Senses and citizenships: contestations over national and global identities, resources, and forms of belonging
(P13)
Location E
Date and Time 11th December, 2008 at 10:30

Convenors

Susanna Trnka (University of Auckland) s.trnka@auckland.ac.nz
Julie Park (University of Auckland) j.park@auckland.ac.nz
Christine Dureau (University of Auckland) cm.dureau@auckland.ac.nz
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Short Abstract

The panel creates opportunities for dialogue about intersections between the body, sensory phenomena and forms of belonging and alienation as they relate to contestations about relationships to material and non-material resources.

Long Abstract

Recent scholarly attention to the senses has expanded our understanding of the cultural and historical specificities of relationships between personhood, community and sensory experience. In this panel, we would like to further our analysis of this issue by critically examining intersections between the body, sensory phenomena and various forms of belonging and alienation as related to contestations over the ownership and appropriation of national and global communities, identities, memories, histories and cultural/material resources. Some of the issues we aim to consider include (but are not restricted to): relationships between pain or other forms of suffering and claims for national/international rights; pleasure (tactile, visual, auditory, etc) and state and corporate regimes; pain and/or suffering as part of community-building; taste, memory, and emplacement; etc. We invite panellists who wish to engage in discussion over the place of the senses and, more generally, embodiment in various forms of ownership and appropriation.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

From Sacrifice to Citizenship: Indenture and the Politics of Pain among Sanatan Hindus in Fiji

Author: Susanna Trnka (University of Auckland) s.trnka@auckland.ac.nz

Short Abstract

This paper considers the place of pain as part of rhetorics of national belonging. My focus is on how Sanatan Hindus in Fiji emphasize the suffering incurred by physical labor as integral to their historical legacy as indentured laborers in order to highlight their contributions to the Fijian nation and make contemporary claims for political rights.

Abstract

Much of Western scholarship on pain has highlighted the alienating and isolating qualities of physical pain, in particular pain's ability to force the social remove of the sufferer from society (cf. Arendt 1958; Scarry 1985), in the process overshadowing cases where physical pain draws individuals together, in some instances, becoming the basis for religious, ethnic, and political identity. This paper considers the place of pain and physical suffering from the latter perspective, examining how physical pain is perceived as both an integral element of religious identity and a platform for assertions of political rights among Indo-Fijian Hindus, Fiji's second largest religious and ethnic group. Specifically, I argue that contemporary Indo-Fijians, the vast majority of whom identify as Sanatan Hindus, emphasize the pain, suffering, and sacrifices of physical labor integral to their historical legacy as indentured laborers in order to highlight their contributions to the Fijian nation. Articulated through the religious idioms of seva and bhakti, as popularized by sanatani missionaries in Fiji in the 1930s, pain, and in particular pain linked to physical labor, can be conceptualized in contemporary discourse as a marker of Indo-Fijians' religious and ethnic identity. As part of a rhetoric of national belonging, pain further comes to carry Indo-Fijian claims to political rights. Rather than forcing an individual's alienation from his or her social group, physical pain in this context acts as an index of labor, a marker of sacrifice and devotion, and a bid for national belonging on the part of a marginalized ethnic-religious group.

'Strong European Emotions': European citizenship and visual pleasure

Author: Senka Bozic-Vrbancic (University of Zadar) senka.bozic1@gmail.com

Short Abstract

In this paper I analyse the ways visual images about ‘European emotions’ produced by the EU mobilize the pleasures of fantasmic identifications with embodied agents of love and sex that viewers have enjoyed as consumers of popular culture, how these pleasures are linked to the processes of supranational identity building

Abstract

In 2007, the EU MEDIA Programme, first launched in 1991 to promote cultural diversity in European audiovisual sector, produced 5 video clips that capture the feelings of Europeans (clips could be seen on EUtube). The first clip is titled MEDIA/Cultural heritage and the other four show 'Strong European emotions' (i.e. Friendship, Love, Joy and Sadness) as presented in European films and cinemas. In addition, there is a clip titled 'Love 2' which presents a selection of sexual scenes from different films. Behind the message of strong European emotions is, of course, the message that Europeans, despite their many differences, have similar emotions and express these emotions in their unique way.

