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SIEF2011 10th Congress: Lisbon, Portugal.
17-21 April 2011

(P227)

Creating the modern self: emotions, subjectivity and technologies of citizenship

Location Block 1- Piso 1, Room 76
Date and Start Time 19 Apr, 2011 at 11:30

Convenors

Chiara Pussetti (Instituto de Ciências Sociais - Universidade de Lisboa) email
Francesco Vacchiano (ICS-UL, Lisbon) email
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Short Abstract

Contemporary strategies of construction of the person; subjectivity as tension between creativity and social restrictions; the relationship between body and performance and the influence of the 'technologies of citizenship' on the process of self-representation.

Long Abstract

Social construction or intimate individuality, form of relationship with the world or functional perception, the concept of 'self' has been approached from different perspectives and discussed in numerous areas of application. To analyze its profile means, however, to regard the 'self' not as something given, merely waiting to be discovered, but as the effect of a continuous individual and collective handling, produced in an area of fine interchange between subjective reasons (biographical, relational, motivational) and contextual constraints. Its substance is shaped by a variety of productive devices: hegemonic values based upon moral and aesthetic judgments, socially prescribed and proscribed discourses, economies of the body and performative practices of citizenship. It is in relation to these constraints that certain practices are socially more acceptable: training and education, for instance, are considered natural, virtuous or otherwise admirable, while, by contrast, means that are perceived as artificial are thought to render the intended self-improvement morally suspect (as with steroid use in athletic performances or psychopharmacology in the daily 'emotional make-up').

This panel aims to explore the link between subject and context in the production of an 'admissible' self, negotiated between different discourses and therefore 'acceptable'. The panel will host contributions aimed at investigating the contemporary strategies of construction of the person and the issue of subjectivity as tension between creativity and social restrictions; the relationship between body and performance (moral, physical and psychological); and the influence of the 'technologies of citizenship' on the process of self-representation.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Style, music and sex in Dakar: of young rappers negotiating their identities in Senegalese society

Author: Cristiano Lanzano (The Nordic Africa Institute (Uppsala, Sweden))  email
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Short Abstract

This paper reflects on how rap in Dakar (Senegal) has become a space of redefinition of discourses, careers and identities for young urban men and women, through breaking the existing aesthetic and moral canons, on one side, and coping with social constraints and dominant views, on the other.

Long Abstract

What does it mean to be a young male in contemporary urban Senegal? Rap seems to offer some answers: the diffusion and the success of the hip hop movement in Dakar - and to a lesser extent, in the whole country - in the last two decades has provided several repertoires for creating and performing new artistic, generational/gendered and political identities. Fractures with the existing canons have arisen, both in terms of aesthetics (from musical expression to style and fashion) and in terms of political and moral values (from rebellion to individualism and self-promotion). At the same time, young rappers have been busy to cope with social constraints and dominant discourses in many (more or less) subtle ways: some of them, for example, have appeared unexpectedly conservative about religious issues, the defense of Senegalese culture or the condemnation of deviant sexualities.

This paper will draw material from ethnographic researches to attempt a reflection on how rap in Dakar has become in the last years a rich "terrain of contestation" (to use J. Fabian's expression) and redefinition of discourses, careers and identities for young urban men - and, in a different way, women.

Therapies between conformation and subversion: the example of French ethnopsychoanalysis

Authors: Gesine Sturm (University Paris 13)  email
Silvia Olivença (ISCTE)  email
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Short Abstract

On the basis of two research-projects which included extended fieldwork in two of the most important centres for transcultural therapies in France, we discuss their subversive potential and their limits in the process of building knowledge and re-inventing therapeutic practices.

Long Abstract

Since their very beginnings, psychotherapeutic practice and theory have been re-invented and transformed while responding to quite contradictory demands and definitions of their mission.

Since their very beginnings, psychotherapeutic practice and theory have been re-invented and transformed while responding to quite contradictory demands and definitions of their mission.

