EASA, 2010: EASA2010: Crisis and imagination

Maynooth, 24/08/2010 – 27/08/2010

(W074)

Why roots?

Location JHT2
Date and Start Time 25 Aug, 2010 at 11:30

Convenors

David Berliner (Universite Libre de Bruxelles) email
Ramon Sarró (University of Oxford) email
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Long Abstract

The notion of "roots" is everywhere today, whether it is in debates about the so-called Christian roots of Europe, immigration policies and genetic roots in France, African roots in the US or in the widespread craze over genealogies. In fact, whilst anthropologists have recently turned their attention to mobility and deterritorialisation, most of our interlocutors in the field do insist on the necessity to be anchored in the world perceived as globalizing and "uprooting". Discourses about roots are part of a rhetoric that many of us share where questions of origin, continuity, culture - or loss thereof, identity, authenticity and normality are interwoven. In this panel, we intend to explore how this "need for roots" configures itself in different social and cultural environments and how it deploys specific narratives of identity, globalisation, origin and loss. In particular, we invite contributors to consider questions like the following: How do individuals, groups and institutions imagine, claim and struggle over roots? How do they remember, reinvent or celebrate a certain past, whether it is real or imagined, in the name of roots? What is the role of nation-states, religious groups, international organisations and social movements in the proliferation of such rhetoric?

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Roots for future in an African 'cultural kingdom'

Author: Anna Baral (Uppsala University)  email
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Long Abstract

In September 2009, Ugandan president Museveni's ban to some cultural activities organised by the Baganda ethnic group caused violent protests in Kampala.

Ganda traditional institutions, abolished by Obote in the Sixties, were restored in 1993 but banned from politics and restricted to "cultural" functions. Since then, a cultural revival has enlivened Buganda, with Ganda roots glorified as source of cohesion against the state and other ethnic groups. The clans are fully restored as an administrative systems; labour, money and soldiers are assembled to guarantee Baganda's well-being and unity around their king.

Can we consider "Ganda roots" as mere cultural attachment, when mob riots break out in their name? Are roots "traditional", when kingdom's structures at any level have been revisited to fit in the post-colony environment? Are Baganda being tribalist, or just responding to an uncomfortable national setting? The paper will try to disentangle the ambiguous relation between roots and future in an African kingdom.

Nigerian children born in England: the search for 'roots' amid rupture

Author: Julie Botticello (UEL)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper presents perspectives of now adult children born and raised in the UK to Nigerian parents who traveled abroad post-independence to seek skills and resources for a better life. This movement to expand the horizons of parents, in some cases, becomes self-tethering to histories and earlier traditions for their culturally estranged/diverse children. In these regroundings, adult children both invent new pasts and reinterpret old ones as they search for identities they can relate to. Specifically, this paper considers narratives of childhoods recalled and the experiences of living both in England and through their home life, in 'Nigeria', and the affects this disjuncture has had on their identity/ies. It further considers the contemporary searches for 'roots', what the adult children reconcile these to be, how these can be accessed, and how such connections impinge on their senses of being well in themselves.

God and the spread of roots: Griots in a contemporary world

Author: Carolina Hofs (Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon)  email
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Long Abstract

In the light of a traditional mande song - Allah la ke - this work in progress proposes a discussion on how mande griots from Guiné-Bissau are in their way to build a common discourse and reflection on their ancestral roots and to engage a political space in that society. The settlement of mande people and their griots in this country seems a particular case in the context of West Africa, being a former Portuguese colony getting its independency in the middle of the 1970's.

These initial thoughts aims to contribute for the writing of a PHD thesis on the cosmopolitan status of griots living in Portugal and in Guiné-Bissau taking in consideration the major importance of their songs and Allah la ke, in particular, for the building of a mande identity and their connection to religiosity and artistry.

