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Eva Bendix Petersen and Bronwyn Davies

In this article the authors take up the invitation to respond to the previous articles in the special issue. They discuss why it is so difficult to speak and write about gender and sexuality, and difference more generally, in the neoliberalised university. They make the case that the neoliberal university engages and uses categorical difference, and the individuals inhabiting these, mainly for auditing purposes. The authors develop the argument that despite the enterprise university's official commitments to diversity and inclusion, it remains indifferent to difference, understood as openness to becoming different, to differenciation in a Deleuzian sense. Difference is privatised and depoliticised and is only acceptable if it is useful and exploitable in pre-specified ways and if it conforms to and facilitates neoliberal agendas.

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Making (a) 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.

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Introduction

(De)materializing Kinship—Holding Together Mutuality and Difference

Kathryn E. Goldfarb and Caroline E. Schuster

Although kinship studies have traditionally focused on ‘solidarity’ and ‘mutuality’, dis-alignment, exclusion, and difference are equally crucial foci for analysis. In this introduction, we explore articulations of mutuality and difference through the lens of materiality, particularly the matter of politics and value and the semiotics of material life. We suggest that non-mutuality and exclusion are especially apparent in contexts where kinship intersects with the consolidation of economic and human capital. We then draw attention to the ways in which material signs are productive forces of relatedness in day-to-day interactions between humans, non-humans, and other material things. By examining the gaps and fissures within kinship through the lens of material practice, the contributors to this special section uncover new opportunities for critical engagement with theories of difference, semiotics, and value.

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Matthew Dimmock

Starting with the observation that there is a failure in an English language of “difference” associated with travel and trade in the late sixteenth century, this article explores the nature and consequences of that failure. Particular emphasis is placed on conversion—the evaluation and acceptance of an “alien” body into the Anglican community—and an analysis of John Foxe's A sermon preached at the christening of a certaine Iew (1578) and Meredith Hanmer's The Baptizing of a Turke (1586). Diplomatic and travel texts are considered to demonstrate the use of an earlier lexicon of heresy alongside contemporary ideas concerning the equivalence of Roman Catholicism, Judaism, and Islam. In the last decade or so many scholars have identified problems with the critical language in which these issues are discussed, in particular the notion of early modern England and its “others”. In evaluating the failure of a language of “difference,” this article suggests an alternative critical vocabulary.

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An ecology of difference

Equality and conflict in a glocalized world

Arturo Escobar

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.

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Beyond the Glittering Golden Buddha Statues

Difference and Self-transformation through Buddhist Volunteer Tourism in Thailand

Brooke Schedneck

Volunteer tourism is becoming an important way to understand and experience culture. In Thailand, one option for volunteers is to teach English to novice monks in Buddhist temple schools. These volunteers choose to live in a Buddhist temple in order to experience difference through the religious atmosphere and interact with Buddhist monks. The aesthetic environment is unique and awe-inspiring to this group. However, through interviews and analysis of travel writing, this article argues that the unexpected also has a role in generating selftransformation. Beyond the golden, glittering Buddha statues are Buddhist novice monks who become not just representatives of Thai culture but particular individuals. Volunteers discuss their own transformation as a result of both the expected difference and unexpected familiarity they encounter within the temple communities where they teach.

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Temperamental Differences

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

Susan McKinnon

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.

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Shirin Housee

This article explores the everyday experiences of minority ethnic students at a university in the West Midlands. Based on interviews with 23 second-level students taking Sociology modules, it seeks to highlight the key social, personal and pedagogic issues for this group of minority ethnic students and to deepen understandings of cultural identity and exchange on campus. The students' multiple narratives and voices are central to the article, as is the possibility that there are multiple ways of experiencing teaching and learning at a university.

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The Biologically Vulnerable Boy

Framing Sex Differences in Childhood Infectious Disease Mortality

Heather T. Battles

Demographers have noticed longer adult female life expectancies and higher rates of male infant mortality in Europe as early as the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. During the Western demographic and epidemiologic transition of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, infant and childhood mortality rates became increasingly male-skewed. I examine the changing awareness and understanding of sex differentials in childhood infectious disease mortality and the discourse surrounding them in the medical and epidemiological literature, with particular focus on discussions surrounding diphtheria. I identify the emergence of the concept of males as the weaker sex (the “biological hypothesis”) and the framing of boys as biologically vulnerable, and argue that these are products of this historical period, linked not only to observed epidemiological patterns but also to changing ideas of children and childhood and the shift in science and medicine toward the laboratory as the source of knowledge.

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Imposed Politics of Cultural Differences

Managed Multiculturalism in Israeli Civil Society

Zvika Orr

This article analyzes the processes by which multicultural discourses and practices are implemented and adapted in local settings. Based on five years of ethnographic fieldwork in an Israeli NGO that promotes economic and social rights, this work examines the micro-politics of multiculturalism and the complex uses of this concept by various Jewish and Arab actors in the organization. The research shows how multicultural notions concerning Arab culture were introduced by the Jewish actors in order to depoliticize Jewish-Arab relations and preserve the balance and stability within the organization. By adopting characteristics of state multiculturalism—in a country where multiculturalism is not an aspect of official government policy—the Jewish actors attempted to produce social change while preserving central elements in the hegemonic Zionist-nationalistic worldview.