On one hand, therapeutic practices have always been linked to the healthcare system and therapies had to respond to dominant definitions of mental health and wellbeing in this field. In this perspective, therapy is about curing symptoms and its objectives include the capacity of the patient to participate actively in society while being adapted to its dominant role-models. A second line in the development of therapeutic practices is linked with a tradition where the idea of self creativity, liberation and contestation of existing norms plays a central role. This second line therapeutic theory and practice is mostly linked to interpretative and intersubjective paradigms. One of the central issues in the therapeutic processes is an interrogation about subjectivity and interrelatedness which can lead to a deeper understanding of society, norms power-relations and their impact on the life of the individual, beyond the mere adaptation of the individual to the norms and roles of society. In our presentation, we would like to reflect on this dichotomy, with distinct epistemic positions, values and definitions, while discussing recent developments in the field of transcultural healthcare and therapies for migrants in France.

Crafting a religious self in Europe: body formation and body politic of young female Muslims in Berlin

Author: Synnøve Bendixsen (University of Bergen)  email
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Short Abstract

The paper argues for the need to take serious the complex social processes within which Muslim women’s religious subject formation takes form and to look at what dynamics this formation in a particular time and place brings forth.

Long Abstract

This paper argues for the need to take serious the complex social process within which Muslim women's religious identification takes form and to look at what dynamics their religious subject formation in a particular time and place brings forth. Muslim females' desires to craft their selves religiously must be analyzed within the European context where Islam is considered as 'traditional' and as subverting women and where Muslims as a group is negatively stereotyped. The paper suggests how the subjectification of the religious self of Muslim youth in Berlin is shaped by the specific socio-political context and ongoing discourse on Islam and Muslims in Germany. The young women form their religious self both in relation to an (mis)understanding of Islam by German liberal or secular modes of governmentality and Muslim discourses, which in the process become intertwined. The formation of a religious subject also involves relating to discourses that has the characteristics of body politics - in that the body (consumption, body behaviour, and movements) becomes a means through which the youth try to change or influence the majority perception of Islam and Muslims in Germany. This dynamic involves both an increase in self-control and peer policing and that everyday practices become sutured with religious meanings, contributing to making religiosity more visible and more public. This will affect women in different classes in different ways. In focus here are youth who belong to the upward middle class, partly due to their educational success in the German system and their career ambitions.

The politics of mind itself: morals, biology, civilization

Author: Vitor Barros (CRIA/King's College London)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper analyses the recently deployed programs, institutions and policies which demonstrate the keen interest of the American security establishment in cultural knowledge of populations, and its deployment in counter-insurgency scenarios, while using certain technologies to shape a 'modern', 'civilized' self.

Long Abstract

Recently, the use of social scientist teams embedded in American military units in Iraq and Afghanistan has called attention, once again, to the relation between the ethnographic study of populations under military occupation and the instruments of governance through security. In this context, both media attention and academic criticism of these new initiatives has re-engaged old ethical debates about the (re)appropriation of socio-anthropological knowledge in the prosecution of more or less imperial military missions.

While this renewed interest in the 'cultural study' of populations must indeed be contextualized through its historical, often colonial antecedents, one should nonetheless pay close attention to its gradual and subtle reconfigurations, namely in the paradigmatic shift of taking the population as the new 'centre of gravity' in contemporary conflicts, while using certain technologies to shape a 'modern', 'civilized' self.

We shall therefore examine the tense, complex relationship between the militarized production (and use) of anthropological knowledge and American military intervention in three stages: (i) the parameters through which the Pentagon has appropriated cultural knowledge in such scenarios, thus conceiving of a given ethnographic field as a 'human terrain' subject to 'securitization' and 'militarization'; (ii) in which way this process correlates with mechanisms of cultural and racial reification, and the (re)invention of tradition; and finally (iii) a critical reflection on the implications of the ethical debates and forms of resistance which have been generated by this 'cultural turn' in military operations.

The self-biographizing narrative about conflicts in union representation: a practice of self-empowerment under the precarious conditions of knowledge work?

Author: Ove Sutter (University of Bonn)  email
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Short Abstract

Precarious employed knowledge workers find themselves in a constant process of biographizing the Self, continuously creating their own subjectivity. The self-biographizing narrative about conflicts in union representation serves as a practice of retroactive self-empowerment.

Long Abstract

Like in other Western industrial nations the increasing number of precarious workplaces in Austria has challenged the representational role of trade unions.This problem is multiplied by the growing number of so-called knowledge workers, who have come to be in the focus of the postfordist production process.The structures of unionist representation are hardly compatible with the conditions under which knowledge work takes place, i.e. self-responsibility, individual initiative, and project work.

