EASA, 2006: EASA06: Europe and the world

Bristol, UK, 18/09/2006 – 21/09/2006

(W016)

'Oppression' and 'security': the moral ambiguities of protection in an increasingly interconnected world

Location Biol B74
Date and Start Time 21 Sep, 2006 at 11:30

Convenors

Gudrun Dahl (Stockholm University) email
Aud Talle (University of Oslo) email
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Short Abstract

The focus of this workshop is the fact that hierarchy and dependence have different cultural readings: protection and oppression are often parallel and coexisting frames of interpretation.

Long Abstract

Relations of paternalistic hierarchy or dependence often invite quite contrastive frames of interpretation. What one party presents as acts undertaken on the basis of accountable responsibility to offer protection, another party may see as intrusive constraints on agency. In an increasingly interconnected world, new constructions of risk create new justification for protection. New patterns of domination require new forms of legitimation. The moral ambiguities of protection are activated at many different levels of society and social actors: they impact upon relations at the interpersonal level as well as on relations between subjects or citizens and the leaders of communities, corporations and organisations, or even on relations between states. Ambiguity may be part of the ethnographic reality we study. In other cases, what the anthropologist reads as subjection the informant may read as care or vice versa, raising problems both for cultural relativism and the nature of ethically committed writing. This workshop intends to summon ethnographic examples from a range of spheres, either where the ethnographic reality actualises these issues, or where they are raised by practice-oriented anthropology. Examples of such fields may be international relations, gender relations, food security, minority policies, etc.

Papers

Agency, oppression and protection

Author: Gudrun Dahl (Stockholm University)  email
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Long Abstract

Relations of paternalistic hierarchy or dependence often invite quite contrastive frames of interpretation. What one party presents as acts undertaken on the basis of accountable responsibility to offer protection, another party may see as intrusive constraints on agency. In an increasingly interconnected world, new constructions of risk create new justification for protection. New patterns of domination require new forms of legitimation. The moral ambiguities of protection are activated at many different levels of society and social actors: they impact upon relations at the interpersonal level as well as on relations between subjects or citizens and the leaders of communities, corporations and organisations, or even on relations between states. Ambiguity may be part of the ethnographic reality we study. In other cases, what the anthropologist reads as subjection the informant may read as care or vice versa, raising problems both for cultural relativism and the nature of ethically committed writing.

This introductory paper will try and look at how these issues relate to the ascription of agency to self and other.

'The best interest of the child': a slogan with universal pretensions that meets local resistance

Author: Signe Howell (University of Oslo)  email
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Long Abstract

Transnational adoption of abandoned infants from the poor South and Eastern Europe to the rich North is steadily growing as a practice. The practice is increasingly being controlled by the regulations of the UN Convetion on the Rights of the Child and The Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption. These regulations are, by and large, the result of contmeporary Western values, derived from the ever increasing influence of expert knowledge. Many donor countries, however are skeptical to the prinicples upon which these values are founded, but are, to a varying degree, unable to counter-act the hegemonic power of the Western 'psycho-technocrats', NGOs, and governemetnal bodies. The regulations are composed in order to secure what is taken to be the best interest of the children, but these may not correspond to notions in the donor countries. This paper will look at some reactions to the regulations in two donor countries: India and Ethiopia and the way in which they are enforced by the receving countires, and argue that there is a sharp imbalance in the relationship. Not only do the (paternalistic) European and North American countries obtain what they desire - children for awaiting adoptive parents - but they also lay down down the rules for how the transaction is to be carried out.

The threat of Sámi reindeer herders to the Norwegian state

Author: Gro Ween (University of Oslo)  email
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Long Abstract

It is in the nature of security to be relational; one party is protected from another. Protection is matter of world-view, based upon a perceived threat. Every justice system include laws created for purposes of protection within particular zeitgeists, since diminished in importance; as the perceived threat ceases to exist; or because the perceived threat later seem unfounded. Within the Norwegian constitution the most quoted example of dated legal perceptions is the original paragraph two, which denied Jews and Jesuits access to Kingdom of Norway. This paper will explore another set of dated jurisdictions designed to protect the Norwegian majority against the indigenous population. I will trace existing laws of reindeer herding to a time where the non-Sámi majority saw the internal colonisation as the most pressing tasks of the recently established Norwegian state. The protection of farmers and environment against the Sámi has remained the frame of reference of jurisdiction. As a result, the Sámi Rights Commission recently concluded that there is only one other line of work with a comparable level of regulation to the reindeer herders, that associated with working with explosives. This paper will emphasise how domination, institutionalised in jurisdiction, and as a bureaucratic tool often do not need legitimsation, on the grounds of always having existed.

