This article examines Syrian narratives of global power, ranging from the Ottoman era to the present day. Despite the country's relatively peripheral status in international politics, the stories of its people always feature Syria as a central figure in global policy and intrigue. When viewed not merely as speculation or conspiracy theories but as a form of speech act, these narratives can be seen as having an effect on relationships between different groups of people in relation to and among Syrians. This 'identity work' allows Syrians to order their own world through discussions of global power and gives them a sense of agency. Thus, 'talking about the powerful' actually serves to empower a local, 'marginalized' population, momentarily reversing the whole concept of peripheralization.
Syrian Narratives of Global Power
Going Through the Motions at the News Corporation AGM
I present here an account of the incorporation of a media company hitherto part of a peripheral state within the juridical economic order of a global power—the United States of America. I concentrate on the crucial performative event in which Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation is trans-corporated from an Australian registered business to an American one. The event I describe is in fact a rite de passage whereby a local company is legally recognized as a global power. The approach I take is in effect a situational analysis in the tradition of Max Gluckman, wherein the description is part of the analysis.
Jelena Tosic, Alberto Arce and Jeremy MacClancy
Bruce Kapferer (ed.), Oligarchs and oligopolies: New formations of global power by Jelena Tosic
John Clammer, Sylvie Poirier, and Eric Schwimmer. Figured worlds: Ontological obstacles in intercultural relations by Alberto Arce
Eric Venbrux, Pamela Sheffield Rosi, Robert L. Welsch (eds.), Exploring world art by Jeremy MacClancy
Anthropology and the radical philosophy of Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt
The trilogy by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (2000), Multitude (2004), and Commonwealth (2009), is among the major works of political theory to emerge in this century, with specific relevance for anthropological analyses of global power. This introduction provides a synthetic overview of the conflicted encounter between anthropologists (John Kelly, Aihwa Ong, Anna Tsing, and Sylvia Yanagisako) and Hardt and Negri's vision that is staged in this thematic cluster of Focaal. It reviews the anthropologists' three main critiques of the Empire trilogy, the analysis of state and labor, the scale of analysis, and the ethics of global theorizing, which point to an apparent disciplinary rift between global ethnography and radical philosophy. This disciplinary rift is itself characterized differently by anthropologists and Michael Hardt, which I suggest results from different modalities for depicting social dynamics.
Francisca de Haan
In the quarter century since the fall of communist governments across Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe, scholars have used increased access to archival sources and the fresh perspective created by time to begin to re-evaluate the Cold War, the “all-encompassing struggle for global power and influence between the United States, the Soviet Union, and their respective allies.” Yet, much of this new research remains centered on traditional topics like decision making amongst political elites, diplomacy, and espionage. Scholars are only beginning to explore the various and complex ways in which gender played a role in the Cold War conflict, in terms of representation and language, as having shaped foreign policy, or as a core field in which the two sides competed, each advocating its way of life, including its gender system, as superior and in women’s real interest. The Soviet Union, having given women full economic, political, and legal rights, at least until the 1970s claimed to have solved the “woman question”; in 1963, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev proudly stated in a message to an international congress of women held in Moscow that women were full-fledged members of Soviet society.
Richard York, Christina Ergas, Eugene A. Rosa and Thomas Dietz
We examine trends since 1980 in material extraction in China, India, Indonesia, and Japan—which together contain over 40% of the world's population—to assess the environmental consequences of modernization. Economic and population growth has driven rapid expansion of material extraction in China, India, and Indonesia since 1980. China and India exhibit patterns consistent with the Jevons paradox, where the economic intensity of extraction (extraction/GDP) has steadily declined while total extraction grew. In Indonesia, extraction intensity grew along with total extraction. In Japan, total extraction remained roughly constant, increasing somewhat in the 1980s and then slowly declining after 1990, while extraction intensity declined throughout the entire period. These different patterns can be understood to some degree by drawing on political-economic and world-systems perspectives. Japan is an affluent, core nation that can afford to import materials from other nations, thereby avoiding escalation of material extraction within its borders. China and India are rapidly industrializing nations that, although increasingly drawing on resources from beyond their borders, still rely on their own natural resources for growth. Indonesia, an extraction economy with less global power than the other nations examined here, exports its own natural resources, often unprocessed, to spur economic growth. The trends highlighted here suggest that in order to avert environmental crisis, alternative forms of development, which do not involve traditional economic growth, may need to be adopted by nations around the world.
Uncovering the Politics of Playtime
Since the publication in 1960 of Philippe Ariès’s foundational, if problematic, Centuries of Childhood, the history of childhood has developed into a rich and varied field. At the annual conference of the Western Society for French History in 2018, a call for panelists for a roundtable on the history of childhood expanded into two separate panels ranging from the medieval era through the thirty glorious postwar years. The panelists and the audience grappled with questions about the social construction of age, the ages of childhood, and the challenges of finding sources for a group that left few “ego documents.” Although children per se never exercised political or global power, attention to children clarifies how critical children were to political and international systems. Material generated by children themselves can be difficult to locate, but adults generated plenty of material about children. The intersectionality of the history of childhood with fields like labor history, urban history, the history of the welfare state, and the history of psychology parallels the intersectionality of children themselves, who come from every race, social class, and gender. All humans, it turns out, start out as children.