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The Social Life of Fighting Words

The Case of Political Correctness

Ronald S. Stade

Social Life of Things ( Appadurai 1986 ). The book is an anthology with contributions by historians and anthropologists on the movement of objects through “regimes of value” (4). The major contribution of the volume is not theoretical but methodological

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The Social Life of the “Forever Chemical”

PFAS Pollution Legacies and Toxic Events

Daniel Renfrew and Thomas W. Pearson

highlight the recent processes and conditions through which PFAS contamination is sometimes transformed from a status of largely invisible, normalized toxicity into a crisis that reshapes lived experience. In what follows, we review the history and social

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Materiality and Social Life

Theodore Schatzki

An important issue in contemporary social theory is how social thought can systematically take materiality into account. This article suggests that one way social theory can do so is by working with an ontology that treats materiality as part of society. The article presents one such ontology, according to which social phenomena consist in nexuses of human practices and material arrangements. This ontology (1) recognizes three ways materiality is part of social phenomena, (2) holds that most social phenomena are intercalated constellations of practices, technology, and materiality, and (3) opens up consideration of relations between practices and material arrangements. A brief practice-material history of the Kentucky Bluegrass region where the author resides illustrates the idea that social phenomena evince changing material configurations over time.

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The social life of categories

Affirmative action and trajectories of the indigenous

Bengt G. Karlsson

In this article I examine the ways in which the term “indigenous peoples“ is reworked in a specific South Asian context. I focus on the new, hybrid category of “indigenous tribe“ in the Indian state of Meghalaya. I argue that we can think of the indigenous tribe category as a strategic conflation of two different regimes of rights or political assertions. The first relates to the existing nation-state framework for affirmative action as expressed in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) status, while the second relates to the emerging global framework for asserting the rights of indigenous peoples. While the benefits of asserting the status of indigenous tribes is obvious, for example, preventing other, nonindigenous tribes from owning land in the state, the long-term gains seems more doubtful. Both affirmative action programs and indigenous peoples frameworks are motivated by a moral imperative to redress historical injustices and contemporary social inequalities. To evoke them for other ends might eventually backfire. The larger point I seek to make, however, is that political categories tend to take on a life of their own, escaping their intended purposes and hence applied by people in novel and surprising ways.

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The Firedrake

Local Society and Train Transport in Zhejiang Province in the 1930s

Ding Xianyong

The Hangzhou-Jiangshan railway across Zhejiang province was built in the early 1930s, connecting the mountainous interior to the coastal area. The construction in the context of military strategy enjoyed high government attention and was implemented with personnel and a workforce brought into the area. Drawing on literary writings, archival documents, and oral histories, this article traces the range of attitudes, reactions, and activities among the inhabitants of rural towns and villages in the area of Quzhou and Jinhua as well as migrants who had left for cities such as Shanghai and Hangzhou. The name “redrake” created by locals captures attitudes of mingled apprehension in the fact that a dragon, which is always associated with water, becomes a re-creature; curiosity and excitement in the association with dragon lantern processions; and practical usefulness in the closeness to the train that is literally a “re-vehicle” in Chinese.

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The Impact of Economic Restructuring on Social Life

Fate or Choice?

Jan Berting and Christiane Villain-Gandossi

Since the advent of industrial society we have witnessed an ongoing debate into the nature of the relationship between technological and economic developments on the one hand, and societal changes or transformations on the other. We ask the question whether it is more important for society to comply with the exigencies of techno-economic developments, as implied by determinist techno-economic ways of thinking; or whether society, as an organised political system, has opportunities for choice when confronted by major impacts resulting from the reorganisation of production systems and international markets.

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The Social Life of Blame in the Anthropocene

Peter Rudiak-Gould

The Anthropocene can be understood as a crisis of blame: it is not only a geological era but also a political zeitgeist in which the marks of human agency and culpability can be perceived nearly everywhere. Treating global climate change as a metonym for this predicament, I show how life in the Anthropocene reconfigures blame in four ways: it invites ubiquitous blame, ubiquitous blamelessness, selective blame, and partial blame. I review case studies from around the world, investigating which climate change blame narratives actors select, why, and with what consequences. Climate change blame can lead to scapegoating and buck-passing but also to their opposites. Given that the same ethical stance may lead to radically different consequences in different situations, the nobleness or ignobleness of an Anthropocene blame narrative is not a property of the narrative itself, but of the way in which actors deploy it in particular times and places.

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Kenyan khat. The social life of a stimulant by Carrier, Neil

KRISTOF TITECA

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Music as social life: the politics of participation by Turino, Thomas

ANDREW WHITEHOUSE

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Observational cinema. Anthropology, film, and the exploration of social life by Grimshaw, Anna and Amanda Ravetz

VÉRONIQUE DUCHESNE