The story of a young man from the Western Indian Ocean island of Mayotte who was prevented from a career in the French army by an illness sent by a spirit who possesses his mother inspires reﬂection on the nature of agency. I suggest that spirit possession and the ill- nesses it produces are intrinsically ironic. The prevalence of irony implies not that we should disregard agency but that perhaps we should not take it too literally.
Questions of Agency and Self-deception as Refracted through the Art of Living with Spirits
Jason Dean and Geoffrey Raynor
Star Wars is a series of films that depicts an epic galactic battle between good and evil. The interplay of love and hate is also central to the psychoanalytic theories of Melanie Klein. This article suggests that the presentation of the plot in the films follows a pattern from Klein’s paranoid-schizoid position, in which love and hate are kept separate, to the depressive position, in which they are integrated. Initially, the Jedi and Sith, corresponding to the light and dark side of the force, are depicted as purely good and purely evil, in line with the paranoid-schizoid position. Gradually, the films progress to the depressive position, in which Luke and Anakin Skywalker engage in an internal struggle of good and evil. The authors also discuss the specific contribution of film to the presentation of these themes that could not be accomplished by other media.
Seeing and the Study of Religion
Opening with a review of leading accounts of the image as an object with agency, this article proposes to study religious images within the webs or networks that endow them with agency. The example of a well-known medieval reliquary serves to show how what I refer to as 'focal objects' participate in the creation of assemblages that engage human and non-human actors in the social construction of the sacred. Focal objects are nodal points that act as interfaces with the network, particularly with invisible agents within it. As participants in a network, images are like masks, offering access to what looks through the mask at viewers engaged in a complex of relations that constructs a visual field or the ecology of an image.
(Post)Migrant Productions of Transnational Space
With reference to anthropologist Ina-Maria Greverus’ pioneering analyses of human-environment relations since the 1970s, the article pushes the idea of Heimat further to the more processual concept of Beheimatung. This is especially relevant for an anthropology of the transnational worlds of (post-)migrant societies with their current negotiation of cross-border migration in the present and concerning colonial objects from the past in museums.
By means of a tale of food poisoning as retribution, this article describes a kind of reasoning that consciously defies commonsense logic. The lived validity of this form of reasoning emphasizes the necessity of an epistemology for anthropology that puts the analysis of relations between people at the heart of our understanding of human reasoning and its ontogeny. An ethnographic analysis of how certain island Fijians give form to kinship relations through the production, exchange, circulation, giving, and consumption of food suggests that it is the very specificity of intersubjective relations between particular persons that make them a proper focus for the anthropologist's attention. It follows that intersubjectivity is central to anthropology as an epistemological project whose fugitive object of study can only be ourselves, even while its focus is bound to be on others.
Cultures of Governance and the Representation of Power in Tanzania
This article explores some cultural dimensions of governance in Tanzania in the context of transnational efforts to establish a vibrant civil society as part of the democratization agenda. Far from providing alternative modalities of political organization intermediate between the family and the state, the newly established community organizations formed in response to donor initiatives actually replicate social relations and practices associated with government. Governance as a cultural practice in Tanzania enacts the hierarchical relations between lower and higher tiers in models premised on the conceptualization of the village as both object and lowest level of government. Parallels between civil society models of governance and those associated with local governance are explained by identical vertical relations between donors and rural residents, and by shared expectations about the performance of power.
Pragmatic Use of Infrastructure and Reflexive Mobility of Evenki and Dolgan Hunters, Reindeer Herders, and Fishers
Vladimir N. Davydov
This article addresses the problem of temporality and its potential use in mobility studies by providing examples from the author’s recent fieldwork among Evenkis and Dolgans. It examines the temporal dimension of hunters’, reindeer herders’, and fishers’ movements, and discusses the pragmatic use by local people, in the context of their mobility, of a variety of infrastructures and objects that were introduced to the landscape during the last century. It introduces the concept of points of constant return for ways of relating to places of intensive use beyond the binary opposition of settlements and the surrounding landscape. This article suggests analyzing movements in a broader context that includes not just their starting and final destinations but the relations of different locations in a set of movements of multiple actors and analyzes them as results of both reflexive and creative processes that lead to transformations of material objects and the landscape.
The article explores the object and the methodology of conceptual history, by elaborating on Reinhart Koselleck's idea of key concepts, and proposes to study them according to two different aspects of meaning: The representational aspect, which touches upon the relations between words and concepts and studies words and concepts within semantic fields, and the referential aspect, which brings in both the social history reflected in semantic changes and the contexts in which the concepts serve as factors, and which make the use of the concepts possible. The article concludes with a methodological suggestion for the use of digitized textual databases for diachronic as well as synchronic histories of concepts.
The Imaginary Present and the Socialities of the Inorganic
Henrietta L. Moore
This article explores the frailty of particular notions of 'actant' and 'affect' for an understanding of the emergent socialities that cross virtual and actual worlds. It uses work on robots and avatars to explore a humanly grounded theory of sociality. It discusses the virtual character of selves and social relations, and how forms of presence apparent in robotics and virtual worlds both enhance and augment our understanding of specifically human forms of sociality. It suggests that critiques of subject-object dualisms do not depend on a rejection of the distinctiveness of anthropos.
(Queer) Girls’ Adolescence, Risk, and Subjectivity in Blue is the Warmest Color
This article explores the graphic representation of queer adolescent sexuality on offer in the coming-of-age graphic novel Blue is the Warmest Color. This representation, read alongside object relations psychoanalysis and in terms of feminist sexuality education theorizing, invites adult readers to reconsider the ways in which we think of the relationship between girls, risk, and sexuality. I propose that in order to honor girls’ sexual subjectivity, we must treat romantic risk-taking as an ordinary, healthy and essential aspect of growing up.