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Peripheral vision as anthropological critique

How perspectives from the margins can illuminate the exploits of twenty-first-century global capitalism

Cris Shore and Susanna Trnka

In the context of rapid neoliberal reform, both anthropology as a discipline and the social and cultural phenomena it studies are undergoing profound changes. In this article we develop June Nash's concept of “peripheral vision” to show how peripheries, and the politics of “peripheralization”, can illuminate processes of neoliberalization and the implications that this has for anthropological knowledge production. We argue that anthropology is uniquely situated to examine the conceptual blind spots produced by capitalism. By recasting “peripheral vision” as an analytic concept and methodological tool, we show how cultivating our ethnographic sensibilities to identify and hone in on events and processes that lie beyond our immediate field of vision can provide a useful antidote to the seductive fantasies of contemporary capitalism. In doing so, we also suggest how this approach can help counter some of the increasing strictures on knowledge production and narrowing of the research imagination that neoliberal reforms impose.

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Wind of Change

Separating Heads and Bodies in Eastern Europe

Tanel Rander

What remains of the Soviet identity for those who grew up in an empire that started in the Baltic sea and ended in Kamchatka? What kind of post-Soviet cultural combos have been produced afterwards? Was it bizarre to listen to Led Zeppelin and Nirvana while being targeted with nuclear missiles from the West? In a retrospective way and engaging with the collective memory of his home country, Estonia, the author reflects on different narratives of Europeanisation, shame and peripherality and the way local people embodied them.

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Jeffrey J. Anderson

Twenty years after all the excitement, Germans seem to be genuinely of two conflicting minds about unification. One is characterized by awe over the accomplishments of 1989-1990, the other by disappointment and even bitterness over unfulfilled ambitions and promises. These contrasting interpretations and assessments of unification are fluid, but surface repeatedly in the quality print media. This chapter examines the recurring themes, interpretations, and narratives about unification twenty years on, and seeks to trace the interconnections between the social, economic, and political dimensions of unification. As such, these contemporary printed narratives can tell us a great deal about how a people views its recent past, what its priorities are, and how it is facing the future. The analysis reveals that public discourse on unification twenty years after the fact resembles a blind spot—look straight at it, and it disappears, replaced by blank spot—a seemingly irreducible gap between East and West. Avert one's gaze, and the spot fills in, almost seamlessly.

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Creating a Significant Community

Religious Engagements in the Film Ha-Mashgihim (God’s Neighbors)

Merav Alush-Levron

main characters, in the peripheral Mizrahi Jewish location where the story takes place, and in Mizrahi cultural symbols that compose the mise en scène —as well as for being a part of the Mizrahi Jewish self-representation project in contemporary

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Ritual Infrastructure

Roads to Certainty in Two Brazilian Religions

Inger Sjørslev

between strong magical forces and peripheral placement was thus more or less openly articulated by people who came to the cult houses from far away to seek advice and spiritual guidance, and to a significant extent this conformed with the classical idea of

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Glen David Kuecker and Thomas D. Hall

In this essay we explore how humans might face systemic collapse and/or entry into a dark age through forms of community resilience. We also note that nature, types of communities, and degrees of resilience differ in core, peripheral, and semiperipheral areas of the contemporary world-system. Core or global north or first world communities have all but disintegrated due to neoliberal policies. However, communities in peripheral and semiperipheral areas are more emergent, and more resilient. These areas are most likely to have or to creatively develop strategies to overcome global collapse. We further argue that social scientists need to develop new definitions of community that go beyond contemporary conceptualizations.

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Belonging through Languagecultural Practices in the Periphery

The Politics of Carnival in the Dutch Province of Limburg

Leonie Cornips and Vincent De Rooij

In this article, we will present two case studies of language and cultural practices that are part of or strongly related to carnival, in the Dutch peripheral province of Limburg, and more precisely in the southern Limburgian city of Heerlen, which in turn is considered peripheral vis-à-vis the provincial capital Maastricht. We will consider carnival as a political force field in which opposing language and cultural practices are involved in the production of belonging as an official, public-oriented 'formal structure' of membership, and belonging as a personal, intimate feeling of being 'at home' in a place (place-belongingness) (Antonsich 2010; Yuval-Davis 2006). In the case studies presented here, we take seriously the idea that ideology, linguistic form and the situated use of language are dialectically related (Silverstein 1985). In doing so, we wish to transcend disciplinary boundaries between anthropology and (socio)linguistics in Europe.

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From the Ottoman to the American Empire

Syrian Narratives of Global Power

Kathleen Reedy

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.

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Introduction

Higher education reform in the ‘periphery’

Mariya Ivancheva and Ivo Syndicus

In recent years, an increasing body of work has addressed the ‘corporatisation’ and ‘commodification’ of universities, as well as higher education sector reforms more broadly. This work refers mostly to the traditional core hubs of higher education, such as the Anglo-American research university. In the emerging anthropology of higher education policy, accounts of the implementation and negotiation of reforms in more ‘peripheral’ contexts often remain absent. This collection of articles addresses this absence by focusing on the interplay between narratives of global policy reform and the processes of their implementation and negotiation in different contexts in the academic ‘periphery’. Bringing together work from a range of settings and through different lenses, the special issue provides insights into the common processes of reform that are underway and how decisions to implement certain reforms reaffirm rather than challenge peripheral positions in higher education.

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Laura Sartori

A foreigner robbed, beat up, raped, and dumped an Italian woman,

Francesca Reggiani, to die in a ditch as she was returning home along

a poorly lit, scruffy road in Tor di Quinto, a peripheral area of Rome

and the site of a gypsy camp. This incident in 2007 was the final straw

that resulted in an explosive debate on safety and security in Italy,

coinciding with the presentation by the government of its Security

Package on 30 October.