Negotiating with the State: Political agency and engagement
Creativity, representation and engagement in visual and sensory methods
Eugenio Giorgianni and Paloma Yáñez
Thursday 4th June Research Shots: What is your research about?
Convener: Frances Paola Garnica Embodying Chinese dance and Chinese identity in Belfast
Queen’s University Belfast
This presentation is based upon my MA research, carried out through participant-observation and interviewing amongst Chinese dancers in Belfast, discusses how performing Chinese dance in western contexts leads to transformations in the dance and in the identities of the dancers. The Chinese community in Belfast has been well established since the 1950s, and dance plays a significant role in communal ceremonies and festivals, such as the Spring Festival celebrations for the Chinese New Year, as a symbol of Chinese identity. Much of the Chinese dance performed in Belfast, however, has diverged in significant ways, from dance practice in China, including the participation of non-Chinese dancers and the attendance of large numbers of non-Chinese audience members. The presentation displays three forms of Chinese dance in Belfast, the Lion Dance, which is a group dance popular in the Hong Kong region, the hybrid Chinese dance taught at an Indian dance studio which includes elements of ballet, jazz and ballroom dance, and my own performance of a fan dance, which is seen as representing Chinese national identity because it is associated with the dominant Han ethnic group. Through comparison of the ways Chinese dance is taught, choreographed and performed in China and in Northern Ireland, I question what is the philosophy of Chinese self? How does learning Chinese dance shape the self, to what extent can learning Chinese dance give a taste of Chinese culture? And how do people from different cultural backgrounds, such as Indian, American or Northern Irish respond differently to learning the same Chinese dance movements? The presentation also shows the possibility of learning through doing – of gaining some understanding of Chinese culture by mastering the skills of Chinese dance, by a process of situated learning, whilst also showing the changes that occur when Chinese dance is performed outside China.
An Italian sexual education program for teenagers through images
University of Bologna
I would like to present the research I am working on for my PhD thesis to explain the double role of anthropology – analysis tool and practical strategy for intervention – in sexual education for teenagers. I took part to the activities of Spazio Giovani, a youth centre of the Italian public Health System. It’s a free access Counseling center where teenagers and adults meet psychologists, gynaecologists, obstetricians, health educators. Classes from Junior High School or High School can visit it and Spazio Giovani cooperates with many public schools through sexual health promotion programs often involving teachers, tutors and parents. As PhD student and anthropologist I took part, through an action-research, to the development and trial of a sexual education program called “W l’amore” inspired by a Dutch project. I worked with psychologists and health professionals to create a project that could answer the kids, the families and the teachers needs concerning sexual identities, relationships and sexual health. My contribution has been to introduce a critical approach about sexual plurality, gender and diversity. I tried to stimulate an innovative way to promote sexual health beyond physical well-being, trying to consider sexuality and sexual health in a more comprehensive way. We produced and tested a magazine to be used by previously trained teachers with the students in the class: through images, texts and activities, boys and girls can talk about anatomy, growth, family relationships, friendship, gender stereotypes, sexual orientation and sexual plurality, gender based violence, contraception and STD’s prevention. I would like to present a sample of this magazine to show all the resources and problems a sexual education program can face in the Italian context. I would also tell about anthropology’s role in the public sexual education system through my multiple positioning: researcher and operator, sometimes activist, but always engaged.
Administering Victimhood: Bureaucracy and the production of ‘the victim’ in Botogá, Colombia
University of Oxford
In July 2011 the Colombian government passed the Victims and Land Restitution Law, the first legislation in the country to officially recognize the presence of an internal armed conflict and offer reparations to its victims. The political objective of the Victims Law was multifold: to introduce a new effort at transitional justice preceding renewed political talks with guerrilla groups; to present a law for the ‘victims’ rather than the ‘perpetrators’; and to allow for those affected by the armed conflict, particularly the displaced, to reclaim citizen rights and livelihoods. Current literature on the Victims Law focuses on understanding its potential as a tool for effective transitional justice. While this approach offers insightful analysis of the political positioning of the Victims Law within the country, there has not been an adequate consideration of what issues are being eclipsed in such a framing, nor a nuanced analysis of how this law is producing new forms of knowledge and regulation as it is given life. Approaching the Victims Law through ethnography can move the analysis beyond thinking in purely political terms to considering the experiences of those involved with the law as it is carried out. Motivating an ethnographic approach to the Victims Law are the following questions: Through what legal and administrative procedures have over six million Colombian citizens come to secure status as victims of the armed conflict? How is victimhood being conceptualized, measured, and regulated? What are the criteria through which victimhood is determined and, more precisely, the texture of bureaucratic decision-making with regards to establishing victimhood? How do functionaries determine in practice, through micro-level decision-making, who is a victim and who is not, and what becomes important in making this determination?
