In the motorized urban thicket that is Beirut, Lebanon, parking is scarce and hence political. When a civic society project tries to replace parking with accessible sidewalks, dissent pervades multiple sites of power brokerage, making parking an object of formal and informal political negotiability.
Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, is reputedly one of the most motorized and pedestrian unfriendly cities in the world. Under-serviced public transport, traffic congestion, dense build-up, and sprawling security zones have made on-street public parking a scarce and fiercely contested commodity. In busy mixed-use neighborhoods such as Ras Beirut, residents, employees, business owners, students, patients and clients try to control and compete over cheap public spots, or else resort to expensive private parking lots. This article explores the various power regimes and modes of encounter that govern the act of on-street parking in order to contemplate the relationship between the production and consumption of urban space in Beirut. First, I propose that the encounter between parkers and informal power brokers over public parking space is governed by reverence and benevolence. Then, I look at what role parking plays in a civic society institutions’ urban intervention, which proposes to render one street more pedestrian friendly. Specifically, I explore the ways that the project's proposal to eliminate a row of public parking spots is met with disapproval on the street and contention among the city’s conflicted state authorities. Finally, I recall Michel de Certeau’s distinction between tactic and strategy, or that between practices of ‘making do’ and consuming the city versus those that produce and discipline the city. In so doing, I suggest that parking, presumed a tactical encounter, is modeled at multiple scales of power brokerage, and is strategically maintained as one among several objects of political negotiability, inside and outside Lebanese state institutions.
Citizenship struggles of a stateless community: Pakistani-Hindu migrants at the western borders of Rajasthan, India
Srishtee R. Sethi
Tata Institute of Social Sciences
The study of borderlands as transitional zones is a significant starting point for this research with the migrant community of Pakistani-Hindus forming a central part of it. It develops an understanding through exploring the ‘everyday lived reality’ of this migrant community. An attempt will be made to analyse the larger questions of identity formation at borders, citizenship, shared culture along with the refugee policy in India and Southasia at large.
Terms such as borders, borderlands, frontiers and boundaries are all used alternatively to describe the line that separates one country, state, province, etc., from another. They are also considered as ‘transitional zones’ with specific territorial and spatial facets. More often than not they are lines of contestation between nation-states. The India and Pakistan border falls in the same category along with being highly militarised and securitised. Within the historical context the present research looks at the identity and citizenship struggles of Pak-Hindu migrants. The present ethnographic (social anthropology) enquiry into the borderlands of the state of Rajasthan is an attempt to understand the flow of people that takes place across the borders. This flow of people or migration is primarily being studied through the three phases of migration namely the post 1965 Indo-Pak war, the post 1971 Indo-Pak war and the post 1992 phase after the Babri Masjid demolition that occurred. These events had a significant impact at the societal level both in India as well as Pakistan and hence the flow of people during these phases has been most pronounced from Pakistan into India for permanent settlement. Within the current research study an attempt to explore the socio-political context of the borderland has been carried out with the help of the Pak-Hindu migrant community who primarily belong to the Bheel tribe. An understanding of how these people construct meaningful narratives of the place; how they at once establish and transgress the boundaries within which they are able to act as meaningful agents’ is carried out (Ibrahim, 2008). Working within ethnographic exploratory qualitative research perspective the present research makes an attempt to understand the process of displacement and movement from the country of residence i.e. Pakistan for resettlement to India. It further explores and uncovers meanings and patterns of social interaction thereof. The use of ethnography (social anthropology) qualitative approach and methods help locate the reality in context and most importantly provided depth and detail to the analysis. Following an interpretivist point of view an attempt to understand a particular social action and grasping the meanings that constitute that action is carried out by the researcher. This premise helps us to understand the context of borderlands, whereby the borderland community (Pak-Hindu migrants) makes meaning of their action which is different from the policies framed by the State or the dominant discourse.
Ethnographic Encounters with the Politics of Poverty in Vietnam’s Northern Borderland
Australian National University
Anthropology is increasingly coopted by the state in the modern governmental practice of ‘poverty reduction’: it is rendered technical and depoliticized and serves the projects of power of both the state and local powerholders. The critical ethnographer’s role is to resist cooption to this state project and to engage with the local politics of poverty and inequality.
