ASA2016: Footprints and futures: the time of anthropology

(P59)
Arts of diplomacy across state and non-state contexts
Location Palatine - PCL054
Date and Start Time 07 July, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 3

Convenors

  • Chloe Nahum-Claudel (University of Cambridge) email
  • Rupert Stasch (University of Cambridge) email

Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

This panel explores diverse forms of state and non-state political encounter, in which adversaries attend reflexively to self-other divides of autonomy, language, institutional scale, and manipulability of impressions, in efforts to forge a common future.

Long Abstract

In a neglected article, Lévi-Strauss (1949) suggested that the appropriate Western analogue to Nambikwara treatment of foreigners is to be found not in our concept of warfare (which tends to be total) but in 'the arts that we ourselves place at the service of foreign diplomacy'. Framed openly as the artful management of relations with others in the absence of very much linguistic and social common ground, 'diplomacy' seems a promising concept through which to bridge the ethnographic turn in the anthropology of the state (which has powerfully relativized notions of sovereignty, democracy and citizenship), and the opening up of the horizons of political thought that has been characteristic of the study of non-state or anti-state societies (e.g. Clastres 1977; Scott 2009).

Uniting anthropologists working in state-saturated contexts with others working at distant frontiers or at interfaces between state and non-state social agents, the panel invites papers that seek to expand the purview of political anthropology through close attention to diplomatic strategies and styles. These could include, among other possibilities: considerations of hospitality, feasting and ritual means of incorporating adversaries; the orchestration of encounters and appearances through performance and gestural expression; skills of dialogue, greeting and oratory; gift, tribute and debt relationships which negotiate relative status and sovereignty; and strategies like blockade, parry and stand-off, by which adversaries test one another in ways which expose, while they also contain, a threat of violence.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Capturing competition: the performance of staged diplomacy in an Amazonian frontier

Author: Natalia Buitron Arias (London School of Economics and Political Science)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores how an Amazonian people playfully stage competition to tame the bureaucratic logic of the state while creatively using it to temporarily order fragile internal relations and promote increasingly important forms of internal unity.

Long Abstract

This paper explores the multidimensionality and efficacy of 'competition' as a diplomatic technique in the hands of an Amazonian people situated at the interface of state and non-state lawfare. Increasingly captured in encompassing webs of economic and bureaucratic dependence, the Jivaroan Shuar of Ecuadorian Amazonia have developed a remarkable variety of performances in which mestizo colonists, rather than their traditional Jivaroan enemies, appear as the primary targets of symbolic predation and antagonism. Conspicuous in these performances is the display of a multiplicity of games and contests (from neo-ancestral competitions that transform embodied forms of knowledge into abstract displays of ability, to sport tournaments to beauty pageants). The performances are also characterised by an unremitting rhetorical emphasis on harmonious relationships between Jivaroan hosts and guests - traditional opponents now conjoined in festive encounters - and clamorous declarations of hostility towards an absent third party, the mestizo foreign. Re-visiting Lévi-Strauss's distinction between game and ritual, the paper shows how rules, victors and losers enable Shuar to crack the external logic of competition while turning it into a masterful diplomatic tactic through which they can temporarily evoke an internal collectivity by means of beating absent ambivalent outsiders at their own bureaucratic game.

Solving problems in a Sepik society: the dialectic of the hand-screw ritual and the village court

Author: Tomi Bartole (University of St Andrews)  email

Short Abstract

For the villagers of Awim in the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea the state is absent, except that its presence is felt in the village court. Although they avoid employing the court to solve problems, it re-emerges through the customary hand-screw ‘ritual’.

Long Abstract

For the villagers of Awim in the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea the state, with its much promised services, is absent, except that its presence is notoriously felt through the institution of the village court. When deciding about the appropriate way to solve a particular problem, the court is the epitome of what people call the new system, which they contrapose to the hand-screw, the 'ritual' that stands for the customary way. Although it might at first appear that people choose between two equivalent options, I show that these are not actually equivalent and consequently the choice is not a free one, because it is affected by certain stories about the court's procedures. As a result, the employment of village court in problem solving is always avoided. However, during the hand-screw, a 'ritual' in which people express their sorrows to each other in order to solve a problem amongst themselves, the court not only 're-appears' in speeches and talks, but establishes the very conditions of possibility of the ritual's efficaciousness. Through the discussion of the dialectical moments of the court, which begin with the court being one of the two choices, proceeds to the court being avoided and then, finally, introduced into the hand-screw 'ritual', the aim of this paper is to render analytical other relevant categories used by the people of Awim, such as kastam, law, strength, witness and death, in problem solving processes.