Clips have gained considerable interest. They have been seen by 5,015,758 Europeans, more then any other EU video clip (for example, the clip titled 'What will the European Union be in the future?, speech by Jose Manuel Barroso was seen just by 7,346 people). In this paper I analyse the ways such images mobilize the pleasures of fantasmic identifications with embodied agents of love and sex that viewers have enjoyed as consumers of popular culture and how these pleasures are linked to the processes of supranational (European) identity building. In doing so, inspired by Sara Ahmed's work on the cultural politics of emotions and Yannis Stavrakakis's work on dialectics of enjoyment, I open a set of questions about the libidinal character or the affective dimension of identification which texts/images employ or attach to themselves in order to construct identity formations.

"Sakit Hati": Emotion, the Senses, and Cannibalism in Discourses on Ethnic Violence in West Kalimantan, Indonesia

Author: Anika König (Freie Universität Berlin) anika.koenig@fu-berlin.de

Short Abstract

Current Dayak discourses on ethnic conflict between Dayaks and Madurese in the 1990s emphasise strong emotions, the development of exceptional sensory abilities and incidents of cannibalism. This paper explores these images and their role in discourses on local, national and international levels.

Abstract

In 1996/1997, West Kalimantan was the location of large scale ethnic conflicts between Kalimantan Dayaks and Madurese transmigrants. In Dayak communities, current discourse on the conflicts has a strong focus on cannibalism that is said to have taken place during the conflicts. "Sakit hati" - strong resentment - is usually given as the explanation for the cannibalistic incidents. Caused by this intense emotion, extraordinary sensory abilities, particularly regarding smell and taste, are said to have developed in many of the Dayaks who participated in the conflicts. According to these accounts, certain Dayaks could temporarily smell and trace hiding Madurese, and a peculiar sense of taste enabled many of them to eat Madurese flesh, particularly the hearts.

Accordingly, the local discourses on the conflicts strongly focus on emotion, the senses, and the body and how they are related to Dayak ethnic identity. However, although this seems to be particularly important for local understandings of the conflicts and "Dayakness", these discourses for the Dayaks also serve as a means to position themselves as an (imagined) group in national and international arenas and discourses.

This paper aims to take a closer look at the connection between extreme emotion, the development of extraordinary senses and the meaning of the body in the context of ethnic violence as it can be observed in the West Kalimantan case. Subsequently, it will explore the specific image of "the Dayak" in this exceptional situation and this image's establishment in the local as well as national and international discourses.

Embodying Underdevelopment: Phenotype, Cosmopolitan Aspirations and Underdevelopment on Simbo, Western Solomon Islands

Author: Christine Dureau (University of Auckland) cm.dureau@auckland.ac.nz

Short Abstract

Many Tinoni Simbo aspire to participate in a developed global culture, while claiming racial inferiority and unworthiness. The resulting openness to and withdrawal from global engagement reflect the disappointments of independence and local aspirations to become the clients of international patrons.

