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Empowering or impoverishing through credit

Small-scale producers and the Plan Chontalpa in Tabasco, Mexico

Gisela Lanzas and Matthew Whittle

This article examines the evolution of the credit market for small-scale sugarcane producers in the Plan Chontalpa development program in Tabasco, Mexico. The plan promoted neoliberal policies that transformed the existing credit market available to small-scale producers. The availability of credit was supposed to lead to increased efficiency. However, making credit available to low-income farmers can result in unintended outcomes. We found that many households had high discount rates and used the credit to supplement their household income. Thus, farmers are getting caught in a cycle of debt that often culminates in losing their land. We use a life history to consider the strategies the program has adopted to control credit as well as the counterstrategies the families have developed.

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Diverse Driving Emotions

Exploring Chinese Migrants’ Mobilities in a Car-Dependent City

Sophie-May Kerr, Natascha Klocker and Gordon Waitt

In the industrialized West, cars are considered an essential part of everyday life. Their dominance is underpinned by the challenges of managing complex, geographically stretched daily routines. Drivers’ emotional and embodied relationships with automobiles also help to explain why car cultures are difficult to disrupt. This article foregrounds ethnic diversity to complicate notions of a “love affair” with the car. We report on the mobilities of fourteen Chinese migrants living in Sydney, Australia—many of whom described embodied dispositions against the car, influenced by their life histories. Their emotional responses to cars and driving, shaped by transport norms and infrastructures in their places of origin, ranged from pragmatism and ambivalence to fear and hostility. The lived experiences of these migrants show that multiple cultures of mobility coexist, even in ostensibly car-dependent societies. Migrants’ life histories and contemporary practices provide an opportunity to reflect on fissures in the logic of automobility.

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Aging Away

Immigrant Families, Elderly Care, Ethnography and Policy

Rita Henderson

This article considers how immigrant retention relates to family obligations, drawing a complex portrait of a common family dilemma involving the care of aging kin. The ethnographic life-history approach offers an important perspective on how health and well-being are not simply structured by formal access to institutions of care, but by the socio-cultural, economic and geographic flexibility of families to accommodate their needs. Analysis draws on the interdependant migration histories of a family of six adult sisters originating in Tanzania. In the case of this family, the dilemma surrounding the care of aging parents is not so much caused by migration's disruption of traditional filial obligations. Instead, it is the effect of social pressures stirred in both sending and receiving countries, which frame opportunities for eventual social integration, relocation or sometimes reluctant repatriation. A reflexive approach argues for the active presence of ethnographers in policy debates.

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The Meaning of Difference

Young Gay Males’ Experiences at School in Australia

Murray Drummond

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.

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Melissa Dearey, Bethanie Petty, Brett Thompson, Clinton R. Lear, Stephanie Gadsby and Donna Gibbs

The main aim of this essay is to explore prisoner life writing within the specific, richly and multiply dependent context of teaching and learning undergraduate criminology at an English university, from the authorial viewpoint of a teacher and her students as budding criminologists and coauthors. This article seeks to redress a continuing resistance to life history approaches in criminology, despite the discipline being formally devoted to the understanding of the meaning and experience of imprisonment in all its forms and consequences. What follows is a reflection on what students had to say on the fascinating subject of prisoner auto/biography and its place in popular and expert discourses on crime, criminality, and punishment, contextualised within the academic discipline of criminology.

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Attraction, Amusement, and Anxiety

Aging Women in Varanasi

Sheleyah A. Courtney

This article explores socio-cultural practices with regard to aging women in Vārānāsī, a city in North India. It is based on 17 months of field research carried out in 1999-2000 among marginalized Hindu women. I argue that aging is a continuous process that is characterized by the specific psychological patterns that form throughout a woman's life history. These patterns are demonstrated by women's particular types of behaviors and demeanors and, in turn, permit others to ascribe to them—in varying combinations and ratios—specific cultural values or qualities. I argue that these attributes are the critical ones that inform the cultural construction and designation of being 'middle-aged' and 'older' as it pertains to Hindu women of Vārānāsī.

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Boris Belge, Anna Bara, Tricia Starks and Christopher J. Ward

Smoking under the Tsars: A History of Tobacco in Imperial Russia. Tricia Starks. (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2018), xiii + 320 pp. ISBN 978-1-5017-2205-9.

White Fox and Icy Seas in the Western Arctic: The Fur Trade, Transportation and Change in the Early Twentieth Century. John R. Bockstoce. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2018), 327 pp., index, illustrations, maps, $40.00 (hardback). ISBN 978-0-300-22179-4.

Delo—Tabak: Polveka fabriki “Iava” glazami ee rukovoditelia. Leonid Sinel’nikov. (Moscow: Delo, 2017), 511 pp., ISBN: 978-5-7749-1260-5.

Life Histories of Etnos Theory in Russia and Beyond. David G. Anderson, Dmitry V. Arzyutov and Sergei S. Alymov, eds. (Cambridge, UK: Open Book Publishers, 2019), 425 pp., https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0150, ISBN 9781783745449.

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Narratives of the Invisible

Autobiography, Kinship, and Alterity in Native Amazonia

Vanessa Elisa Grotti and Marc Brightman

Shamanic knowledge is based on an ambiguous commensality with invisible others. As a result, shamans oscillate constantly between spheres of intimacy, both visible and invisible. A place of power and transformation, the spirit world is rarely described by native interlocutors in an objective, detached way; rather, they depict it in terms of events and experiences. Instead of examining the formal qualities of accounts of the spirit world through analyses of ritual performance and shamanic quests, we focus on life histories as autobiographical accounts in order to explore what they reveal about the relationship between personal history (and indigenous historicity) and the spirit world. We introduce the term ‘double reflexivity’ to refer to processes by which narratives about the self are produced through relationships with alterity.