Urban post-cosmopolitanism and the (re)turn to everyday diplomacy: towards the sites of gastro-diplomacy in postwar Bosnia-Herzegovina

Author: David Henig (University of Kent)  email

Short Abstract

This paper (re)turns to the study of everyday diplomacy. It focuses on a dervish lodge and a Franciscan soup kitchen as ‘the gastro-diplomatic sites’ to elucidate the ethical-diplomatic assemblages that mediate encounters between various Others in a post-cosmopolitan town in postwar Bosnia.

Long Abstract

This paper contributes to the debates on the nature of diplomacy in the modern world which seek to critically examine 'the sites' where diplomacy actually takes place. One such 'site' which epitomises the quintessence of diplomatic practice is dining and food sharing - 'gastro-diplomacy'. By amplifying this axiom beyond state-level diplomacy, this paper ethnographically elucidates the ethical-diplomatic assemblages of hospitality, charity and good-heartedness as the idioms of shared civility and the sites of everyday (gastro-)diplomacy in postwar Bosnia. Following the debates on the post-cosmopolitan cities, I discuss two 'pockets' of shared urban civility in a 'mixed town' in Central Bosnia. First 'pocket' is a dervish lodge, and the hospitality idiom of 'sofra' (dining cloth) through which the labour of mediation between multiple Others (ethnic, religious, linguistic) is enacted and articulated. Second one is a Franciscan soup kitchen feeding anyone who is hungry and who lives in precarious conditions, and yet relying on the generosity of anyone who can give articulated in the idiom of 'merhamet'/ being 'merhametli' (good-heartedness). In considering how these 'gastro-diplomatic sites' afford to forge and mediate relationships between various 'Others' locally and transnationally, I shall outline some of the shared sensibilities and values of living together with difference in the post-cosmopolitan urban spaces more generally.

"The world is my nation": citizenship, hospitality and diplomacy among Esperanto speakers

Author: Guilherme Moreira Fians (University of Manchester)  email

Short Abstract

Drawing on the ways Esperanto speakers articulate themselves through transnational networks, I examine how they make use of this language to host fellow speakers during trips abroad, to discuss political issues and to claim to be members of an antinational community that extends beyond borders.

Long Abstract

Esperanto is a planned language that claims not only to make international communication possible, but mainly to promote a rapprochement of peoples all over the world through language comprehension - which would be the first step towards a possibility of understanding and peace. Based on this cosmopolitan intent, Esperantists aims to build an affective kind of communication, more affective and oriented to promote diplomacy and to gather together supporters of this project. However, since it is not a national or regional language, its speakers constitute a speech community that is scattered around the world. Thus, how do they relate to each other and how is this language used in practice?

In face of these issues, I aim to examine the way Esperanto speakers articulate themselves face-to-face through meetings promoted by Esperanto-related associations and mainly through Pasporta-Servo, a hospitality service for those who travel abroad, speak Esperanto and want to be hosted by a fellow speaker. It promotes the idea that Esperantists can overcome national borders, go beyond state configurations and consider themselves as "citizens of the world". However, apart from the hospitality, diplomacy and world citizenship defended by it, there are also many conflicts among different Esperanto associations, mainly between those that use this language to debate political issues and those that claim Esperanto to be neutral. Thus, my intention is to discuss the encounters of Esperantists and the outcomes of Esperanto as a diplomatic language, including both its promotion of peace and hospitality and the conflicts generated around it.

Ethical reflexivity in conflicts over payment in New Guinea tourism encounters

Author: Rupert Stasch (University of Cambridge)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines confrontational negotiations over payments that sometimes arise in foreigners’ visits to a primitivist tourism destination in West Papua. My focus is on the contrasting ethical models of appropriate social comportment that circulate among the different participants.

