ASA14: Anthropology and Enlightenment

(P66)

Community, belonging and moral sentiment: is to belong to be a moral person?

Location Quincentenary Building, Tausend Room
Date and Start Time 22 June, 2014 at 09:00

Convenors

Leila Sinclair-Bright (University of Edinburgh) email
Sebastien Bachelet (University of Edinburgh) email
Mail All Convenors

Summary

This panel calls for papers that examine the relationship between ideas of moral sentiment, moral norms and notions/senses of belonging and the ways these are or are not defined in relation to one another in different contexts and situations.

Long Abstract

Both belonging and morality concern not only sympathetic relationships between human beings, but between people and places, spaces, environments, spirits, materials and animals as well. In addition, the establishment of moral norms entails not only 'sympathy' but rights, responsibilities, duties and obligations. This panel starts by asking how morality and belonging are or are not defined in relation to one another in different contexts and situations. Who determines what it is to belong, what it is to be moral and the relationship between these? If belonging is as much about exclusion as it is about inclusion then what moral norms do you have to subscribe to in order to belong? How are moral norms established or challenged in contexts where belonging is contested? In itinerant or temporary communities, are moral norms constructed and if so how? And finally, what are the risks of extending 'sympathy' towards another? How does the extension of 'sympathy' to another person, place or thing come both to define us as human and to risk our belonging to a particular community? Papers looking at political and legal contestation, property disputes, migration, landscape, human-animal relations, knowledge production, emotional registers and experiences are invited to submit papers.

Discussant: Jamie Coates - Justin Kenrick

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

'Do I turn up and help others?': weddings and the making of a moral community among Kenyan Pentecostals in London

Author: Leslie Fesenmyer (University of Oxford)  email

Summary

I approach the ‘community weddings’ of Kenyan Pentecostal migrants in London as a form of moral discourse and practice and consider what these occasions can tell us about the ‘community’ invoked by the term.

Long Abstract

Organized around discourses and practices of inclusion and exclusion, this paper considers how 'community weddings' - a normative ideal among Kenyan Pentecostal migrants - help to position them vis-à-vis their non-migrant kin, other (Kenyan) migrants living in London, and wider British society. I focus in particular on the pre-wedding stage during which couples raise significant sums of money. By looking at moments when abuses may occur, it is possible to understand more fully how 'community weddings' constitute migrants from Kenya as moral beings who 'turn up and help others' and, thus, how a sense of 'community' is generated. I consider the moral discourse they use, particularly with regard to notions of change and continuity, in relation to wider British society and in light of studies of Pentecostalism in Africa and the African diaspora. More specifically, migrants reveal their ambivalence toward the United Kingdom - Kenya's former colonial ruler - as they tack discursively between, on the one hand, sympathy with the place where (many of) their children were born and on the other hand, disdain toward a (racially) hostile place they characterize as having 'left the Kingdom of God'.

Irregular belonging and adventurous morality

Author: Sebastien Bachelet (University of Edinburgh)  email

Summary

Drawing on fieldwork with migrants in Morocco, this paper analyses the interplay of belonging and morality. It explores tensions between reciprocity and selfishness, individual and collective, by engaging with the problematic notion of adventurers – as irregular sub-Saharan migrants self-identify.

Long Abstract

As Balibar puts it, 'no individual is a man or woman 'without qualities' but always a particular individual with social and moral properties' (2004: 27). Yet, when discussing solidarity and reciprocity among 'irregular' migrants, an Ivorian man questions whether there 'can be any solidarity when we have nothing to share'.

This paper engages with the problematization of morality and belonging posed by irregular migrants 'stranded' in Morocco. Drawing on my fieldwork (2012-13) in a marginal neighbourhood of Rabat with a visible presence of 'irregular' sub-Saharan migrants attempting to cross to Europe, this study seeks to address the following interrogative: How does morality manifest itself in such context? Migrants referred to themselves as 'adventurers' on a quest for a shared 'objective': to 'look for their lives' elsewhere. As such, they formed an 'imagined community' of heroic travellers from diverse socio-economic contexts. Juridically and economically marginalized, irregular migrants relied not only on relatives at home and in intended countries of destination, but also on each others to attain their objective(s). By exploring aspects such as the sharing of food, information, work opportunities, this paper analyses the tensions between the individual and the collective, reciprocity and selfishness, amongst irregular migrants in Morocco.