Statelessness in Cambodia
Stateless populations face great human insecurity, with limited access to education, decent work, the right to vote and an inability to hold any public positions. Given these conditions their formalised entry into the political domain seems unachievable. The Vietnamese in Cambodia are at a double disadvantage; they are rejected politically and suffer from the strained international relationship between the Cambodian and Vietnamese governments. Many are poor, some are stateless, and most would rather keep a low profile as anti-Vietnamese sentiment still runs very deep in Cambodia. This paper, by looking at the influence of Protestant Christianity on a population of stateless Vietnamese children via a missionary school in Cambodia, illustrates how stateless children were able to produce future orientated aspirations – despite living in a context of weak institutions and facing discrimination due to their ethnicity. The case study of Preah Thnov demonstrates how Christian education offered tools to raise consciousness of local, regional and global politics and, in some instances, legitimised and created a space to voice their political desires in an environment which denies them political inclusion. Building on a discussion of inclusion and exclusion, this paper challenges perceptions of what ‘political recognition from below’ looks like, and how a minority group with the support of transatlantic Protestant Churches is reconfiguring its identity and view of the future. This in turn will have consequences for integration into the society in which they live, and more notably the age children enter into employment and the work they undertake. This paper opens up discussion on the role of religious organisations who are offering an alternative narrative when it comes to belonging, listening to and raising the voices of the those who have been born into a ‘status’ that renders them illegitimate persons.
On Making the Bee
Daksha Madhu Rajagopalan
University of Aberdeen
My research is on bees. This research shot describes my ongoing Masters dissertation research, which runs from May until September and also involves upcoming fieldwork with Maltese beekeepers. Bee populations are facing a critical condition worldwide, and my research aims to contribute an anthropological perspective towards finding a solution. As anthropologist Jake Kosek has put it, “the changing relationship between bees and humans brought the modern bee into existence in a way that has made it vulnerable to new threats” (2010: 651). This notion of ‘bringing the modern bee into existence’ speaks to the idea of emergent organisms. Anthropology has recently witnessed a turn of interest towards non-human and other-than-human beings. Post-human anthropology often engages with plants, animals, and even “cyborgs” (Haraway 1997: 210). The premise is that beings do not precede their interactions; rather, every creature, including both humans and non-living beings,emergesor “becomes”through interspecies relationships (Haraway 2008: 4). Drawing on theoretical developments in multispecies anthropology, my research is on how the particular bee-organism emerges through human-bee-hive interactions. I will also explain why an anthropological perspective is important for policy and solving global bee-related problems. I am interested in examining beekeeper-bee and scientist-bee relations. Ginger/ Europe is an archipelago. Collaborative ethnography and activist performative practices in the EU at the time of the crisis
Universidad de Granada
This is a hybrid transdisciplinary scholar-activist project, based on the metaphoric image of Europe as an archipelago more than as a Union. It is composed of three steps. The first one consists of a virtual communication campaign and ethnography, focused to the broadcasting of the project and the building of a social network of people interested to its general topic: how has the idea of the European Union changed due to the economic crisis of 2008? The second one consists of a concrete boat trip on board of the vessel Ginger, from the North Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, along the European waterways which unify – or divide – the European “islands”. During this journey, the activists involved in the virtual community will physically meet Ginger, participating in collaborative social events/workshops and sharing performative products based on “the idea of Europe at the time of the crisis”. The third step consists of collaborative workshops to be held after the conclusion of the journey, visiting some strategic activist groups in their own local context for analysing collaboratively the whole experience from a methodological point of view. The objectives of the project are to create a virtual network of subjects interested in reflecting on the social consequences of the crisis from a performative point of view, and to collect the subjects’ performative contributions on the European Archipelago in an open access audio-visual archive. If successful, we think that a hybrid project like this – with its transdisciplinary methodology based on visual anthropology, performance studies, critical geography and the collaborative study of social movements – can be a useful example of how to conciliate expert and grassroots knowledge.
