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SIEF2011 10th Congress: Lisbon, Portugal.
17-21 April 2011

(P103)

Uneasy places: shifting research boundaries and displacing selves

Location Tower A, Piso 0, Room 2
Date and Start Time 18 Apr, 2011 at 11:30

Convenors

Isabel Rodrigues (University of Massachusetts) email
Frédéric Vidal email
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Short Abstract

This panel examines the making of uneasy places through: religious belonging and criminalization of migration, diasporic communities of language and song, the construction of in between places, and the making of vacation and tourist places.

Long Abstract

The relationship between place and culture has been the hallmark of the ethnographic inquiry shaping research design within anthropology and across the disciplines. While social life is inconceivable without boundaries, how these are politically constituted and inscribed in power relations remains theoretically contentious. This panel is designed to bring together an interdisciplinary and international group of scholars to critically reflect on and destabilize pervasive understandings about place, temporality, and space by engaging its multiple configurations and entrapments in relationships of power and domination.

Particularly, we are interested in accounting for and exploring the making of uneasy places, non-places, places of temporary belonging, and displacement. Implicitly or explicitly, underlying all the papers is a theoretical understanding that the making of place is not simply shaped by free will or a neutral human desire for belonging. Rather, processes of belonging and not belonging are deeply contentious, often tangential or fractured, and in many social situations denied or unattainable.

Topically we will examine various modalities of making uneasy places and non-places across time and place. These will include: religious belonging in places of illegality and state violence; the making of diasporic communities of language and song within a matrix of fractured ethnicities and national histories; the construction of in between places through anti-immigrant policies; and the making of vacation and tourist places where boundaries of time and space redefine belonging.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Trekking as a place to feel mystically I

Author: Romain Bragard (Universidade de São Paulo - USP)  email
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Short Abstract

Analyzing the practice of trekking, we would reflect on how it produces a temporary, unhistorical and universalized (non)place where individuals live an experience of self that can be politically questioned. A phenomena of inocentization (Barthes) seems to occur on subjective and collective levels.

Long Abstract

The study I propose is based on ethnographic comparative descriptions of touristic experiences of trekking on the island of Corsica (France) and on the Serra Gaúcha (Brazil). In order to understand what kind of place is invented, performed, experimented, and shared during this practice, we should pay attention to its social-cultural construction. The study of the"excursive phenomena" through its values, objects used, techniques of the body and discourses expressed during the contemplation of landscape, reveals this kind of ritual as a mythic reorganization of urban fragments (or a crossing of flows), performed by a middle class group. The place trekkers temporally create has been imagined and prepared during the everyday life as a scene where "I" will experiment a complete sensation of being. During the practice, a constant attention on corporeity (pleasures, tiredness, power, hurting, physical progress...), a repetitive affirmation of loving nature, and a lack of social and cultural diversity, turns the ritual into an obvious, natural, politically uncriticizable phenomena. Therefore, the experience seems universal to a trekker who lives an heroization of himself. Consequently, the ritual provides a place were a dominant group performs "technics of self". What kind of (bio)power (Foucault) is supported by these seasonal rises of places? Our societies being hallmarked by an aggregative normative obligation of freedom and self assurance, we would question if the trekkers aren't providing an image of idealized lifestyle to the rest of the society. Stars of a social order, they reproduce the "spectacle society" functions.

Choreographies of evasion: segregation and sociability among young breakdancers from Maré (Rio do Janeiro)

Author: Otávio Raposo (ISCTE-IUL)  email
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Short Abstract

In Maré,a neighbourhood composed of 16 favelas,the proximity to drug dealing armed groups and the police creates a spatial and symbolical confinement experience,deeply impacting on people’s sociability practices. However,a group of young breakdancers has been able to breach this segregation dynamic.

Long Abstract

In several slums (favelas) of Rio de Janeiro, residents deal with drug dealing armed groups on a daily basis. This proximity to drug dealing and the confrontations with the police creates a spatial and symbolical confinement experience, intensely impacting on people's sociability practices.

In Maré, a neighbourhood composed of 16 favelas with more than 140 thousand inhabitants, the constant fights between drug dealing groups complicate or even prevent the free circulation of people in the streets. Conflicting drug dealing groups impose "invisible boundaries" and territorial divisions that force residents, especially younger ones, to avoid areas dominated by groups that are hostile to the one ruling the area where they live.

