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The Precarious Center

Religious Leadership among African Christians

Thomas G. Kirsch

This article addresses a long-standing conundrum in the anthropology of religion concerning the ambiguous status of religious leaders: they are subjects of power in that they are able to exert power over others, yet they are objects of power in that they rely on empowerment through others. Taking African-initiated Pentecostal-charismatic Christianity in Zambia as my example, I argue that church leaders' strategies to stabilize their authority have unintended consequences since these strategies can contribute to the precariousness of their positions. By drawing fundamental distinctions between themselves and members of the laity as regards their own extraordinariness, church leaders raise high expectations about their own capacities that may turn out to be impossible to fulfill. Yet even the opposite strategy of strengthening one's authority by embedding oneself in socio-religious networks can eventually lead to a destabilization of church leaders' authority because it increases their dependence on factors that are beyond their control.

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“And When I Become a Man”

Translocal Coping with Precariousness and Uncertainty among Returnee Men in South Sudan

Katarzyna Grabska and Martha Fanjoy

In this article, we argue that return in the aftermath of conflict-induced displacement is often undertaken in contexts of uncertainty. After years spent in war and displacement, people return to an unknown and uncertain present and future, shaped by ideal images of home and brutal memories of conflict. Based on ethnographic fieldwork among South Sudanese refugees in Kenya and Canada and returnees in South Sudan, we analyze the 'return home' strategies, motivations, and experiences of returnee men. We suggest that uncertainty often transforms the present and the future of returning populations and the societies to which they return. Our research shows that in their attempts to minimize their wartime and displacement uncertainties, returnee men transform, negotiate, and reconstruct national, ethnic, and gender identities in a variety of ways, depending on their age and experiences in exile.

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Francisco A. Ortega

“Oh Time! Only God knows your dark secret.” —José Eusebio Caro, “La bendición nupcial” 1 The Precarious Texture of a New Historical Time According to nineteenth-century historian José Manuel Restrepo, “[w]ith the exception of a few noteworthy events

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Patrick McEvoy

Cristina Grasseni, Heather Paxson, and Anna Tsing take us on three explorations of food systems in various parts of the world. Each examines practices responding to the unevenly distributed and increasingly precarious global food distribution system

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Larisa Carranza

Anna Tuckett (2018), Rules, Paper, Status: Migrants and Precarious Bureaucracy in Contemporary Italy (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press) Anna Tuckett's book examines how migrants grapple with the contradictory immigration laws that

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Precarious lives?

Narratives of hope, loss, and "normality" across two generations of Czechs

Haldis Haukanes

Framed by questions concerning the normal biography and its distortion in late modernity, this article examines the biographical narratives of two different generations of Czechs. Through a parallel analysis of retrospective and future-oriented imaginations of life, the article explores the extent to which the two generations' narratives are structured along the expectations implicated in the normal biography and the kinds of disturbances to the “normal“ pattern that surface in these accounts. Moreover, it explores intergenerational dynamics by examining the narratives' generational tropes and the level of generational reflexivity they display. I argue that while their key tropes of narration have changed substantially, people of both generations share an adherence to the normal biography as well as a lack of interest in placing their own biography in relation to the history of the nation.

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Rolf Dieter Hepp

have lost their potential legitimacy, resulting in new patterns of social uncertainty and precarious living conditions that are becoming a social reality across Europe. This change is challenging established norms, traditional ways, secured existence

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'No Room for Truth'

On the Precariousness of Life and Narrative in The Last of the Just

Josh Cohen

This article explores André Schwarz-Bart's famous novel, The Last of the Just, as the expression of twin crises in literary and religious representation. Ernie Levy's words, 'there is no room for truth here', spoken on the transport to Auschwitz as he cradles and comforts a dying child with stories of an idyllic afterlife, become the point of departure for a reading of the novel in terms of the loss of just this 'room for truth'. The article considers the novel's reimagining of the legend of the Lamed Vav in the light of Gershom Scholem's criticism that Schwarz-Bart compromises the legend's 'moral anarchy' before casting the novel in the light of Freud's remarks on traumatic dreams in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, as well as Emmanuel Levinas' ideas on 'useless suffering'. The last part of the article reads the novel's anguished theological motifs alongside Paul Celan's poem 'Psalm'.

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Introduction

Rethinking the class politics of boredom

Marguerite van den Berg and Bruce O’Neill

economically vulnerable. And instead of affecting the passing downtime between moments of activity, boredom and a sense of “doing nothing” emerged as a predominant characteristic of the precariousness of everyday life for millions of people across the world. A

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Avoiding Poison

Congolese Refugees Seeking Cosmological Continuity in Urban Asylum

Georgina Ramsay

assured in such precarious conditions of daily life. Yet it would be misleading to essentialize their lives in terms of physiological insecurity, as if their existence could be reduced, using Agamben’s (1998 ) phrase, to ‘bare life’. According to Agamben