This article considers the complexity of contemporary urban life in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, through an analysis of planning and the plan itself as a thing in this environment of multiplicity. It argues that the plan functions as a vehicle for action in the present that does not require a singular vision of the future in order to succeed. Plans in the context of governance and urban development gesture to “the future,” but this gesture does not require “a future” in order to function in a highly effective manner. The evidence presented indicates that the primary effectiveness of the plan largely relates to its status as a virtual object in the present. Such virtual objects (plans) bind subjects to the conditions of the present within the desires and limits asserted by the institutions seeking to dominate contemporary life in the city, but this domination is never absolute, singular, or complete.
Institutional planning in Kuala Lumpur
Exploring Cosmopolitan Competences
Emil Abossolo Mbo and Cassis Kilian
Since global interdependencies are a feature of urbanisation, Kwame Anthony Appiah's pleading for an education in 'cosmopolitan citizenship' is forward-looking. Given increasing mobility, handling different urban rhythms is as important as dealing with different languages. Actors explore how airports, supermarkets and cemeteries react to gait, respiration and heartbeat and how people adopt or impose rhythms. Such investigations might appear superficial from an academic perspective, but they bear resemblance to ethnographic fieldwork.
We (an actor and an anthropologist) refer to the shift from participant observation to collaboration proposed by George Marcus, and conjointly explore rhythmic aspects of urbanisation, which are difficult for scholars to grasp. Our aim is to expand anthropological concepts, methods and forms of representation. In reference to Paul Stoller, we consider acting methods a 'sensuous scholarship' and argue that rhythm allows us to explore preverbal aspects of feelings of belonging or alienation in the urban space.
Private Security in a Bolivian Marketplace
Daniel M. Goldstein
The appearance of effective security making—demonstrated through surveillance, visibility, and ongoing performance—is significant to contemporary sovereign authority in urban spaces characterized by quotidian violence and crime. This article examines La Cancha, Cochabamba, Bolivia’s enormous outdoor market, which is policed not by the state but by private security firms that operate as nonstate sovereign actors in the space of the market. The article provides an ethnographic account of one of these firms (the Men in Black), and documents the work of both municipal and national police—all of them distinguished by differently colored uniforms—in the management of crime, administration of justice, and establishment of public order in the market. Sovereignty here is derived through public performance, both violent and nonviolent, through which the Men in Black demonstrate and maintain their sovereign power.
The Urban and the Carceral
In this afterword, I consider some of the important insights that are generated in this special issue. The thorough and detailed consideration of the ways in which detainees and formerly incarcerated persons survive confinement and the constraints imposed on them illustrates the power of ethnography. Each of the contributions builds on strong empirical material and sometimes decade-long engagement with people in and on the brink of confining institutions. In this way, the contributions form a comprehensive empirical foundation for understanding confinement beyond the carceral institutions, while also allowing us to ask new kinds of questions about confinement beyond site. While firmly rooted in prison ethnography, the special issue thus inspires urban studies and anthropologists more broadly to think concertedly about the role of confinement, not only as the fate of many urban residents but as an ever-present element of the urban imaginary and of urban life.
This article analyses a spectacle, a wrestling match, that brings out the problem of violence against women and the role of activist organisations such as the Centro de Información y Desarrollo de la Mujer (CIDEM) to raise awareness among people and to influence the Bolivian state to change the gender of the law. In effect, it considers CIDEM's vigilant role, by visualising cases of femicides in partnership with the press, is translated in wrestling matches. The article considers one such wrestling match I witnessed in El Alto, Bolivia, and argues that CIDEM's vigilant role extends to overlooking and complementing the vigilant roles of the state and customary legal systems in El Alto that are unable to prevent femicides: women being killed by men because of their gender.
Fragmented solidarities among construction workers in Nepal
Dan V. Hirslund
Despite a history of labor militancy in past decades, Nepal’s large construction sector remains unorganized and lacks social protection, prompted by high levels of informality. Based on ethnographic fieldwork among construction laborers in Kathmandu, this article argues that labor subsumption to capital in the construction industry takes place through a systemization of expertise through which access to work is negotiated. I show how this “culture of informality” shapes labor relations and creates a semblance of transparency and justice in otherwise chaotic and fiercely competitive labor communities. Drawing on concepts from political and urban anthropology to probe how informality indexes forms of power, I argue that authority and status become distributed through processes of distinction and thereby extend and deepen inequalities permeating contemporary industrial relations.
Books, Films and Conferences
Shahnaz Nadjmabadi, Fakhri Haghani, Soheila Shahshahani, and Marie Percot
Abdulmoati, Dr. Yousuf (2004), Kuwait in the Eyes of Others: Feathers and Characteris- tics of Kuwaiti’s Society before Oil (Kuwait: Centre for Research and Studies on Kuwait). 158 pages, black-and-white and colour pictures, index, Arabic and foreign references.
Al-Ayoub, Ayoub Hussein (2002), e Kuwaiti Heritage in the Paintings of Ayoub Hus- sein Al-Ayoub (Kuwait: Centre for Research and Studies on Kuwait). 622 pages, hard cover, mostly colour photographs of paintings with descriptions, index, introduction and preface.
Al-Hijji, Ya’qub Yusuf (2001), e Art of Dhow-building in Kuwait (Kuwait: Centre for Research and Studies on Kuwait, in association with e London Centre of Arab Studies). 164 pages, hard cover, drawings, colour and black-and-white pictures, Kuwaiti nautical glossary, bibliography and index.
Al-Hajji, Ya’qub Y. (2001), Old Kuwait: Memories in Photographs (Kuwait: Centre for Research and Studies on Kuwait). 255 pages, black-and-white pictures with descriptions in Arabic and English.
Tehran Short Film Festival, 17–22 November 2004
‘Anthropological Perspectives on Iran: The New Millennium and Beyond’, 30 September–2 October 2004, Frankfurt, Germany
‘Gendering Urban Space in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa’ Workshop, 26–27 February 2005, Cairo, Egypt
‘Iran on the Move: Social Transformation in the Islamic Republic’, 27–28 April 2005, Leiden, Netherlands
Double Conference of the Commission on Urban Anthropology of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES), 19–21 December 2005, Tehran, Iran
as wheels of change, and foregrounding road battles in rapidly changing cities and uncertain times, it joins discussions on the history of mobility in British India with postcolonial visual and urban anthropology in contemporary South Asia. Figure
Confinement Beyond Site: Connecting Urban and Prison Ethnographies
Julienne Weegels, Andrew M. Jefferson, and Tomas Max Martin
intersection of prison ethnography and urban anthropology. By doing so, it brought together ethnographers working on prisons, camps, gangs, penality, the urban margins and migration to explore a hunch that there was a rich potential for cross
Andrew Lattas, Anni Kajanus, and Naomi Haynes
Donald M. Nonini , ed., A Companion to Urban Anthropology (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014), 532 pp. ISBN 9781444330106. This is a good book to use as an undergraduate teaching book. It is a large volume with many contributors and chapters that