However, a group of young breakdancers (style of dance evolved as part of hip hop culture) has been able to breach this segregation dynamic; they are changing not only their own way of living the neighbourhood but also how society sees people who live in favelas. The experience with the break dance enables them to extend their friendship networks beyond the geographical limits imposed by drug dealing activities, thus allowing them to conquer the legitimacy required to circulate around the entire neighbourhood. Simultaneously they also started to go to other city neighbourhoods, getting in touch with young people of different origins and social classes. In this process the "breaking style" becomes an instrument to access the city and an informal arena that subverts the category "favelado" (slum dweller) and enables young people to forge positive and affirmative identities.

First impressions of China: urban space description in 19th century travel journals.

Author: Frédéric Vidal  email
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Short Abstract

This paper uses the journals written by Harriett Low (1829-34) and Carlos José Caldeira (1850-1851) during their travels in China to discuss description models of Macao and Canton in the early 19th century.

Long Abstract

This paper uses the journals written by Harriett Low (1829-34) and Carlos José Caldeira (1850-1851) during their travels in China to discuss description models of Macao and Canton in the early 19th century. Descriptions help to create new shared references for urban thinking and urban life, in other words they shape cities. It is more complex to describe cities than to produce or disseminate images. Description is a structural element of the urban phenomenon, and its values and modalities vary according to the local, national or transnational contexts. Describing cities involves a more or less conscious activity of categorizing and constructing discourses and knowledge that can be shared and imported. In this paper, I aim to analyze the link between changes in the urban concept or form and the variation in description models of the city, focusing on the specific process in the context of a sojourn in exotic cities. The tension between the colonial and historical contexts, the invention and diffusion of images of urban modernity are the main lines of this paper.

Uneasy youth encounters in Bucharest soundscapes

Author: Ioana Florea (University of Bucharest)  email
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Short Abstract

Drawing on data gathered in 3 years of group interviews and participative observation among several groups of young people in Bucharest, I explain how listening to music turns from a coping-practice in uneasy public spaces, into a source of symbolic borders between youngsters and of new “uneasiness”

Long Abstract

In the context of post-socialist Bucharest, different social sub-groups of young people perceive certain public spaces and urban paths as uneasy. In order to improve their everyday experience of passing through such spaces, they employ listening to music as a tactic.

According to the social sub-groups they belong to, the youngsters listen to different genres of music and employ different practices of listening to music while being in public spaces: at headphones attached to portable music players versus at loudspeakers incorporated in mobile phones.

Among the popular genres, "manele" is the one generally perceived as associated to the poor, uneducated, Roma, or ghetto dwellers; thus, it is a strongly stigmatized genre. In the last years, an informal "campaign against manele" spread in the public spaces of Bucharest, consisting of graffiti (stencils) on the walls and fences around the city. In this frame, when youngsters listen to "manele" at loudspeakers in public spaces, symbolic social borders come into being around them, separating them from other sub-groups of youngsters. Paradoxically, in such cases, listening to music actually generates new uneasiness around the youngsters, despite the initial use of this practice as a tactic to cope with uneasy spaces.

In order to approach this paradox, I propose a debate on young people's perceptions of themselves and others in relation to urban sounds, public spaces, and uneasy encounters. The debate would draw upon data gathered during three years of group interviews and participative observation among several groups of young people, in four Bucharest schools.

Uneasy identities of a shared language: a glance on portuguese-speakers in Boston

Author: Graça Cordeiro (ISCTE-IUL)  email
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Short Abstract

This proposal results from an ethnographic research conducted last year in Boston area on ethnic interactions across Portuguese speaking people and their local level negotiations to construct a community of language. The main purpose is to understand the emerging of a “linguistic community”

Long Abstract

The study was conducted on an association that provides social services to populations of Portuguese, Cape Verdean, and Brazilian ancestries in the state of Massachusetts where Portuguese is the second most spoken foreign language. Located in an area that has had a strong presence of Portuguese speaking populations from different countries, this association capitalizes its mediating role to multiple Portuguese speaking communities, as a key player bridging economic and political institutions, and defending "ethno-linguistic consensus" among Portuguese and Cape Verdean Kriolu speakers. Thus, this institution provides a privileged locus for the integrated and multidimensional analysis of urban ethnicity. Hence, this project will focus on the function that the Portuguese language has in the construction of ties of signification and insertion in the society of reception, identifying its institutional role as well as its instrumental and operational potential in the making of an identity that transcends national, ethnic/racial divisions. This study fills a significant lacuna, for whereas other minorities in the US, such as the "Hispanic/Latino minority is bounded by principles of shared Spanish, the Portuguese speaking communities have not defined themselves collectively based on the use of a common language. Despite the Portuguese and Cape Verdean secular history of migration and the recent rise of Brazilian migration to the US, the "invisibility" of the Portuguese speaking communities in the scientific literature on migration is commonly acknowledged. Nevertheless, in the present, there is an emerging tendency to market ethnicity and identity as well as redefine symbolic boundaries around the use of Portuguese in the USA.

