(P096)

Anthropology in unstable places

Location 201 A
Date and Start Time 18 May, 2014 at 08:30

Convenors

Hector Guazon (Saint Louis University) email
Ana Raissa Trinidad (Ford Foundation International Fellowships Programme) email
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Short Abstract

The panel captures the everyday practice of differentiated actors, giving room to the ways in which these actors live and forge a future for themselves in and, hence, explores the challenges to cultural analysis posed by the unstable conditions of the local world where they are embedded.

Long Abstract

Anthropology in Unstable Places accounts the quotidian practice of differentiated actors in local worlds marked by significant social, political, and religious changes. The local world, following Kleinman (1997), does not only refer to traditional village or neighborhood but also to institutions, transitory communities, and/or transnational networks that cast the contemporary times. The panel is designed to capture interrelated themes, like, agentic narratives, improvisations, reflexivity, identity politics, learning, belief system, and morality. The contributing papers narrate the manner by which engaged actors, differentiated by their struggles, live and forge a future for themselves within the shifting and unstable conditions of the local world where they are embedded. The panel may give room to shared defining characteristics on the basis of the actors' similar social practices, collective ordeals, and values but, at the same time, particularities these actors generate and consider salient given their context. In doing so, the panel explores the challenges to cultural analysis posed by uncertainties and instability, as panel contributors look into the varying cultural resources and social ties that are available, creating both perils and possibilities for their life-chances in their respective local world. By making instability as foundation of cultural analysis, the panel recognizes a number of important theoretical challenges, requiring evaluation of analytical frames and innovating the quality of anthropological scholarship. Few of the concepts needing unsettling are context and agency.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Cultural improvisation and the imagination of a cosmopolitan community in conflicted regions of Zamboanga and Sulu

Author: Jose Jowel Canuday (Ateneo de Manila University )  email

Short Abstract

Drawing from a year-long fieldwork, this paper examines the improvisational ways by which cosmopolitan worldviews are integrated into widely circulating Tausug music videos in the troubled regions of the Southern Philippines.

Long Abstract

This paper lays down a critical perspective of cultural improvisation as an analytical ground for understanding rooted forms of cosmopolitanism in a locality torn by strife and economic woes. To contextualise this point, the paper draws assumptions from a year-long ethnographic fieldwork on the production and circulation of popular small media recordings of Tausug music and dance videos in the streets and slums of Zamboanga and Sulu in the Southern Philippines. VCD productions and circulations in the region are akin to a small cottage industry pursued by agents who live ordinary lives as flea market sellers, rickshaw drivers, wedding performers, or small internet shop owners deeply invested in a creative engagement that can be described as improvisational. The improvisational character of VCD production is evident in times when video producers utilise pocket-size home video cameras as music filming tool, internet shops as video editing laboratory, and video grabs of Hollywood films as visual background for local music. Notwithstanding the limitations of their resources and security troubles their communities face, Tausug video makers write music and film videos with themes that resonate with the cosmopolitan dictum of cultivating responsibility towards the others while upholding the idea of oneness of humanity amidst broad diversities of faith and disparate sense of social belonging in the region. This fluid, indeterminate flow of quotidian life in Zamboanga and Sulu provide a lens for viewing a process of identity construction that does not stray from the cosmopolitan vision of ethical engagement of self and other.

Autonomy in movement: informal Islamic activities amongst Hui Muslims in China

Author: Masashi Nara (University of Tsukuba)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines how a Muslim minority can maintain religious autonomy from the contemporary Chinese state that actively oppresses religion. Specifically, it focuses on processes whereby Hui Muslims carry out informal and highly mobile Islamic pedagogical practices in Kunming, Yunnan Province.

Long Abstract

Although there has been an abatement of religious policies in the post-Mao Chinese state, for example allowing the reconstruction of mosques, the government still tightly restricts many aspects of religious life. Officially, religious activities are to be conducted in authorized religious institutes. Moreover, although official mosques are legally secured to hold religious activities, they must follow instructions laid out by the government. Consequently, most mosques have become places where Muslims cannot conduct religious activities freely.

In sum, because of governmental limitations, mosques cannot sufficiently work as Islamic educational institutions. Therefore, Muslims informally conduct Islamic learning activities. However, the location of such pedagogical practices is highly unstable because such activities are in constant danger of prompting the policing and enforcement of governmental regulations. Instead of direct and situated resistance to the state, religious teaching and learning practices have become a 'hit and run' affair; activities are often temporarily halted and locations shift in order to dodge governmental regulations. Such activities are mobile and fragile because participants are always faced with the possible intervention of the government. Via such clandestine methods Hui Muslims cannot be completely oppressed by the government. In fact, it is because of such unstable practices that the propagation of Islam continues effectively if intermittently.

Thus, Hui Muslims maintain autonomy by "movement" as a refuge from the state rather than engaging in firmly located politics against the state. Autonomy for them is in incessant movement rather than in aiming to be free from situated subordination.

Shifting sociomoral order: the creation of the Filipino chaplaincy in Brussels

Author: Hector Guazon (Saint Louis University)  email

Short Abstract

This study analyzes the ways in which the idioms Filipino Catholics associate with Roman Catholicism as they create the Filipino chaplaincy in Brussels to mark out their moral identity embody the Filipino Catholics' self-interested strategies in their unstable diasporic context.

Long Abstract

Building on researches that problematize the ways in which Filipinos embrace in varying degrees Roman Catholicism, my study looks into the production of meanings Filipino migrants associate with Roman Catholicism for legitimizing the creation of the Filipino Catholic Chaplaincy in Brussels, Belgium. As this study demonstrates, among the Roman Catholic principles and concomitant resources that Filipino Catholics translate, along with their fellow Filipinos in Brussels, "standing for the marginalized" becomes a potent force for church authorities as well as Filipino religious and civic leader's claim to cooperation, leadership, and dejection. However, this study shows that Filipino Catholics' translation is novel and particular even as it is shared by Filipino Catholics in Brussels. Hence, this study probes further the sociopolitical circumstances in Belgium and the interpersonal relations within the Filipino community that make the Filipino Catholics strategic in their moves in their want to create the Filipino chaplaincy in Brussels and, correspondingly, yield favorable results in their handling of their diasporic drama, given their social position. In doing so, this study provides a canapé on the malleability of Roman Catholicism in the lives of Filipino migrants who belong to the Filipino Catholic chaplaincy in Brussels, Belgium.

The school as a learning space for negotiating political and social instabilities

Author: Ana Raissa Trinidad (Ford Foundation International Fellowships Programme)  email

Short Abstract

The paper explores how learning - formal and processual - plays a cogent role in dealing with militarisation as an invasive condition in a Manobo community, an indigenous community, in the Philippines.

Long Abstract

Militarisation creates politically volatile communities and members have to learn to deal with subsequent uncertainties that come with it. This paper explores how learning plays a cogent role in dealing with this invasive condition in a Manobo community, an indigenous community, in the Philippines. Especially important is the strategy of turning towards formal education as an aspect of dealing with their unstable situation. Using Lave and Wenger's (1991) 'legitimate peripheral participation' as theoretical guide, the paper accounts how the Manobo learned to negotiate instability by learning to grapple with diverse relationships and structures associated with the institution of a school in an isolated highland community in the Philippines. Subsequent dynamics among participants - elders, parents, children, nuns, teachers, etc. - have led to other 'instabilities' of relationships; relationships that involve fluid negotiations with other sectors that are part and parcel in the operation of a formal school.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.