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"A Quick Sideways Look and Wild Grin"

Joyful Assemblages in Moments of Girlhood

Susanne Gannon, Kristina Gottschall and Catherine Camden Pratt

Through stories of young girls at play produced in a collective biography workshop we trace flows of desire and excesses of joy, and bring recent feminist work on positive affect into our analysis of girlhood becomings. Ringrose (2011, 2013) argues that the concept of the “affective assemblage“ brings together affect, embodiment, and relationality in powerful ways to enable a mapping of how desire moves through the social. She suggests that the affective capacities of assemblages can be “life affirming or life destroying“ (2011: 602). In this article we are interested in mapping flows of desire, moments of joy and possibility in moments of girlhood, and in the limitations and contingencies within these moments that shut down these possibilities. We suggest that the methodology of collective biography (Davies and Gannon 2006, 2009, 2013) offers potential for tracing the microparticulars of girlhood becomings.

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What Makes a Megaproject?

A Review of Global Hydropower Assemblages

Grant M. Gutierrez, Sarah Kelly, Joshua J. Cousins and Christopher Sneddon

This article reviews how global hydropower assemblages catalyze socioecological change in the world’s rivers. As a quintessential megaproject, massive dams and the hydropower they generate have long captivated the modernist development imaginary. Yet, despite growing recognition of the socio-ecological consequences of hydropower, it has recently assumed a central role in supporting renewable energy transitions. We highlight three trends in hydropower politics that characterize global hydropower assemblages: mega-dams as markers of nation-state development; river protection by territorial alliances and social movements opposed to hydropower; and transitions from spectacular, centralized hydropower installations to the propagation of small and large hydropower within climate mitigation schemes. We offer insights on how global hydropower assemblages force examination beyond traditional categories of “mega” through more holistic and grounded analyses of significance.

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Lorenzo Cañás Bottos

Based on fieldwork undertaken in 2004–2005, I analyze how the Irish border has been constructed, represented, challenged, and imagined by both the state and borderlanders as a means to discuss processes of constructing sovereignty. I focus on the concept of “assemblage” to integrate and highlight the tensions and contradictions between different levels of analysis: the juridical, the academic representation of the border, and the memories and practices of borderlanders. I argue that sovereignty, rather than a claim to be taken at face value by states, is the emergent property of the combination of a variety of forces, forms, and practices involved in the making of borders, and that its very enactment also produces anti-sovereign effects.

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Collecting the Asante

African Agency in a Pre-colonial Assemblage

Fiona Savage

In 1818 Thomas Edward Bowdich presented a small collection of artifacts to the British Museum that was assembled during the first diplomatic mission to Asante in 1817. Unfortunately, Bowdich did not disclose how he went about forming this collection but circumstantial evidence contained in his published account (1819) and archival records strongly suggest that a small number of these items, including seven examples of gold work, were given by the King of Asante to Bowdich for the British Museum. This article will present new research that calls into question the artistic, economic, and technological interpretations that have dominated the public display and reception of these items since their acquisition. By reexamining the social and political contexts within which these objects were collected and donated, an undeniable African agency is revealed that demonstrates that efforts were made to self-promote and represent.

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John Clarke

This article explores some concerns about the concept of neo-liberalism, suggesting that it has been stretched too far to be productive as a critical analytical tool. Neo-liberalism suffers from promiscuity (hanging out with various theoretical perspectives), omnipresence (treated as a universal or global phenomenon), and omnipotence (identified as the cause of a wide variety of social, political and economic changes). Alternative ways of treating neo-liberalism as more contingent and contested are considered. These emphasize its mobile and flexible character, stressing processes of contextual assemblage, articulation, and translation. The article concludes by wondering whether the concept of neo-liberalism is now so overused that it should be retired.