Bureaucracy and ethnic practices in Israel

Author: Esther Hertzog (Beit Berl Academic College)  email
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Long Abstract

My presentation will focus on the concept of "Ashkenazi hegemony", and will elaborate on how it is connected to the bureaucratic establishment in Israel. I shall argue that while using the rhetoric of "helping the needy immigrants to integrate" the governmental (and semi-governmental) bureaucracy has created the "Mizrachi" ethnic category to serve its own needs. Thus, indirectly, it has endorsed the identification between itself and "Ashkenazi hegemony."

The category of "ethnicity" produced a manipulative dichotomy between "Mizrachim", "North African Jews" etc. vs. "Ashkenazim" "European-American Jews" and the like, and between the "helped" vs. the "helpers". This construction entailed the identification between the "Ashkenazi" category and the bureaucratic patronage and control over the most disadvantaged groups in society. Unavoidably, The bureaucratic system has become identified with processes of exclusion and the construction of categories in control of officials.

The "ethnic" criterion was created by endorsing definitions like "father's origin", "country of origin" etc., into policy-making processes as well as into the public discourse. However, it was not only the Central Bureau of Statistics that played a significant role in providing the "neutral" data for socio-economic policy makers. The social sciences research and institutions had, too, an important role in constructing the image of the ethnic category as self-evident. This widely rooted concept has become a major means for interpreting, and justifying, social problems and phenomena. Thus, social justice has become a synonym for ethnic policy and consequently "primitivism" was implied in the context of social deprivation, unemployment, poverty etc., while bureaucratic-paternalistic practices were introduced.

In demonstrating the role of the "helping" bureaucracy in the emergence of the Ashkenazi hegemony I shall refer to two contexts: the absorption of immigrants from Muslim countries in the 50's and then of the immigrants from Ethiopia in the 80's. My analysis will be based on CBS documents and on my fieldwork in an absorption center inhabited by Ethiopian immigrants. (Hertzog 1999).

Beyond the permitted Indian? Bolivia and Guatemala in an era of neoliberal developmentalism

Author: John-Andrew McNeish (Norwegian University of Life Sciences)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper outlines and discusses the contrasting histories of inclusion and contestation linked with the introduction of multi-cultural development in Latin America. In particular, the paper aims to make comparative study of Bolivia and Guatemala, two countries where the histories of multi-cultural developmentalism and indigenous protest have had dramatically different consequences. In the course of the 1990s an increasing emphasis was given by international development and donor organisations to an acceptance of multi-culturalism in national development planning. As a result of this process both Bolivia and Guatemala ratified new laws and constitutions that recognised cultural rights and opened new spaces for political participation for indigenous peoples within governmental structures. However, although these rights and spaces have been enthusiatically accepted by indigenous peoples, at the start of the new millenium many indigenous movements in the region have become wary of the limits and ambiguities of multi-cultural politics and re-entered the streets and highways in militant protest. In drawing out and discussing the ambiguities of multi-culturalism in Bolivia and Guatemala, the paper aims to test out and question Charles Hale's recent thesis of the "permitted indian" (indio permitido) as a means to refer to the way in which governments and the international system use cultural rights to divide and domesticate indigenous movements in these countries. Whereas Hale develops this as a thesis of neo-liberal governance and control, I question here whether recent events reveal the partial failure of this project. I argue that as much as the idea of the permitted indian helps to create a critique of the shortcomings and ambiguities of these reforms, it is also points to the causes and innovative form of recent mass protests and political shifts against recent economic and political decisions by the governments in both these countries.

Fighting for security in insecure places

Author: Aud Talle (University of Oslo)  email
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Long Abstract

The civil war in Somalia in the early 1990s produced a Somali diaspora

of unseen dimensions. Men, women and children in hundreds of thousand fled

the country and sought refugee in new lands. In their exile condition

Somali women as circumcised women negotiate problems of alienation and

identity loss. This paper discusses displacement and emplacement processes

with particular reference to risk, security and protection.