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The Far Eastern Railway in the 1930s

Relations and Reactions to the Repressions in the USSR

Elena Gnatovskaya and Alexander Kim

This article evaluates the relationship among the railroad staff of the Far East during the most dramatic events in the political life of the country at that time—repressions. As a rule, Russian academic literature indicates that few workers perceived the Soviet state’s mechanisms of pressure negatively. This article demonstrates that the railroad staff’s position was far more diverse than traditionally argued, which is a result of the broad variety of social groups working for the railroad in the Far East. The article demonstrates this diversity of opinions by focusing on those events that affected a significant number of railroad workers.

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Wolfgang Beck and Laurent J.G. van der Maesen

In this article we will focus on the political role of citizens in the ongoing process of European unification. The standard interpretations of unification suggest that this process is the outcome of a force of intrinsic necessity. Paving the way for the internal market, monetary and fiscal harmonisation should, therefore, lead to the formation of a political community. We do not accept such a post-Hegelian interpretation, however. This process is a consequence of chosen political priorities. In our opinion these should prioritise the development of political relations, referring to democratically based values in order to determine the starting points for economic, welfare and cultural policies. But, according to Fritz Scharpf, this has not been the case. The politics of the Union have paved the way for the free market system - mainly as a response to the principle of profit maximising - resulting in a decline, in the long run, of the politics with which to develop conditions for a political community.

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Gold Teeth, Indian Dresses, Chinese Lycra and ‘Russian’ Hair

Embodied Diplomacy and the Assemblages of Dress in Tajikistan

Diana Ibañez-Tirado

This article examines the assemblages of dress in Tajikistan as a showground of everyday diplomacy, and seeks to stimulate recognition of the alternative sites of diplomacy that play an active role in mediating political relations between diverse nation-states, and the brand images of nations. I suggest that the term ‘embodied diplomacy’ is useful to convey the processes through which Tajikistan’s people negotiate the government-led dress codes and navigate social pressures about public gendered images. The incorporation of so-called foreign items into people’s apparel triggers situations in which the assemblages of particular bodies and items of dress most clearly emerge as diplomatic sites. Such everyday situations reveal Tajikistan’s residents as diplomats insofar as they reflect on their roles as the country’s representatives at the same time as they deploy their skills of communication, persuasion and mediation to negotiate between compulsory dress codes, incoming fashion trends, family expectations and personal aesthetics.

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Antonius Robben

Technological developments in the security field are calling for a new anthropological approach to the study of violence. The anthropology of violence shifted during the late 1980s from an emphasis on the structural and symbolic dynamics of violence to a focus on historical and social practices. The concern for violence exercised through political relations was replaced by attention to the everyday experience of violence, while central concepts such as state, power, ritual, mobilization, and resistance made way for terror, trauma, suffering, subjectivity, and resilience. The time has arrived for a new take on violence that can help us understand the revolutionary impact of technological innovations adopted by police, military, secret services, and private companies. The push for seamless surveillance systems, the tapping of e-mail traffic, phone and wireless communications, permanent camera supervision, body scans, biosensors, and activity analyses of cars and people circulating in public places are affecting people’s daily lives, bodily integrity, and freedom of personal expression and selfhood.

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Blackout

Freedom, without Power

Christopher Allsobrook

This article attributes the conception of 'freedom-without-power' which dominates contemporary Western political philosophy to a reification of social agency that mystifies contexts of human capacities and achievements. It suggests that Plato's analogy between the structure of the soul and the polis shows how freedom is a consequence, rather than a condition, of political relations, mediated by inter-subjective contestation. From this basis, the article draws on the work of Raymond Geuss to argue against pre-political ethical frameworks in political philosophy, in favour of a more contextually sensitive, self-critical approach to ethics. Such reciprocal ethical-political integration addresses problems of ideological complicity that may arise if freedom is discretely abstracted from history and power in political philosophy. Finally, the article roughly reconstructs a critical account of African identity from writings of Steven Biko to illuminate symptoms of 'meritocratic apartheid' in South Africa today which Thad Metz's influential pre-political conception of ubuntu obscures, by abstracting the figure of African personhood from politically significant historical conditions.

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Morag Shiach

This article will explore the imaginative, philosophical and political relations between human labour and selfhood in a central fictional text of the 1930s: Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s trilogy A Scots Quair. James Leslie Mitchell, writing under the pseudonym of Lewis Grassic Gibbon, published the three volumes that make up this trilogy between 1932 and 1934. The first, Sunset Song (1932) develops narrative and symbolic resources for the representation of the economic and cultural history of farming communities in North-East Scotland from 1911 to the end of the First World War (with a formally inventive prelude that reaches back to the Norman Conquest). This novel is centrally concerned with the developing consciousness of Chris Guthrie, a farmer’s daughter, and much of its free-indirect narrative style offers glimpses into her perceptions, fears, and desires as she moves from childhood to early adulthood. The second novel, Cloud Howe (1933), shows the pressure on community and on continuity as Chris moves with her second husband and her son to a small industrial town in the 1920s. It explores the efforts towards collectivity as well as the social and psychic costs of faith, as Chris and her family try to sustain relationships and histories in the conflictual and rapidly changing social relationships of Scotland in the 1920s. The final novel, Grey Granite (1933) follows the logic of the first two novels in moving to the city. Chris’s son Ewan acts out the logic of intense identification with the impersonal demands of the collective, a psychological and social adjustment that is signalled through the symbolic centrality of rocks and minerals to the novel, while Chris struggles to survive her financially precarious identity as an impoverished widow.