My proposed study contends that adventurers do not form an unproblematic 'communitas', nor do they constitute some Hobbesian nightmare similar to Turnbull's 'mountain people'. In examining the liminal context of irregular migrants in Morocco, this study seeks to contribute to the analysis of the complex interplay of belonging and morality.

Return to tradition: morality and belonging in 'Little Mogadishu'

Author: Lucy Lowe (University of Edinburgh)  email

Summary

As a pivotal hub for many people leaving and returning to Somalia, the ‘Little Mogadishu’ area of Nairobi is a site where perceptions of morality and what it means to be a ‘true Somali’ converge. This paper will examine the importance of belonging and ‘Somaliness’ among those that do not belong.

Long Abstract

Being Somali in Kenya is far from straightforward. In Nairobi, thousands of Somalis - refugees, immigrants, Kenyan citizens, as well as many carrying documents from America, Canada, Britain, Sweden, and numerous other states - have come to dominate the Eastleigh estate, often referred to as 'Little Mogadishu'. This paper will explore how the moral norms that are equated with being a 'true' or 'good' Somali are used to define an explicit separation between those who belong and those who do not. Furthermore, it will examine how perceptions of morality and 'Somaliness' are used not only to define Somalis in contrast to their host community, but also to those who have become 'lost' due to the length of time or distance from their home country, particularly Somali Sijus (Kenyan citizens that are ethnically Somali) and those who have grown up even further from Somalia, often in North America and Europe, and have been sent to Eastleigh by their families in order to 'return to tradition'. In doing so, this paper will explore how, within this context of displacement, notions of morality and belonging are intrinsically tied to particular perceptions of a transnational Somali nation as well as a geographically fixed territory.

"It's not a nice job but if God provides then I am not wrong": exploring notions of belonging, exclusion and of being "immoral" amongst migrant sex workers in inner city Johannesburg

Author: Rebecca Walker (University of Witwatersrand)  email

Summary

This paper explores experiences of belonging, exclusion and notions of morality amongst migrant sex workers in Johannesburg. Recognizing that such lives are marked by notions of mobility, temporality and ‘otherness’ the paper asks what it means to belong in hostile and moralizing environments.

Long Abstract

This paper explores notions of belonging, of exclusion and of morality amongst cross-border and internal South African migrant sex workers in Johannesburg. In particular it considers their "double vulnerability" engaging in work that is illegal in South Africa and also being non-nationals (often undocumented) as they attempt to negotiate everyday experiences of risk and exploitation. In Johannesburg, a city with the largest proportion of South Africa's migrant community, migrant sex workers face discrimination and abuse from the very institutions and spaces purporting to support or "save" them (including clinics, shelters and churches). On the other hand there is also a strong sex worker movement in South Africa (run by sex workers for sex workers) advocating for the decriminalization of sex work and a decoupling of ideas of sex work with particular kinds of moralization and notions of victimhood. Drawing from interviews with female migrant sex workers this paper seeks to highlight the lived experiences of those who find themselves caught between those two spaces - they do not wish to be saved and condemned for what they do yet, often due to the vulnerabilities they face as migrants, do not identify with the activism of the sex worker movement. Recognizing that migrant sex workers' lives are marked by notions of mobility, temporality and 'otherness' the paper asks what it means to belong when unable to fit into specific discourses and spaces and, how this maps onto ideas of morality when engaging in work that is deemed "immoral" by the state.

The morality of being Mapuche: contested epistemologies and shared values in southern Chile

Author: Marcelo Gonzalez Galvez (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile)  email

Summary

Different understandings of the impact humans have on the environment, are both promoted and informed by notions of what it means to be a proper person among the Mapuche. Concurrently, personal views on these epistemologies and moral notions are employed in construing contested senses of belonging.