Globalization and indigenous cultures: the case of indigenous Oaxacan migrants in California

Author: Daniel Malpica (Sonoma State University)  email
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Short Abstract

None provided.

Long Abstract

Indigenous Mexicans form the largest share of the new Mexican migrants arriving to the United States. Better job opportunities and more attractive wages coupled with severe unemployment and exploitative conditions at home have encouraged indigenous people to migrate in search of employment to the United States. As a result, indigenous Mexicans have come to el norte in record numbers and have reshaped Mexican communities in the United States. In this study, I explore how social capital and its networks facilitate the social and economic incorporation of indigenous Mexican migrants into the United States. In particular, I examine what kind of work indigenous Mexicans do, how they find work, and how they struggle to work in the new low-wage economy, raise families, and move ahead. Based on ethnographic fieldwork and in-depth interviews with Zapotec indigenous migrants from Oaxaca (Mexico) who are living in Los Angeles, the study seeks to shed light on the dynamic processes of family and ethnic networks in contemporary labor markets. The research highlights that indigenous Mexicans can count on social networks, family ties, and communities to mobilize resources more easily and effectively, including the ability to find work. Zapotec migrants rely on their networks and communities; in so doing, they strengthen these institutions and thereby accumulate social capital. This ethnographic analysis pays particular attention to how indigenous Mexicans generate social capital to obtain resources for survival and social mobility.

How to become "some other race" in the US Census 2010

Author: Isabel Rodrigues (University of Massachusetts)  email
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Short Abstract

Striping away ambivalence by configuring race and ethnicity as stable categories discretely bounded for the purpose of rule is one of the most obvious outcomes of the census. Nevertheless, the Census 2010 introduced a novelty in racial ascription: the option of being —“some other race”. Hence, we will examine how enumerators and respondents dialogically utilized this category to construe Portuguese speakers as “some other race”.

Long Abstract

All national census, particularly the American, play a pivotal role in substantiating

boundaries of identity by quantifying its internal racialized others. In so doing, the statistical production of racial and ethnic categories remains the most political aspect of census design. While most anthropologists have analyzed the effects of the census in inventing, reinforcing, and excluding certain racial and ethnic identities from the national imaginary; rarely have they actually conducted ethnographic observations on how the census itself is answered.

Particularly, rarely do we question what cultural and linguistic patterns shape contact between respondent and enumerator thereby affecting respondent's answers contributing to the counting or miscounting of the nations' others? Furthermore, how are answers about race and ethnicity decided when respondents do not understand the census categories? This paper will be based on ethnographic research about the enumerating process during US Census 2010 in Southern New England, specifically targeting Portuguese monolingual households. This research was integrated into a larger national project entitled Observing Census Enumeration of Non-English-speaking Households in the 2010 Census, which was sponsored by the research division of the US Census bureau.

Striping away ambivalence by configuring race and ethnicity as stable categories discretely bounded for the purpose of rule is one of the most obvious outcomes of the census. Nevertheless, the Census 2010 introduced a novelty in racial ascription: the option of being —"some other race". Hence, we will examine how enumerators and respondents dialogically utilized this category to construe Portuguese speakers as "some other race".

"Re-thinking African culture and identity: community building in the US Diaspora"

Author: Bridget Teboh (University of Massachusetts)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper examines the meaning and location of African culture and identity within ‘uneasy,’ temporal spaces or new communities, by analyzing njanggis, and other practices of place making of Africans in the United States.

