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Impatient Accumulation, Immediate Consumption

Problems with Money and Hope in Central Kenya

Peter Lockwood

Contemporary anthropological accounts of economic uncertainty often use the concept of hope as a means of recovering human agency in relation to broader socio-economic structures. At times, however, the emphasis anthropologists place on hope can appear too generically existential. This article argues for a more specific emphasis on the object of hope—an appreciation of more concrete desires held by marginal persons, orienting their economic activity. In the case I unfold from peri-urban central Kenya, low-status male youth are shown to lack the money they require to unlock pleasurable experiences of drinking, a sign of having wealth and the living of a good life. Rendered hopeless, young men turn to crime as an alternative means of realizing their desires for consumption in the short term.

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Mariano González-Delgado and Manuel Ferraz-Lorenzo

This article explains the approach to mass consumption developed in social studies textbooks in the early years of the transition to democracy in Spain. It begins by examining the way in which school textbooks represented consumer society and mass media in the late 1970s. This is followed by an in-depth explanation of the reasons that led the authors of these textbooks to choose one theoretical framework over another. Above all, this article emphasizes the complexity and variety of the historical materials used to represent consumer society, and how this process of social construction is reflected in the textbook content of the time.

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Maria Claudia Mejía Gil and Claudia Puerta Silva

*Full article is in Spanish

English abstract: Increased consumption of goods and services has contributed to environmental crises. Responsible consumption movements and the factors that contribute to the formation of pro-environmental behaviors have emerged in the Global North. Few studies have advanced in identifying the factors that affect the appropriation of pro-environmental practices in the Global South, specifically in cities of countries with emerging economies and fast urbanization. Through semi-structured interviews and non-participant observation conducted with 34 families from different socioeconomic categories in Medellin, Colombia, we addressed the following questions: Do environmental concerns influence consumption and waste practices? What factors affect the appropriation of environmental practices? Although different factors limit responsible consumption, the results of this study show that pro-environmental practices related to consumption and waste contribute to the formation of pro-environment citizenships.

Spanish abstract: El aumento en el consumo de bienes y servicios ha contribuido a la crisis ambiental. Pocos estudios han avanzado en identificar factores que inciden en la apropiación de prácticas proambientales en el Sur Global, específicamente en ciudades de países con economías emergentes. Mediante observación no participante y entrevistas semiestructuradas a 34 familias de diferentes niveles socioeconómicos de Medellín, Colombia, abordamos las siguientes preguntas: ¿la preocupación ambiental influye en las prácticas de consumo y desecho? y ¿cuáles factores inciden en la apropiación de prácticas proambientales? A partir de los resultados identificamos que, aunque hay más factores que limitan el consumo responsable, se puede argumentar que en las prácticas proambientales de consumo y desecho se observa la formación de ciudadanías proambientales.

French abstract: L’augmentation de la consommation de biens et services a contribué à la crise environnementale. Pour le Nord Global, les mouvements de consommation responsable et les facteurs intervenant dans la formation de comportements pro-environnementaux ont été exposés dans la littérature. En revanche, peu d’études ont avancé dans l’identification des facteurs qui affectent l’appropriation des pratiques proenvironnementales dans les pays du Sud Global, en particulier dans des villes de pays à économie émergente et à urbanisation rapide. Grâce à des observations non participantes et à des entretiens semi-structurés avec 34 familles de différents niveaux socio-économiques de Medellin, en Colombie, nous abordons les questions suivantes : Les préoccupations environnementales influencent-elles les pratiques de consommation et de gestion des déchets ? et quels facteurs influent sur l’appropriation des pratiques environnementales chez les familles interviewés ? Sur la base des résultats, nous identifions que bien qu’il y ait plus de facteurs qui limitent la consommation responsable, on peut affirmer que dans les pratiques de consommation et de déchets favorables à l’environnement, on observe la formation de citoyennetés pro-environnementales.

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Miley, What’s Good?

Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda, Instagram Reproductions, and Viral Memetic Violence

Aria S. Halliday

Images on popular social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter that are the most entertaining are loaded with memetic power because their value is based on cultural attitudes that already constitute our lives in the everyday. Focusing on memes appropriating the artwork from Nicki Minaj’s single, Anaconda, I explore how popular memetic culture is fueled by Black women’s creativity yet positions Black women’s bodies as the fodder for potent viral images on social media platforms and in everyday experiences; Black girlhoods, at this level of representation and in lived experiences, are rarely awarded the distinction from womanhood that many other girlhoods enjoy. Thus, Black feminist discourses of desire which speak to both girlhoods and womanhoods inform my argument that social media has become a site of reproduction and consumption—a technological auction block where Black women’s bodies, aesthetics, and experiences are vilified for viral enjoyment.