Sensorial experience of blindness through a tactile photo exhibition, Mongolia
University of Manchester
During the past 68 years of the communist era, the blind community of Mongolia was provided with generous welfare care. However, they were conveniently isolated-having to work at a special factory, living in an allocated neighbourhood and educated only to the compulsory high school level. They remained without a voice in the sphere of public dialogue, defined by law as 'persons who are not able to participate in the activities of society due to physical impairment.' Since the collapse of the communist regime in the 1990s, the country underwent a harsh transition from a state governed system to a free market economy. As a result the blind were stripped of their financial care support structures and became the most economically vulnerable community. Furthermore, they have remained an isolated and socially excluded community as there have not been structures in place to make social activities and institutions accessible and to allow them to participate in social activities and institutions in a meaningful way. Taking this lack of structural support into consideration, this project will use photography to narrate the story of a blind man, in this context. It will illustrate and highlight the problems he encounters and his struggles in an exclusive society. The project will provide a glimpse of the unique circumstances that evolve from the experience of a disability. The photographic story will illustrate the experience of disability as a physical, cognitive and social phenomenon. The purpose of this project is twofold. Firstly, to give the blind people a voice to articulate their struggle and their effort to find a place in a non-inclusive society. Secondly, to promote awareness and understanding of the blindness amongst the general public. The sensorial experience of blindness will be given through the tactile photo exhibition/photo book. Furthermore this will be the first ever tactile photo exhibition/book produced for the blind community of Mongolia.
A Sound Ethnography of London’s Anglican Church
SOAS, University of London
My PhD thesis focuses on sound and music in their relation to Anglican religious experience in two London churches. I wish to discover how sound influences religious experience to further our understanding of how a religion with a long, established history and set of norms operates in today's secular London. By grounding the study in the sonic environment, these particular field-sites will contextualise a discussion over the relationship between structure and spontaneity of religious experience in the Anglican faith. Historically and theologically, the Anglican confession nurtures a continuous play between structure and control, on the one hand, and novelty and change, on the other hand. This interplay will be reflected in the comparison between these two churches that have different degrees of adherence to strict traditional norms. Since music represents a core element of religious experience in the Anglican Church and the latter has a rich, flexible music tradition, I put forward that sound will facilitate a new, comprehensive analysis of the relationship between these two apparently opposed elements of Anglican faith, in contemporary London; sound is a substance that instates order and togetherness and also one that materialises personal subjectivities and individuality. The study will focus on the role of the choir and the sound relations to clerical leader(s) and members of congregation; furthermore, it will investigate affordances of the sonic environment (in terms of space and materials) for religious feeling, transmission of religious knowledge, activation of memory and feelings of belonging for participants. Thus, the study will approach questions of staging, organisation and performance of religious experience through sound and issues regarding the particular affordances that sound materiality creates for religious experience. Concurrently, the setting of religious experience will allow for a foray into the nature of sound as anthropological subject.
My research is about seeking alternatives. It is easy to feel trapped in a job, stuck in a rut, living your life as if a cog in a wheel - in short, alienated. What other options exist? As will be familiar to many anthropologists, experts in cultural relativism the consequences of historical contingency, the global economy today is based on shared assumptions, institutions and legal systems, and far from being the only way, it reflects only one accident of history. My research, based on twelve months of fieldwork in Emilia-Romagna, focuses on a worker-owned social cooperative in the services sector of a small city. Cooperatives have been championed by the United Nations as part of their Millennium Development Goals, with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon touting cooperatives as "a reminder to the international community that it is possible to pursue both economic viability and social responsibility". Consistent with the cooperative movement's birth as part of the socio-economic transformations of the industrial revolution, it is perhaps not surprising that the model is in the spotlight after the 2008 market crash rocked faith in the sustainability of the current system. Yet numerous studies of cooperatives and development show that these organizations often failed to be economically viable or alternatively found economic success through imitating neoliberal models that focus on efficiency and competitiveness. My research shows how cooperative workers interpret and seek to apply cooperative values such as democracy, solidarity and equality in every day work. Is the cooperative able to compete in a marketplace that is guided by neoliberal values without compromising on its own? I will address this question by sharing my findings on labour relations within the cooperative, leading to the conclusion that the cooperative business structure alone does not result in the production of a lived alternative to alienated work.
Session One – Group A
Europe in Crisis: Perspectives and strategies for renewal