This paper explores what a critical political anthropology of poverty means in the context of Vietnam’s mountainous northern borderlands. Anthropologists have long been instrumental in categorizing ‘ethnic minority’ people of the region for the state, and continue to be engaged in upland state making today through ‘poverty reduction’, the state’s primary modern governmental scheme for ethnic minorities. State agencies and international organisations increasingly champion ‘anthropological’ approaches to poverty reduction, but these are applied in a manner which renders both ethnography and poverty ‘technical’ (Li 2007). Consequently, instead of illuminating the local politics of poverty, these co-opted ethnographic approaches serve only to ignore them. The paper draws upon recent ethnographic research work from a commune in northern Vietnam to illustrate the deficiencies in these approaches, and to show how state processes for poverty reduction in fact serve the particular projects of power of local elites that dominate commune and village politics. As a result of local politics, the powerless and most deprived fall between two conceptions of entitlement: they are invisible in the moral economy of the village as they are politically unconnected, but they are also ignored and bypassed by the very state process for poverty reduction intended for their benefit. The paper concludes by arguing that the task of a critically engaged political anthropology is not to collaborate with, but to challenge these state projects and the assumptions about political agency and politics that underlie them, and to illuminate the local inequalities and power differentials which they sustain.
Métis and the borders of Canadian Aboriginality
University of Manchester
Métis people have an ambiguous relationship with the Canadian state’s understanding of who is aboriginal. As a people whose identity has been based on a mixed European/native heritage and ancestry, they have not always fitted easily into the Canadian legal categories of state-accepted aboriginality.
In Canada, legal definitions of aboriginality have developed through a process where the state has, over time, shaped and applied its own criteria for what it is to be aboriginal, and called this ‘Indian’, and the people it considers as fitting this as having ‘Indian status’. Historically, this process has largely ignored the history and self-identity of aboriginal peoples, and the relationships between various First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, at the individual and community levels. Slowly, as international law and civil rights movements, changes in social attitudes towards aboriginality and aboriginal activism have shaped the state in turn, the state is beginning to address the disparities, inconsistencies and ambiguities inherent in how it had previously organised and recognised aboriginality in Canada. The location of Métis identity within this legal framework of aboriginality as state-recognised status continues to be a contested claim in the courts and in political and social contexts. Where exactly Métis, as a group or as individuals, should fit into this status/non-status paradigm is being continually negotiated, between various Métis groups, other aboriginal peoples, changing ideas of indigenous and aboriginal rights, the Canadian state and civil society, and the court’s interpretations of law. The position of Métis on the status/non-status boundary has changed over time, in relation to this ongoing negotiation. My research has focussed on the how Métis have tried to negotiate a place for themselves within the Canadian aboriginal legal framework, through political activism and constitutional change, but more especially through using the courts to challenge the state and to broaden the category of aboriginal to include them, with various degrees of success.
Session Five – C
11.30 am – 1.00 pm
Creativity, representation and engagement in visual and sensory methods
Convener: Rosa Sansone Discover Visual Anthropology in the world of Augmentative & Alterative Communication (AAC)
The practical application of Visual Anthropological research knowledge to enable children, who have no or limited speech, to tell their stories with the use of film. The aim is to give, through the assistance of self-made films, children the opportunity to be seen and heard through their stories; Film as a mean for Alternative & Augmentative Communication (FaOC)”.
The project My Film, My Story aims to develop a learning-method called “My Film, My Story”, based on the idea of FaOC to help children, with Complex Communication Needs (CCN), in regular and special education with storytelling and narration. For children with limited or no speech, because of a motor disability or chronic illness, storytelling can be a complex process. If children have a speech production problem, they experience obstacles in being effective communicators and expressing themselves. With the use of film, the possibilities of Alternative and Augmentative Communication and storytelling can be combined: “Film as a mean for Alternative & Augmentative Communication (FaOC)”. FaOC is based on the idea of Feedback in Visual Anthropology (VA). In VA, film can be used as a ‘communication enabler’ for the purpose of research, collecting knowledge and opinions through conversational narrative between anthropologist, participant and co-researchers. Film is used as a thematic framework to find common ground: giving a context, details and a storyline. In VA, audio-visual methods are used to support communication with participants, where communication can be difficult through language or cultural challenges. Through the process of ‘Interactive film-feedback’, film is used as a guideline for both storyteller and communication-partner(s) since it will rise above the abstract modelling and complexity of language. The practical application of this knowledge could enable children with CCN to participate more fully in social interaction during storytelling.