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Rethinking the class politics of boredom

Marguerite van den Berg and Bruce O’Neill

Nearly a decade after the global financial crisis of 2008, this thematic section investigates one way in which marginalization and precarization appears: boredom. An increasingly competitive global economy has fundamentally changed the coordinates of work and class in ways that have led to a changing engagement with boredom. Long thought of as an affliction of prosperity, boredom has recently emerged as an ethnographically observed plight of the most economically vulnerable. Drawing on fieldwork from postsocialist Europe and postcolonial Africa, this thematic section explores the intersection of boredom and precarity in order to gain new insight into the workings of advanced capitalism. It experiments with ways of theorizing the changing relationship between status, production, consumption, and the experience of excess free time. These efforts are rooted in a desire to make sense of the precarious forms of living that proliferated in the aftermath of the global financial crisis and that continue to endure a decade later.

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Consuming Leisure Time

Landscapes of Infinite Horizons

Mark Vacher

The aim of this article is to explore the Danish seaside as a culturally framed arena of experience. In the first part of the article, I present the appearance of Denmark's seaside as a recreational location for the Danish middle class. Using Danish films that portray the middle class on holiday, the article illustrates the perceptual consequences of a specific appropriation of the landscape. The analysis of the relationship between landscape and people then introduces anthropological perspectives on time, consumption, and perception. Drawing on ethnographic interviews and comparative observations, I show how accessing and consuming the landscape as a recreational location come to constitute it as a finite arena of infinite time and space, as well as a distinct location that allows for equal social relations.

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“Tobacco! Tobacco!”

Exporting New Habits to Siberia and Russian America

Matthew Romaniello

Russia transitioned from enforcing the world’s longest ban on importing tobacco in the seventeenth century to legalizing the product at the beginning of the eighteenth and ultimately becoming one of the world’s largest producers of tobacco by the nineteenth century. A part of this process neglected by historians is the way in which Russia distributed tobacco among the indigenous communities in Siberia, Kamchatka, and Russian America, creating new consumers where none had existed. This article discusses both the process by which Russia exported tobacco to its frontier and the manner in which tobacco consumption was localized among its diverse populations. Tobacco was not a single product experienced the same way throughout the empire but rather became a marker of difference, demonstrating the multiple communities and trade networks that influenced the nature of Russia’s colonial presence in Asia and the North Pacific.

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Ana Horta, Harold Wilhite, Luísa Schmidt and Françoise Bartiaux

Energy consumption inconspicuously bridges nature and culture. Modern societies and cultures depend on intensive energy use from the extraction of natural resources. In fact, the industrialization process required large amounts of energy, but main sources such as oil and coal, have been gradually depleted and found to be heavily polluting the environment. Despite their environmental impacts, these resources have provided cheap and abundant power to fuel technological progress and economic growth. (See Agustoni and Maretti [2012] for a good historical summary of the relations between energy production and usages.)

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The Krŭchma, the Kafene, and the Orient Express

Tobacco, Alcohol, and the Gender of Sacred and Secular Restraint in Bulgaria, 1856-1939

Mary Neuburger

This article explores shifts in patterns of consumption of alcohol and tobacco in Bulgaria, with a focus on public establishments in the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century. In exploring both the gender dimension of such shifts and its religious implications, the article argues that public consumption of tobacco in particular both reflected and was constitutive of dramatic historical change. At the same time, the increased consumption of such culturally fraught substances provoked an increase in both religious and secular campaigns of “restraint,” in which gender played a key role.

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Luísa Schmidt, Ana Horta, Augusta Correia and Susana Fonseca

In a time of economic crisis the need to adopt energy conservation practices comes to the fore. It is helpful to evaluate the role of young people as both consumers and potential agents of change bridging the gap between school and family to encourage lower household energy consumption. Based on two surveys of parents and students of a secondary school in Lisbon, plus in-depth interviews with parents, this article analyzes the complexity of this challenge, highlighting adults' perceptions of their children's contribution to energy saving. Results show that parents see young people as major energy consumers. Young people's engagement with electronic equipment as essential components of their lifestyles and their belief in technology as a solution to energy problems thwart them from being promoters of energy saving. In this context of scarcity, parents try to protect their children's well-being and opportunities in life by accepting their children's unrestricted energy use.