EASA, 2010: EASA2010: Crisis and imagination

Maynooth, 24/08/2010 – 27/08/2010


Frontiers of 'legality' under neoliberalism: ethnographic explorations across shifting temporal and spatial scales

Location Arts Classhall H
Date and Start Time 26 Aug, 2010 at 11:30


Filippo Zerilli (University of Cagliari) email
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Long Abstract

According to conceptions of law and politics dominant in legal scholarship the notion of legality refers simultaneously to: a source of authority that makes the exercise of power legitimate (e.g. constitutionalism and the rule of law); a sovereign geopolitical entity (the state); a number of experts producing legal knowledge (legislators, judges, lawyers, bureaucrats etc.); a set of formal legal institutions where legal processes develop according to their specific temporalities (courts, tribunals, administrative offices etc.).

This workshop invites to expand such conventional understanding of legality beyond the usual space and time frames asking how 'legality' is culturally constructed and socially produced under the current global transformation of law and politics (a.k.a. neoliberalism). Accordingly, we welcome papers that ethnographically explore how 'legalities' (including non-legality and illegality) take shape, co-exist, overlap, conflict and often accommodate one to another, both within and beyond the boundaries of the state. Also, along with the traditional producers of legal knowledge mentioned above, we invite paper-givers to engage with discourses, practices and techniques of 'legality' produced by subjects working outside formal legal institutions (e.g. religious groups, professional associations, criminal organizations, transnational and civil society organizations, social movements, NGO's etc.).

Among important issues this workshop intends to address are: How do state, supra-state and non-state - individual and collective - actors (co-)participate in the production of legal, non-legal, and illegal orderings? How do conceptions and practices of 'legality' articulate with multiple sources of authority and morality within shifting spatial and temporal frameworks typical of transnational capitalism?

Chair: Madeleine Reeves

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.


The creation of Illegality and the rhetoric of cultural heritage: the illicit trade of 'Djenne Terracottas' in Mali, West Africa

Author: Cristiana Panella (Royal Museum for Central Africa)  email
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Long Abstract

In the 90's, the Malian State designed a National 'Ethic' of Cultural Heritage based on the fight against the plunder of archaeological sites, in particular of the so-called 'Djenne terracottas'. I intend to show that the international debate on Cultural Heritage has brought about a process of "heritagization" of ancient terracottas, despite their being plundered based on their aesthetic and marketing values. Between 1980 and 1995, qualifying the trade of 'Djenne terracottas' as illegal has been directly proportional to the increase of their market prices. The mediatization of the fight against plundering archaeological sites has so far concealed this contradiction represented by the clandestine source of National Cultural Heritage.

The circulation of these objets interdits emphasizes the paradoxical link between illicit traffic of African art and the creation of the poetics of cultural heritage as filtered through the glass of an aesthetic, juridical and economic "global hierarchy of value".

Where does legality lie? Sub-Saharan migrants and trading fake fashion accessories in the Venetian international tourist market

Author: Mathilde Leduc-Grimaldi (Royal Museum for Central Africa)  email
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Long Abstract

Street Trade in Venice includes:

- Sub-Saharan migrants selling fake fashion accessories;

- Local shop owners selling genuine such accessories;

- The City Authorities, in particular complying with decisions from the European Community; and

- Mass tourism.

This paper analyses the various levels of "legality" discourses used by, or aiming at the above-mentioned groups of people, especially through public means (blogs, newspapers, public statements). The legal (both documentary, and verbal) reactions to this trade and its agents are connected with: (i) the local context; (ii) the international flow of these fakes; and (iii) the global wanderings, legal or otherwise, of people, both temporary and permanent. Yet, rather than the behaviors of people involved in this trade, it is the legal status (actual or imagined) of the goods that impacts and determines the legal perception of the people involved under this trade by the various (local, regional, national) groups and authorities.

