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The Fate of 'Backwardness'

Portuguese Expectations over Modernisation

Catarina Frois

In Portugal, terms such as 'modernisation', 'progress' and 'development' are continually invoked by a wide range of social actors, representing the right path and ultimate goal of all political and social change, but on the other hand conceal the actual truth that, to use Latour's expression: 'We have never been modern'. The result is that the demand for modernisation is accompanied by the parallel reification of 'backwardness'. Alluding to Portugal's peripheral condition, to its distance from the rest of Europe and so forth, is part of common everyday discourse, and the country is typically portrayed as a kind of European backwater, forever lagging behind more advanced states. This article aims to present and discuss how backwardness and modernisation are recurrently present in political discourse as a leitmotiv for social, economic and cultural change and the way it is incorporated into a broader and rooted self-representation of the Portuguese modus vivendi and national features.

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Chung-Hao Ku

In Feeling Backward , Heather Love studies a range of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century queer texts that are often dismissed as too depressing and too retrograde in the post-Stonewall era. According to Love, the stakes of dismissing such

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John Carmichael's Journey from Aleppo to Basra (1754)

A Pluralized View of the Enlightenment Discourse of Improvement

Mohammad Sakhnini

This article shows how the Enlightenment notion of improvement in a cross-cultural context cannot be one of constant polarization. Without ever travelling to the Middle East, the Scottish Enlightenment literati proposed that the Middle East is backward and primitive in its economic and material infrastructure. Europe is progressing while the Middle East remained stuck in ancient times. John Carmichael could not escape the European repository of knowledge about the Orient. In his “Journey from Aleppo to Basra” (1754), he sometimes considered Arabs are irrational, backward and primitive. Yet the conditions of traveling in an Arab caravan invited him to interact with the people he encountered. He socialized and exchanged services with the Arabs. At the same time he learned how modern progress needs not be looked at as one of complete banishment of ancient rituals and traditions from the past. The journey in the Middle East has its educational effects.

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“Stop it, f*ggot!”

Producing East European Geosexual Backwardness in the Drop-In Centre for Male Sex Workers in Berlin

Victor Trofimov

In this article I examine the negotiations of national and sexual belonging of a Romanian gay sex worker in Berlin in the contemporary geosexual context defined by binarism between ‘modern’, ‘liberal’ and ‘tolerant’ Western Europe and its ‘traditionalist’ and ‘homophobic’ East European Other. I analyse how, by means of an overt display of his own homosexuality, the sex worker symbolically distances himself from his native country. By extension, this reinforces the image of the East and its inhabitants as inherently homophobic and, therefore, backwards. The article is based on ethnographic research in the drop-in centre for male sex workers in Berlin, an environment that reveals how deeply contemporary geosexual differences are anchored in the cultural logic of everyday life.

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Temperamental Differences

The Shifting Political Implications of Cousin Marriage in Nineteenth-Century America

Susan McKinnon

marriage ( McKinnon 2013 ; McKinnon and Cannell 2013a) . At the lower, barbarous, and backward end were marriages that occurred in isolated places outside the currents of modern life, that turned in-and-in on themselves, and/or that were aristocratic and

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Black Moves

Moments in the History of African-American Masculine Mobilities

Tim Cresswell

, or excessive, free, and resistant on the other. The account that follows is meant to be read alongside other accounts of black mobilities, including those that find more room for celebration. The remainder of this article proceeds backward. It starts

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Infrastructures of progress and dispossession

Collective responses to shrinking water access among farmers in Arequipa, Peru

Astrid Oberborbeck Andersen

population that was previously sustaining the economy of the city is now considered backward. In 2011, close to 9,500 hectares were being cultivated within the area of metropolitan Arequipa. Although protected by provincial authorities, the campiña

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Michał Buchowski

Western representations of the Other are criticized by anthropologists, but similar hegemonic classifications are present in the relationships between anthropologists who are living in the West and working on the (post-socialist) East, and those working and living in the (post-communist) East. In a hierarchical order of scholars and knowledge, post-socialist anthropologists are often perceived as relics of the communist past: folklorists, theoretically backward empiricists, and nationalists. These images replicate Cold War stereotypes, ignore long-lasting paradigm shifts as well as actual practices triggered by the transnationalization of scholarship. Post-socialist academics either approve of such hegemony or contest this pecking order of wisdom, and their reactions range from isolationism to uncritical attempts at “nesting intellectual backwardness“ in the local context (an effect that trickles down and reinforces hierarchies). Deterred communication harms anthropological studies on post-socialism, the prominence of which can hardly be compared to that of post-colonial studies.

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The Notion of Modernity in Nineteenth-Century Spain

An Example of Conceptual History

Javier Fernández Sebastián and Gonzalo Capellan de Miguel

This article provides an account of the concepts of modernidad and modernismo in the Spanish language, chiefly in Spain, from the end of the eighteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth century. This account also reflects the peculiarities of how conceptual history is being conducted in Spain, which resulted in the recently published Diccionario de Conceptos Políticos y Sociales del Siglo xix Español. The authors conclude that an examination of these two terms reveals that the emphasis upon Spanish singularity has been exaggerated and that, despite the presumed historical backwardness of the country, Spain played an outstanding role in the creation of the language of modernity and postmodernity.

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The men who knew too much

Sardines, skills, and the labor process in Jaffa, Israel, 1948–1979

Naor Ben-Yehoyada

This historical anthropology of the rise and fall of Israel's post-1948 sardine purse-seining development project shows what happens when marginalized groups, who are initially excluded as “backward” or “primitive”, enter modernization projects that are based on politics of skillfulness and experts' control over the labor process. By focusing on the role that skills play in the struggle between experts and artisans over the labor process, I show how the dynamics within state-run production apparatuses can make workers and experts face dilemmas about productivity, profit, and effectiveness, leading to such projects' implosion. This mode of analysis exposes the contradictions within projects of governance as well as in their relational intersection with the people they subjugate and exclude.