Long Abstract

In recent decades, several thousand international tourists and about fifty film crews have visited Korowai of Indonesian Papua, motivated by primitivist ideas that Korowai live outside global market structures. Tourists and Korowai interact remarkably smoothly, considering their profound mutual misunderstandings. Much of this smoothness is owed to the work of professional guides and Korowai tourism specialists. This paper looks at confrontational negotiations over the size of tour groups' payments to hosts that sometimes arise toward the end of tourism encounters. My focus is on the contrasting ethical models of appropriate social comportment that circulate among the different participants, and the larger ideas informing these models. One area of ethnography I deal with is Korowai norms of egalitarian politics, wherein confrontational brinkmanship is a regular mode of solving problems, and expectations about reciprocity are routinely redefined according to the temporal flow of egalitarian labor participation. I also look at tour guides' Indonesian-language critical approval of Korowai who "understand" or critical disparagement of those who are "ruined," in reference to the importance of adhering to promises and reasonable levels of material expectation. Tourists' ideas of who Korowai should be are reflected in discourses of pollution that similarly focus on Korowai material demands and the instrumentalization of social relations to money. On the other side, I look also at Korowai critical evaluation of different guides and tour groups, and controversies among Korowai which revolve around different hosts' approaches to tourism transactions.

Perilous knowledge: opacity and deferral as diplomatic tactics in the negotiation of a UK transparency policy 

Author: Taras Fedirko (Durham University)  email

Short Abstract

My paper explores Whitehall civil servants’ uses of deliberate concealment and deferral of negotiations into the future, as two strategies that make their diplomacy effective in avoiding displays of perilous and divisive knowledge in the context of official policy negotiation meetings.

Long Abstract

How is a participatory policy on transparency negotiated, when public display of knowledge is deemed dangerous precisely because it can make transparent informal alliances and potentially divisive interests?

The question arises in the context of negotiations between Whitehall civil servants and their "stakeholders" about the design and implementation of the UK Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). The Initiative is a fiscal transparency policy for extractive industries, implemented collaboratively by "the Government", "the Industry" and "the Civil Society" — the three "constituencies" whose representatives deliberate by consensus in official meetings.

My ethnographic paper will examine the social effects which civil servants ascribe to the public display of knowledge about conflict and disagreement in the context of UK EITI negotiations. I suggest that in so far as official policy meetings are meant to perform certain social forms (namely, the wholes of the three "constituencies"), the revelation of knowledge about conflicting interests of participants, their personal disputes, or opinions about certain controversies, can disrupt such performances and undermine the deliberative efficacy of the assembly. I will therefore explore civil servants' uses of intentional concealment and display of ignorance, and deferral of negotiations into the future, as two strategies that help their diplomacy effectively engender general consensus not by resolving conflicts, but by not allowing them to "come up" in public meetings. I will examine these strategies in relation to other forms of negotiations that take place outside of formal assemblies.

An Amerindian diplomatic repertoir

Author: Chloe Nahum-Claudel (University of Cambridge)  email

Short Abstract

This paper considers the deployment of documents by an Amerindian people in dealings with the Brazilian state and with hydroelectric dam companies. The exchange of documents is one aspect of a dynamic of diplomatic opening and closure via which the Enawene demand recognition from powerful outsiders.

Long Abstract

The use of the term 'diplomats' with reference to Amerindians may be surprising at first. I owe the impetus to an early essay by Lévi-Strauss (1949), in which he discusses the delicate tension between aggression and cooperation among Nambikwara bands. He argues that the appropriate analogy between our own treatment of foreigners and the Nambikwara's would not be found in our warfare, but in 'all the arts that we ourselves place at the service of foreign diplomacy' (Lévi-Strauss 1949: 150). In this paper I want to defend the idea that Enawene-nawe interactions with the state are best understood as diplomatic in nature. Specifically, I am interested in how documents serve as a central part of a diplomatic repertoire. The pragmatics of document exchange involve a to and fro movement and a turn-taking rhythm that chimes with Enawene-nawe communicative rhythms (in speech and gift exchange), with their emphasis on symmetry, recognition, appropriate time delay, and measured, thoughtful self-expression. These marked qualities of Enawene-nawe communication relate to well-documented features of 'ceremonial dialogue', a linguistic genre whose diplomatic quality has been extensively documented in Amazonia.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.