EASA, 2006: EASA06: Europe and the world

Bristol, UK, 18/09/2006 – 21/09/2006


Islands of Doom, Islands of Bliss: revisiting maritime places of conquest and exploitation, pleasure and consumption

Location Chem E401
Date and Start Time 20 Sep, 2006 at 11:30


Heike Drotbohm (Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz) email
Burkhard Schnepel (Martin-Luther University, Halle) email
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Short Abstract

Islands and their cultures can provide critical anthropological insights into the entanglement of historical and contemporary power relations, gender constructions, ethics of consumption and politics of representation.

Long Abstract

Islands can be understood as interfaces of, as well as points of arrival and departure for, processes of socio-cultural, political, religious and economical globalisation. Serving today as symbols of sensual and aesthetic pleasures and consumption, many islands in the world also embody memories of violent histories such as invasions, slavery and economic exploitation. While a great number of islands are still judged as hot spots of international relations and regional security, they may also face a strong dependence on development aid due to overpopulation and environmental vulnerability. However, post-industrial service industries such as tourism and offshore businesses provide access to financial capital, which may instigate insular development but which may also produce new inequalities between islands or between a given island's coasts and hinterlands. As a piece of land surrounded by water most islands refuse the political mapping into one of the five continents and prefer to picture intercultural encounters of the past and present. Therefore, cultural areas such as the Caribbean, the Pacific, the Black Atlantic and the Indian Ocean constitute places of growing anthropological interest, where theories of creolisation and hybridisation were generated and meet with current debates over cultural homogenisation versus diversification. Another result of the particularity of their territorial location may be that islanders are often reminded that their cultural identity is linked to insularity and isolation on the one hand and to mobility and migration on the other. Given these comparable characteristics, the workshop seeks to develop a suitable framework for comparing islands from an anthropological point of view and welcomes proposals on issues such as: Islands and the European expansion (colonialism, slavery) Constructions of identities and alterities on and between islands Migration, transnationalism and globalisation from the island's point of view Anthropologists and island ethnographies Anthropology of beaches and beachcombers The politics and economies of romances: islands and tourism World culture: music, dance, food and other art forms.


Introduction: anthropology and the particularities of island cultures

Author: Heike Drotbohm (Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz)  email
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Long Abstract

Co-author: Burkhard Schnepel, Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, Institut für Ethnologie

The convenors will introduce the main assumptions, the background and the intellectual aims of the workshop.

On the one hand, it is possible to say that islands, as areas of land surrounded by water, are not necessarily more isolated in socio-cultural respects than any other areas of land, because they are involved in extensive networks of communication and exchange. Recent processes of globalisation, namely migrations and travel, modern capitalism, mass media and the new communication technologies, contribute in particular to the interrelatedness of the world and the trans-local link-up between people, no matter where they live.

On the other hand, it can be found that islands are (and are imagined to be) places that differ from other parts of land, as their cultural identity is either linked to insularity and isolation, to beach life, peace and joy or to forced mobility and migration. In their presentation the workshop convenors will outline former anthropological approaches to island cultures and elaborate on a possible framework for connecting the papers to be presented during the panel.

Tourism or terrorism: negotiating European desires and discourses of democracy in Fiji

Author: Susanna Trnka (University of Auckland)  email
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Long Abstract

In May 2000 Fiji experienced its third political coup which has resulted in continued political instability in the island nation. Fiji's present political structure is the result of British colonial rule which put in place a democratic political system, alongside colonial codifications of racial identity and a structure of communal voting. While their underlying motivations may be political and financial self-interest, Fiji's coup leaders have justified overthrowing various democratically elected leaders by questioning the value of 'democracy' and debating whether or not the principles of democratic government are a foreign imposition on this postcolonial nation. Sitiveni Rabuka, Fiji's first (and second) coup leader, for example, once famously stated that "democracy is a foreign flower" not fit to be tended in Fijian soil. And yet Fiji is also reliant on promoting itself as a political stable state in order to attract international investment, development aid, and tourism. During the political turmoil of 2000, many indigenous Fijians who otherwise supported the newest coup leader, George Speight, despaired over the impact of the latest coup on Fiji's international profile, particularly on foreign tourists who were frightened away by the latest round of political terror. This paper will examine how concerns over Fiji's tourist industry and the economic imperative of maintaining Fiji's image as a "Pacific paradise" to attract foreign, mainly "European" tourists (most of whom are in fact Australians and New Zealanders, but are referred to as "Europeans" in local terminology), intersect with discourses of democracy, human rights, and indigeneity in local debates over good government and citizen's rights.

