On the margins of history: keeping a step aside of crisis

Aymon Kreil (Universiteit Gent)
Samuli Schielke (Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO))
Daniele Cantini
Start time:
31 July, 2014 at 14:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

This panel reflects on how, during critical historical events, people can maintain continuity with ordinary reality, seeking to safeguard a sphere of intimacy and normality and trying to keep a distance from unfolding events of revolutions, catastrophes, wars and other crises.

Long abstract:

One of the striking features of a conflict situation is that often only a few blocks away from dramatic events, life appears to continue its normal course. In dramatic historical events, media coverage tends to focus on key places and actors of events, while anthropology can better account for the more discreet procedures of trying to maintain an imperfect continuity with ordinary reality, sometimes overshadowing for individuals what is unfolding on the main stage of History. The concept of "total event" (F. Pieke) has been developed to describe the Chinese situation during the Tien An Men demonstration of 1989. A total event encompasses the whole of a society, leading to a complete reinterpretation of its tenets, and a perceived widening of possibilities. This panel suggests a contrary perspective on the impact of major crises, like revolutions, catastrophes, and war, by focusing on the ways they are kept at distance by people affected by them in an effort to preserve the stability of daily life or to safeguard a sphere of intimacy to seek refuge in. Sometimes, it is in fact difficult to take an active part in a dramatic event even if one wanted to. This panel reflects on the multiple ways of creating and experiencing distance to events. Rather than assuming a theoretical a priori, we invite the participants to develop ethnographically grounded interpretations of what it means to maintain the ordinariness of life in moments of crisis.