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The Cyndi Lauper Affect

Bodies, Girlhood and Popular Culture

Kristina Gottschall, Susanne Gannon, Jo Lampert and Kelli McGraw

Using a collective biography method informed by a Deleuzian theoretical approach (Davies and Gannon 2009, 2012), this article analyses embodied memories of girlhood becomings through affective engagements with resonating images in media and popular culture. In this approach to analysis we move beyond the impasse in some feminist cultural studies where studies of popular culture have been understood through theories of representation and reception that retain a sense of discrete subjectivity and linear effects. In these approaches, analysis focuses respectively on decoding and deciphering images in terms of their normative and ideological baggage, and, particularly with moving images, on psychological readings. Understanding bodies and popular culture through Deleuzian notions of “becoming“ and “assemblage“ opens possibilities for feminist researchers to consider the ways in which bodies are not separate from images but are, rather, becomings that are known, felt, materialized and mobilized with/through images (Coleman 2008a, 2008b, 2008c, 2009, 2011; Ringrose and Coleman 2013). We tease out the implications of this new approach to media affects through three memories of girls' engagements with media images, reconceived as moments of embodied being within affective flows of popular culture that might momentarily extend upon ways of being and doing girlhood.

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Diana Espírito Santo

In this article I use my ethnographic data on an Afro-Cuban religion called Palo Monte to argue that ontologically discrepant ‘bits’ of the cosmos can become stuck together for particular purposes, at times producing ‘synchronicities’. I argue that the practitioners of this religion, Paleros, can be trained into producing synchronicities in the form of witchcraft. This coheres with a concept of self that can be seen as an assemblage rather than an essence. This article contributes to a person-centered theory of plasticity in relation to discussions on lenience. In Palo, discipline does not lie in molding one’s subjectivity or in searching for a deep self. Lenience is imperative as the principle with which the self articulates with its environment and itself.

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Cropscapes and History

Reflections on Rootedness and Mobility

Francesca Bray, Barbara Hahn, John Bosco Lourdusamy and Tiago Saraiva

Crops are a very special type of human artifact, living organisms literally rooted in their environments. Crops suggest ways to embed rootedness in mobility studies, fleshing out the linkages between flows and matrices and thus developing effective frameworks for reconnecting local and global history. Our focus here is on the movements, or failures to move, of “cropscapes”: the ever-mutating ecologies, or matrices, comprising assemblages of nonhumans and humans, within which a particular crop in a particular place and time flourishes or fails. As with the landscape, the cropscape as concept and analytical tool implies a deliberate choice of frame. In playing with how to frame our selected cropscapes spatially and chronologically, we develop productive alternatives to latent Eurocentric and modernist assumptions about periodization, geographical hierarchies, and scale that still prevail within history of technology, global and comparative history, and indeed within broader public understanding of mobility and history.

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Marxist morphologies

A materialist critique of brute materialities, flat infrastructures, fuzzy property, and complexified cities

Michał Murawski

This article critiques assumptions made by urban anthropologists and other scholars of cities, focusing on currently fashionable theories of infrastructure, materiality, and complexity. It problematizes how scholarship informed by actor-network theory, assemblage theory and other varieties of (post)postmodernism uses morphological optics and metaphors to represent social life, the material world, and existence itself as necessarily “flat,” “complex” or “fuzzy.” As a corrective, it proposes reorienting our social morphologies with reference to a Marxist notion of infrastructure, founded on a dynamic understanding of the relationship between determining economic base and determined superstructure. It constructs its theoretical edifice with reference to the remaking of post-1945 Warsaw as a socialist city through property expropriation and monumental architectural and planning works, and post-1989 attempts to unmake its socialist character through property reprivatization and unplanning.

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Powers of sovereignty

State, people, wealth, life

Aihwa Ong

Hardt and Negri's trilogy describes an American Empire as shaping a world split between global capital and disenfranchised multitude, leading to a final confrontation between the Empire of capital and the counter-Empire of workers everywhere. However, their interpretation is limited by their philosophical abstraction and revolutionary vision, which fails to recognize the implications of actually existing processes of sovereignty and capital at this global juncture. The situation found in Asia challenges their analysis. In contemporary China, experimental assemblages of sovereign powers, capital, techne, and ethics have not weakened, but, in fact, have strengthened political sovereignty, nationalist sentiments, and collectivist ethos, presenting a different picture of biopolitics from that of Hardt and Negri's global theory. The authoritarian outcomes in China are political solutions forged in circumstances that mingle the global, the historical, and the situated. This article argues that Asian aspirations are rearranging capitalism and political sovereignty as Hardt and Negri understand them.