EASA2012: Uncertainty and disquiet

Nanterre University, France, 10/07/2012 – 13/07/2012

(W025)

Uncertain memories, disquieting politics, fluid identities

Location Salle du conseil (in B)
Date and Start Time 11 Jul, 2012 at 11:30

Convenors

Dimitra Gefou-Madianou (Panteion University) email
Eftihia Voutira (Macedonia University, Thessaloniki) email
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Short Abstract

Uncertainty presupposes certainty, in modern constructions of the 'self'. We address the degree to which people respond imaginatively to situations of uncertainty and how uncertainty can challenge hegemonic discourses and destabilize identities in unexpected ways.

Long Abstract

Uncertainty presupposes certainty, a concept constituting for long a key-idea of 'self conception' of societies in modernity and a key epistemological category in the definition of 'knowledge'. In social sciences, the construction of social reality has been directed towards the production of evidence-based certainties at the exclusion of uncertainty. This was affected through widespread technologies of control and management (e.g. management of risk, of health problems and the body, of emotions and social conduct). In recent decades the narrative of certainty has exploded especially in the context of global socio-political and economic developments and turned to one of complete uncertainty.

Anthropology has challenged the binarism of the certainty/uncertainty narrative. It has addressed the creative -though politically subversive- potential of uncertainty in social and political fields, explored the disquieting effects of control oriented policies. It has shown that uncertainty may not constitute a problem for all societies and that the quest for certainty does not always lead to the desired aims. Thus, while people may respond imaginatively in situations of radical uncertainty - violence, catastrophes, civil wars, economic crises- this potential cannot be totally suppressed when attempts at restoring "social order" are imposed by technologies of power. Even if this process "succeeds" in making people subscribe to the dominant definition of 'reality' by suppressing memories, or muting voices, it will always remain open to uncertainty. It is this uncertainty which challenges hegemonic political discourses and destabilizes identities in unexpected ways.

The workshop invites papers exploring relevant issues from a broad ethnographic perspective.

Discussant: Dr. Yael Navaro-Yashin

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

'Eyes shut, muted voices': narrating the post civil war era through a monument

Author: Dimitra Gefou-Madianou (Panteion University)  email
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Short Abstract

The paper deals with the uncertain memories provoked through the construction of a memorial in Messogia region in Attica; memories of the civil war during the 1940s, which produce disquieting politics at the present time and lead to the construction of unstable identities.

Long Abstract

The recent construction of a memorial commemorating the community's 'Resistance' against Nazi occupation during the Second World War and the ensuing Greek Civil War, as well as the burning-down of the village, has brought to the surface enduring political conflicts and tensions within the community. In a period of apparently conciliatory politics and a flourishing civic ethos, the memorial has provoked contradictory memories and discourses about the events which took place during that period, offering voice to conflicting versions of 'history' that surround different orders of political power at different levels of abstraction.

Drawing on a number of life histories of informants, both right- and left-wing (survivors of exile), whose lives have been affected by the events of that time, the paper attempts to discuss the ways in which an inability to deal with traumatic events of the past at the level of consciousness leads to novel conceptualisations of evil at a symbolic/imaginary level, which themselves belong to individual, family as well as collective institutional mythologies. Furthermore, the paper inquires into the manners in which retrospective construction of mnemonic loci, narratives, texts, representations or even 'practices of remembering' and disquieting politics ethnographically transform such conceptualisations of evil in idiomatic languages. It also attempts to uncover muted, inchoate, or latent and painful memories, which challenge the national hegemonic discourse, and the politics of institutionally-organised forms of forgetting.

Negotiating and consolidating national territories and borders through dead-body politics in Kosova

Author: Hanna Kienzler (King's College London)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper explores how through speeches and ritual actions at cemeteries of martyrs in Kosova, collective memories are inscribed onto the political landscape resulting in processes of "community-making", "land claims", and "consolidating borders".