Long Abstract

Over the last forty years, the promotion of timber exploitations by the Chilean state has dramatically modified the ecosystem of Provincia de Arauco. At the same time, the extended presence of timber companies has triggered a deep transformation in traditional peasant economies, altering indigenous Mapuche people's entire way of living. In this paper, I intend to explore how these modifications have been both perceived and interpreted by Mapuche people in Elicura, a small rural valley where I have carried out fieldwork since 2009. In doing so, I will follow what seem to be two opposed perceptions, drawing on two respectively dissimilar epistemologies. Subsequently, I will observe how these perceptions appear to converge on a common interpretation of change, which has a notion of 'morality' at its core. Eventually, I will discuss how people use this perceived epistemological difference, and the moral interpretations that stem from it, to propose their own theories of being and belonging that parallel those founded upon a given or constructed relationship with 'a place'. These theories of being and belonging allow 'to assert' and 'to cut' relationships, differentiating between people maintaining contrasting ways of knowing, and uniting them around what seem to be particularly similar conceptions of what can be considered as the proper ways of being.

Zimbabwean land reform: the negotiation of sympathy and recognition in farmworkers claims to belong

Author: Leila Sinclair-Bright (University of Edinburgh)  email

Summary

Focusing on a disputed land claim made by farmworkers, this paper investigates appeals to moral entitlement and the negotiation of sympathy between new farmers, farmworkers and traditional and local government authorities in a new resettlement area in Zimbabwe.

Long Abstract

During the Zimbabwean land reform programme the majority of white owned commercial farm land was redistributed by the Zimbabwean government amongst indigenous black Zimbabweans. Land reform was largely framed in terms of land restitution, belonging and entitlement. While indigenous Zimbabweans from across the country were allocated plots of land, the former employees of white farmers were largely excluded. Commonly referred to as farmworkers, many of these people continued to live in farm compounds on these lands. New farmers and institutions supporting them attempt to distinguish themselves from farmworkers in terms of material and moral substance. Yet many new farmers simultaneously extend sympathy towards landless farmworkers in part because of their shared, albeit different, experiences of land reform and the friendships and working relationships established since. Some farmworkers managed to retain small plots allotted to them by white farmers before land reform but in the Zimbabwean governments' ongoing attempt to administer and adjudicate these areas, farmworkers use of such lands is increasingly visible and disputed. Focusing one such dispute brought to a local customary law court this paper investigates the contested field of moral entitlements as emergent from divergent discourses about true claims to belonging and ownership and the negotiation of moral sentiment in such areas. Recognising their claim to belong would not be recognised, farmworkers instead appealed to notions of humane social interaction leaving individual new farmers split between their sympathy for farmworkers and their standing amongst authorities. Fieldwork was conducted in Mazowe District between 2011 and 2013.

Righteous activism as moral reproach: 'belonging requires active involvement in public affairs'

Author: Raul Gerardo Acosta Garcia (Universität Konstanz)  email

Summary

Urban activists in Guadalajara seek to influence government policies and convince others of joining their ranks. In recent campaigns to improve transport and cycling facilities, middle class activists have expressed a sense of righteousness that appears to reproach those not involved in political affairs.

Long Abstract

In recent years, Guadalajara has hosted an increasing number of activist groups seeking to improve public services and spaces in the city. A leading cluster of activists is a movement called Ciudad para Todos (City for All), which claims to work disinterestedly for the improvement of urban mobility. Some of its members are experts in urbanism or in public transport, and have alternated their activism with consultancy or work for local governments. Others are architects or freelancers with enough time to carry out activism. Their privileged background, therefore, allows them to dedicate time and resources to their activism that are simply inaccessible for a majority of the population. During a recent period of fieldwork within City for All, I could identify a disregard by these activists towards the majority of the city's population for two main reasons: a) a veiled accusation of ignorance or backwardness in not grasping the 'bigger picture' of the problems associated with the excessive number of automobiles; and b) a sense of moral reproach towards all those aware of problems but who nevertheless didn't 'do something about it', as was often put. This paper examines the role of activists in a city where there has been a short lived and fragmentary experience of democracy. City for All represents a case of elite activism with expertise and resources that contrary to its stated aims appears to perpetuate an unequal society by reproaching those with less time and resources their lack of commitment to actively demanding improvements to the city.

Shame and moral work around health: examining the experience of young people

Author: Louise Laverty (University of Liverpool)  email

Summary

This paper will discuss the moralities of health in the lives of young people. Data from an ethnographic study of a youth club in the north west of England will be used to illustrate the significance of shame to young people’s experiences of health and belonging.

