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Detachment as a corporate ethic

Materializing CSR in the diamond supply chain

Jamie Cross

This article examines efforts by De Beers, the world’s largest supplier of rough diamonds, to better regulate the conditions under which its stones are cut and polished across a global network of buyers, contractors, and subcontractors. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork at an offshore processing unit in South India that was built to service De Beers’ buyers, this article explores how ethical accounting regimes are materialized on the floor of a global factory and how they are grounded in an industrial bureaucracy. In a global supply chain like this one, I argue, codes of practice and audit checklists demand to be understood as material technologies that afford companies and individuals new purchase on an ethic of detachment.

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Cutting the Face

Kinship, State and Social Media Conflict in Networked Jordan

Geoffrey Fitzgibbon Hughes

The local uptake of new media in the Middle East is shaped by deep histories of imperialism, state building, resistance and accommodation. In contemporary Jordan, social media is simultaneously encouraging identification with tribes and undermining their gerontocratic power structures. Senior men stress their own importance as guarantors (‘faces’), who restore order following conflicts, promising to pay their rivals a large surety if their kin break the truce. Yet, ‘cutting the face’ (breaking truces) remains an alternative, one often facilitated by new technologies that allow people to challenge pre-existing structures of communication and authority. However, the experiences of journalists and other social media mavens suggest that the liberatory promise of the new technology may not be enough to prevent its reintegration into older patterns of social control.

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Out of Exile

Some Thoughts on Exile as a Dynamic Condition

Eva Hoffman

Exile is a strong marker of identity for a writer, but to keep it forever as part of one's self-image surely involves a kind of mis-description, or at least over-simplification. Maintaining the position of being in exile also has its dangers: the posture of detachment can turn into a kind of wilful separation. Moreover migration, dislocation, various kinds of nomadism are becoming the norm, but this extreme mobility relativises even the most stable identities. What styles, or stories, or genres will be invented to describe a world which is no longer divided between peripheries and centres?

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Women's Travel Narratives in Early Modern Japan

Genre Imperatives, Gender Consciousness and Status Questioning

Laura Nenzi

In the two and a half centuries of Tokugawa rule (1600–1868) Japan underwent profound transformations of an economic, social, political and cultural nature. What began as an era of warrior rule, of apparently strict application of the law and of theoretically impenetrable social compartments evolved at a fast pace into a time when popular culture attained unprecedented brilliance, the samurai’s identity as fighters was virtually nullified and money often supplanted rank in mediating access to services. In this environment, travel and travel narratives came to play a significant role in the commoners’ gradual assertion of their own personas. Through a confrontation with otherness mediated by cultural precedent and implemented by detachment from the ordinary, the space of travel allowed for alternative creations of the self and re-definitions of the individual in society. Travel, to a great many people of all social standings, offered both a chance for recreation (in the leisure-related connotation of the term) and for re-creation (that is, re-generation, or creation of a new persona). Detachment from one’s pre-assigned social niche offered the possibility to challenge, however momentarily, one’s roles and identity by subtly questioning the parameters of gender and status that defined the individual in the space of the ordinary.

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Giuseppe Berta

The annual conference that Confindustria holds in the spring came at a

delicate moment in 2011. Concerns about the overall state of the Italian

economy were deepening at that time (and were to become even greater

during the summer that followed); the political system was proving

unable to find a way out of the deadlock caused by the increasingly

shaky leadership of Silvio Berlusconi; and the news that arrived from

the business world continued to be alarming, starting with the recently

announced decision of Fincantieri to dismantle even its longest-standing

manufacturing hubs. Furthermore, on the very eve of the conference,

held on 26 May, rumors were circulating about the likelihood of

Fiat abandoning its representation in Confindustria, thereby showing

clear signs of detachment from Italy. The most interesting point in the

speech given by Emma Marcegaglia, the president of Confindustria

since 2008, was when she complained about Italy’s “lost decade” during

which the country had failed to produce wealth and prosperity.