Long Abstract

This paper explores how through speeches and ritual actions at cemeteries of martyrs in Kosova, collective memories are inscribed onto the political landscape resulting in processes of "community-making", "land claims", and "consolidating borders". More specifically, I provide background information on Kosova's contested national space, territory and boundaries and investigate new nation-state formation and the marking of national territories through "dead-body politics" (Verdery, 1999) that is, the discovery of mass graves, reburials and commemoration ceremonies. With ethnographic examples from the villages of Krusha e Madhe and Pastasel, I illustrate that the acts of digging up and reburying bodily remains and following anniversaries of massacres are more than the identification of family members or the revelation of secret acts of violence in that they also allow for transforming the dead into martyrs, engaging in symbolic politics and building nationalism. It will become apparent that the sites of martyr cemeteries serve as "front stages" (Goffman, 1959) on which Kosovar Albanians come together to commemorate, create a new national historiography, express ethno-national unity and engage in community-making. Political "reproductions" through such dead-body politics touch on questions of identity, power and authority, and are efforts to create loyalties to a particular national territory and tradition by inserting desired national values directly into the lives of individuals, families and communities.

The politics of transitional time: uncertainty, fluidity and disorder during the years 1890-1920 in Greece

Author: Niki Maroniti (Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences)  email
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Short Abstract

The period 1890-1920 acquries transitional character.Instability, fluidity, disorder, compose its "hybrid" identity.The aim of the paper is to comprehend the ways that the historical subjects handle imaginatively the ambivalence and contradictions of their experiences.

Long Abstract

The period 1880- 1920 has been categorized a posteriori from the majority of Greek historians as "transitional". Furthermore, in the light of the evolutionary historical perspective, this period, along with other similar historical periods, constitute the necessary intermissions or intermediary areas which intersect the national historical time in Greece, and "unavoidably" differentiate it from the continuities which are conceived as organic concrete totalities.

The consideration of the years 1890-1920 as hybrid and ambivalent, obstructs its understanding as an "amorphous" present in contrast with the definitely more manifest identity which seems to construct at an imaginary level the past and the coming future. More interesting though seems, as the written texts of the time show, that the historical subjects themselves experienced subjectively that critical time as transitional and narrated it as a "passage" from a previous stage, stable and cohesive but historically exhausted, to a new one, which could acquire similar features, with the anticipation of a more effective fulfillment of its "progressive" mission.

In political terms, the experience of the transition resulted in the fluidity, the uncertainty and constant concern of the social subjects, contributing to the considered as chaotic and unpredictable character of the borderline. The aim of this paper is to grasp, with the help of selected texts, the ambivalent and contradictory feelings, which the social subjects experienced in the dynamics of the capricious conjuncture 1890-1920. Also, to trace the conditions of the management of uncertainties/ certainties, stable/ fluid frameworks, order/ disorder, which the "transition" as a non accomplished process presupposed.

Constitution Square, Athens: disquieting politics, haunting memories, spectral futures, unfathomable crowds

Author: Urania Astrinaki (Panteion University)  email
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Short Abstract

As Greek society draws to “point zero” and none yet also a host of possibilities for socio-political projects open, different battles are waged. Prominent among them, the battle of political memory, initiated in Mai 2011 at Constitution Square, to haunt ever since rulers and ruled, in opposing ways.

Long Abstract

The "shock and awe" strategies for social re-engineering elaborated in Greece since May 2010 by the "troika" and its local partners, as "remedies of the glocal crisis, and the new articulations of the political, emerging in the process, brought to a standstill social and political imaginaries for the future. As if caught in a "messianic moment", rulers can still dupe the ruled by cloaking their project in optimistic perspectives or in notions of ultimate necessity and collective guilt, while their mediatic partners terrorize for discipline; and the ruled can still let themselves be duped to compliance, numbing in the momentum of a consumer democracy that had discarded political visions as useless and relegated memories of past political struggles into the realm of a definitely bygone past. Meanwhile, memorandum after memorandum, law after law, basic social rights, social wellfare and even Greek sovereignty became themselves a thing of the past, with no radical opposition.

