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Torsten Cress

Today, the insight that material objects are an important part of social life is widely recognized in the social and cultural sciences. But how exactly do things affect the microlevel of social interaction? And by which methodological means can their significance for it be explored? Based on a study of Catholic liturgy, an ethnographic approach is developed that allows for systematic investigations into the role material objects play in social situations. Using Erving Goffman's frame analysis as a theoretical tool, it assumes that things are constitutive of social situations while in turn helping participants make sense of these situations. Conversely, the impact of things is considered closely tied to their particular situational involvement. In order to explore the connections between materiality, meaning, and use, I suggest investigating a number of closely related aspects: the contribution of things to the specifics of the situation in question; the bodily practices in which they are involved; the physical environment in which they are embedded; the physical qualities they possess; and the social definitions tied to them.

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The Outburst

Climate Change, Gender Relations, and Situational Analysis

Jonas Østergaard Nielsen

Since the major Sahelian droughts and famines of the early 1970s and 1980s, international development and aid organizations have played a large role in the small village of Biidi 2, located in northern Burkina Faso. This article explores how a visit by a development 'expert' to the village can be analyzed as a social situation in which normal social control is suspended and negotiated. Focusing on gender relations, the analysis shows how the women of Biidi 2 involved in the event were relatively free to construct alternative definitions of their identity and social position vis-à-vis the men.

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Noisy Lives, Noisy Bodies

Exploring the Sensorial Embodiment of Class

Camilla Hoffmann Merrild, Peter Vedsted, and Rikke Sand Andersen

out to socialise, and it was a place to go if one felt like hanging out with others. Fieldwork consisted of participant observation such as hanging out in the community house; in the homes; or taking part in everyday social situations; of endless

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Debora Mantovani

The documentary appendix presented in the following pages is

intended to provide the reader with a general picture of the demographic,

economic, and social situation that formed the background to

the events of 2004 discussed earlier in this volume.

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The Main Spheres of Activities of Sakhalin Uilta

Survival Experience in the Present-Day Context

Lyudmila I. Missonova

The paper describes the contemporary economic and social situation of the Uilta, an indigenous people on the island of Sakhalin. Particular emphasis is put on the legal and practical conditions for reindeer herding and fishing, the availability of labour resources, and the contribution of ethnically defined enterprises to securing Uilta cultural survival. Field research in 2001-2004 disclosed how the implementation of rights to land and resources works, or fails to work, on the local level. Through the analysis of the Uilta case, this report contributes to scientific debates on access to land and resource use.

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Peter Oakley


This article explores the extent to which gold jewelry, an object type conventionally looked on as a means of display, should also be seen as a type of money. Drawing on historical evidence and ethnographic research, the analysis considers the ways in which two examples—the Renaissance money chain and the modern jewelry collection—exhibit characteristics fundamental to money: liquidity, partibility, and recursive divisibility. As a result, this study proposes that gold jewelry can best be described as a type of para-money. The article concludes that due to its ambiguous state, gold jewelry is able to act as a mediator in social situations where exchanges of money proper are considered unacceptable, and that this is an important yet under-acknowledged aspect of its social identity.

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Rolf Dieter Hepp


In our society, the relationship between periphery and center is changing. Questions discussed under the conditions of outsiders and suspended social groups penetrate the center of society and systematically determine the social correlations. Inequality, poverty, social insecurity, and precariousness are equated with changes in social change when the risk of social exclusion is undermined by unskilled activities. This is, for example, very much the case in the German discussion so that outsider groups are defined in Germany, which have themselves maneuvered into a corresponding social situation through wrong biographical decisions. The French approach of Pierre Bourdieu, Robert Castel, and Luc Boltanski and Ève Chiapello differed decisively in this respect, since they reoriented social uncertainties and precariousness in a reorganization of the work structure. This article shows how precariousness is shifted to the center of society and how qualified work develops into unsafe and precarious working conditions within the framework of the reorganization in project activity.

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Material Culture of the Middle East, Its Intangible Dimensions and New Museums

Janet Blake and Danila Mayer

In this issue of Anthropology of the Middle East, we present contributions that deal with museums, museology and their approaches to the new social situations through which they must navigate. Cutting a swathe very generously around the Mediterranean and the Middle East – from Tunis to Qatar, Turkey and, as an extension, to Austria – we bring together articles that look closely into some acute issues of today: the transformation from colonial to post-colonial and its reverberant impacts, from national to post-national and transnational societies both in Europe and the Middle East, and to the stringencies of material culture, cultural heritage and ‘meaningful objects’, and how to preserve, to analyse and to exhibit them. All contributors dedicate their works published here to the social, cultural and economic changes affecting societies and communities, and to the demands that increasing diversity presents as challenges to cultural institutions and their personnel.

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A Bridge over Troubled Waters, or What a Difference a Day Makes

From the Drama of Production to the Production of Drama

Ronald Frankenberg

Gluckman's paper, "The Bridge," challenged received social anthropology, initially in segregated South Africa, at the LSE, and more generally, by illustrating that professional observers and participants in social situations are profoundly mutually interinvolved with one another despite wide cultural differences. While retracing his own history within it, the present writer relates this new anthropology to the methods of modernist literature (and to changing natural science approaches) in which writers such as Joyce and Woolf, and more recent successors, revealed the culture of an epoch in the closely analyzed incidents of even a single day. They paralleled Freud's methods in psychoanalysis and the specific analyses of discrete political situations in Marx, as well as in later developments of television, film, and the visual arts. After Gluckman's move to the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute, Oxford, and finally Manchester, he and his colleagues and students are shown as developing this interpretive method in very varied contexts.

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Paul Apostolidis

This essay considers whether legal rights remain a core resource for transforming the social situation of low-income workers in the United States. In particular, how does the recent expansion of the immigrant workforce in the US affect the prospects for workers to generate a symbiosis between legalist struggles and rank-and-file movement activism? I demonstrate that the migration narratives of Mexican immigrant union activists intervene in the law's formation of political subjects, such that the thorough disciplining of a docile subject by the law does not necessarily result from legalist activism. Instead, migration stories furnish alternative sources of identity that can mitigate these effects and spur the translation of legalist struggle into radical-democratic unionism. My analysis is based on interviews with immigrant workers who led a highly unusual movement of resistance from 1995-2005 at a large beef processing plant in Washington State.