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Incipient “commoning” in defense of the public?

Competing varieties of fiscal citizenship in tax- and spending-related direct democracy

Sandra Morgen and Jennifer Erickson

This article examines the development of competing forms of fiscal citizenship in Oregon tax-related ballot initiative campaigns between 1970 and 2010. Antitax advocates constructed a “taxpayer identity politics” that positioned a privatized “taxpayer” against representatives of the state, recipients of public services, and public sector unions. In response, a progressive coalition produced an alternative citizen—the “Oregonian,” a socially responsible taxpayer/citizen who supports and defends public services and values a “common good.” “Incipient commoning” emerges as support for “the common good” through discourse about community and belonging that is more and other than, though in relation to, the state. Attention to how “publics” conceive of themselves suggests that concepts like the “the commons” already circulate in the imaginaries and vocabularies of advocates resisting neoliberal policies.

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Moral Conflict

The Private, the Public and the Political

Marios Filis

This article investigates the connection between the phenomenon of moral conflict and the concepts of the private, the public and the political. In the first part of the article, as a way of locating my pluralistic position within the tradition of authors such as Isaiah Berlin and Steven Lukes, I develop a brief overview of modern meta-ethics and argue that monistic and relativistic explanations of morality are the cause of many of the antinomies that trouble human conduct. In the second part of the article, I make the central contention that moral pluralism is particularly useful in clarifying the concepts of the private, the public and the political as distinct domains of activity. I argue that we should treat moral conflict differently in each of these three domains and conclude that the moral significance and peculiarity of politics has been undeservedly underestimated in contemporary times.

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Grégory Dallemagne, Víctor del Arco, Ainhoa Montoya and Marta Pérez

This commentary seeks to engage the issue of 'impact' in social anthropology by scrutinising the topic of open access. Drawing on the discussions that took place at the international conference 'FAQs about Open Access: The Political Economy of Knowledge in Anthropology and Beyond', held in October 2014 in Madrid, we suggest that addressing the topic of open access allows a two-fold goal. On one hand, it elucidates that public debates about open access rely on a rather minimalist notion of openness that does not yield an adequate understanding of what is at stake in those debates. On the other, we argue that expanding the notion of openness does not only allow us to revisit the debate concerning what we do as academics, how we do it and what its value is, but also to do so going beyond current notions of 'impact' and 'public value' underpinned by the principle of economic efficiency in a context of increasingly reduced research funds.

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Intimate Publics, Public Intimacies

Natural Limits, Creation and the Culture of Mahremiyet in Turkey

Sertaç Sehlikoglu

This article offers an ethnographic account of the culture of mahremiyet [intimacy and privacy] in Turkey, not only as an institution of intimacy regulating everyday sexual relationships between individuals in public, but also as a system enabling the operation of social normalcies through the creation of boundaries and privileges. By probing the concepts of mahremiyet and fıtrat [creation or natural disposition], the article investigates how intimacy operates in religious, mundane and political registers, and delves into the intricate relationship between the intimate and the shared. It suggests that the culture of mahremiyet is deeply rooted in the ways individuals construct their sense of selves in relation to others, and imagine mahrem boundaries as natural, God-given, or fıtrî laws in their entanglement with gender. The use of the language of mahremiyet in contemporary politics not only enables what can seem to be a meta-cultural intelligibility that guarantees popular support, but also distances any critique as strange or foreign.

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The Girl in the GIF

Reading the Self into Girlfriendship

Akane Kanai

In this article, I explore the practice of reading as a form of social participation in girlhood in digital spaces. Positioning girlhood as the circulation of particular discourses and affects, I consider a set of six self-representative blogs authored by young women on the microblogging platform Tumblr, and the affective and discursive positions they invite through their address to readers. Adapted from a central blog named WhatShouldWeCallMe, these blogs use GIFs (looping, animated images) and captions to articulate feelings and reactions relating to everyday situations that readers, addressed as girlfriends, are expected to recognize and relate to as common experience. I suggest that readers’ aesthetic and social participation in the circulation of these texts is key to the formation of digital publics in which readers come to recognize themselves as girls through calls to common feeling.