Below this surface of stillness, however, rulers are far less self-confident than they seem, and the ruled far less inert. As Greek society is drawn to "point zero", where no way-out is visible, yet also a host of possibilities for new socio-political projects are opened, different battles are waged. Prominent among them, the battle of political memory, initiated in Mai 2011 at Constitution Square, to potentially renew explorations of the political and to haunt ever since rulers and ruled, in opposing ways.

Conditions de vie incertaines et processus de subjectivation des personnes sans abri en France

Author: Claudia Girola (Univ.Paris VII)  email
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Short Abstract

Il s'agira de montrer que la situation de détresse matérielle et d’incertitude quotidienne des personnes sans abri ne les dépouille pas nécessairement de leur identité historique, sociale, politique et affective. C'est plutôt cette incertitude, expérience inédite de soi et des autres, qui les amène à une lutte pour "tenir" face aux conditions limites et d'y faire face pour, comme ces personnes l'affirment, "rester soi même malgré tout ».

Long Abstract

Depuis 1990 lorsque la question du sans-abrisme est devenue d'intérêt public, la représentation dominante des personnes sans-abri portée par le discours ordinaire, politique et souvent savant est celle d'une individualité négative, sans attache, aux bords du monde, hors échange complétement desaffiliée.Cette représentation repose sur l'idée qu'à une situation de précarité socio-économique correspond automatiquement un processus de précarisation de l'être. Les sans abri sont ainsi conçus comme des identités incertaines dépourvues d'une conscience de soi et de leur propre individualité positive. Il s'agira de montrer à travers une ethnographie réflexive des pratiques sociales des sans abri réalisées dans la région parisienne, que leur situation d'incertitude quotidienne, constitue une expérience complexe de leur quant-à-soi, qui fait apparaître une sorte de subjectivation relationnelle, (une subjectivité liminale ?) loin de l'individu dé-subjectivé de la représentation dominante. Cette subjectivation toujours active est construite sur des logiques plurielles, jamais essentielles, notamment sur la pluralité des formes de territorialisation de vie ; la lecture réflexive de leur mémoire individuelle et sociale et la narrative quotidienne du soi ; les interactions avec les autres entre don, transaction et confrontation ; l'interprétation de leur propre corps souvent fragilisé mais qui exposé dans l'espace public fait du corps un sujet politique.Ces logiques seront analysées dans leurs imbrications, comme des expériences totalisatrices qui transcendent la logique purement négative de la privation. Ne peut-on pas dire que ce sont les conditions incertaines de vie qui amènent les sans-abri à un travail d'affirmation de soi afin d'objectiver un univers des violences avec lequel ils ne veulent plus consentir ?

The Calon sociality as a limit to Brazilian identity politics

Author: Martin Fotta (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main)  email
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Short Abstract

Efforts of the Brazilian state to turn its Gypsies into multicultural citizens are characterised by a number of contradictions. Built around outward expressions of emotions, the Calon sociality destabilises the world and questions those notions of identity and transcendence underlying the project.

Long Abstract

A 2010 meeting of "traditional communities" in Bahia, Brazil, included for the first time representatives of the Ciganos (Gypsies). It became clear that, unlike the maroons, indigenous peoples, and Candomblé practitioners, the Calon (a Cigano subgroup) had no tradition of grass-roots self-organisation, nor history of a struggle for land-rights or their "Culture". Rather, Cigano representatives in attendance had been identified and selected by state authorities and their presence thus reflected the multiculturalist aspirations of the state.

As such, the meeting marked a particular moment in state-Cigano relations. But the hesitations and contradictions that surfaced at the meeting were not the result of mere lack of experience. They arose from the Calon sociality, in which expressions of emotions provide a chain of questioning through which an individual's behaviour is recognised as truthful and meaningful. Building on fieldwork I carried out among the Calon, I show that being a Calon requires a relationship with others and that this particular form of sociality constantly destabilises their world.

Hence at the meeting the silences and absences were telling: individuals did not attend because of blood-feuds; respect for the dead displayed through individualised silences resulted in an inability to fully participate in the opening ceremony. This unique historical situation suggested the limits of the potential for the state to "capture" the Ciganos. It questions the usefulness of talking about the Calon identity at all, and I impugn the extent to which our understanding of certainty depends on notions of transcendence.