Precariously employed knowledge workers in particular are permanently forced to redefine their biographical agenda, and thus themselves, as a consequence of their unstable and insecure working conditions.They find themselves in a constant process of biographizing the Self, continuously creating their own subjectivity.

The problematic relationship with the unions is a recurrent motif in interviews with precarious knowledge workers in Austria. Hereby it becomes apparent that the interviewees adress this problematic relationship not only in an argumentative or declarative way, but also as autobiographically informed narratives.

The presentation draws on an autobiographical narration of a female coach for unemployed persons, herself being precariously employed. On the example of her relationship with the union I show how the self-biographizing narrative is used as a strategic practice of self-expression. It serves as a retroactive self-empowerment in the antagonistic relationship with an unionist official.

The presentation will discuss results of my PhD research on »Self-biographizing negotiations of precarious knowledge work. It analyzes forms and strategies of self-biographizing speech and performances of the self as well as subjective perceptions and interpretations of precarious knowledge work.

Creating the modern self: coaching and styling as techniques of personal branding

Author: Karin Salomonsson (Lund University)  email
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Short Abstract

My research focuses on the increase in occupations such as life coach or image stylist. Branding oneself as successful, beautiful and confident, with the help of a professional hand, has become socially and culturally accepted in today’s consumer culture. What discourses, practices and ideals are performed in this “personal packaging”?

Long Abstract

My research focuses on the rapid increase in occupations such as life coach, personal shopper or image stylist. Branding oneself as successful, beautiful and confident, with the help of a professional hand, has become socially and culturally accepted in today's consumer culture. In recent years many services have emerged to offer personal help with home renovations, planning a wedding or other events, improving one's personal style or choosing a career.

This new range of services can be explained by the fact that it is now desirable and perhaps even necessary to invest in a personal image. Some people will allow experts to take decisions and give advice on areas that were previously considered private. What cultural and societal changes support this new need? Perhaps the sociologist Richard Sennett's by now classical term "the corrosion of character", as a consequence of working in the New Capitalism, provides some of the answer.

The aim of this project is to increase knowledge of the significance of personal advice services. The project applies itself to characterising this relatively new phenomenon and evaluating its potential future scope. What opportunities and what demands do these services create for people? Are they a real opportunity for development and self-realisation or do they impose yet more obligations? What discourses, practices and ideals are performed in this "personal packaging"?

Networking the self: identity-building processes in the digital space

Author: Giovanna Palutan (Università degli Studi di Padova)  email
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Short Abstract

My paper aims to show how, in a digital environment, members of a second-generation migrant organization participate to a creative, complex, negotiated, polyphonic building process of a collective public Self in the pursuit of legal and actual recognition by political institutions and civil society.

Long Abstract

In the last twenty years Italy is experiencing an unrelenting process likely to change from within the perception which the society has of itself and the sense of national unity painfully reached and perhaps not yet completed: Italy became a country of immigration and saw new social actors burst into the public sphere in search of recognition. Not only migrants who came in the eighties, but also the representatives of the so-called "second-generation" (young people who were born o had been living in Italy since they were child): both are today engaged in the construction of a public Self in the frame of citizenship, within the larger debate on migration and security issues carried on by media and Italian political parties (Schmidt-Palutan 2010).

My paper brings ethnographical data drawn from an ongoing fieldwork on a second-generation migrant organization (Rete G2, Seconde generazioni) which in 2005 set up a web site in order to connect young second-generation migrants spread all over Italy with the common goal of a reform of the current Italian Citizenship Law, from the jus sanguinis to the jus soli criterion. My contribute aims to show how, in the digital environment provided by the internet forum, each member of the organization participates to a building process - which is creative, complex, negotiated, polyphonic - of a collective public Self in the pursuit of legal and actual recognition by Italian political institutions and civil society.

The picnolepsy of the 21st century: techno-creative communities

Author: Asli Telli Aydemir (Istanbul Sehir University)  email
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Short Abstract

Web 2 communal video and photography sharing platforms will be analyzed. Efland, Carlson and Kaiser's new media will provide insight for the virtual creativity and skill required. The transformation of the public sphere via picnoleptic citizens of the techno-creative web 3 era will be questioned.