Exploring sensorial narratives in participatory filming, using sound and music to attain spontaneous creative engagement: A case study of Goma, North Kivu
Eugenio Giorgianni and Paloma Yáñez
University of Manchester
Exploring the videoclip as a form of spontaneous creativity and active engagement, through our research with young Congolese musicians in Goma, North Kivu, we propose a revaluation of traditional documentary film techniques reviewing alternative forms of artistic expression that serve to communicate and produce change at the local level.
Taking as engagement a distinct form of human disposition, where the interaction between individual creativities leads to a collective flow of ideas and artistic expressions. In the context of North Kivu, on of the most conflictive areas of the Great lake region, we found music as subversive method of communication. The young musicians of the city of Goma use music as a tool to convey their message confronting the current dynamics of marginalization, corruption, armed violence that compose the post-war scenario, but also to transmit their message of future hopes and illusion to the people of Goma. The multiplicity of voices converge in ideas, however, each one guards its uniqueness in expressivity and strength. Revealing, through their voices and bodies the past histories that shape the current sounds. A vision of Goma through the singing voices of its inhabitants represents current assertions about the universality of art as means to attain freedom of speech and overcome power imbalances. Participatory filming needs a degree of flexibility to allow all participants to find their interest and motivation in collaboration, often transcending the traditional documentary outcome of visual anthropology. A videoclip is not simply a semiotic possibility of post-modern art (Wollen, 1986), for the young Congolese musicians it is a means to a dream of consolidating themselves as musicians. The possibility of transformation lies on increased visibility leading to increased financial stability, and wider reach of their message. The artistic expression becomes in its process and outcome the way to understand the actual purpose of engaging. The videoclip as an spontaneous creative flow, that promoted the understanding of a certain temporal and spatial reality, but endured an object of change valuable to the participants of the research, represents the actual moment of engagement.
Socio-Technology of the Camera
University of Dehli
This paper examines the camera as technology and as an extension of the photographer’s body; and how the relationship between man and machine is mediated through the process of taking photographs. Data for this paper are drawn from my ethnographic research conducted for my doctoral dissertation.
Social aspects of the process of photography cannot be denied on multiple accounts – be it the social function of documenting that photography fulfills, or that the camera needs human hands to work it, the interventions that are made through the photographer in the form of what it is that the he wants to convey through a photo or adjusting the camera components to give a particular kind of effect in the image. The camera too can be called social because the camera technology exists because of human action. Socio-technology is employed to highlight the sychronisation of the process of photography, technology of the camera along with the technique of the photographer. Among other things, a photographer adapts his technique to the changing technology and size of the camera. In this paper, I attempt to look at the camera, its use as well as its reference, as a technology and as an extension of one’s body. The latter part I say in response to the camera often being spoken of as if it were one with the photographer. Through the narratives in the field, I want to analyse how this relationship between man and machine is mediated as often photographers appropriate the camera by reference to their having an ‘eye’ for photography and how their body techniques evolve with changes in the camera. Data for this paper are drawn from my ethnographic research conducted for my doctoral dissertation in 2012-2013.
A Researcher Divided: A Refugees' and Ethnographer's Tale of Film-making
Nicole I. J. Hoellerer
The paper considers the ethical and empirical implications of participating in community projects with groups of informants, and how informants use ethnographic research and film-making to push their own agenda.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s about 100,000 Nepali-speaking Bhutanese were forced to flee from their native country Bhutan, living in camps in East Nepal for almost 20 years. Since 2010 about 400 Bhutanese refugees arrived in the United Kingdom (UK). During my PhD fieldwork with a group of Bhutanese refugees in Manchester, informants were keen to initiate a film project " A Heart Divided" in order to "tell their story" from their forced exile from Bhutan and their lives in Nepalese refugee camps, to their experiences with refugee resettlement and their new life in the UK., and I got closely involved in the process of creating and realizing the project. During the making of this film as well as the subsequent public screenings, it became evident that the aim of the film for my informants was not only to create awareness of their lives and stories, but that narratives were carefully crafted in order to fulfill the agenda of one particular refugee community organisation and 'advertise' their 'cause'. Rather than creating an ethnographic or 'native' film, the final result is an expression of internal hierarchies, shared narratives and perceptions, as well as the need of my informants to 'compete' with other refugee communities for recognition, and ultimately, funding. This paper discusses how the ethnographer, who supports these type of projects becomes a middle man for some informants to push their own agenda in order to gain advantages, and considers the ethical and empirical consequences for research.