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Richard Daly and Val Napoleon

Both community activism and anthropological research affect local communities materially, whether this research is conducted by ‘ac- tivists’ or ‘objectivists’. It is ethically and methodologically important that these activisms be recognized and built into the subject of the research. Aboriginal rights litigation entails both explicit and implicit activism by all concerned, although few admit as much. In this light, some of the effects of such activism on a local community engaged in aboriginal rights litigation in Canada are discussed in the form of a dia- logue between an anthropologist and a community activist who is now working in aboriginal law.

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Misbehaving Women

Trespass and Honor in Late Medieval English Towns

Teresa Phipps

England’s medieval town court records reveal significant information on the social and economic relationships of ordinary urban residents. These relationships and conflicts concerning them are particularly evident in trespass litigation: complaints about physical and verbal assaults and the theft of goods. This article uses trespass pleas from the towns of Nottingham, Chester, and Winchester in the fourteenth century to explore the gendered nature of trespass litigation and the implications that this misbehavior had for understandings of honor and reputation in urban society. It demonstrates the ways in which women were involved in trespasses as both complainants and defendants. While women were less frequent litigants than men, the records reveal continuity between their actions in trespasses. This article thus broadens the framework of female honor beyond sexual behavior to encompass interpersonal relationships, a broad range of physical and verbal attacks, and concerns about economic fidelity.

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The goddess Kumari at the Supreme Court

Divine kinship and secularism in Nepal

Chiara Letizia

In 2005 a human rights petition at the Supreme Court challenged the tradition of living goddesses called Kumaris and, in particular, that of the former royal Kumari, who lives a sequestered ritual life until puberty, and who used to bless and legitimate the king once a year. The case went on while Nepal overthrew its king and was declared a secular state in 2007. When the judgment was pronounced in 2008, the goddess was still at her post and now blessed the president. This court case is taken to illustrate the directions and form that Nepali secularism is taking. It reveals a distinctive form of secularism where the state is involved in supporting and reforming religion. The religious tradition here is seen as an asset for the state, worthy of preserving, provided it makes way for social reforms in tune with the times. Despite being reduced in court to a child capable of being deprived of her rights, the political power of the goddess remains intact and her role for the nation is recognized in the verdict; both human and divine, the Kumari has been acknowledged under the now secular legal regime.

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Human Rights, Victimhood, and Impunity

An Anthropology of Democracy in Argentina

Michael Humphrey and Estela Valverde

This article explores human rights politics in the transition from dictatorship to democracy in Argentina. Its ethnographic focus is the phenomenon of families of victims associations, usually led by mothers, that first emerged to protest against mass disappearance under the military dictatorship. Democracy has also produced new families of victims associations protesting against different forms of state abuse and/or neglect. They represent one face of the widespread protest against a 'culture of impunity' experienced as ongoing insecurity and injustice. Private grief is made an emotional resource for collective action in the form of 'political mourning'. The media, street demonstrations, and litigation are used to try to make the state accountable. State management of this public suffering has sought to determine legitimate victimhood based on a paradigm of innocence. The political mourning of victims and survivors charts the social margins of citizenship in the reduced, not expanded, neo-liberal democratic state in Argentina.

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Aguinda v. Texaco Inc.

Expanding Indigenous “Expertise” Beyond Ecoprimitivism

Veronica Davidov

This article analyzes a series of litigations that began with the Aguinda v. Texaco Inc. case as a site of production of new legal subjectivities for indigenous communities in the region of the Ecuadorian Amazon polluted by oil extraction activities. They engage in the transnational and local legal structures, contribute to and generate legal and scientific knowledge and expertise, and articulate multiple legal subjectivities that position them not only as homogenous plaintiffs in a highly publicized lawsuit, but also as legal actors in complex relation to each other, and to the state. Through such engagements with this legal process, indigenous actors are recrafting their collective representations in ways that challenge the ‘ecoprimitive’ stereotypes of indigeneity, historically associated with the ‘paradox of primitivism.’