This article examines how institutions mobilize the transitive capacity of concepts and categories to articulate and fulfil their professional functions. In my analysis, I draw on the everyday institutional practices of two organizations, SOS Children’s Villages and Supportive Housing, to illustrate how personal and professional domains are intertwined. Through ethnographic vignettes, I argue that organizational capacities to shape the social in the domain of caring work are achieved through the knowledge practices of professionals and experts, as they negotiate the ‘mothering’ and ‘home’. The institutions studied, in fulfilling personal roles for individual clients, ‘step in’ for the absence of other persons. Such person-oriented goals pose challenges to organizational practices and professional values, ultimately straining the capacities of these institutions to sustain themselves.
SOS Children’s Villages and Supportive Housing
Thinking with Salmon Otoliths and Scales
Heather Anne Swanson
This article proposes that multispecies anthropology and its curiosities about non-humans constitute a ‘minor anthropology’ that poses challenges not only to anthropological categories, but also to anthropological methods. Through attention to Pacific salmon, I probe why and how anthropologists might explore the ways non-humans know and enact worlds via collaborations with natural scientists. Working with biologists, I examine salmon scales and otoliths, or ear bones, whose crystallization patterns act as a kind of fish diary, recording a fish’s migrations and relations. I take up these methods with an anthropological eye, asking how one might use such practices to learn about multispecies encounters that classical ethnography often misses. Lastly, I demonstrate how anthropologists can engage natural science tools while remaining alert to the politics of knowing.
Community Engineering for Sexual Assault Prevention
Day Greenberg and Angela Calabrese Barton
This article explores the efforts of two girls to use STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) knowledge and practice to empower themselves and their peers amid threats of sexual violence against them. Drawing on the feminist construct of intersectionality and social practice theory, we examine how these girls called on intersecting knowledge, practices, people, and scales of activity (different scopes of action) to reclaim space, voice, and peace in the face of violence and fear, scaffolded by adults who became their partners for change.
This article considers debates concerning the contribution of anthropology to an understanding of vernacular and marginal forms of cosmopolitanism in relation to the environmental cosmopolitics of zoning practices in and around the Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR), Petén, Guatemala. Zoning practices realize political and economic restructuring, integration, and fragmentation through conditionality and exceptionalism. The rationale for zoning of MBR territories evident in UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme and USAID MAYAREMA Resource Management Project have combined the instrumentalism of aid-tied development with a cosmopolitan appeal to the protection of the global environment in the interests of “humanity” imagined as an internally differentiated, and yet singular entity. As zoning practices have emerged as forms of conditionality placed on a range of human activities, they have been called into question by “Other” discrepant and cosmopolitan constituencies advancing different imagined relations between cosmos and polis, “environment” and “society.” The article considers discrepant zoning practices and related imaginings adopted by the Communities of Population in Resistance. Q'eqchi' perspectives are also addressed, notably with reference to the environmental cosmopolitics of indigenous religious practice. By exploring the environmental cosmopolitics of the MBR, the article argues that through anthropological knowledge practices, plural and over lapping cosmovisions and related vernacular and discrepant forms of environmental cosmopolitanism are brought into view. The task lies in grappling with relativization, pluralization, and complexity as these follow on from anthropological knowledge practices and environmental cosmopolitan zoning practices alike.
Environmental management in Australia has recently shifted away from local rural communities into the hands of largely urban environmental and government agencies, sparking an intensifying contest for the control of land and resources between geographically and socially stable communities and more mobile translocal groups. There are major disjunctions between the conceptual models promulgated in this contest. Highly specific, holistic, and integrative cultural paradigms of human-environmental interaction vie with an increasingly dominant technomanagerial environmental model emerging from global discourses and knowledge practices. Categorizing "Nature" as a separate, nonhuman domain, this more cosmopolitan approach fails, intellectually and practically, to integrate social and cultural issues into environmental management. Nevertheless, its proponents are provided with increasing authority by their relationships with wider agencies of governance. Building on long-term ethnographic research in Far North Queensland, this paper explores how local and cosmopolitan environmentalisms are contested in a particular ethnographic context.
Jamon Alex Halvaksz and Heather E. Young-Leslie
The literature on environment-animal-human relations, place, and space, tends to emphasize cultural differences between global interests and local environmental practices. While this literature contributes substantially to our understanding of resource management, traditional ecological knowledge, and environmental protection, the work of key persons imbricated in both global and local positions has been elided. In this article, we propose a theory of “ecographers” as individuals particularly positioned to relate an indigenous epistemology of the local environment with reference to traditional and introduced forms of knowledge, practice, and uses of places, spaces, and inter-species relationships. We ground our analysis in ethnographic research among two Pacific communities, but draw parallels with individuals from varied ethnographic and environmental settings. This new concept offers a powerful cross-cultural approach to ecological strategizing relationships; one grounded by local yet globally and historically inflected agents of the present.
Markus Schlecker and Kirsten W. Endres
During the Vietnam War, unprecedented numbers of dead soldiers were buried in unmarked graves and remain missing today. Starting in the mid-1990s, the services of psychics came into high demand, prompting the establishment of a state-approved Center for Research into Human Capabilities that continues to offer grave-finding assistance for the general public. This article discusses the cases of two well-known female psychics. As the case studies demonstrate, such research programs have established a niche for psychics on the perimeters of the official discursive nexus of truth, science, and visuality. They also highlight the variability of social and semantic proc esses by which different psychics are positioned in relation to recognized distinctions between legitimate and illegitimate knowledge practices and truth claims.
Exploring Time in Scientific Practice
This article explores some of the ways that time figures in the scientific practices of instrumental micrometeorology and climatic and weather modeling. It draws on ethnographic work done with the Large-Scale Biosphere-Atmosphere Experiment in Amazonia (LBA), an international scientific project that aims to assess the role of the Amazon forest in the global carbon cycle and to provide sustainable techniques for the future management of the region. An examination of the knowledge practices that have emerged from this ethnography (such as calibration and prediction) provides an opportunity to rethink the relation between 'natural time' and 'social time(s)'. This allows for a discussion of the roles that certainty, uncertainty, finiteness, and limitlessness play in both scientific and ethnographic practice.
Making Relations Matter
This article takes scientific ‘raw data’ as its ethnographic object in order to investigate the co-implication of nature and culture in scientific knowledge practices. The article traces out some of the activities that are involved in producing numerical climate data from the Brazilian Amazon. Although science and technology studies (STS) makes a strong case for associating relationality with certainty, the article argues that a particular form of data, ‘raw data’, complicates this association. It further argues that scientific data is not simply composed out of relations, but is a relation itself. The article ends with a brief reflection on the possible repercussions of shifting from thinking of science as producing multiple natures and cultures to thinking of it as producing the potential for relations.
The article builds on an empirical study of knowledge practices in international, interdisciplinary MA education, foregrounding the role of academic staff in identifying and explicating academic norms to students recruited from different subject areas and institutions. A central theme is transition, which refers to the state of liminality that postgraduates can experience when new to a discipline, institution and sociocultural context. I argue for lecturers as ‘transition managers’ who may ease students’ transfer into an unfamiliar academic culture. This argument is explored in an analysis of interview data collected from four MA courses, which suggests that lecturers’ transition management involves an awareness of classroom diversity, an acceptance of responsibility for academic socialisation and the development of new pedagogic practices.