With the continuing movement of social life into new types of places such as cyberspace the function and meaning of gift-exchange has emerged as being an important anthropological tool for the investigation of social relations online. In cyberspace several fascinating questions come into light, for example: what kinds of gifts are exchanged in cyberspace; how are these gifts exchanged there and what does the exchange of gifts in cyberspace signify? An analysis of the 'gift of time' is particularly pertinent when investigating friendship in virtual communities because gift exchange in cyberspace can be related to notions of reciprocity and trust. For example, my own ethnographic research in Cybertown, a virtual community on the Internet, suggests that one important concept for friendship in Cybertown is the exchange of the 'gift of time', and highlights its role in the creation of trust and reciprocity. In explaining this phenomenon, this paper examines the function and meaning of gift exchange in Cybertown in relation to contemporary theoretical notions of the gift, explains what kinds of obligations gifts engender and what role gift practices play in creating networks of friendship.
The Digital Age Opens Up New Terrains for Peace and Conflict Research
Josepha Ivanka Wessels
The arrival of the Digital Age added a new way to preserve memories of war and conflict. These developments beg deeper reflection on the role of cyberspace and how memories of conflict have become publicly and collectively owned, shared and mediated in the digital space. Cyberspace offers a context for the deposit of digital memorials for victims and casualties of war from any adversary in a conflict. The final workshop in a three-part exploratory series entitled Virtual Zones of Peace and Conflict is the basis for this special section, which deals with digital memory. The three articles were selected because they reflect on the role of the Digital Age in peace and conflict studies, and specifically focus on the intersection between online (virtual) and offline (physical) realities and how cyberspace forms an enabling environment for digital memorializations.
Iranians organizing across borders
Halleh Ghorashi and Nayereh Tavakoli
The Iranian revolution of 1979 promised to bring freedom and equality, but as soon as one group gained power, it turned out to be oppressive of both its political opposition and women. This resulted in the formation of a large Iranian diaspora bound together by its hatred for the Iranian regime. Years of suppression in the 1980s in Iran resulted in a deep gap between Iranians living inside and outside Iran. During the 1990s, however, cross-border relationships started to change as a result of two major factors: transnational activities and the influence of cyberspace. This paper focuses on the paradoxes of transnational connections in local protest with a focus on the women’s movement. We show both how transnational links have empowered women activists in Iran and how they have led to new dangers at the local level. We also reveal how support from the Iranian diaspora can be patronizing as well as supportive.
Transparency and Political Power in Uzbek Cyberspace
This article uses the example of Uzbekistan's national security services to consider how the psychic influence of a police state reveals itself online. What happens when the 'spectral double' of the police becomes a point of focus in a medium known for its transparency? I argue that although the Internet gives citizens the capability to organize and interact, it does not relieve their fears and suspicions; instead, it often intensifies them. Despite the 'transparency' that the Internet affords—and sometimes because of it—there are qualities bound up in the architecture of this medium that give rise to paranoia. Using examples from Uzbek online political discourse, I show how the Internet has fueled suspicion and fears about the state security services despite attempts to demystify and assuage them.
Teyyam in Malabar
This article focuses on Muttappan and the practice of teyyam in Kerala, South India. The growing power and increasing presence of this ritual practice and its transition from traditional sacred spaces into modern public spheres, including cyberspace, are analyzed in order to understand its inner dynamics and potentialities. Engaged with the quotidian aspects of human existence, the male divinity Muttappan-teyyam is a being of the moment who overcomes any bounding or hierarchizing force in his path. I argue that Muttappan's modernity has a decentering and destabilizing fluidity that appeals to all social classes. The ritual practice has put the arts and the state at odds, with the latter co-opting it to serve the state's purposes through tourism and spectacles that encourage national solidarity.
As the third millennium unfolds, one of the most dramatic technological and economic revolutions in history is advancing a set of processes that are changing everything from the ways in which people work to the ways that they communicate with each other and spend their leisure time. The technological revolution centres on computer, information, communication, and multimedia technologies. These are key aspects of the production of a new economy, described as postindustrial, post-Fordist, and postmodern, accompanied by a networked society and cyberspace, and the juggernaut of globalisation. There are, of course, furious debates about how to describe the Great Transformation of the contemporary epoch, whether it is positive and negative, and what the political prospects for democratisation and radical social transformation are.
The End of Nation-States, the Rise of Ethnic and Global Sovereignties?
In the post–Cold War era, political violence associated with wars of gain is key to economic and political transformations across nation-states.1 Under the ‘Pax Americana’ multinational corporations interacting in ‘old boy’ networks of the global capitalist class control armaments, oil production, and cyberspace. Industrial and military multinationals as well as global financial institutions, are extending their decision-making structures while becoming more concentrated; 2 there is a “hyperconcentration of (unregulated) economic and military power” predominantly Euro-American (Virilio 1997: 99). Global militarization legitimized in discourses of ‘protecting freedom’ secures world oil and gas resources for Euro-American and Sinic industrial use, promotes corporate profits, and supports the post-2000 Pax Americana. The Pax’s ‘command and control’ system seeks to checkmate Muslim control of 60 percent of world crude oil supplies by destroying ‘rogue’ regimes and investing in multinational corporations exploiting oil, diamonds, coltan, and other (finite) industrial resources in non-Muslim controlled African states (Meacher 2003). Preparation for total war is economic war.