The reinvention of tradition: negotiating land law in periurban Ghana

Author: Raluca Pernes (Babes-Bolyai University)  email
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Long Abstract

Fast development of the periurban areas in Ghana has made land management a contested issue. Legal pluralism means the stakes are high for agents to attempt to redefine customary law, as well as reinvent tradition and history with the purpose of strategically situating themselves in powerful positions. Fights over land are being fought within "traditional" settings, but also in courts, with tools ranging from colonial records and former child-witnesses to "land guards". The state, having withdrawn from the game by delegating the responsibility for land management to the traditional leaders, is re-established as an important actor once conflict of interest, theft and violence call for another authority.

This paper starts from the case of a Ghanaian town to ethnographically explore how individuals constantly recreate what falls within the limits of the law and how they regulate non-legal behaviours in a situation of fuzzy legal systems and unclearly defined state involvement.

Policy franchising: global neoliberalism and the control of new illegalities in Latin America

Author: Jose Carlos G Aguiar (University of Leiden)  email
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Long Abstract

There is ambivalence in the nature of global neoliberalism. On the one hand, the emergence of international legal bodies and structures of global governance erodes the autonomy of the Nation-state, but at the same time, it withholds the state's monopoly over violence, and its supremacy for the maintenance of the rule of law. Regulations of global validity, like copyrights protection, engender new conflicts. Scholars have pointed out at the 'transfer', 'diffusion' of policies across nations in the context of global neoliberalism, that synchronises state programmes. Illegal actors are defined as anti-state actors, who threaten the very core of the nation state and global trade. In the case of Latin America, there is evidence on the implementation of state polices to halt crime and illegality based on the repressive hand of the state. Zero-tolerance programmes and 'wars' on drugs, piracy and delinquency mushroom, they have been 'franchised' all across the region. The 'fight on smuggling' between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, and the 'war against piracy' in Mexico are relevant examples of this. Based on ethnographic material gathered in the San Juan de Dios market in Guadalajara, Mexico, and Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, with sellers of contraband and counterfeit, I introduce in this paper empirical ground to pose the term policy franchising, so as to discuss the transnational implementation of security policies that privilege the iron fist of the state and technology as mechanism of control. Yet, this model presents crucial limitations: its outcome is ambiguous, it defines state and 'illegal' actors as exclusive categories, and overlooks the local context in which they both are embedded.

Beyond law and borders: Peruvian traders, contradictory state agendas and the reproduction of 'Illegibility'

Author: Cecilie Vindal Ødegaard (University of Bergen)  email
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Long Abstract

In recent years, the traffic of contraband into Peru has increased, including the smuggling of energy resources. The practices of smugglers are connected to wider networks of traders in rural as well as urban areas, often characterized by illegal organization of transport and use of land. While representing a challenge to state sovereignty, the people involved in these practices criticize state interferences for being immoral and illegitimate. These attitudes suggest not only the existence of multiple legalities, but is also expression of the value ascribed to exchange and circulation in Andean thought. Due to the Peruvian authorities' different and often contradictory agendas regarding these practices, this paper explores how such multiple 'legalities' articulate with different sources of authority and whether this is an example of how 'illegibility' has an ongoing role in modern systems of rule (Li 2001). Ethnography from Peru is thus related to wider comparative/theoretical frameworks.

Good, clean and fair: the Slow Food movement and the moral economy of food

Author: Valeria Siniscalchi (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Marseille)  email
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Long Abstract

Created in Italy in the mid-1980s, the Slow Food association has become, in less than twenty years, an international movement with nearly 100,000 members throughout the world. Over the course of its evolution, Slow Food's fields of action and intervention have widened and new philosophies have been elaborated or included. Today, on the basis of definitions of food consumption and production respectful of the environment, as well as of the rights of small producers, Slow Food has become a political actor in the large current debates over food issues. What type of economy produces a movement presenting itself as an alternative to economic liberalism exploiting the positive aspects of "globalization"? This analysis deals with this manner of understanding the economy, and more specifically, the notions of "good, clean, and fair," justice, trust, and values, that the movement produces, and their political uses

Residence regimes and the illegalisation of migrant labour in urban Russia

Author: Madeleine Reeves (University of Manchester)  email
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Long Abstract

Drawing on recent ethnographic fieldwork amongst un-documented and fictively-documented migrant workers from Kyrgyzstan, this paper examines the co-production of fictive "legal" residence for migrant labourers in urban Russia. In the last decade, Russia's oil-fuelled building boom has made it the world's second net recipient of migrant labour, much of it from the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. This labour is regulated by a complex and draconian system of internal residence registration (a holdover from the Soviet propiska system), such that there have emerged complex networks of "official" and "unofficial" figures providing fictive visibility to the state by issuing "authentic" temporary residence registration at an address where the migrant never in fact lives.

