EASA, 2008: EASA08: Experiencing diversity and mutuality

Ljubljana, 26/08/2008 – 29/08/2008

(IW07)

Empires and differences

Location 13
Date and Start Time 29 Aug, 2008 at 09:00

Convenors

Nancy Lindisfarne (SOAS) email
Nikolai Jeffs (University of Ljubljana) email
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Short Abstract

Recent changes in the political economy of imperialism have increased corruption and global inequality. Via ethnographic and theoretical contributions, this panel aims to continue the new anthropological impetus towards a radical rethink of the relation between imperialism and the structure and meaning of people’s lives.

Long Abstract

Anthropologists and anthropology have always had a close and uncomfortable relationship with colonial and neo-imperial projects. In the 21st century, it is more difficult than ever to ignore the continuing imperial contexts which have framed the discipline and all contemporary studies of social change. Many anthropologists are now actively seeking ways to describe the deep and complex ways imperialism structures everyday lives.

Three related ideas offer an important theoretical approach to the study of imperialism. One idea is the centralization of capital and identification of capitalists and leading politicians. A second is militarization of competing centres of capital accumulation. And a third is the resistance of workers and others to ruling elites and capitalist power. With such a perspective in mind, ethnographic monographs cease to be esoteric, but rather become part of contemporary political debates.

This panel aims to continue this radical project via ethnographic and theoretical contributions. The widest range of contributions are invited about the changing face of war and resistance, asylum and labour migration, the present character of NGOs and aid and responses to climate change, as well how the neoliberal privitization of everything is rapidly altering local discourses of class, race, gender and ethnicity.

Papers

"This is not the end of history": re-negotiating civil society and anti-capitalist activism in postsocialist Serbia

Author: Jelena Tosic (University of Vienna)  email
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Long Abstract

The over-politicised everyday context in Serbia - characterized by the constant battle between democrats and nationalists in the shape of political parties, NGOs and nationalist movements - hides novel political discourse- and agency spaces of anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist social movements and collectives. Those clearly demarcate themselves from both nationalism and neo-liberalism of the local political and civil society elites. The rejection of Fukuyama's thesis of the "end of history" represents their starting point for blueprints and visions of an alternative globalisation of solidarity and social justice. The common goal of the movements is the substantial transformation of local civil society - the rejection of local "civil society elites" characterized by a neo-liberal ideology and short-winded top-down projects defined by donor organizations ("the project model") in favour of grassroots, holistic and sustainable approaches, which aim at strengthening solidarity, social justice, transnational networking and are responsive to local needs.

Direct actions, alliances with autonomous worker's unions, transnational activism (such as e.g. within the WSF, PGA and the Zapatistas-movement), grass-root democratic decision making processes (such as e.g. the so called "spokes councils") etc. are some of the milestones of the emerging political spaces and strategies.

The theoretical background of the presented ethnographic material comprises anthropological approaches to civil society, grassroots democracy and new social movements (e.g. Escobar, Appadurai, Sampson), contemporary transformations of the state (e.g. Sharma and Gupta, Trulliot, Kapferer, Comaroff and Comaroff etc.) and the anthropology of postsocialism (e.g. Hann, Verdery, Sampson, Kalb).

17th century ethnography: Johann Weichard Freiherr von Valvasor

Author: Peter Simonič (Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana)  email
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Long Abstract

Johann Weichard Freiherr von Valvasor is a very prominent name in research on the Slovene ethnic space at the end of the 17th century. His travel descriptions of natural conditions, economics, history and habits collected in a series of books called Die Ehre deß Herzogthums Crain, are of greatest value to humanities and social sciences. His attitude towards the Ottomans has not yet been analysed, even though we can find many books and articles regarding him and trace some of his formulations in contemporary narratives. The author of this paper will evaluate Valvasor's linguistic, scientific and social position, and his construction of the Other in the Habsburg Europe of that time

Actors and agency in the situation of rebellion

Author: Sarah Lunaček (University of Ljubljana)  email
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Long Abstract

In Northern Niger people are faced with armed conflict between rebellion led by Tuareg and army of the state again. The situation of everyday survival in the North is hardened by increased presence of the army that is arresting, killing and torturing civilians on ethnic basis. Many left to the south or across borders. Getting provisions is increasingly difficult and anti-personal mines are creating tense atmosphere. Before rebellion burst out civilian movements claimed greater consideration of local population concerning opportunities, environmental and health issues connected with renewed interests by multinational companies in uranium mining in the pastoral region crucial for Tuareg and Fulani nomads. It is now one of the issues of rebellion that uses discourse of equal rights for all citizens of Niger. Most of the Tuareg don't agree with achieving those aims by the means of arms. The president persistently refuses negotiations and is suppressing journalists' reporting on rebellion, in spite of some voices in the government and neighbouring states that are encouraging negotiations and international organisations demanding liberty of expression.

I shall try to define actors and analyse their motivations, interests, claims, discourses, connections, splits and interactions in the situation, including interested governments, army, multinational companies, rebellion movement as well as divided public opinion and media with the reference to rather small "room of manoeuvre" the most affected people have. I find most important to find ways how least powerful in the situation could have more agency in deciding about their possibilities and living conditions.

