's own writing. The Look, for Sartre, demonstrates how the self gains thematic awareness of the body, forming a public and self-conscious sense of how the body appears to others and, furthermore, illustrates affective and social aspects of embodied being. In this article, I will critically explore Sartre's oft-cited voyeur vignette in order to provide a coherent account of the Look and to illustrate the significance of intersubjectivity and self-consciousness in Sartre's work. Through considering Sartre's voyeur vignette and other examples of reflective self-consciousness, this article will examine epistemological, self-evaluative and ontological concerns in the constitution of reflective self-consciousness. It will be contended that Sartre's accounts of the Look and reflective self-consciousness within social relations can provide insight into the intersubjective nature of the shaping of the body and the significance of self-presentation within the social realm.
The American Baptist Missionary and Assamese Modernity
In the troubled area of “Assamese modernity” studies, always caught in the shadow of the Bengal Renaissance and its confident march toward cultural reawakening, the American Baptist Missionary is an important figure “looking” at the people, culture, and land in ways that are crucially different from the British. For this article's argument, it is the account produced by British administrator William Robinson, along with the letter he wrote on the Assamese language establishing it as a dialect of the Bengali, that bear examination alongside the writings of the Americans and, most specifically, Nathan Brown and Miles Bronson, who were best equipped and therefore most convincing and articulate in a counter effort to prove the separateness of the Assamese language. I look back at this corpus of writings that constitute an early debate on the identity of the Assamese and suggest that Assam's long history of resistant cultural politics and its peculiarly schizophrenic identity-making process may be traced to this early polarization of discourse between the British and Americans. While it might be too reductionist to claim that Assamese modernity is a legacy of the Americans, unlike the largely British inspired Bengal Renaissance, it is still worthwhile to examine the legacy of American Baptist missionaries in order to understand and distinguish Assamese modernity from the Bengali.
Looking Back and Looking Forward
This issue of ECA takes as its theme the importance of looking back in order the better to look forward. We can apply this in the first instance to our role as editors: this is the final edition of the journal to be published by Liverpool University Press. As from ECA 5.1 in July 2012, ECA will be published by Oxford and New York-based Berghahn, one of the leading independent academic publishers, with specialisations in cultural studies and visual media.
In this afterword, I begin by sharing a brief history of my early career as a non-Anglo-Celtic academic in an overwhelmingly Anglo-Celtic university environment in Australia. I examine how questions of non-Anglo-Celtic academic authority and accent play out in the process of teaching. I also explore the decolonizing impetus behind my early work White Nation (2000) both in terms of its conceptualization of Whiteness and Third-World-looking people and in terms of its reversal of the traditional research relations (a Lebanese analysing Anglo-Australians). I argue that despite this history there are many dimensions of the new politics of decolonization within anthropology that comes from outside my own tradition. I offer an examination of some of the features of this ‘new wave’ of decolonization and finish by looking into the decolonizing dimensions of my recent call to ‘respect anthropology’s elders’.
Nonrecording states between legibility and looking away
Barak Kalir and Willem van Schendel
In this theme section we explore why and when states knowingly refrain from recording people and their activities. States are not simply in pursuit of enhanced “legibility”; at times they also need to be able to “look away.” In explaining strategies of nonrecording, our focus is on how subjects negotiate with state recording agencies, how nonrecording relieves state agents from the burden of accountability, how the discretionary power of individual state agents affects (non)recording in unanticipated ways, and how states may project an illusion of vigorous recording internationally while actually engaging in deliberate nonrecording. Presenting case studies from China, Greece, the Netherlands, India, and Romania, we show that strategies of nonrecording are flexible, selective, and aimed at certain populations—and that both citizens and noncitizens can be singled out for nonrecording or derecording. In analyzing this state-produced social oblivion, divergences between national and local levels are of crucial significance.
Looking at Five Israeli Dystopias
This article analyzes different images of Judaism presented in dystopic (anti-utopian) Israeli novels written in two different decades. In the earlier novels, written during the 1980s, Judaism was portrayed as an ancient religion revived by zealots who terrorize Israeli society, Taliban-style. Then I look at the thorough changes that Israeli dystopias have gone through in the last decade: for the first time in this genre, Judaism is imagined in new ways. It is presented as a religion that is not 'frozen' or 'radical'. Its followers are not stereotypical Diaspora Jews, but, rather, representatives of new Jewish identities that are taking shape in current Israeli society. This is emblematic of the deep changes now taking place in Israeli Judaism, particularly the weakening of the traditionally sharp secular-religious dichotomy.
At the center of his ontological treatise, Being and Nothingness, in a section titled "The Look," Sartre creates a small narrative moment of dubious virtue in which he is able to resolve one of the truly vexing problems of phenomenology up to his time. It is the problem of the Other. How is it that one can apprehend the Other as subject? Previously, philosophy had sought to understand the other through reflection or attribution (and Sartre deals in particular with the Hegelian and Heideggerian accounts). But to regard the other as a reflection of oneself ends in an obvious solipsism: all others would be only reflections of oneself. To define the other as a subject simply because one saw a person standing there reduces subjectivity irretrievably to object status. And to attribute subjectivity to the other as an extension of experience with oneself as a subject renders one a source of mere doctrine through which to see others. Yet to proclaim the other to be unknowable as a subject leaves no basis upon which to speak about personal and social relations. I will argue that because Sartre's account of the look, his vision of the interpersonal as a subject-object relation, is couched within the realm of the visible, it takes the form of conflict. It will be my contention that being-for-others takes on a different character when articulated in terms of the spoken or "audible." And this difference will have certain socio-political ramifications.
Looking at the Disability Arts Movement from an Anthropological Perspective
This article will bring together two strands of anthropological theories on art and artefacts, the disability arts movement and the phenomenological approach to the study of material things. All three of these different perspectives have one thing in common: they seek to understand entities – be they human or nonhuman – as defined by their agency and their intentionality. Looking at the disability arts movement, I will examine how the anthropology of art and agency, following Alfred Gell's theorem, is indeed the 'mobilisation of aesthetic principles in the course of social interaction', as Gell argued in Art and Agency. Art, thus, should be studied as a space in which agency, intention, causation, result and transformation are enacted and imagined. This has a striking resonance with debates within the disability arts movement, which suggests an affirmative model of disability and impairment, and in which art is seen as a tool to affirm, celebrate and transform rather than a way of expressing pain and sorrow. I will use case studies of Tanya Raabe-Webber's work and of artistic representations of the wheelchair in order to further explore these striking similarities and their potential to redefine the role of art in imagining the relationship between technology and personhood. I will finish by looking at Martin Heidegger's conceptualisation of the intentionality of things, as opposed to objects, and will apply this to some artwork rooted in the disability arts movement.
Trapped Mobilities and Adventure in Morocco
This article examines how “irregular” migrants from West and Central Africa make sense of their trapped mobility in Morocco: for many, crossing into Europe has become almost impossible, returning to home countries “empty-handed” a shameful option, and staying very difficult in the face of repeated infringement of their rights. I explore the limits of contemporary depictions of a “migration crisis” that portray migrants south of the Mediterranean Sea as simply en route to Europe and fail to engage with (post)colonial entanglements. The article recalibrates the examinationof migrants’ lived experiences of stasis and mobility by exploring the emic notion of “adventure” among migrants “looking for their lives.” A focus on how migrants articulate their own (im)mobility further exposes and defies the pitfalls of abstract concepts such as “transit migration,” which is misleading in its implication of a fixed destination.
A Compassionate Look
“A Journey Inside” by Hossein Fatemi (Bridgeport Art Center, Chicago, 2015)