By focusing on the debate about cousin marriage that unfolded over the mid- to late-nineteenth century in the United States, this article explores the capacity of kinship to produce difference as well as sameness, exclusion as well as inclusion. I follow the cultural logic of temperaments through which the relative value of cousin versus non-kin marriages was debated. I also examine the rhetoric that linked these contrasting forms of marriage with contrasting political formations—specifically those of ‘backward’ hierarchical monarchies and ‘progressive’ egalitarian democratic republics. This marital and political logic was countered by the political economy of race, which made evident the forms of racial exclusion that defined the boundaries of marriage, national belonging, equality, and democracy in nineteenth- century America.
The Shifting Political Implications of Cousin Marriage in Nineteenth-Century America
Equality and conflict in a glocalized world
This paper develops a broad conceptualization of what could be called a political ecology of difference. The paper builds on trends in political ecology, the politics of place, and cultural analyses of modern conceptions of nature, rights, and the individual to outline an integrated framework for thinking about difference from the perspective of economic, ecological, and cultural distribution conflicts. The argument is illustrated with a case study from the Pacific rainforest region of Colombia, particularly the political ecology developed by the region’s social movement of black communities; the paper concludes with implications of the framework for thinking about the cultural politics of dominant institutions and their potential transformation along the lines of a politics of difference.
Paperwork and the Political Machine
Alexander Thomas T. Smith
Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork carried out in Dumfries and Galloway, this article describes how Conservative Party activists put a variety of discursive artefacts to work as they sought to mass produce and distribute leaflets during the 2003 local Government and Scottish Parliament elections. The leaflet, called In Touch, rendered explicit the need to demonstrate that a political candidate and political party are connected (in touch) with a wider community. This leaflet was therefore designed to invoke a set of connections between person (the candidate), place (the Council Ward/community) and political party (the Conservatives) that might register with even the most disinterested elector. At the same time, the production of these leaflets facilitated the generation of an activist network amongst the party's volunteer base, which exhausted itself by the time Polling Day passed. I argue that addressing logistical and organizational questions - that is, activist methodology - in the production of the In Touch leaflet focused the attention of political activists more than the 'issues' on which they intended to campaign, which were 'found' or 'produced' as artefacts or contrivances of activist labour. In addressing such questions, Tory strategists hoped to 'make (a) difference' given that they tended to view previous campaigns to have been executed in an amateur and disorganized fashion. Through the sheer scale of their production and distribution throughout Dumfries and Galloway, it was hoped that the In Touch leaflets would produce social as well as electoral effects.
Travellers to Ottoman Palestine and Accounts of Diversity
The divides between Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs, are well known. Scholarly and journalistic accounts of the differences in the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean fill shelves and are too numerous to list. Most implicitly assume an essential divide between the two peoples, exploring the diversity within the groups but not the categories themselves. That primordial position, one that envisions identities as innate and fixed through time, negates the history of personal and group dynamics. This article provides a line of argument against the primordial approach to ethnic identity in the Middle East. Similar to the anthropological quest to demonstrate the historical contingencies of skin colour for hierarchical groupings of peoples (Smedley 1999), the categories for the peoples of the Middle East can be grounded in historical processes to produce a critique of primordialism. Eric Wolf (1982) exposed identities, behaviours and peoplehood as existing in a matrix of global interactions and histories that developed over the last 500 years. Anthropologists have followed that pathway to investigate the history of groups in the Americas, Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, southern Asia and the Pacific region. Yet in a place with an abundance of history – some would say an overabundance of history – the groupings of Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs, are taken as givens. This article seeks to expose the volatile issues of groupings by employing a resource that contributed to the process of racialising differences.
Triumph of culture, troubles of anthropology
Culture has always been the defining feature and disciplinary asset of anthropology. Before the reflective conversations of the 1980s, anthropology had owned culture. In the aftermath of the "crisis of anthropology" came the expansion and augmentation of culture to disciplines, domains, and settings beyond anthropology. Culture is now present in every aspect of social life and it is possible to buy, sell, design, invent, market, perform, and circulate culture(s) individually or collectively in (in)tangible forms. With the expansion, "culture talk"—not always in benign variety—has also become the predominant mode of addressing citizenship, security, and even economy, which were conventionally considered to be distinct from culture. This article elucidates this expansive venture of culture from being a disciplinary analytical artifact to an authoritative arbiter of rights, difference, heritage, and style, and suggests "projects of culture" as an analytical tool to enter into the burdensome territory of culture today, without getting trapped in culture talk.
This article explores interactions with difference, highlighting what I call the “generosity paradox,” a term that refers to how we suspend disbelief and certainty in favor of a constructed potentiality not limited by preexistent knowledge or categories of authenticity and legitimacy. Touching on overlapping concepts from rhetoric, philosophy, gender studies, disability studies, and queer theory, the discussion explicates fictional encounters with radical alterity in the film Her (Spike Jonze, 2013) to show that attempted respite from frustrating, confusing, and frightening interactions limits our voice, undermines difference, and favors a unifying persuasive intent, which more likely than not involves an attempt to change Others rather than allowing our mutual differences to generatively remain.
Some Reflections Proceeding from Exile
I am a woman and I am a writer; therefore, I am a woman writer. I do not disavow this, and I am sure that the basic given of femininity affects, in ways that are both accessible to me and unconscious, much of what I write. However, as I look back on my writing about issues of difference and Otherness—and as has sometimes been pointed out to me—I realise that the problematic of gender is, if not entirely absent from it, then rarely explicitly foregrounded or emphasised. I would like to reflect briefly on why this is so.
The Case of the USA
Adam B. Seligman
The separation of church and state in the USA and the critical role of disestablishment in the political doctrines of that country is no indication of a secular polity. In fact, the separation of church and state as developed in 18th century American political thought was itself a religious doctrine and rested on the unique religious beliefs of certain Protestant Churches there. One consequence of this particular mode of accommodating religion has meant that the challenge of pluralism and difference in the United States of America is met, most often, by liberal indifference. Differences are trivialized, aethetisized and, more critically, privatized. They are shielded from public scrutiny and conceptualized as irrelevant to public concern. This is an increasingly inadequate response to the challenge of difference and the plurality of the human experience. Challenges to contemporary modes of accommodating religious and ethnic pluralism are necessitating the formulation of new sets of answers which are not based on such Protestant or post-Protestant assumptions.
Young Gay Males’ Experiences at School in Australia
This article is based on in-depth interviews with 14 young gay men aged between 18 and 25 years. Using narratives in a life-historical perspective the young men reflect upon their boyhood and adolescent years to highlight the many and varied issues confronting young gay males during this formative period. While a range of themes will be identified through use of inductive thematic analysis, it is the school environment and the process of schooling that highlights the issues associated with difference that young gay males confront while growing up. Life histories provide a unique method of understanding difference in the lives of individuals. Capturing the essence of meaning of a young gay male’s life (under the age of 18) through consensual research data is difficult due to the ethical dilemmas presented in requiring a parent or guardian to provide the right for participation. Therefore, life histories become even more important where young gay males are concerned in an attempt to understand the issues they confront while growing up gay in a heterosexualized culture.
Towards an Ethics of Possibility
Faye Ginsburg and Rayna Rapp
This afterword to this special issue of The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology, entitled ‘For an Anthropology of Cognitive Disability’, explores the intersections of disability studies and ethnographic research on cognitive difference. We offer a brief scholarly genealogy, discuss how these articles provide recognition for ‘the disarticulate’, and consider how anthropologists working on this subject might contribute to an ethics of possibility.