Decentring Sounds from the European ultra-periphery

Author: Carsten Wergin (Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg)  email
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Long Abstract

The musical discourses of Réunion Island, a French Overseas-Department in the Indian Ocean, are entangled with issues relating to the (re-)invention of (local) traditions, (global) marketing strategies and power relations under the World Music label, as well as a colonial past that is anything but history. Musicians that locate their musics as cultural products of this farthest European "Ultra-Periphery" (official EU-terminology) are active participants in the development of alternative epistemologies, ethics and imaginings.

Réunion Island has no native population. Its cultural identity is originally derived from mobility and migration of peoples that only later encounter insularity and isolation. This offers a very specific perspective on the construction of identities and alterities on and between Réunion and other islands, Europe, Africa, India, South East Asia and the vast region of the Indian Ocean.

In my paper, I present Réunionese musicians as mediators and translators of knowledge in shifting in-between spaces. While they remain under the influence of political and economic power struggles, they make active use of and reference to various symbolisms, imaginaries and performance strategies (lagoons, colourful dresses, hidden settlements of escaped slaves in the mountainous hinterlands, beaches with white and black sand, an active volcano, histories of slavery and engagisme) in order to construct a very own cultural heritage in contrast and/or relation to an image of belonging to a French and European identity generated some 11.000 kilometres away. Furthermore, musicians (re-)create affiliations and routes towards other transmusical spaces and islands: Reggae and Rastafarianism of Jamaica, Ragga and Zouk from the Antilles or HipHop cultures of the Black Atlantic.

In the context of current debates on creolisation and hybridisation, I argue for music as a medium that articulates characteristics of a decentred vision for identity constructions and a relocation of cultures and that offers great potential for making comparisons amongst numerous ethnographic sites and sides.

Europe and the Sakalava (Madagascar)

Author: Peter Kneitz (Martin-Luther University, Halle (Saale))  email
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Long Abstract

The Sakalava, nowadays the dominant ethnical force all along the west-coast of Madagascar, have evolved comparatively late. The starting point of this society, commonly seen around the beginning of 17th century, was the establishment of relationships between a new arrived dynasty with local landowners. In a sudden, even explosive dynamic the new formed kingdom expanded, and within hardly one century the main parts of the west-coast had become dominated by the fast segmentated dynasty, reigning over an always increasing number of little political entities and the two most important Sakalava-kingdoms of Menabe and Boina. During the 19th century the political power of the kingdoms began to decline. However, the structures of kingship are persisting until today, though renewed around dynamic performances of spirit mediumship, the defining key features of present Sakalava identity.

The destiny of Sakalava is not comprehensible without looking to the direct or indirect manœvres of the European expansionism. In my paper I would like to summarize some main aspects: early contacts were orientated mainly towards the negotiations of, most important, slaves against European weapons. The resolute use of the new instruments of war was a main condition which allowed the Sakalava to become the dominant power on Madagascar. Looking to the later decline of the Sakalava kingdoms, it will be shown that the enduring rivalry between Great Britain and France were shaping the Sakalava’s destiny again, but more indirectly. Among others, the inducing of a new minor importance of slave trade and the assisting in the upcoming of a new indigenous power has to be mentioned. With the colonisation of Madagascar through France (1896-1960) times of Sakalava’s political independency came to an end, but main parts of their social structures survived, now confronted with European ideas of identity and ethnicity.

The example shows how the European presence provided continually conditions for the specific political development during the 400 years history of the Sakalava, with many indirect consequences for the internal structuring and unfolding of their society. But the Sakalava, perhaps as a result of their deep-rooted island-experience of a constant coming and going, always knew how to weight and to negotiate carefully the options and conditions offered or imposed by Europeans and others. The very core of being Sakalava, the resolute integrity of the relations between people and kings or king’s ancestors, was indeed continuously rearranged, but in any case was never abandoned.

Home and away: being Comorian in Ngazidja and Zanzibar

Author: Iain Walker (University of Oxford)  email
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Long Abstract

Comorian social institutions are remarkably resilient; Comorian culture is remarkably eclectic. This paper confronts the parallel processes of social stability and cultural change within the Comorian community in two locations: "at home", on the Comorian island of Ngazidja, and "away", on the island of Zanzibar. In the former location, cultural changes allow for Comorians to represent themselves as French, Arab, African, using these identifications as strategies for negotiating interactions with others in a context where social institutions are firmly anchored, both spatially and conceptually. In Zanzibar, however, if Comorian identity remains a social marker, changes in the content of the category "Comorian" has, over the years, both required and been driven by a reworking of the relationships between, on the one hand, Comorians in Zanzibar and, on the other hand, both the wider Zanzibari community and the Comorian community in Ngazidja. This paper considers these two aspects of Comorian identity and the strategies called upon by both communities in negotiating their interactions with others while at the same time preserving their own cohesiveness as groups.

