The suggestion that the anthropological study of morality is theoretically undeveloped carries with it the risk of caricaturing ideas of moral obligation in mid-twentieth-century social anthropology. The need for recovering aspects of these ideas is demonstrated by the tendency of moral philosophers to reduce the issue of world poverty to a question of ethical choices and dilemmas. Examining the diplomatic tie that had existed for almost 42 years between Malawi and Taiwan and an ill-fated project of Taiwanese aid in rural Malawi, this article maintains that honoring obligations indicates neither a communitarian ethos nor rule-bound behavior. As the mid-twentieth-century anthropology of Africa theorized ethnographically, the moral and existential import of obligation lies in its contingent materiality rather than in social control. Such insights, the article concludes, can enrich debates on world poverty with alternative intellectual resources.
Beyond Morality in the Anthropology of Africa?
Beyond Reciprocity and Obligation in the Ger Districts of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
obligation. This article engages with such approaches but also highlights their potential shortcomings, namely that reciprocity is too often imposed from the outside and overlooks people's own motivations and understandings of material transfers, and that
Tangled Histories and Changing Contexts of the Burnett River Rock Engravings
Brit Asmussen, Lester Michael Hill, Sean Ulm, and Chantal Knowles
not be seen as a relic of a past culture but as a resource for the maintenance and reproduction of a living culture, entailing rights and obligations to pass on cultural knowledge: Our cultural sites are not dead. They’re still breathing, that’s what I
‘Refugee 2 Refugee’ Care and Solidarity in Greece
)’ solidarities. In this article, I examine how grassroots refugee-activists and the solidarians in Greece articulate a collectivist politics of care which expands conventional understandings of refugees’ ‘basic rights’ and the moral obligations of care. They work
Vindicatory Approaches to Housing Justice
Irene Sabaté Muriel
, acknowledging that debt does not only consist of an economic obligation, but also of social and moral ones ( Graeber 2011 ). Such obligations are inscribed within creditor–debtor asymmetrical power relations, entail specific forms of subjectivation and
'Tacit consent' has long interested historians of political thought and political philosophers, but its nuances nevertheless remain unappreciated. It has its roots in the Roman law concept of a 'tacit declaration of will'. Explicating this concept allows a new conception of tacit consent to be proposed, which I term the 'tacit declaration of consent'. The tacit declaration of consent avoids both the triviality of common sense views and a weakness in Hobbes' account. Unlike other contemporary philosophical accounts, it avoids fictions and meets the condition of intentionality. Furthermore, it also advances understanding of the sorts of claim offered by proponents of a tacit consent-based theory of political obligation, whilst facilitating a more radical critique. The tacit consent-based theory of political obligation is not simply limited in application, but indefensible. It unwarrantedly transposes onto tacit consent the potentially fictional character of declarations of will.
This paper asks whether David Miller's minimalist theory of human rights is coherent with his claim that obligations of global justice involve obligations to provide people with a minimally decent life. I argue that there is a justice gap in Miller's theory: the structure of his distinction between basic and societal needs is such that people will be left below the level of minimal decency even when obligations of justice are met. Miller can either bite this bullet or look for alternative sources of obligations of justice. I take up the second option by arguing that there can be obligations of global justice to build institutions that enable societies to generate income and wealth.
There has been much debate on the question of rights in African communitarian thinking. Some scholars have averred that duties are prior to rights in African communitarian society, and that to prioritise rights is foreign to the non-Western perspective. Yet, there are others who argue that in non-Western societies rights are prior to duties. I share this view. I present my position by arguing that economic rights in African communitarianism affirms autonomy of the individual, though the same rights are expressed through the ideas of consensus and human well-being. In my argument I state that human well-being is well expressed as a communal effort climaxed through consensus where all these are premised on individual autonomy. By arguing in this way, I respond to the accusation that says African philosophers who argue for the priority of rights have failed to demonstrate how rights are considered prior to duties in African societies.
Historical Justice and Cultural Memory
Victor Jeleniewski Seidler
Exploring some of the tensions in the recent international conference on 'Jews and Non-Jews in Lithuania: Coexistence, Cooperation, Violence', held at UCL in December 2012, I show how they relate to ways in which the Holocaust is to be understood and historical justice done not only to those who were murdered and suffered but also to the sufferings of Lithuanians under Soviet Occupation. Questioning the notion of a 'double holocaust' that would seek some equivalence I also interrogate assumptions informing the programme of the Prague Declaration. I explore ethical issues of what it means to do justice to the dead and how this calls for an ethical historiography that goes beyond its positivist frameworks.
Landmark anthropological works on fame have shown that gift-giving is often the vehicle for producing relations of 'positive value' and recognition. When viewing fame against the related notion of fortune, however, the focal point of study shifts to how people produce reputations that are 'beyond value' or 'priceless'. This article proposes that the Nuosu of Southwest China enter into an ongoing 'economy of ordeals' in order to accumulate priceless 'tokens of value' that increase their 'fate-fortune' and fame. It shows that ambitious Nuosu accept new ordeals to achieve fame, while comfortably viewing their accomplishments as akin to those of a predatory spider. Tellingly, though, these efforts are vulnerable to the counter-extractive maneuvers of other people and ghosts, which present the Nuosu with new ordeals that could deplete their resources.