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Dave Elder-Vass

The significance of giving as a contemporary socio-economic practice has been obscured both by mainstream economics and by the influence of the anthropological tradition. Andrew Sayer’s concept of moral economy offers a more fruitful framework for an economic sociology of contemporary giving, and one that appears to be largely consistent with social quality approaches. This article analyzes giving from the perspective of moral economy, questioning the view that giving is a form of exchange, and opening up the prospect of seeing it as the outcome of a more complex constellation of causal factors. It uses examples from the digital economy, in particular the phenomenon of open-source software, which nicely illustrates both the progressive potential of digital gifts and the ways in which they can be absorbed into the commercial economy.

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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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Hidden Scripts

The Social Evolution of Alterman's “Don't You Give Them Guns”

Efrat Ben-Ze'ev

Nathan Alterman's poem “Don't You Give Them Guns” echoed European post–World War I anti-war literature. Curiously, the poem turned into a key text in a ritual instituted by members of the elite Jewish underground fighting force, the Palmach, which was established during World War II. This article is an attempt to understand how a pacifist poem came to be used by Jewish-Israeli soldiers at the heart of the 1948 War of Independence. In terms of theory, the analysis dwells on the relations between text and social context, arguing that alternative social ideas conceal themselves in poetry and other literary forms. These texts can be likened to undercurrents that preserve hidden social concerns. To follow the changing role of such texts, the article considers the fate of “Don't You Give Them Guns” from its birth in 1934 to its later manifestations in the early twenty-first century.

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Annika Strauss

This article puts forward an experiential teaching method for becoming aware of, getting access to, and giving meaning to the sensory experiences that constitute and shape learning processes during social anthropological fieldwork. While social anthropologists use all their senses in the field, the preparation and processing of fieldwork are limited to certain senses. In accordance with the academic habitus, it is common to discuss theoretical texts pre-fieldwork and almost exclusively rely on making meaning of written fieldwork material afterwards. While cognitively produced textual sources and techniques of verbalisation (e.g. presentations) are extensively focused on, the body, emotional and sensory experiences are often overlooked in academic discourse and practices. The proposed experiential method integrates the dimensions of sensory experiences in classes, colloquiums and workshops, and brings into practice a teaching approach that includes the analysis of embodied knowledge and stresses its importance as an ethnographic source.

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Listening to the Troubled Waters

Ethnographical Work as a Reciprocal Activity

Jaana Kouri

The history of Lypyrtti, an old pilot village in the southwestern coast of Finland, is for many villagers a story of depopulation of a vital community during the last fifty years. In 2005 the villagers of Lypyrtti expressed their interest in collecting the oral history of their village. This material is gathered, edited and released in the context of research on the topic of 'narrated environment', which draws attention to the interdisciplinary methods and theories of the practices of place making

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'To Give You a Future and a Hope' (Jeremiah 29:11)

Leo Baeck College, Centre for Jewish Education through the Retrospectoscope – David Goldstein Memorial Lecture, 16 June 2005

Jonathan Magonet

It is a great privilege to have been invited to give this lecture in memory of David Goldstein, zikhrono livrakha. He was one of the great scholars and teachers of our movement and he died tragically young. I recall in particular a series of lectures he gave at the College on the Golden Age of Spain. In one of the earlier ones he noted that while at school he had been taught about the so-called 'dark ages' in Europe when there was little in the way of cultural development. The only exception, he had been taught, was the single shining light provided by the Venerable Bede. It was only in later life that he discovered that at the same time when Christian Europe was 'in the dark', Islamic Spain was going through its 'golden age' with an extraordinary flourishing culture that nourishes us till today. That same kind of cultural narrowness and ignorance seems to be no less a problem today when considering the Muslim presence in Europe, and I am always pleased to use that illustration to challenge people to think more broadly.

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Eric J. Cunningham

This article examines socio-cultural circulations associated with dams and other water management technologies in central Japan. Such technologies and the circulations of water they enable link communities across Japan's rural and urban spaces in social, political, economic, and cultural ways. They also produce anxieties by highlighting social inequalities and the disparate impacts of water resource development in modern Japan. Using Makio Dam in central Japan as a case study, I argue that actors in both upstream and downstream communities actively imagine and enact social relationships that work to ease the tensions that arise from unidirectional flows of water by producing sensations of harmony and common identity.

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“China gives and China takes”

African traders and the nondocumenting states

Shanshan Lan

Based on ethnographic research in South China’s megacity Guangzhou, this article examines the gaps and contradictions in the central and local Chinese states’ efforts to regulate migrant traders from Africa. I identify economic interests, everyday racism, and ideological concerns as three major factors in shaping the nonrecording tactics of the Chinese states. The article argues that nonrecording is a practical tactic pursued by both the central and local states in order to balance multiple and conflicting interests at the regional, national, and international scales. Due to tensions between different levels of state authorities, China’s policies toward migrants from Africa are marked by sporadic shifts between recording, nonrecording, and derecording, which contribute to the illegibility of issues of immigration in state bureaucracy.

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‘But Isn’t It the Baby That Decides When It Will Be Born?’

Temporality and Women’s Embodied Experiences of Giving Birth

Joanna White

This article explores the intermeshing of different forms of time in contemporary childbirth, including the ways in which pregnant women are embedded within, informed by and resist institutional categorizations of reproductive time. While each parturient who participated in my ethnographic study described their own, unique relationships with birthing and time, all women employed clock time to anchor critical phases of their labour. This article puts forward ‘phenomenological time’ as a means of capturing the embodied outcome of the complex relationships amongst the social and institutional times which each woman inhabits, her own individual physiology and her ongoing response throughout the birthing experience. My analysis suggests that further phenomenological studies of birth could lead to a more sophisticated understanding of the relationships between human beings and time, including alternative temporal forms such as multitemporality and ‘reverse progression’ during labour.

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The editors would like to sincerely thank the following peer reviewers for giving of their time and expertise so generously.