The paper devotes empirical attention to the production of such so called "clan fake" (chistie fal'shivye) registration documents for seasonal labourers and the networks of police officers, pensioners, migrant workers and commercial intermediaries through which these documents are produced and sold. This situated exploration is intended as a point of entry for a critique of classifications of migrant labour as either "legal" or "illegal"; "documented" or "undocumented" that still dominate in analyses of migrant labour from Central Asia. This in turn allows for a substantive engagement with the broader questions raised by the workshop abstract concerning the role of informal authorities in producing "legal" residence; the relationship between neoliberal transformations, particularly as manifest in the former Soviet space, and the (state-sanctioned) illegalisation of migration labour; and competing moral assessments of technically "illegal" residence in the nation-state.

The illegality of legality: the Work Permit Law for Foreigners in Turkey

Author: Ayse Akalin (Istanbul Technical University)  email
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Long Abstract

An unintended consequence of the demise of the Soviet system has been Turkey's transformation into a migration receiving country. Since the 1990's, many people from the formerly Soviet system, initially from Europe and later from the Caucuses, have been migrating to Turkey in order to seek employment in low paying jobs. With an increasing number of migrants willing to work in Turkey, and a state tradition that possesses an embedded xenophobia, and with its own agenda subscribed to a neoliberal set of priorities, the current Turkish government passed a work permit law in 2003 for the first time in order to regulate the foreign workers in the country. However looking at its formulation and its proposed applications, the law is more of an example to a legal production of illegality. Following the works of T.Asad and N. De Genova, this presentation proposes to study the process around the mentioned law.

From 'illegal' aliens to 'legal' nationals of the MERCOSUR in Argentina Recent experiences of Peruvians, Paraguayans and Bolivians in La Plata city

Author: Aranzazu Recalde (Université de Montréal)  email
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Long Abstract

In response to both the deepening of an initiative of regional integration in South America (MERCOSUR) and the evolution of international conventions on human rights, Argentina passed a new migratory law in December 2003. This Ley Migratoria 25.871 not only considers migrating a human right but also grants nationals of MERCOSUR states the same rights as those granted to Argentineans.

How has this new, favourable legal environment affected the lives of intra-regional migrants who have been historically despised in Argentina? Notably, Peruvians, Bolivians and Paraguayans were criminalized during the 1990s, being constructed as "illegal aliens", and blamed for the economic, social and political problems that the country was going through.

Based on recent fieldwork conducted in La Plata city, my paper explores how this renewed "legal status" as nationals of the MERCOSUR in Argentina has impacted the experiences of the Peruvians, Bolivians and Paraguayans in the city. Has anything changed?

Re-shaping the 'right to the house' across shifting political systems: legal measures and the experience of the displaced Sarajevans

Author: Zaira Tiziana Lofranco (University of Bergamo)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper aims to analyse the continuous juridical redefinition of the "right to house" in Bosnia-Herzegovina from the '90 until the present in tune with the very rapid shift across different political systems: socialist, ethno national-humanitarian and capitalist.

The legal change, ended with the generalized implementation of private property, has occurred in a so compressed time to make difficult for inhabitants to distinguish in practice between legal and illegal use of the house and to get oriented in the brand new burocratic procedure of privatisation necessary to legalize their position.

My presentation will explore briefly the huge amount of legal measures issued by local and international institutions but it will mainly document, with ethnographic data, how displaced persons, returning in previous social property buildings in Sarajevo try to culturally re-establish, in everyday practice, the blurred frontier between legal and illegal use of domestic and infra-domestic space.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.