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Developing a culture of marginality

Nepal's current classificatory moment

Sara Shneiderman

This article examines the complex relationships between marginalized communities, the state, and nonstate actors such as development agencies and social scientists in crafting the classificatory regimes that undergird affirmative action policies. Focusing on the current dynamics of “ethnic restructuring“ amid the broader political process of postconflict “state restructuring“ in Nepal, I suggest that international actors often unwittingly encourage the hardening of ethnic boundaries through development projects that target “marginalized“ populations defined in cultural terms. However, such interventions can also yield unexpected transformations in agentive ethnic consciousness. This ethnographic exploration of current classificatory processes in non-postcolonial Nepal provides an important counterpoint to material from the Indian context, where histories of colonial classification have debatably influenced contemporary categories-and their critique-to a significant extent.

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Joyful pessimism

Marginality, disengagement, and the doing of nothing

Martin Demant Frederiksen

. Boredom is that which happens when nothing happens ( Sjørslev 2013: 102 ). Studies of the relation between marginality and boredom have often focused on the mechanisms by which boredom emerges among certain individuals or groups as they become distanced

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Family on the Edge

Neblagopoluchnaia Family and the State in Yakutsk and Magadan, Russian Federation

Lena Sidorova and Elena Khlinovskaya Rockhill

the child welfare network is continuously recreated, while simultaneously, a nascent problem of poverty becomes fused with (im)morality. We follow parents on their (unwilling) journey to marginality. To elucidate the nature of marginality, we use two

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On and Off the Margin

The Anthropology of Contemporary Jewry

Andrew Buckser

In recent decades, the ethnography of Jews and Judaism has followed the larger movement in cultural anthropology toward a focus on the margin—the cultural, geographical, and demographic borderlands where questions of group and individual identity are negotiated. The article explores this literature and the questions it raises about the nature of Jewish community and culture. It discusses three areas where marginality has had a particular resonance in Jewish ethnography. Studies of 'marginal Jews' focus on the periphery of traditional Jewish communities, people whose gender, ethnic, and sexual identities lie outside of local normative models. Studies of 'unexpected Jewries' explore a geographical periphery outside the few centers that dominate international Jewish culture and self-understanding. Studies of 'Jews in motion' examine transitional Jews—tourists, immigrants, refugees, and others who bridge the local contexts within which Jewish identities are constructed. These studies reveal Jewish culture to be much more complex, dynamic, and durable than social scientists and Jews themselves have often imagined it.

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Marja Spierenburg, Conrad Steenkamp and Harry Wels

The Great Limpopo is one of the largest Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs) in the world, encompassing vast areas in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. The TFCA concept is embraced by practically all (international) conservation agencies. The rationale for the support is that the boundaries of ecosystems generally do not overlap with those of the nation-state. Their protection requires transnational cooperation. By arguing that local communities living in or close to TFCAs will participate and benefit economically, TFCA proponents claim social legitimacy for the project. However, analysis shows that communities first have to live up to rigid standards and requirements set by the international conservation authorities, before they are considered ‘fit’ to participate. Communities attempt to resist this type of marginalization by forming alliances with (inter)national development and human rights NGOs, with mixed results.

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Marjorie Harness Goodwin

Making use of videotaped interactions of lunchtime conversations among multi-ethnic preadolescent peers (based on three years of fieldwork in LA) this ethnographically based study investigates the embodied language practices through which girls construct friendship alliances as well as relationships of power and exclusion. Girls display “best friend” relations not only through roles they select in dramatic play, such as twins married to twins in “house,” but also through embraces and celebratory handclaps that affirm alliances. Older (sixth grade) girls assert their power with respect to younger fourth grade girls through intrusive activities such as grabbing food from lunchboxes, insults, and instigating gossip; younger girls boldly resist such actions through fully embodied stances. Relations of exclusion are visible not only in seating arrangements of a marginalized “tagalong” girl with respect to the friendship clique, but also highlighted in the ways she is differentially treated when an implicit social norm is violated.

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"With calluses on your palms they don't bother you"

Illegal Romanian migrants in Italy

Ana Bleahu

For every official registered Romanian migrant in Italy there are between one and three illegal, unregistered migrants. This article examines the informal forms of self-organization that arise among the migrants in order to manage the challenges migrants face under a system that needs their labor but refuses to acknowledge this need publicly or institutionalize it openly. Semi-tolerated illegality determines the forms of networks both in the organization of the migration and in the forms of its integration into the labor and housing markets. This strictly ethnographic and qualitative presentation focuses on informal solutions to housing and the creation of informal labor markets and the consequences for the migrants of this enforced informality. It shows how the Italian state is caught between toleration and repression, arbitrarily switching from one mode to the other.

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Alice Wilson

Revisiting 'the margins' as an illuminating conceptual space analogous to, yet distinct from, the exception, this article explores the Arab Spring from its margins to highlight 'silencing effects' that, if they underpin the problematic notions of the Arab Spring and Arab exceptionalism, assume spectacular dimensions at the margins, namely, the 'disappearance' of an uprising. The disputed territory of Western Sahara, partially annexed by Morocco since 1975, saw an unprecedented uprising in October-November 2010. Annexed Western Sahara's uprising narrowly preceded Tunisia's, conventionally recognized as the first of the Arab Spring. Despite Sahrawis' perceptions of similarities between their uprising and the Arab Spring, Western Sahara's uprising is overlooked in most analyses of the Arab Spring. 'Silencing effects' obscure these similarities and, ultimately, the uprising itself.

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Katalin Solymosi

Using the concept that landscapes are ideas formed by viewers about their physical surroundings, this article examines visitors' landscape perceptions of two peripheral regions of Europe: Gyimes in the Romanian Eastern Carpathians, and Las Hurdes in the Northern Extremadura of Spain. Both are characterized by exceptional, historically-evolved cultural landscapes and a population that culturally or ethnically differs from the national mainstream surrounding them. Based on literature review, expert consultations, and a questionnaire survey conducted in the research areas, I conclude that due to historical developments, socio-economic settings, and ethnic differences, the outsiders' view of these landscapes can be strongly distorted. In the tourist, misinformation and wishful thinking create a “mental map” that does not represent reality. I also note that along with having a possible impact on inhabitants' landscape perception and their strong regional identity, the outsiders' view might influence policy decisions and therefore the general development of a region.

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Penny Harvey

• What is the status of anthropology in Britain? • What does the general non-academic public know about anthropology? • What is the ‘stereotype’ of the anthropologist? • Does anthropological knowledge travel beyond academia to broader publics? • What is the status of anthropology within the University?