EASA, 2010: EASA2010: Crisis and imagination

Maynooth, 24/08/2010 – 27/08/2010


Rethinking shattered fields: power and belonging in sites of crisis

Location JHT8
Date and Start Time 26 Aug, 2010 at 11:30


Claudia Liebelt (Bayreuth University) email
Alexander Koensler email
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Long Abstract

It becomes increasingly clear that multiple dislocations and new forms of power and control are a characterising element of present neoliberal conditions. 'Devasted lives' (Bauman) are the experiences of those who survive, not in a place that gives them the feeling of belonging and a basis for decent living, but in sites of crisis that exist somewhere beneath, often beyond the publicly visible. With anthropologists doing research on illegalised migrants, the urban poor, as well as many other spaces constructed as external to the normative social order, they enter zones set apart from publicity, removed from visibility, put under a taboo, and/or simply "no go areas" for persons unauthorised.

Since the notion of locality became problematic for both 'field subjects' and fieldworkers, contemporary ethnography is seeking approaches that reach beyond conventional fieldwork based on sedentarist assumptions. Concepts such as Agambens 'exceptional states', Foucault's 'heterotopias', Tsing's 'zones of friction' are applied in ethnographies that challenge the idea that belonging is constituted through place, privileging transnational partial connections, mobilities or processes of reterritorialization.

In our workshop, we invite ethnographic studies that investigate live realities of people in shattered social spaces. What are the theoretical and methodological implications of studying sites of crisis? What does this mean for the ethic relation between the fieldworker and its subjects? What are the strategies applied by ethnographers in order to gain access to such critical environments? How can we extend classical fieldwork methodologies in order to understand the contemporary situation?

Discussant: Dr. Ursula Rao

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.


Afghan women reconstructing their life world

Author: Karin Ask (Chr.Michelsen Institute)  email
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Long Abstract

The unifying theme of this paper is Afghan women's creative contribution to re-constructing of social relations during exile and repatriation. Using ethnography about the construction of humanitarian assistance at different sites in Afghanistan during the 30 years of war, I discuss the political repercussions of different actors use of women as embodied signs in local and translocal reconstruction processes. Focussing on women's everyday exchange (badal) during war and reconstruction - I explore how these practises entered inter- connexion systems of different scales that stretches beyond the particular local field sites. The connectivity created across distances created exemplars of what Appadurai calls "the production of Locality"

Sex workers in Tijuana: professional identities and liminality as strategy in a border city

Author: Susanne Hofmann (University of Göttingen)  email
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Long Abstract

The paper explores sex workers' professional identities in the U.S.-Mexican border city of Tijuana. The space, criss-crossed by sex workers, and appropriated for their own benefit, is characterized by the dynamics of migration, poverty, and deprivation on the one hand, but on the other hand by extra-legal practices of local law enforcement agencies and criminal justice institutions. Despite that, women have developed strategies to cope with the spatial insecurity present in this particular border space, which I will describe and interpret. The history of professionalisation of sex work in Tijuana has contributed to new understandings of sex work and sex workers' identities. I argue that sex workers in the border space are in a liminal state, remaining disengaged from social relationships in this environment because it is not conducive to their aspirations for a better life. Their focus is on the future, which they hope will be one of well-being, consumerism, economic security and social advancement.

Toxic identities? Negotiating Arab-Bedouin culture at the shadow of an Israeli chemical industry plant

Author: Alexander Koensler  email
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Long Abstract

At a first glance, Arab-Bedouin life at the shadow of the contested Israeli chemical industry and toxic waste facility of Ramat Hovav seems a striking example of how neoliberalist practices shatter indigenious communities. Framing injustice widely in ethno-culturalist terms, the area moved to the center of multiple forms of activism, academic writing and political lobbying. Drawing on fieldwork on the struggles for health services for Arab-Bedouin citizens in the area, I try to outline some of the contradictions of this binary picture: some indigenious residents seem better globally empowered by funding than the regional authorities, the access to medical services is partly rejected by local residents itself. I claim that the overlooking of these more complex relations is facilitated by a "fetish" with local culture mascherading major power relations. What is shattered here is not a local community, but the presumed polarity between residents and industry.

From the ballot to the barrio: finding hope in community in Oaxaca, Mexico

Author: Ivan Arenas (Seattle University)  email
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Long Abstract

In 2006, the response to government repression of a teacher's strike was a popular revolt that took over Oaxaca, Mexico, for six months. Though the popular movement no longer controls the city, through the emerging spatial practices and competing aesthetics of the city visible in marches, assemblies, and graffiti, protest groups reconfigured the politics of Oaxaca's public spaces and produced embodied models of social transformation. In doing so, activists, artists, and ordinary Oaxacans often referenced the Mexican Revolution's figures and promises as a critique of the failed reforms and promises of representative democracy. This paper examines how, rather than look to the ballot box, Oaxacans often voice an explicit desire to sever all government connections from their lives. In turn, I examine how Oaxacans are finding hope in the future through practices and discourses that hinge on their active participation and a turn to community as an organizing principle.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.