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“The state has replaced the man”

Women, family homes, and the benefit system on a council estate in England

Insa Koch

This article offers an ethnographic analysis of everyday sociality and the welfare state on a council estate in England. Taking the case of means-tested benefits, it investigates how women's encounters with the welfare state come into conflict with their attempts to build and to maintain family homes. It argues that while the current benefit system offers women a minimum safety net, it also comes with a set of expectations about appropriate behavior that is contrary to the fluid and collaborative nature of women's daily lives. Although the article demonstrates that women contest the punitive effects of the policies by subverting the rules of the benefit system, ultimately it suggests that dependence on the benefit system is a deeply coercive experience. Overall, the article not only provides a critical commentary on current policy developments in Britain, but it also contributes more generally to anthropological challenges of normative models of citizenship.

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What is interpretation?

A cultural neurohermeneutic account

Steve Reyna

This essay answers the question: what is interpretation? It does so by proposing that interpretation involves certain brain operations. These utilize perceptual and procedural culture stored in neural networks. The parts of the brain performing interpretation are said to constitute a cultural neurohermenetic system, hypothesized to function according to an interpretive hierarchy. It is argued that such an approach has two benefits. The first of these is to provide a non-sociobiological, non-reductionist way of analyzing interactions between culture and biology. The second benefit is to provide conceptual tools for explaining how the micro-realm within individuals (I-space) makes connections in the macro-realm (E-space) of events in social forms. Conceptualization of such connections forms a basis for a variety of social analysis termed complex string being theory.

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Boys and Education in the Global South

Emerging Vulnerabilities and New Opportunities for Promoting Changes in Gender Norms

Gary Barker, Ravi Verma, John Crownover, Marcio Segundo, Vanessa Fonseca, Juan Manuel Contreras, Brian Heilman and Peter Pawlak

This article presents a review of global data on boys' education in the Global South and recent findings on the influence of boys' educational attainment on their attitudes and behaviors in terms of gender equality. The article also presents three examples—from Brazil, the Balkans, and India—on evaluated, school-based approaches for engaging boys and girls in reducing gender-based violence and promoting greater support for gender equality. Recommendations are provided for how to integrate such processes into the public education system in such a way that provides benefits for both boys and girls in a relational approach.

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Penny Ciancanelli

A feature of globalisation is encouragement of universities to become more businesslike, including adoption of the type of accounting routines and regulations used by businesses. The question debated in higher education policy research is whether this focus on being businesslike is compatible with the statutory public benefit obligations of universities. This question is addressed from a financial-management perspective, drawing on Max Weber's discussion of the effects of accounting in business, governmental and not-for-profit organisations. 1 His approach is applied to three ideal-typical universities, focussing on differences in legal terms of reference and sources of funding. The article argues that the proposed reforms of public-sector accounting will make it difficult (if not impossible) to ascertain whether the publicbenefit aims of not-for-profit universities have been achieved. In addition, once installed, the business systems of accounting will encourage pecuniary rationality at the expense of the traditional value rationalities that ought to govern resource allocation in public-benefit organisations. The interaction between these effects introduces new risks, including the possibility that the controllers of universities may fail in their fiduciary obligations by wasting scarce resources on projects that, according to financial measures, appear profitable while neglecting those that have important public benefit and educational merit.

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Bernard Faye

Regarded as an animal of the past and supporting the eternal image of the ‘ship of the desert’, the dromedary camel is facing deep changes in its rearing system, causing significant changes in human relationships. A somewhat idealized virtuous animal among the nomad with which it shares the rough life of deserts, it becomes only one cog in the intensification process of settled production systems where it needs to better express its potential of production to avoid the risk of being marginalized, its utilitarian function becoming predominant. However, the urbanized Middle East likes to remember the virtues of the animal and its products, the dromedary returning this animal idealized for a weekend where the city dweller looking over its lost emotional proximity, rather than the economic benefits of its products.

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Editorial

Critical Political Anthropology of the Middle East

Soheila Shahshahani

This issue of AME focuses on the critical political anthropology of the Middle East. Studies of tribes and states have been on the agenda of political anthropology of the Middle East for decades, and in this issue we have various articles related to this topic. What is particularly informing in this issue are the brilliant articles concerned with informal politics going beyond statistical and formal studies, showing how power works through access to resources, and particularly the reproduction of political systems and hierarchies, and finally how modern legal systems within certain political structures are exercised in everyday life. Other fields of anthropology such as the anthropology of children and the anthropology of law may also benefit from this issue.

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Ted Honderich

Democracy has been justified as the political system whose citizens are sovereign, which is to say most free or most equal in their political experience, participation or consent, and most likely to be benefited by economic freedoms. Most importantly, democracy is recommended as that form of government which gets things more right than any other form of government. But this traditional view, and also more recent qualifications of this view, is simply inadequate, refuted and rendered nonsensical by very real electoral, wealth, income and power inequalities in democratic societies. Nevertheless, it is this kind of hierarchic democracy, like those of the United States and the United Kingdom, whose systems of government are exactly not true to the idea that two heads are better than one and more heads better than two, which reaches to judgements about Palestine, 9/11, Iraq, 7/7 and about all that is to come after those things.

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Erik Gawel, Sebastian Strunz and Paul Lehmann

The German energy transition repeatedly faces harsh critiques questioning its economic and environmental merits. This article defends the energy transition and argues that Germany has chosen an economically efficient and particularly forceful approach to securing a sustainable energy supply. Though current expenditures are high, the long-term benefits of transforming the energy system to a renewables-based system are likely to outweigh present investment costs. Furthermore, support policies for renewables are not redundant-as some critics claim-but instead complement other policy instruments, such as the emissions trading scheme. This article also addresses the motives behind the discrediting attacks on the German energy policy regime. Defensive actions by beneficiaries of the former energy market structure are only to be expected, but the attacks from liberal economists are astonishingly fierce.

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Amanda J. Reinke

Alternative justice—conflict resolution outside formal law—seeks to alleviate pervasive social issues, such as the school-to-prison pipeline. Alternative justice practitioners increasingly seek to transform the legal system and the violence it perpetuates from within by implementing programs and processes in collaboration with formal law and legal actors. However, this collaborative approach requires practitioners to create bureaucratic processes and procedures such as memoranda of understanding, complex filing systems, and data tracking. Multisited ethnographic research in the United States (2014–2017) reveals that there is little consensus among these practitioners as to whether this bureaucratization will benefit or harm their work. The bureaucracy of processing case work, implementing standardized procedures, extending training requirements, and cost barriers are viewed positively insofar as they gain legitimacy for the field. Is bureaucratization necessary to achieve legitimacy, or does it restrict practitioners’ ability to fulfill client needs and the principles of their justice paradigm?

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Matteo Jessoula

On 24 July 2009, in reaction to a ruling by the European Court of

Justice regarding the different retirement ages for men and women

in the public employment sector, the Italian government introduced

further “subtractive” (or consolidating) reforms to the pension sector

(after the series of measures that were adopted starting in 1992), in

order to equilibrate the conditions of access to retirement between

the two sexes. At the same time, the saving in expenditure obtained

through pension reform was directed to the social assistance sector,

traditionally atrophied in Italy and even today very undeveloped in

comparative perspective. This is of particular interest in light of the

noteworthy, and anomalous, imbalance of the Italian welfare state to

the benefit of the retirement system for the protection of the el