Long Abstract

Public health campaigns often attempt to appeal to the public through emotive and often moralising messages; utilising fear, disgust, guilt and shame. This reflects a wider shift to what Deborah Lupton has described as the 'moral imperative of health', where the role of health becomes a measure of character and self-worth (1995). Hence to be in poor health, or avoid making healthy choices, is to be of objectionable character (Crawford 1994). This paper draws on a year-long ethnographic study of young people at a youth club in the North West of England. It aims to demonstrate that moralities of health seep into everyday life, and have implications for the inclusion and exclusion of young people who do not conform to the moral norms of the centre and local community. Using Elspeth Probyn's work on shame as an analytic concept I will discuss the significance of shame during my fieldwork. The fear of being shamed, the proactive shaming of others, and being the subject of shaming are prominent in young people's identity work in this public setting. These issues will be discussed within the broader framework of youth and belonging, paying particular attention to the gendered nature of these interactions. The findings will be placed in context by using the backdrop of the increasing prominence of 'shame debates' in UK contexts (for example fat-shaming, slut-shaming, welfare-shaming debates).

Child's play: childhood in the global ethics of consumption

Author: Laura Suski (Vancouver Island University)  email

Summary

The paper explores how ethical consumption practices of toys produced in the Global South are affected by how we approach childhood as a site of innocence, and how ethical obligations to “our” children may affect moral orientations to distant others.

Long Abstract

The rise of fair trade movements and product boycotts underlie the fact that the global connections of production and consumption are sites of ethical practice. Such ethical practices become more important when children are involved as it is often argued that ethical obligations to children involve protection and care. Given the ethical position of children as inherently vulnerable, distant children are often easier targets for the extension of sympathy and care. The proposed paper explores how children function in the daily ethics of consumption, particularly the consumption of toys produced in the Global South. How does the purchase of some toys become unethical? Whose children should be protected? The paper explores the global production and consumption of toys through some specific examples of recalls of toys made in China. Such recalls often make claims to protect children in the Global North against "dangerous" toys produced in the Global South. It will be argued that the consumption practices surrounding children are complex sites of daily ethical practice that are affected by how we approach childhood as a site of innocence and play, and how ethical obligations to community and family may determine moral orientations to distant others. While consumption practices may deeply implicate us in the ethical lives of "our" children, movements to limit or control the consumption of global goods can make our ethical attachments to "distant" children and adults tenuous and selective.

Anomalous children: the problems faced by children falling between two contrasting social constructions of belonging

Author: Elaine Donovan (Massey University)  email

Summary

This paper explores how, in Malawi, children of matrilineal fathers and patrilineal mothers are rendered vulnerable following their father’s death due to falling between two contrasting social constructions of belongingness. The discussion examines moral sentiments and the effects of colonialism.

Long Abstract

The majority of Malawi's population is traditionally matrilineal and accordingly trace genealogy through the maternal line. However, in the northern region and the southernmost district, patrilineal groups, who trace genealogy through the paternal line, prevail. Thus, there are two contrasting social constructions of children's belongingness. In matrilineal groups, children belong to their mother's clan. Conversely, in patrilineal communities, children are affiliated to the husband's clan providing the lobola (bridewealth) requirements have been fulfilled. These contrasting customs endure despite the Malawian 1994 constitution determining equal rights for spouses in relation to child custody. Based on recent ethnographic fieldwork, this paper explores cases in which children of patrilineal mothers and matrilineal fathers are rendered particularly vulnerable to abuse and neglect following their father's death, due to falling between the two contrasting genealogical discourses. The fathers' matrilineal clans claim entitlement to the children, based on the lobola payment having been paid, and remove them from their mothers. Curiously, they use a patrilineal social construction of belongingness to assert the children belong to their matrilineal clan. However, they do so, not in terms of the moral norms of kinship bonds characterised by bi-directional belonging (belonging to each other) but more in terms of unidirectional belonging (transactional belonging) as in property. This situation is discussed in relation to ideas of moral sentiment and how, during the colonial era, the patrilineal custom of lobola became an official and enforceable means of determining to whom children belonged, particularly in relation to inter-tribal marriages.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.