Uncertainty and the subaltern: the search for Yezidi identity

Author: Christine Allison (University of Exeter)  email
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Short Abstract

Although hegemonic group such as States may successfully manage uncertainty and certainty in complementarity, it presents a huge challenge for truly subaltern groups, as the identity politics of the Kurdish-speaking Yezidis in Iraq, Turkey Armenia and Europe show.

Long Abstract

Highly centralised states such as Turkey manage uncertainties and certainties within their narratives, in a complementary fashion. The notion of enemies of the state seeking to divide it is maintained in media discourse as a bar to concession to the Kurdish movement; yet the state itself was founded on 'certainties' about an identity founded on ethnicity, emanating from European social sciences. 'Turkishness' became identifiable,with an accompanying history; this impacted in turn on neighbouring Iranian and Arab states. Even now the counter-hegemony of the Kurdish movement seeks these certainties, constantly seeking authenticity and proof of 'who the Kurds are'.

But what of the uncertainties of smaller, truly marginal groups? I propose to examine the shifting identities of the Yezidis (a Kurdish-speaking religious minority) under Ba'athist Arabisation and Kurdish autonomy in Iraq, in post-Soviet Armenia, within Turkey, and in Europe, over the last 40 years or so. Faced with an uncertain future, with no scripture or archive, their quest for history is urgent, but differentiated across the generations. Meanwhile, with limited agency, they manage their uncertainty (political, economic and religious) with various strategies, outwardly defining their ethnicity according to their situation, which can cause bitter schisms, but simultaneously maintaining a tightly-knit social structure and collective memory. Sustaining the latter sometimes causes unbearable social tension for the young, with a rising suicide rate.

Like speech and silence, certainty and uncertainty seem to be complementary and co-referential, and their management is often linked to hegemony, or lack of it.

Generating secrets - knowledge, unrest and human trafficking in Romania and Italy

Author: Trine Mygind Korsby (University of Copenhagen)  email
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Short Abstract

The paper addresses the mechanisms and uses of knowledge, secrets and uncertainties in the field of human trafficking, exploring the maneuvering spaces, possible identities and quests for reality arising from the navigation of these knowledge spheres.

Long Abstract

Based on fieldwork with young Romanians who are trafficked into prostitution and forced labour in Italy, this paper elucidates the effects and uses of knowledge, secrets, awareness and uncertainties in the field of human trafficking. Inspired by Georg Simmel's (1906) writings on secrecy and relations, I explore how these different knowledge spheres at play create situations and relations of disquiet, avoidance and unrest for the young Romanians and their social surroundings - and their traffickers. The production of secrets, however, also creates a platform of control that serves to separate and tie people together, allowing them to deal with uncertainties and anxieties - both the young Romanians and the traffickers in their business operations. Secrets and uncertainties thus open up for several maneuvering spaces and identities in the field of human trafficking.

Human trafficking is a field loaded with powerful knowledge that can be used, accessed, generated, denied, forgotten or accentuated in various quests for reality. Such knowledge includes awareness or suspicion of what awaits the trafficked person in the destination country, information about international crime, memories of past acts that were experienced as traumatic and are considered shameful, attentiveness to the 'correct' trafficking story and to other people's movements as 'victims' or 'traffickers'. The navigation of knowledge and (un)certainty can thus in very concrete ways open and close doors for the young Romanians with regard to the creation of a life after trafficking, access to residence permits, entrance into illegal activities or the engagement in family and other close ties.

Going beyond the dualism between assimilation and exclusion: Kurdish young women in Istanbul

Author: Elif Ege  email
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Short Abstract

In this paper, I am focusing on the implicit tension experienced by the Kurdish young women during their daily encounters in the urban public space, from the perspective of virtual maneuvers and capabilities, through which I aim to go beyond the dualism between certainty and uncertainty.

