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EASA, 2010: EASA2010: Crisis and imagination

Maynooth, 24/08/2010 – 27/08/2010

(W022)

Colonial crisis and cross-cultural encounters: Reconfigurations of the social in historical perspective

Location Callan SLT
Date and Start Time 25 Aug, 2010 at 11:30

Convenors

Patrice Ladwig (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology) email
Ricardo Roque (Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon) email
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Long Abstract

Colonial encounters have often been marked by moments of crisis. This might for example refer to the nefarious consequences of colonial regimes upon the indigenous cultures, or to the varied modes of autochthonous resistance that followed colonial domination. Yet, 'crisis' might also appear in relation to the internal condition and problems of many colonial regimes. This panel seeks to explore from the perspective of historical anthropology the varied indigenous and colonial experiences of, and strategies for dealing with, crises resulting from colonial encounters. 'Colonial crisis' will be approached not simply as a negative and destructive notion, but also as a cross-cultural juncture for the reconfiguration of social relationships. 'Colonial' will here be taken broadly, including both imperial expansionism and internal colonialism and state-building. Areas of inquiry refer (but are not limited) to topics such as state-minorities relations, regimes of colonial administration, medicine, archives, governmentality, ritual and religion, commerce, or conquest.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

'Not knowing the country': indigenous secrets and colonial panic in late nineteenth-century India

Author: Kim Wagner (Queen Mary, University of London)  email
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Long Abstract

During the early months of 1894, a strange phenomenon was observed throughout the district of Bihar in northern India: hundreds of mango trees were found to be marked with a smear of mud in which a few hairs had been planted; no-one knew what it meant. While locals suggested that the marks had been left by supernatural beings, the so-called 'mud-daubing' affair sent tremors through the colonial state and caused a panic amongst the British, who feared that it signalled an impending nationalist uprising. This paper presents a detailed examination of this little-known instance of 'information panic' in colonial India, when the application of colonial knowledge resulted in cultural misreading and what may be described as a paranoid style in colonial politics. Of particular concern are the proto-ethnographic concepts of 'knowing the country' and understanding the 'native mind', as well as the use of local informants.

'The heads of our heroes': colonial crisis and the collecting of human remains

Author: Ricardo Roque (Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper investigates the killing of Europeans by indigenous warriors as a critical trope in the colonial imagination of crisis. In 1895 the slaughtering of a military column and the death of all the Portuguese officers at the hands of indigenous headhunters in East Timor (a former colony of Portugal) caused great alarm both in Timor and Portugal. The paper looks at this episode so to consider simultaneously the epistemic processes involved in the interpretation of certain colonial events as collective crisis; as well as the varied actions taken with a view to manage such events as crisis of power and empire. In focusing on this episode and on the attempts to retrieve the decapitated Portuguese officers' heads, the intention is also to call attention to the collecting of white men's human remains as an action meaningful in the light of histories of colonial crisis.

The centralization of the Bubi's chieftaincies and the Spanish colonial expansion in Bioko's island

Author: Nuria Fernández (UNED (Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia))  email
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Long Abstract

The paper recounts the transition that relatively acephalous local structures underwent upon entering into contact with the Spanish colonial government. The transfer of power that occurred between the 19th and 20th century is an example of what happened to numerous peoples in sub-Saharan Africa. The centralization of dispersed chieftaincies, the formation of monarchies or incipient states, and, finally, the transfer of power to colonial political institutions have been continuous features in the construction of nation-states created after the independence of the African colonies. In my case study I will examine how among the Bubis of Bioko´s Island this process unfolded in a short phase, but very intensively: a centralized chieftaincy was shaped, culminating in the formation of a kingdom. This period ran parallel to the advance of the colonial powers. Immediately after this apogee of local leadership, the two processes - local centralization and colonization - intersected. Bubi political autonomy was lost during the period when colonial expansion accelerated.