Cyber as space, cyber as conversation: setting up virtual empires

Author: Salvatore Poier (University of Milan)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper looks at the foundation of "cyberspace as space" as a conscious and aimed action set up by the emerging computer software industry during the 1980s and 1990s as a way to dominate an emergent (and very rich) market. There is in fact another way to conceive cyberspace, which was extremely powerful and shared by programmers during the 1970s. It was the conception of computer programs and protocols as a conversation, as a common language that allowed them to share information, help each other, give reciprocal (and free) advices. From that tradition derive those groups that are affirming the freedom of speech and information on the Internet nowadays. The struggle between people fighting for freedom from copyrights and from the mediation of big corporations (which, with the availability of cheap technology, are no longer necessary mediums) and copyright owners is grounded on a twofold conception of cyberspace as either space or conversation. In this struggle, big corporations are fighting for a privilege that no longer makes sense in the broadband connected world, where even teenagers can record and sell a song everywhere in the world from their own bedroom.

In order to set up an enterprise and ensure its competitiveness in an extremely fast market, corporations attempt to apply property rights also in cyberspace, which is grounded as common. This paper aims to underline the connection between the contested uses of the word "cyberspace", the claim of rights of properties, and privatization of public spaces in the Net giving account of ethnographic data collected in the most recent HackMeeting (Pisa, September 29-31, 2007).

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Nigerian video film cultures

Author: Melita Zajc (University of Maribor)  email
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Long Abstract

Nigeria, where education, health and social systems, cultural production and the media are mostly un-regulated parts of the free market, presents the Impire in its extreme. Nigerian Video Film Culture started as a free enterprise and movie making proved to be a profitable activity. Its movies became prime media for free expression of the oppinion on the contemporary Nigerian society. Its systems of production and distribution are based on the alternative (pirate) network for the distribution of video contents (initially VHS tapes). It's film language is using visual models and motives from existing popular Western and Indian contents, creating visual metaphors forming previously unseen worlds of horror and fantasy. By these innovations Nigerian Cinema is the location of resistance within the country and a challenge to the dominant global systems of representation and of video production and distribution.

The 20. Century considered the visual (as the ideology, the spectacle, or the simulacrum) to be the vehicle presenting the given power relations as unchangeable. Today, the use of images is becoming more democratic, yet the chances for revolt are being more limited than ever. Democratically-created images reproduce the dominant system of representation, their production is being part of an increased individualism blocking any sense of companionship that is the condition for envisioning a common, different future. Faced with this general observations, could the results of our fieldwork in Nigeria give us any knowledge regarding the chances for the improvement of social conditions, as the visual is gaining importance within contemporary cultures.

Rethinking the unthinkable: dignity and solidarity in the time of neoliberalism

Author: Marta Gregorcic (Faculty of Social Science)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper presents militant research on alternative theories and praxis emerging at the end of 20th and beginning of 21st century in global south, in Latin America and South Asia. Hitherto overlooked and scientifically unarticulated dimensions of social and cultural capital are analysed through theoretical praxis and examples of struggles introduced by alternative communities and other rebellious collectivities, peasant movements, trade unions, networks, radical pedagogues, students, publishers, institutes, new media and universities in Chhattisgarh (India), Madya Pradesh (India), El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras and Venezuela.

All analysed alternative communities and other rebellious collectivities recuperate dignity and solidarity from their pre-colonial/pre-imperial tradition and re-establish self-management beyond any form of capitalist relations. The power (potencia) of social and cultural capital to change the everyday life, production of non-capitalistic social relations and social self-government of the oppressed societies are demonstrated by the multitude and the quality of the new political, autonomous praxis and experiments of historical movements and their revolutionary heritage.

This paper is the first serious attempt to articulate those dimensions of social and cultural capital that lead to social change and new articulations of sociality. The paper "Rethinking the unthinkable" provokes the weakness and incapacity of contemporary academic approaches to analyse present existing potentials and social realities of innovative political praxis in our societies.

The Georgian-Abkhazian ceasefire line: an edge of the Russian "empire"?

Author: Andrea Weiss (CEU, Budapest & Marie Curie SocAnth)  email
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Long Abstract

Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, Georgia - which claims the territory of Abkhazia to be a part of it - has not been able to exercise sovereignty on this territory. The results are largely poverty, a subsistence economy, petty trade and relative integration of Abkhazia into the realm of the Russian economy. The state of "frozen conflict" achieved by a ceasefire seems on the one hand to be rather "stable" in terms of its long-term persistence over more than a decade, guarded by CIS peacekeeping forces, representing the imperial quality of Russian involvement in the Georgian eyes; on the other hand the situation is fluid and in motion, attested to by an impressive movement of people and goods, not only across the "Russian-Abkhazian" border, but also across the cease fire line (CFL) between "Georgia and Abkhazia". This mirrors the macro-level relations between Russia, Georgia and Abkhazia. Based on field research, reports and secondary sources this paper explores the effects of the permeability of the CFL for Georgian and Abkhaz nation-building and Russia's empire like policies, and the impact of these types of state-building processes on the "management" of the CFL.