Long Abstract

The key concept introduced in The Aesthetics of Disappearance by Paul Virilio is picnolepsy - the condition of brief lapses in time, momentary absences of consciousness, in Virilio's words, fleeting instances of life escaping. Picnolepsy is produced by speed, and is a characteristic of the pace at which we live our lives. Our vehicles are numerous and varied: fast cars, fighter planes and the dollies that carry movie cameras; our travel companions equally diverse, ranging from Huxley to Mountbatten to Liszt.

The text jumps regularly between the static and the moving, resulting in a narrative that continually accelerates and then halts. This fitful way of writing is an example of the picnoleptic; Virilio's book does not simply show us how we live at high speed, but immerses us in this rate of existence.

This paper attempts at analyzing web 2 creative sharing platforms focusing primarily on, but not limited to communal video and photography; the author is interested in translation of the communal issues into the virtual realm through picnoleptic images . Efland, Carlson and Kaiser's work will also provide insight for the virtual creativity and skill required in new media. She will further attempt a theoretical crusade of the transformation of the public sphere via emerging picnoleptic citizens of the techno-creative web 3 era.

Ontology of property ownership: renovation as an active engagement process with one's perception of social and personal responsibility. Ethnographic reference: full-time British residents in Spain

Author: Alesya Krit (International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture, Giessen)  email
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Short Abstract

Through the lens of property ownership discourse this article will explore the processes through which new ‘self’ is formatted and negotiated; strategies that people choose to exploit in order to better define one’s position in the world of mismatching social expectations and personal aspirations.

Long Abstract

Property ownership could be used as a prism to see the process of 'self' development. Taking the example of the British in Spain one can examine the deeper relationships with notions of 'successful' and 'responsible' person. Social obligations of 'owning a house', 'taking out a mortgage' and 'taking care of your family' are getting detached from reality and questioned by a lot of British who choose to relocate to Spain. Those aspirations that contextually have been introduced to generations of people by their neo-liberal government and social consensus fail to match new aspirations of people about being free of financial obligations, being spontaneous and follow ones instincts: eat when you're hungry and sleep when you're tired. My paper explores what are the strategies that people use to overcome the mismatch between their reality, preconceived ideas of who they should be and their aspirations of whom they want to become. Further, the proposed paper would explore the process of reflecting new 'self' through adjustment to the new environment while renovating their dwellings: one's negotiation of the performative roles of the 'self' like 'owner', 'dweller', 'citizen', 'renovation specialist', 'power holder', and 'decision maker'.

Intercultural co-existence or social exclusion: constructing the migrant worker self in Finland through knowledge negotiations

Author: Kirsi Hanninen (University of Turku)  email
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Short Abstract

My paper discusses how negotiations between lay knowledge (migrant workers) and expert knowledge (Finnish authorities) lead to intercultural co-existence between workers and Finns or social exclusion of workers.

Long Abstract

When a migrant worker settles in Finnish community, her everyday knowledge of issues such as work practices, law, and healthcare, meets the expert knowledge of local authorities such as employers, lawyers or medical specialists. The purpose of this paper is to discuss how lay and expert knowledge negotiations and contests lead to either intercultural co-existence between the locals and the migrant workers or social exclusion of the workers. The subjective experiences of inclusion and exclusion then have an effect on the migrant worker selfhood and her future. In my paper, I will focus on young women from Estonia, Russia and Belorussia, who come to Finnish countryside to work as seasonal farm workers. My study is based on ethnography, participant observation, individual in-depth interviews and group interviews. I will address the questions of hybridization of lay knowledge and expert knowledge and ask: In the case of decision making, how do people argue for the authority of their knowledge? How do people contest, resist and deny the opposing form of knowledge? How do people transmit, compromise and intertwine different forms of knowledge? These questions appear in real life situations such as if a worker has an accident and it needs to be decided who is called for help, who decides how to proceed, and how are the consequences of "who is right and who is wrong" debate dealt? In situations like this, it is decided what it is that matters the most: experience, age, gender, education, hierarchical position, nationality or something else.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.