Santería 'from Cuba into the world': the dynamics of transnational religious activity

Author: Claudia Rauhut (Freie Universität Berlin )  email
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Long Abstract

This paper focuses on strategies of transnational religious networking in Santería, an Afrocuban religion based on Yoruba traditions. Since the socioeconomic changes of the 1990s and the opening process of the Cuban government Santería is expanding all over the Atlantic world by migration, global networks of science, the culture market and tourism. Santería practitioners (both Cubans and non-Cubans) living in other parts of the world are strongly connected to their Cuban-based ritual families because of reciprocal ritual linkages. These make them periodically return to the island to keep up with their religious obligations. Therefore local religious practice is more and more taking place in transnational spaces and is becoming an important factor connecting Cuba to the rest of the world. This might be a way for both individuals and state institutions to overcome the island's political and economical isolation.

The paper shows on the one hand how the informal as well as the official commercialization of Santería as an object of consumption has contributed to the appearance of new global actors and dynamics such as those of religious tourism. On the other hand it analyzes how Santería priests are building transnational networks while remaining in Cuba, how they incorporate "foreign capital" and how they compete with other priests but also with state institutions over "religion", turning it into a resource convertible into social, political and economic capital.

Unequal access to the flow of resources from transnational connections produces rivalry and distancing discourses with regard to ethical principles of the religion and to economic power in the local religious sphere. The central question therefore seems to be to what extent religious activity carried out between Cuba and the "Cuban Diaspora" in a larger sense is simultaneously causing and ensuing from both socio-economic polarization or change and ideological conflicts in contemporary Cuban society.

Trans-Caribbean identity in New York City: the de- and reconstruction of insular identity (ties) in the diaspora

Author: Bettina Schmidt (University of Wales Trinity St David)  email
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Long Abstract

The paper will explore the significance of the Caribbean Islands in the diaspora with special reference to the second and third generation of migrants. The Caribbean islands are still 'home' even for the second and third generation. Despite of their disapproval with the images their parents have construed, the children still feel a strong belonging to the Caribbean though sometimes they are looking at different places as their parents. Young Caribbean students take classes in Caribbean music and dance or go to workshops to learn more about the Caribbean. For them the national division of the Caribbean ceased to exist. Trans-Caribbean represents a new sphere, a kind of counter-culture that offers an alternative or sometimes even an opposition to the American mainstream society. Some even join Caribbean religious communities such as e.g. Haitian Vodou temples or casa de santos of Cuban/Puerto Rican Santería.

The paper will characterize the New York trans-Caribbean culture based on Werner Schiffauer's concept of urban culture. The internal heterogeneity indicate the wide range of different Caribbean identities; Jamaicans, Haitians, Cubans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, people from Trinidad and Tobago, Martinique and Saint Lucia - all are part of New York Caribbean. The common element is the connection to the Caribbean islands however distant this connection is. Yet the co-operation in certain situations may not conceal the social and political differences between and within the communities. The New York Caribbean diversity is not a harmonious one, rather a heterogeneous and diverse assemble full of conflict and disagreement. Trans-Caribbean culture can be characterized therefore by bricolage, an ensemble of many voices, many flavours connected by the image of Caribbean islands.

Perceptions of purity and insularity in the context of globalisation

Author: Eveline Dürr (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich)  email
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Long Abstract

In the context of globalisation, claims to uniqueness and distinctiveness become integral to national branding. In the case of New Zealand, insularity and purity are linked together and turned into social capital contrasting polluted, overpopulated continents. Insularity promises authenticity, closeness to nature and harmony, which is hardly found in busy urban centres. New Zealand advertises itself as a "100% pure" nature reserve in the South Pacific where a unique endemic flora and fauna embedded in a majestic landscape is conserved. However, purity has many meanings when it is constructed in conjunction with insularity and remoteness. I will draw attention to diverse social meanings of 'purity' and discuss the construction of New Zealand's insularity in different cultural contexts. I will compare and contrast the range of attributes ascribed to 'purity' and 'insularity' in Germany and New Zealand revealing the imaginary construction of New Zealand in both countries. I argue that these imaginaries are based on powerful representations that impact on identities and self-perceptions in New Zealand and in Germany, but in a very distinct way.