EASA2014: Collaboration, Intimacy & Revolution


Forms of government and everyday economic practices: ethnography and comparison

Location S-333
Date and Start Time 03 August, 2014 at 09:00


Benoît de L'Estoile (Ecole normale supérieure/ CNRS, PSL Research University) email
Federico Neiburg (National Museum / UFRJ) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

This panel aims to explore the interrelations between various forms of government and the multiple ways by which everyday economic practices use or contest the framings established by them, framings or forms of regulation that are at the same time being created and transformed by these practices.

Long Abstract

This panel aims at exploring comparatively the complex interrelations between different forms of government, establishing framings, and the multiple ways by which everyday economic practices use or contest these framings or forms of régulation, that are at the same time being created and transformed by these practices.

On the one hand, a body of governmental policies and practices, with the administration of populations and territories, the regulation of markets and monetary flows, created and activated by a dense network of individuals and institutions, diversified agents and agencies, such as governments, international organizations, NGOs, military and security agents, "local" leaderships and associations. On the other hand, everyday economic practices, developed in the sphere of the "domestic economy",or within networks of interpersonal relationships related to peoples' needs, their ways of earning and administering money, the exchanges, savings, investments and loans they deal with in everyday life, especially in places where access to money is not dependent on formal jobs.

Everyday practices of ordinary people are usually obscured by categories of perception and action used to implement policies and intervention programs aiming to regulate the so-called "domestic economy", the "informal economy" or the "illegal economy". Our ambition is also to understand, in a sociologically positive way, the interrelationships between these two universes and the complex and dense spaces of agencies and agents that structure these interrelations.

Discussant: André Dumans Guedes, Benoît de L'Estoile

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


The structural adjustment of the political? NGoization and changing patterns of fundings in the Indian Dalit movement

Author: Nicolas Jaoul (CNRS)  email

Short Abstract

By looking into the changes in the manners of financing the organizations, this paper deals with the way the current NGOization process in India affects the political trajectory of the Dalit movement, which was traditionally defined as an autonomous movement of the Dalit community.

Long Abstract

Since the late 1990s, the issue of caste discrimination has been taken up by Human Rights Organizations, Funding agencies and Development NGOs. How does the new "Human Rights based approach" to development and its corresponding program of "empowerment", that are being promoted by international institutions, impact a cause that was traditionally defined as political ? By looking into the changes in the manners of financing the organizations, this paper deals with the way this NGOization process affects the political trajectory of the Dalit movement, which was traditionally defined as an autonomous movement of the Dalit community. It explores how the funding concerns and the technocratic reframing of the discourse of emancipation influence the ideology and practices of the Dalit movement. Focusing on a case from Uttar Pradesh, it reveals on the one hand the precariousness entailed by these short term contracts between small local NGOs and funding agencies, but also the radical uses that local Dalit activists make of foreign funding sources. The resilience of the political can be explained both by the new ability to organize the rural poor, and women in particular, and by the activists' political determination to carry on a movement of politicization from below.

Horses, shamans and mushrooms: articulation of identity practices and economic circuits in the Sierra Mazateca (Mexico)

Author: Marcos Garcia de Teresa (EHESS)  email

Short Abstract

Using the case study of hallucinogenic mushroom trade and horse racing in the town of Huautla de Jiménez in the Sierra Mazateca, I will discuss how identity practices are organized and are inseparable from certain economic activities.

Long Abstract

The analysis of horse racing and shamanic tourism in the Sierra Mazateca will allow me to show how local population uses very diverse economic strategies and can sometimes be on the margins of legality. This case study allows me to analyze the ways in which individuals are placed and adopt different strategies depending on the context of interaction in which they are located, whether it is the family, their neighbors, the inhabitants of the region or tourists. According to the political and economic circumstances people face, they may adopt different registers of self-presentation. They may adopt an ethnic register to sell a ceremony for tourists or as an alibi against the prohibition of mushrooms, or they may adopt a self-presentation similar to nationalist stereotypes to fit into the regional political networks and negotiate in horse racing. I would like to highlight the different modes of identification - ethnic, regional or national - that are present in this area, and show how this plurality of identifications - which may be competing - gives players some flexibility. The objective of this presentation is to see how identity practices are a resource used by the inhabitants of Huautla de Jiménez during their interactions with tourists and regional elites.