Abstract

On Simbo, Western SI, many people aspire to participation in an idealized global culture of development, which is typically envisaged as entailing material plenty and reciprocal exchanges with Europeans. Simultaneously, however, they express a sense of racial inferiority, implying that underdevelopment is somehow inherent in "blackness". The resulting contradictory positions of openness to and shamed withdrawal from global engagement draw upon colonial discourses of racial ranking and Christian fellowship between equal souls as well as state discourses of economic journeys towards development. They also reflect the disappointments of a vexed nationhood, striving to go past the nation-state to more direct connections with former colonizing societies. Entangled in these various accounts are themes of abandonment by, and nostalgia for, former colonizers. In this paper, I consider the dialectic between dreams of reincorporation, with their implications of betrayal, on the one hand, and self-damning claims of inferiority and unworthiness, on the other. I draw upon the literature on "last places"—remote societies whose members describe themselves as last to receive any benefits of state economic policies. But understanding this self-denigration requires looking beyond issues of nationhood and state socioeconomic management. I suggest that we also need to conceptualize Simbo understandings in terms of experiences and memories of the colonial Solomons (1896-1978) and, vitally, of local cultural models of sociality characterized by patron-client relationships of reciprocal, unequal, generosity and loyalty. Crucially, Tinoni Simbo aspire to positions of clientage in their idealized global community.

The Rasa of Belonging: Youth and Post Colonial Timor Leste

Author: Angie Bexley (ANU) Angie.Bexley@anu.edu.au

Short Abstract

This paper explores the engagement of 'rasa' or 'feeling within the heart' (Geertz 1973) in the politics of belonging in Timor Leste during the early years of Independence (2002-2005) by focusing on emotional articulations and mediations of young Timorese.

Abstract

This paper looks at the politics of emotion and belonging in the early years of Timor Leste's Independence (2002-2005). I focus on the younger generation, known in the Timorese lingua franca as Geração Foun, and their efforts in the production of rasa as an assertion of national belonging. Phenomenological accounts of rasa, as offered by Geertz (1973) incorporate the senses and an emotional 'feeling within the heart' which play a crucial role in the 'surfacing' of individual and collective bodies. Here, I look at young Timorese' negotiations of certain emotional and bodily codes, in particular; enjoyment, guilt and suffering in the production of rasa which is at the heart of the Geração Foun's declaration of rightful ownership of and belonging in the post-colonial nation state.

Bird sounds and senses of being

Author: Andrew Whitehouse (University of Aberdeen) a.whitehouse@abdn.ac.uk

Short Abstract

This paper explores narratives of listening to birds that describe experiences of belonging and alienation. Bird sounds provide an important but subtle element in people's sense of emplacement and changes can have significant, sometimes alienating, effects on people's sense of being.

Abstract

This paper is drawn from narratives received through the Listening to Birds project, which explores how people perceive and respond to bird sounds. Many narratives describe how people resonate with birds through sound, that is, how they attend to birds by listening as they go about their own activities. This resonance is integral to emplacement and a 'sense of being' and generates feelings of belonging, contentment and home. Listening to birds for some becomes focal to a whole bodily experience of being. But when circumstances change so often do the bird sounds and this paper explores how people respond to these changes. The focus will be on narratives from people who have moved between the UK and Australia and New Zealand, nations with contrasting avifauna. These narratives describe the often alienating initial experience of birds sounding 'wrong' and how people then learn to relate to the different sounds of a new home. I also explore the ways in which the sounds of the old homeland are remembered and what feelings this remembering stirs. As people have moved around the world, so they have sought to make themselves feel more at home by taking bird sounds with them, more recently through technology but in the past in the form of the birds themselves. These narratives are intensely personal but they describe aesthetic experiences of place and nation, defining how home should sound. They emphasise that belonging involves sensory engagement with non-human, as well as human, elements of our environment and that the companionship that birds provide through sound can be a particularly powerful way that people learn to resonate with their surroundings.

Where fertilty and mortality collide: governing maternal mortality in out-of-the-way places

Author: Yvonne Underhill-Sem (University of Auckland) y.underhill-sem@auckland.ac.nz

Short Abstract

Maternal mortality rates are examined for the ways in which they constitute maternal bodies in PNG

Abstract

Fertility and mortality are widely and simply understood as two of the three determinants of a nation's population dynamics alongside migration. Yet these self-evident understandings belie the importance of the how the conceptual framing of these processes contribute to the framing and subsequent governance of the particular citizen bodies. This is particularly evident when they are intimately connected as in maternal mortality: there cannot be a maternal death without fertility to begin with.