Long Abstract

In this paper, I am focusing on the everyday performances of Kurdish young women, who live in Dolapdere, Istanbul, a district populated by the displaced Kurds. I am interested in the implicit tension experienced by the Kurdish young women during their daily encounters in the urban public space. Through the theoretical framework drawn by Spinoza and Deleuze and their reflections in the current theories of Brian Massumi and Sara Ahmad, I will scrutinize these confrontations from the perspective of virtual maneuvers and capabilities, through which I aim to go beyond the dualism between certainty and uncertainty and underline the fragmented nature of subject.

My research group, Kurdish young women who live in Istanbul, are children of the families who were displaced to Western provinces of Turkey in 1990s, as a result of the war between Turkish army and PKK guerillas, that has been going on for the last three decades. Even though they were mostly born in Istanbul or at least had been living there since they were very young, they have been grown up with the memories of displacement and violence. However, unlike their parents, they are engaged to the urban public space, they speak Turkish and prefer to stay in Istanbul instead of returning to their hometowns, all of which radically change their experiences of the city. In this paper, I analyze their experiences in the urban public space of Istanbul through focusing on ruptures and breaks in their everyday performances that provide a challenge against the binarism between assimilation and exclusion.

Anxiety and uncertainty in expatriate everyday life: identity boundary regulation by online community of people of Estonian origin

Authors: Kristel Kaljund (Tallinn University of Technology)  email
Anne-Liis Peterson (Tallinn University)  email
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Short Abstract

The results of a qual. textual analysis of online representations of expatriates' everyday, of psychological reactions to anxiety and uncertainty caused by living in a novel cultural environment: reinforcing existential security and diffusing identity vulnerability via identity boundary regulation

Long Abstract

In postmodern Europe the Internet increasingly substitutes the modern expatriate community, providing an arena for expatriates to represent the sense of cultural distinctiveness they feel, to pass on and multiply these representations created and sustained in their daily interpersonal communications in a novel cultural environment. In this context, our paper looks into the nature and characteristics of psychological reactions to intercultural everyday, which are often reactions to anxiety and uncertainty.

Our qualitative textual analysis focuses on the representations of those feelings - crucial indicators of lack of security - experienced offline and represented online by members of the expatriate community of people of Estonian origin (PEO) living and experiencing their daily lives in Western Europe, Luxembourg. We analyse the elements of self-identity construction of the expatriates of PEO as maintained by identification with others and other groups. Taking the existential security-vulnerability of the identity as the primary motivation dialectic for human interaction, the analysis reveals expatriates' latent goal: to reinforce existential security and diffuse identity vulnerability via identity boundary regulation. Inclusion and differentiation are being performed and represented in PEO weblogs to enhance or verify positive self-conceptions with supportive others. Expressions of 'being themselves' include maintaining the perceived dominant position and symbolic capital PEO expatriates held in home culture; therewith both their representations in and towards the culturally hostile environment are political acts. We have selected the identity-cognitive security model to discuss how PEO expatriates in Western Europe fulfil their need for positive regard and symbolic capital confirmation.

Identity reloaded: economic class immigration to Canada and the remaking of the self

Author: Irina Culic (New York University)  email
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Short Abstract

The proposed paper takes the class of economic immigrants to Canada, as enacted by Romanian citizens that apply the Canadian active immigration policy, to investigate a case of personal, institutional, and social-remaking of the self, in a context where negotiating the boundary between certainty and uncertainty itself is crucial to the process.

Long Abstract

The proposed paper takes the class of economic immigrants to Canada, as enacted by Romanian citizens that apply the Canadian active immigration policy, to investigate a case of personal, institutional, and social-remaking of the self, in a context where negotiating the boundary between certainty and uncertainty itself is crucial to the process. Based on ethnographic material that includes immigration narratives, participant observation, and published autobiographical work, the paper will engage the tensions between categories of the person, as set by law and enacted through various social and institutional practices, and as imagined, subverted, played, and effected by immigrants to whom these categories are assigned. The analysis brings insights into how different legal or normative statuses embodied by the same person, such as dual citizenship, transnational activity, wife and worker, or practicing two different professions raise questions about their legitimacy, meanings, and stability, and document and illuminate critical aspects of the workings of actors and institutions such as the state, the family, or the workplace.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.