Gifts from commodities, or how to make new friends selling culture

Author: André Vereta Nahoum (Brazilian Centre for Analysis and Planning/University of Sao Paulo)  email

Short Abstract

Are economic transactions subject to different, disputed qualifications? The paper aims at discussing how the Yawanawa devised specific meanings and uses to monetary transactions involving their cultural practices, which they promote in the name of their own individual and collective projects.

Long Abstract

The Yawanawa, a population from the Southwest Amazon, have realized the dignities and perils of using monetary transactions involving their cultural practices for their own individual and collective projects. On the one side, they realized they could obtain both material and symbolic resources showing their rituals and other cultural practices to external audiences in their villages or urban venues. These resources are employed to sustain kin and political relations within the village. Moreover, trading their symbols of difference, they promote a wide perception of the worth of their difference in their own community, as well as in the wide national community. In this sense, they may use these transactions for identity claims. On the other side, they realize that market transactions and the resources they bring come with dangers and are associated with different material claims and expectations within the community.

Disputes over the ways these transactions are framed became an important part of the conflicts involving the commodification of cultural practices. Taking into consideration these tensions, the Yawanawa leaders resort to native conceptions of alliance to frame their undertakings: the presentation of cultural practices against monetary contributions for external audiences is not intended to obtain immediate profits, but to forge alliances that will provide them with a continuous flow of gifts and support in political claims. In this sense, not only the Yawanawa challenge the analytical boundaries separating domestic, community (political) and market economies by instrumentally using monetary resources to strengthen kin relations and political allegiances, but also the divisions between gifts and commodities, market partners and friends.

Development and dead cities in the Brazilian sertao: movement, fever and passion

Author: André Dumans Guedes (Universidade Federal Fluminense)  email

Short Abstract

I discuss how the people living in a small city in the interior of Brazil describe the economic processes which have been shaping their lives in the last decades: the “creation” of the city by a mining company, the gold fever in the 1980’s and the building of three large dams.

Long Abstract

In this paper I show how the people living in a small city located in the Brazilian state of Goiás - in a so-called "frontier zone" - describe the "economic" processes which have been shaping and transforming their lives in the last decades: the gold fever in the 1980's, the building of three large dams and the complex relation between this city and the mining company which "created" it. In order to do so, I focus on the ideas of movement and fever, showing how this people are able, through the use of these categories, to reflect and act in the contexts created by these processes, something which allows us to think of them as not exactly (or only) "economic". These native ideas and descriptions allows us to consider critically some ideas quite common among social scientists studying issues such as the effects of large development projects or the modernization of traditional or backward areas - for example, the temporalities and time conceptions associated to such situations. More than inducing sudden or brutal ruptures in a traditional way of life, these movements associated to development projects tend to be considered by the people I work with as the return or comeback of process not exactly unknown to them. In order to present these points ethnographically, I discuss the different ways some specific resources are spent or saved; the connection between mobility and family issues; and the importance of the (re)searches people make in contexts of instability and change.

State plans of industrial recovery and everyday work flexibility

Authors: Lucia Petrovičová (Commenius University)  email
Juraj Buzalka (FSES Comenius University)  email

Short Abstract

The paper aims to explore the relations between governmental policies and employment practices in two different locations in Slovakia. It shows variety in ideas of ‘flexibility’, different in state discourses combating unemployment and in everyday patterns of coping with livelihood.

Long Abstract

This paper aims to explore the relations between governmental policies and employment practices in two different locations in post-socialist Slovakia. It attempts to show how practices and ideas of 'flexibility' vary, depending on state discourses combating unemployment and everyday patterns of coping with livelihood. Presenting data from fieldwork carried out among workers in Košice and Žilina regions in Slovakia, the paper argues that a specific type of worker emerged during socialism and post-socialism. This was thanks to reproduction of everyday practices often connected with domestic economy, complex system of social networks and exchange of services under shortage and transforming economy. We argue that employees have become more 'flexible' not solely with regard to the proliferation of neoliberal policies but their livelihood strategies have deeper roots in socialist and also post-socialist 'flexibility'. This flexibility neither contradicts official state-driven calls for industry needs of the suitable work force nor shows deeper origins in neoliberal hegemony.