This paper begins by examining the abysmally high maternal mortality rates in Papua New Guinea. It considers how they construct a particular citizen body in Papua New Guinea where the call to pay attention to high maternal mortality rates to address the tragedy of a maternal death and to advance overall development, runs in contrast to the importance of fertility as a means of securing membership of a group and growing evidence of sexual violence against women.

Governing the senses: how New Zealand's biculturalism works through the practice of a Māori healing tradition

Author: Tony O'Connor (Auckland District Health Board) TonyO@adhb.govt.nz

Short Abstract

New Zealand’s biculturalism shapes some of the notions about and the uses of the human body adopted by a group of healers that practice the Te Oo Mai Reia tradition of Māori healing. I show how this group of healers take account of the building and administration of New Zealand as a bicultural nation-state in the diagnosis and healing of illness. I then introduce perception, to show that bicultural government played out through not only the way healers and patients made sense of the body, but with the body, especially through how the practitioners saw, touched and felt.

Abstract

New Zealand's biculturalism shapes some of the notions about and the uses of the human body adopted by a group of healers that practice the Te Oo Mai Reia tradition of Māori healing. I show how this group of healers take account of the building and administration of New Zealand as a bicultural nation-state in the diagnosis and healing of illness. I then introduce perception, to show that bicultural government played out through not only the way healers and patients made sense of the body, but with the body, especially through how the practitioners saw, touched and felt. I draw on ethnographic data to demonstrate how the nation's government secures penetration into the citizenry by building upon pre-existing knowledge and relations of power, and how the practitioners uses of the body and the way they perceived the world is bear the effects of government.

A Healthy Sense of Reality: Native Medical Practitioners' Articulations of Entitlement and Responsibility in Colonial Vanuatu

Author: Alexandra Widmer (York University) alexandrawidmer@gmail.com

Short Abstract

Through the entitlements to health that Native Medical Practitioners expressed in colonial Vanuatu, I analyze how bio-political forms of citizenship operate through contesting proper interpretations of reality and how sensory experiences index forms of subjectivity as modern or traditional.

Abstract

This paper will examine how Native Medical Practitioners (NMP's) in colonial Vanuatu used their positions to express their own rights and entitlements to fair treatment from the British-French Condominium. In their reports to the colonial authorities, the NMP's also emphasized that ni-Vanuatu were entitled to better living conditions and adequate health care. Furthermore, the NMP's wrote, ni-Vanuatu were intelligent people capable of positive change to improve their lives. Still, throughout their correspondence, the NMP's expressed frustration at the persistence of 'fatalism' and 'belief in sorcery' that kept their would-be patients from both accepting biomedicine and taking control of their lives. As agents in the colonial project, NMP's were part of colonial medical schemes explicitly aimed at bringing people into centralized forms of state governance. Biomedicine was thus used in the creation of bio-political forms of governance and self governing subjects. In this paper, I examine the relevance of 'Biological citizenship' as a way of relating notions of belonging and entitlement through the articulation and experience of embodied claims to health. In particular, I analyze how bio-political forms of citizenship operate through contesting proper interpretations of reality and how sensory experiences (of illness caused by sorcery or virus) index forms of subjectivity and entitlements.

Local and global citizenship in the haemophilia community in NZ

Author: Julie Park (University of Auckland) j.park@auckland.ac.nz

Short Abstract

An exploration of the relationships between the sensory experiences of haemophilia and enactments of citizenship.

Abstract

The sensory experiences of haemophilia are multiplex. Shared experiences of the condition, its treatment and the consequences of that treatment within the nation and across nations motivate a variety of enactments of citizenship. This paper is based on 15 years of fieldwork within the haemophilia community in New Zealand. It explores the relationships between the sensory experiences of haemophilia and citizenship in relation to the themes of this panel.