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Impolite Interventions?

English Satirical Prints in the Presence of the Academy, c. 1750–1780

Danielle Thom

This article examines the reciprocity between satirical and academic modes of image making, and locates that relationship within the context of an emergent bourgeois public sphere. The cultural and commercial imperatives of that sphere enabled its inhabitants to engage with conflicting modes of cultural output, consuming grotesque and bawdy satire as an exercise in political autonomy, while simultaneously emulating 'elite' politeness. In particular, the commercial growth and increasing visibility of satirical prints challenged the polite hierarchy of art as it was understood by the nascent academies and societies of art established in the same period. This process of establishment needs to be re-framed in the context of satirical intervention, and will be examined via two paintings that provoked distinct satirical responses: Benjamin West's The Death of Wolfe and Francis Hayman's The See-Saw. Correspondingly, satirical print culture itself can be reframed in light of its use (and parody) of academic visual tropes and techniques.

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Introduction

Anthropological Knowledge and Practice in Global Health

Rodney Reynolds and Isabelle L. Lange

Since the turn of the millennium, conceptual and practice-oriented shifts in global health have increasingly given emphasis to health indicator production over research and interventions that emerge out of local social practices, environments and concerns. In this special issue of Anthropology in Action, we ask whether such globalised contexts allow for, recognise and sufficiently value the research contributions of our discipline. We question how global health research, ostensibly inter- or multi-disciplinary, generates knowledge. We query ‘not-knowing’ practices that inform and shape global health evidence as influenced by funders’ and collaborators’ expectations. The articles published here provide analyses of historical and ethnographic field experiences that show how sidelining anthropological contributions results in poorer research outcomes for the public. Citing experiences in Latin America, Angola, Senegal, Nigeria and the domain of global health evaluation, the authors consider anthropology’s roles in global health.

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'Inter-publics'

Hindu Mobilization beyond the Bourgeois Public Sphere

Ursula Rao

This article develops the notion of interconnected publics as a means to understand better both the escalation of Hindu political activism in the 1990s in India and its subsequent waning in the new millennium. I argue that the prime visibility of Hindu fundamentalism in the 1990s was a result of the effective—yet tenuous—connection between various spaces for public communication. The emerging 'inter-public' effectively imbricated the private viewing of religious soap operas with public ritual and political debate to produce, for a short historical moment, the image of a vibrant, forceful, and dominant Hindu nation. The aim of this article is to contribute to Indian studies by discussing the essential, yet in the literature mostly neglected, connections between devotional practices, media Hinduism, and political mobilization. At the broader conceptual level, I argue for a theory of inter-publics that interrogates how multiple 'micropublics' link up to create tangible political effects.

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Sam Beck

What if we use theory and method to benefit the people we study and with whom we partner to develop an increasingly just world in which inequities are reduced and all people may believe in their ability to reach their potentials by having access to resources that are more or less equally available, distributed and accessible? Each in her or his way, the contributors to this ‘Special Issue on Public Anthropology’ provide example trajectories which move anthropologists in this direction.

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The Embattled Public Sphere

Hannah Arendt, Juergen Habermas and Beyond

Seyla Benhabib

In 1927 the American journalist, Walter Lippmann, published The Phantom Public.1Written against the background of growing despair and disillusionment about the viability of representative democracies in Europe and North America, in this work Lippmann decried the ‘ideal of sovereign and omnicompetent citizens’ to be a fiction at best and a phantom at worst. Lippmann’s elitist and pessimistic assessment of the fiction of collective deliberations engaged in by informed citizens, elicited a spirited response from John Dewey in The Public and its Problems.2 Granting that the experience of industrial and urban modern societies undermined ‘the genuine community life’ out of which American democracy had developed, Dewey admitted: ‘The public seems to be lost... If a public exists, it is surely as uncertain about its whereabouts as philosophers since Hume have been about the residence and make-up of the self’.