Long Abstract

Voluntary migration and movements of resourceful and creative people is common from corrupt, exploitative and often hostile African nations. The implications for Africans and their host, USA, are enormous. Immigrants bring along their cultural practices (foodways, language use, annual and monthly meetings).Whereas some studies exist on the status of African migrants abroad, little research has been done to evaluate challenges faced by migrants once they settle in their 'new communities.' This paper explores place-making and reproduction of African communities and identity in this 'uneasy migrant space.' It presents a new interpretation of African history, one that focuses on the self-motivated endeavours of Africans to reinvent themselves and their worlds. Understanding how Africans survive, network, and use cultural forms to recreate 'home away from home' addresses critical questions in history, politics and international studies, thereby interrogating and challenging standard analytical categories and conventional methodologies.

Raced places: young adult narratives of 'migrant' neighbourhoods in inner-city Manchester

Author: Bethan Harries (University of Manchester)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper draws on young adult narratives of racialised neighbourhoods to explore fluid and multi-faceted identities of place and associations of belonging. Notions of race, class, crime and urban culture intersect in the construction of spaces which must then be negotiated.

Long Abstract

Migration settlement patterns in the UK have resulted in neighbourhoods often associated with one particular racial or ethnic group. These spaces become signifiers of racialisation processes, but also act as locations of other processes of identification including those related to class, gender and urban culture. Young adults aged 20-30 years old, living and working in these neighbourhoods are the second (+) generation to be shaped by these processes. At the same time, this group have recently become more mobile and have an expanding 'lifespace'. Using auto-photography, participant observation and semi-structured interviews, my PhD research has elicited young adult narratives about everyday life in two inner-city 'migrant' neighbourhoods and a third which is not associated with the migration process. The three neighbourhoods in Manchester are racialised (crudely as 'Asian', 'Black' and 'White') and connoted with negative stereotypes that commonly centre around immigrant culture, working class and 'chav' culture, high crime, drugs, guns and gang culture.

Individual narratives on place help draw out these multiple subjectivities and highlight fluid and complex associations of belonging. Narratives can be explored in relation to the way they are constructed alongside broad and historical representations and in conjunction with performed interaction and narrated experience within and between these racialised spaces.

Lives in between: unbracketing prison

Author: Manuela Cunha (Universidade do Minho, CRIA-UMinho)  email
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Short Abstract

Prison is a setting where place and time coalesce and are defined as realities disconnected from outside worlds. Instead, the life of imprisoned populations unfolds in a continuum between places.

Long Abstract

Prison is a setting where place and time seem to coalesce as twin dimensions and where they both tend to be defined as separate realities, disconnected from the outside world. In this light, such a life setting appears as a world apart, with clear spatial and temporal boundaries. This notion has also shaped the way prison has been studied and theorized, bracketing it both as a research site and a cultural or social scene.Using ethnographic data concerning contemporary transformations in a Portuguese women's prison, I question a framework which neglects to interrogate the nature of prison boundaries. Whether considering biographical trajectories or social scenes, the life of imprisoned populations unfolds in a continuum between places -- even when confined behind bars.

Networks and territorialities: an ethnographic approach to the so-called cracolândia (crackland) in São Paulo

Authors: Enrico Spaggiari (Universidade de São Paulo (USP))  email
Heitor Frúgoli Junior (FFLCH/USP)  email
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Short Abstract

Our aim is to explore, from an ethnographic perspective, networks of relationships in the Luz neighborhood (the central area of São Paulo), emphasizing the so-called cracolândia (crackland) partly located there, as a kind of itinerant territoriality formed above all by users of crack cocaine.

Long Abstract

The aim of this paper is to present a more systematic investigation of what is commonly called crackland (cracolândia), going beyond a series of stigmatized representations of the Luz neighborhood and the center of São Paulo shown especially by the press and television. The use of crack cocaine is currently becoming a theme of increasing concern in Brazil, with repeated news about the "proliferation of cracklands" in various cities, and it must be understood what is at stake in each one of these configurations. Exploring networks of relationships and connections from an ethnographic perspective, we will work with the idea of crackland as a type of itinerant territoriality within a multifaceted context, and marked by multiple situational variations. This ethnographic reconstitution is mainly based on our interactions with "É de Lei", an NGO that works with harm reduction for users of crack cocaine in the region in question. In this context, the actions of É de Lei take place within a field of mediation also characterized by the actions of agents linked to public authorities, to other NGOs and to churches, as well as policemen, private security guards, shopkeepers, residents and passers-by. One of the challenges consists of understanding and explaining this territoriality in view of the recent political changes which rearrange the context researched, characterized by the presence of "noias" (a word derived from the term paranoia), a relational category which is used in a multiple recurring way referring to crack cocaine users.

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This panel is closed to new paper proposals.