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Social upheavals and relative deprivation: the 'Great Awakening' in late 19th century Caribbean Nicaragua

Author: Wolfgang Gabbert (Leibniz Universität Hannover)  email
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Long Abstract

Starting from a discussion of theoretical and conceptual approaches to revitalization and millenarianism the present article discusses a religious salvation movement which spread among Miskitu Indians and Afroamericans on Nicaragua's Atlantic Coast in 1881/1882. Although massive social change induced by Missionary work and the spread of the money economy provided a common background it is shown that the movement had different causes with the two groups. Whereas the movement can be interpreted as a reaction to the growing social differentiation within the Afroamerican population and the discrimination of lower class culture it has to be seen as an attempt to overcome a deep social as well as cultural crisis by the Miskitu Indians.

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Colonisers, crises, and Carnival: criticism and opposition in colonial Guinea-Bissau, West Africa

Author: Christoph Kohl (Peace Research Institute Frankfurt)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper will shed light on the role the performance of carnival and its associated rituals played in the colonial encounter - notably in times of crises - in then Portuguese Guinea. Carnival emerged first in a handful of European trading posts where creole communities had emerged since the sixteenth century. The first case to be dealt with illustrates how creoles - serving the European colonisers as auxiliaries - lampooned colonial politics through carnival and its performances of inversion and critique in the 1880s. Basically, they were accentuating the weak position of the early, yet ground-gaining colonial state by accusing the colonisers of betraying the colony's interests to the French. The second example is based on an analysis of archive material from the late colonial period (1960s). By then, carnival - still largely restricted to the former trading posts and centres of creole culture - had turned into a platform of open and mimetic protest against ongoing colonial presence and repression by the Portuguese, confronted by rising nationalism dominated by creoles. In both cases creoles acted as if they were the actual masters of the country, highlighting their role for nation-building.

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'La Difesa della Razza': the imaginary invention of the Italian Empire

Author: Maria Teresa Milicia (Università di Padova)  email
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Long Abstract

Best known as the "Icon of racist policy", the Italian journal "La Difesa della Razza" was first published in August 1938, a few months before the introduction of racial laws by the fascist government. The bimonthly magazine had a key role in promoting fascist ideas on race all over the Italian Empire. In the best sense, it provides a panoptical view of the 'pedagogic aims' of fascist policies. The texts generated provide a thorough racialization of juridical, philosophical, biomedical, esthetical and religious discourses, affecting all domains of social life. My contribution examines the ethnographic itinerary by analyzing the "iconographic campaign" initiated by the journal. I will look at the rhetoric strategies of communicating the hegemonic racist project, aiming at the creation of new categories of social inclusion and exclusion in the Italian Empire.

Marketing the colonial past: Gaudde dances in Goan tourism

Author: Cláudia Pereira (ISCTE - University Institute of Lisbon)  email
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Long Abstract

Portuguese colonialism in Goa carried out a systematic process of conversion that we could call mimetic, in the sense that by converting the higher castes, the Brahmins, it was hoped that the other castes would emulate them. Exceptions to this principle were the Gaudde, an original group that over time split into three different castes: the Hindus, the Christians and the Neo-Hindus (Christian Gaudde who became Hindu in 1928). The Gaudde are known by their specific way of dressing and particularly by their music and dances that represent a synthesis of Christian, Hindu and territorial practices, showing that the crisis created by their unprivileged status was imaginatively used as a tool to promote their cultural identity through heritage. Their performance also reveals a long-term negotiation between Portuguese and local culture translated today as Goan immaterial patrimony, in order to promote inside and outside the country the singularity of Goan culture.

Postcolonial perspectives on the welfare state

Author: Mette-Louise E. Johansen (Aarhus University)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper brings postcolonial theory home to "the colonising states" by exploring internal colonialism and state-subject encounters in a European context. I ask what analytical perspectives do colonialism and the postcolonial bring to an analysis of the western welfare state? The paper explores past and present conjunctures between crime, ghetto-dwelling and state sanctioned imprisonment in Denmark - aspects that are closely connected to ethnic groups living at the margin of the Danish state. At this point, the state power - its law and moral order - is politically and socially experienced and defined as being overtly jeopardised. Thus, the state turns itself into a sovereign power imposing moral order to the marginalised subject by transforming it into bare life within a state of exception. One of the state "conquests" unfolds as the politics, regulations and exercises of "family", in which a local entanglement of welfare agencies, semi-authorial entrepreneurs and ethnic groups structure social class and produce social change.

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This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.