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Showcasing Dictatorship

Memory and the Museum in Argentina and Chile

Jens Andermann

This article compares two recently inaugurated museums dedicated to the period of dictatorial terror and repression in the Southern Cone: the Museum of Memory and Human Rights at Santiago, Chile (opened in 2009), and the Museum of Memory at Rosario, Argentina (2010). Both museums invoke in their very names the "memorial museum" as a new mode of exhibitionary remembrance of traumatic events from the past. They seek to sidestep the detachment and "objectivity" that has traditionally characterized historical museum displays in favor of soliciting active, performative empathy from visitors. Neither of the two institutions, however, complies entirely with the memorial museum's formal characteristics; rather, they reintroduce modern museographical languages of history and art, thus also challenging the emergent "global canon" of memorial museum aesthetics.

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Misunderstood, misrepresented, contested?

Anthropological knowledge production in question

David Mosse

This article draws out some of the implications of the fact that what anthropologists claim to know, or want to say, is unavoidably and in complicated ways bound by the ethics of involvement, detachment, and institutional location. I will first consider the increasingly common practice of circulating the output of anthropological research within the social context of its fieldwork, among the various research participants and interlocutors. Second, I will try to account for the sometimes negative reception of ethnographic accounts, especially where the research has focused on organizations (e.g., NGOs), activists, or others professionally concerned with public representations of their work. Third, I will reconsider the notion of “speaking truth to power” by pointing to the unacknowledged power of ethnographic description. Finally, I will suggest that ethical concerns are generated as much by the theoretical framing of research as by fieldwork practice, and that these are matters of choice rather than inherent in the ethnographic method.

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Silke Schwandt, László Kontler, Anu Korhonen, Marie-Christine Boilard and Johan Strang

Burkhard Hasebrink, Susanne Bernhardt, and Imke Früh, eds., Semantik der Gelassenheit: Generierung, Etablierung, Transformation [Semantics of detachment: Formation, establishment, transformation] (Göttingen: Vandenhoek & Ruprecht, 2012), 319 pp.

Martin J. Burke and Melvin Richter, eds., Why Concepts Matter: Translating Social and Political Thought (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2012), 240 pp.

Ute Frevert, Monique Scheer, Anne Schmidt, Pascal Eitler, Bettina Hitzer, Nina Verheyen, Benno Gammerl, Christian Bailey, and Margrit Pernau, Gefühlswissen: Eine lexikalische Spurensuche in der Moderne [Emotional knowledge: In search of lexical clues in modernity] (Frankfurt and New York: Campus Verlag, 2011), 364 pp.

Julia Harfensteller, The United Nations and Peace: The Evolution of an Organizational Concept (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2011), 355 pp.

Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann, ed., Human Rights in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 351 pp.

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Giving and Taking without Reciprocity

Conversations in South India and the Anthropology of Ethics

Soumhya Venkatesan

This article contributes to the anthropology of ethics through an analysis of conversations among Muslim and Hindu householders in Tamil Nadu, India, about instances of alms/charitable giving where there is no expectation of direct reciprocity and where both giving and taking make reference to religion. I argue, first, that people make certain kinds of giving or taking ethical or unethical through talk and, second, that instances of ‘ethical talk’, which constitute reflections on and evaluations of action, point to questions concerning freedom and choice in people’s efforts to lead lives that are good or ‘good enough’. Such conversations also reveal a striving toward accepted forms of societal attachment and detachment while considering the claims that people can or should make upon each another.

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Engaging in 'Engaged' Anthropology

Some Pitfalls in a Development Consultancy

Pat Caplan

What does it mean to do engaged anthropology? How is it different from that which is disengaged? Does it mean being some kind of activist or advocate? Is it a form of 'action research'? More pertinently for the purposes of this article, are anthropologists who do consultancies also 'engaged'? This article discusses what happened when in 2003 I accepted an invitation from a Scandinavian women's organisation to go to Tanzania the following year and take part in an evaluation of the women's group they had been funding. Here I consider not only some of the perhaps inevitable pitfalls, contradictions and difficulties of carrying out such a consultancy but also the extent to which anthropologists themselves are part of the encounter and thus inevitably part of the material of fieldwork. It is shown that being an engaged anthropologist is a risky business before, during and after such projects. This does not mean that engagement should be avoided, and indeed such a stance may provide exceptional insights which one of greater detachment might miss.