Regulation of the grassroots mutual help practices among urban communities in Dar Es Salaam: economic empowerment or the opposite?

Authors: Oxana Ivanchenko  email
Petr Popov (Institute for African Studies)  email

Short Abstract

Based on the field research conducted in Dar Es Salaam in september-october 2013 this paper will focus on popular mutual help groups among urban residents and their interactions with the government and NGO’s after the emergence of a state regulated mutual aid initiative called vicoba (“pocket”- swahili).

Long Abstract

The distinctive feature of contemporary Dar Es Salaam as well as most of the African cities is the existence of an unregulated economy, as well as the spread of informal networks and various socio-cultural practices unregulated by the state. One of the popular economic everyday activities practiced among Tanzanians are mutual aid groups and societies. As a rule, these organizations are unofficial and not registered. Recently the most popular organizations were: kufa na kuzikana ("if somebody dies"), upatu ("circle"), mchezo ("game"), which are different in their social functions, but still mainly focused on contributing money for some special events in families of members (funeral, wedding, illness, birth etc). Nowadays some of these organizations get governmental support, one of the recent initiatives is vicoba - a state regulated initiative, aimed at microcrediting and helping members to start a small businesses. Some of the local urban residents we have been interviewing in our research prefer to join vicoba, but some give reasons for leaving and keeping their own unregulated mutual aid groups.

Our paper will consider various examples of how traditional grassroots mutual aid groups are operating. We will describe and compare their structures and purposes of establishment. We will compare them with the state-regulated vicoba and finally will focus on the challenges and positive moments that this new initiative is opposed to the "old" mutual aid groups

Governing the House. State Projects, Domestic Practices and Autonomy in Land Reform Settlements in Brazil

Author: Benoît de L'Estoile (Ecole normale supérieure/ CNRS, PSL Research University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper considers the house, as one main focus of tension between the government by the State agencies and daily practices in three Brazilian land reform settlements (assentamentos) in the Northeast region of Brazil.

Long Abstract

While Brazilian government agencies set up projects of "housing units" in land reform settlements (assentamentos), the understanding by local project beneficiaries of what a house means is different: for them, a 'casa' refers to a construction (or part of it), whose physical and moral boundaries are shifting across time and changes in family configurations .

Concerns for "sustaining the house", as a means to insure life and good life are linked to the double striving for autonomy and protection, and imbued with the effort to claim one's moral value. Ethnography offers a way to reconceptualise as "domestic government" what has usually been conceived of as "domestic economy", highlighting the political and moral aspects that are crucial for our interlocutors in the field.

"We have to be very careful with these illiterate women": interrelationship between local authorities and market women in a Guinean city

Author: Carole Ammann (University of Basel)  email

Short Abstract

In Guinea’s second-largest city Kankan many women are engaged in petty trade. This paper analyses how they interact – individually or collectively – with various representatives of the local authorities and thus shape local government’s practices.

Long Abstract

Not only politicians and so called big men but also ordinary women - through their daily actions - shape and reshape a nation state. This paper highlights this phenomenon in Muslim Kankan, known for its trading activities, where many households depend partly or even entirely on female commercial activities. In Guinea's second-largest city mainly poor and uneducated women are engaged in petty trade. Some women cultivate a vegetable garden while others prepare food or drinks and sell them in markets and from sidewalk stands. The majority of the female merchants just purchase different items at wholesale and sell them by the piece.

Usually, these women spend the money they earn during the day on the evening meal, which makes them especially vulnerable to interventions by the local authorities, such as the closing of the city markets or the displacement of ambulant vendors. This contribution analyses the interaction between Kankan's market women and the local authorities represented by different actors such as the chief of the market, tax collectors, security agents, and various employees of the local government. How do market women as individuals and/or collective actors negotiate selling rights, market infrastructure, tax collection, and security-issues? The aim is to gain a better understanding of ordinary women's imageries of the Guinean state in times of political transformation and how this in consequence influences their interaction with the local authorities.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.