Narratives of identity among German-Argentinean women in Buenos Aires

Author: Cristian Alvarado Leyton  email
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Long Abstract

Drawing on fieldwork in Buenos Aires, my paper addresses the narratives of cultural belonging, origin and losses of second generation German-Argentinean women of various ages. Although these women share certain social circumstances - like being able to speak German in an immigrant society, having an esteemed cultural background and belonging to the middle-class which enables them to travel regularly to Germany -, their narratives of identity differ significantly.

In their narratives, these women blend varyingly naturalizing ideas of descent and race with culturalizing topics fed by the experience of being different from their immigrating ancestors. Moreover, the narratives change due to specific experiences, family histories and historical situations. An example is the crisis in 2001, which triggered radical doubts about their identity in terms of belonging, leading to one woman describing herself as "a no-roots". Finally, in dealing with their ambiguous narratives the question of adequate ethnographic representation arises.

Re-enchanting Britain through a musical idealised multicultural past: 'Al Andalus' in the UK

Author: Marie-Pierre Gibert (Université Lumière Lyon 2-EVS)  email
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Long Abstract

While 9/11 and 7/7 have brought academics, media and political actors to challenge the multicultural model of the British society and have led to the development of suspicious positions towards Muslims in the UK, the last decade has also witnessed a resurgence of discourses promoting "El-Andalus" (medieval Muslim Spain) as a model of tolerant and prosperous multicultural and multi-confessional life.

The aim of this paper is to explore how, in this context, civil society in general, and artists in particular, can be seen both as objects and subjects of this shift of perspective and discourses which articulate 'roots' and 'mobilities', 'current cultural diversity' and 'past multicultural heritage'.

This paper will focus one particular case-study: a group of 4 UK-based musicians who are alternatively playing in two different musical formations, each formation promoting a "positive multiculturalism" in a different way. On one hand, Fantazia, an 8-piece band, labelled as "21st century roots music from Algeria, via Hackney, East London, UK » (Fantazia's myspace page), is playing with the perspective of contemporary rich multicultural encounters at the local level of the musicians' current life, yet dwelling on their foreign "roots". On the other hand, the El Andaluz Band promises to "take the audience on a wonderful journey around the southern shores of the Mediterranean, often beginning with a poetic and reflective Andalusian Nuba, then travelling on to the trance-like Sufi music of the Sahara » (El Andaluz Band's myspace page), hence advocating for a more exotic, transnational and past-rooted image of multiculturalism.

From routes to roots: pilgrimage to Stavridi in Himarë/Himara of Southern Albania

Author: Natasa Gregoric Bon (Research Centre SASA, Slovenia)  email
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Long Abstract

By presenting practices and discourses of the emigrants coming from Himarë/Himara area, southern Albania, the paper explores ways in which they continuously constitute their sense of rootedness and belonging to their natal village. The focus is on the pilgrimage to Stavridi on the evening before the Dormition of the Theotokos, one of the most important Christian Orthodox religious feasts. The paper questions how emigrants who live in Greece and keep returning almost every year to their natal village in Himarë/Himara, constitute their claims of being 'rooted' to the place of their natal origin. In today's shifting economic and political relations, the meaning of locality relates to a group's sense of rootedness in a particular locale as well as to continuous movements and migrations. The pilgrimage to Stavridi is seen here as a metaphor of a route with its temporal and spatial dimensions related to the emigrant's claims for roots.

Being eradicated: anonymous semen donors and their imagined children

Author: Jennifer Speirs (University of Edinburgh)  email
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Long Abstract

Genealogy is said to be second only to sex as a topic on the internet, and searching for relatives in the UK has been described as 'the new gardening', but in the infertility treatment field the claim about needing roots is often disputed. Profound disagreements have emerged between medical and legal professionals who support anonymity, and those who are personally involved, particularly donor-conceived people and their parents who campaign for access to identifying information about donors.

I shall describe the concept of roots as experienced by semen donors themselves and analyse what can be learned from men who were supposed to become 'non-persons'. Not knowing the outcome of their donations, donors imagine 'possible people' who might search for them, and this would be welcome. However donors themselves are reluctant to initiate the search for donor offspring whose genetic roots they are, because of perceived risks to existing social relationships.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.