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Andrew Levy

The book of Ecclesiastes is one of the least studied in the Bible. It should be more closely analysed for its critique of conventional, more ‘normative’ biblical books. Its relevance to contemporary thought has been unwittingly highlighted recently. Its argument against the normative view in the Bible mirrors arguments made in a recently published book by the British philosopher John Gray against the work of the Canadian psychologist and neuroscientist Steven Pinker. Ecclesiastes raises issues fundamental to contemporary discourse, such as whether we live in a world that progresses or whether the world is static and one where we are condemned to repeat the mistakes made by previous generations. This article demonstrates that current arguments, apparently deriving from Enlightenment thought, actually have origins going much further back. The author finally asks whether there really is nothing new under the sun. It is an article with a twist in the tail.

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Mark Ingram

Cultural anthropology in France continues to bear the influence of a colonial-era distinction between “modern” societies with a high degree of social differentiation (and marked by rapid social change) and ostensibly socially homogeneous and change-resistant “traditional” ones. The history of key institutions (museums and research institutes) bears witness to this, as does recent scholarship centered on “the contemporary” that reworks earlier models and concepts and applies them to a world increasingly marked by transnational circulation and globalization. Anthropology at the Crossroads describes the evolution of a national tradition of scholarship, changes to its institutional status, and the models, concepts, and critical perspectives of anthropologists currently revisiting and reworking the foundations of the discipline in France.

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Assessing Ritual Experience in Contemporary Spiritualities

The Practice of’sharing’ in a New Age Variant of Umbanda

Viola Teisenhoffer

In contemporary Pagan and New Age rituals aimed at self-enhancement and personal development, verbal exchanges generally referred to by the emic term’sharing’ often follow the ritual endeavors. The experts who conduct these rituals (whether

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Contemporary Megaprojects

An Introduction

Seth Schindler, Simin Fadaee and Dan Brockington

There is renewed interest in megaprojects worldwide. In contrast to high-modernist megaprojects that were discrete projects undertaken by centralized authorities, contemporary megaprojects are often decentralized and pursued by a range of stakeholders from governments as well as the private sector. They leverage cutting-edge technology to ‘see’ complex systems as legible and singular phenomena. As a result, they are more ambitious, more pervasive and they have the potential to reconfigure longstanding relationships that have animated social and ecological systems. The articles in this issue explore the novel features of contemporary megaprojects, they show how the proponents of contemporary megaprojects aspire to technologically enabled omnipresence, and they document the resistance that megaprojects have provoked.

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The Contemporary Turn

Debate, Curricula, and Swedish Students' History

Thomas Nygren

In 2010, a proposal for a new history syllabus was criticized in the Swedish media for emphasizing contemporary history at the expense of ancient history. This study shows how contemporary history has increasingly been the focus of the guidelines developed by UNESCO and the Council of Europe, the national curricula, and students' work since the 1950s, while graduating students had generally rather chosen to focus on the early modern era up until the 1930s. Although history and civics were given status as separate school subjects in 1961, students' work in history continued to focus on contemporary subject matter. This study shows that the dominance of contemporary history in students' history is by no means a new phenomenon.

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Allen Abramson and Martin Holbraad

How far is the ethnographic study of 'cosmologies' relevant to contemporary anthropology, and how might it illuminate understandings of the contemporary world? In this article we argue for a renewed anthropological interest in matters cosmological by seeking to disentangle the study of cosmology from the concomitants with which it was associated in earlier periods of anthropological research. In particular, we argue that an orientation toward cosmology continues to be of prime importance to the discipline insofar as it can be freed from its associations with holism and exoticism. The shift from 'high modernity' (in which orientations toward cosmos are variously constrained and circumscribed) to the flattening effects of the 'fluid' modernity of neoliberalism, we argue, has tended to thrust concerns with cosmic orders and dynamics back onto the forefront of people's lives. We end the article with a series of programmatic observations of how anthropologists might respond to these shifts, both ethnographically and analytically.

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A. Hadi Alshawi and Andrew Gardner

This article examines the resurgence of tribalism as a sociological component of contemporary Qatari society. Utilising an ethnographic, mixed-methods design, the article begins with a survey of the substantial scholarship concerning tribes in Arabia. That scholarship provides ideas and understandings that only partially explain the vitality of contemporary tribalism. The article then demonstrates tribalism's ongoing social importance by analysing data from a quantitative survey of 800 Qatari citizens. The article concludes with the ethnographically situated contention that tribalism functions as a mechanism for asserting social power in the contemporary Qatari state, and is therefore an emblematic component of Qatari citizenship.

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Toward Comprehensive Conceptualizations of Contemporary Public Health

Participation as the Cornerstone of Appropriate Methodologies

Harry Nijhuis

This article explores the development of appropriate conceptualizations of public health, and, more importantly, adequate practices and methodologies to be applied in today’s societal context. Popular concepts like “positive health,” “comprehensive approaches,” and “participation” represent only specific components of larger complexities. My intention is to come up with useful notions for a more holistic comprehension of public health. First, two strands of reasoning, on which my argument is based, are discussed: (1) interpretations regarding major public health discourses of the past two centuries; (2) critical appraisal of influential societal tendencies (to be able to identify what today is “appropriate”). Then, based on these interpretations, notions are developed regarding ontological, epistemological, and societal aspects of public health. This leads us to the discussion of adequate methodologies for today’s practice of public health. I argue that emancipated participation of citizen communities—organized as cooperatives—ought to be a cornerstone in elaborations of contemporary public health.

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Women and Sexuality in Contemporary Iran

When HIV Meets Government Morality

Kristin Soraya Batmanghelichi

In Iran, as in many countries worldwide, misinformation and ignorance of HIV/AIDS have encouraged a culture of secrecy and anonymity for those living with HIV. For many HIV-positive women, religious, political and economic pressures complicate their social status and access to health care. Moreover, they must contend with societal discrimination and stigmas associated with the condition. Adding nuance to contemporary studies on gender and sexuality in Iran, this report highlights the colourful narratives of a select group of HIV-positive mothers attending weekly wellness workshops in Tehran. Discussing issues of intimacy, modesty, motherhood and stigmatisation, this article explores one of Iran's expanding communities at risk of infection and the ways in which women with HIV negotiate the stigma of their condition in an Islamic Republic.

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Julie Fette

In societies coming to terms with historical injustices, public apology has recently emerged as a potent trend. This is particularly true of France, where the state served as a catalyst for a wave of public apologies for acts of intolerance committed during the Second World War. Following Jacques Chirac's 1995 official apology for Vichy's anti-Semitic policies, various groups in civil society publicly atoned for their particular Vichy roles in discrimination against Jews: the medical profession, the law bar, the Catholic Church, and the police. How does public apology, as distinct from court trials, historical commissions, and reparations, affect contemporary France's reconciliation with its past? This article also analyzes how apologizing for Vichy has created demand for an official French apology for the Algerian War. By 2006, the politics of memory in French society decidedly shifted attention from Vichy to post-colonialism: in both cases, the apology turn imposes new dynamics of remembering and forgetting.