EASA2016: Anthropological legacies and human futures

(P121)
Mobility, power and possibility: the search for liveable lives [ANTHROMOB]
Location U6-8
Date and Start Time 20 July, 2016 at 14:30
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Samuli Schielke (Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO)) email
  • Alice Elliot (UCL) email
  • Paolo Gaibazzi (Zentrum Moderner Orient-Berlin) email

Mail All Convenors

Discussant Ghassan Hage (University of Melbourne)

Short Abstract

Though life is increasingly imagined in terms of mobility, movement remains deeply shaped by different forms of political, divine, social powers. How do people reckon with the multiple powers implicated in their search for liveable lives? Which forces make life in movement possible - or impossible?

Long Abstract

A heightened sense of physical, ideological, social, and virtual movement permeates the contemporary age of global capitalism. The very possibility of living a good, or simply liveable, life has increasingly become dependent on aspirational projects imagined in terms of mobility and immobility. The current politics of mobility has, in turn, become a key way of governing life - and death. Mobility and immobility thus provide a fertile ground for reflecting on the classic anthropological question of power as constitutive of human existence. Political economies of mobility are deeply linked with those structuring powers that make us human - as has been highlighted by generations of anthropologists: kinship, gender and moral relations, the transcendent power of God and gods. The sense of possibility that fosters the search for a good life is structured by powers that are experienced as enabling sometimes, and limiting, even lethal at other times.

This panel invites contributions that address the multiple powers intersecting people's physical and existential mobility. How do people understand, submit, invoke or tame greater powers in their search for liveable lives? Which tangible and intangible powers permeate the moral, economic, social and religious imaginative horizons towards which humans gear their movement? What does it mean to have power over one's condition? Finally, the panel invites ethnographic and theoretical reflections on the question of consequences: how do pursuits and paths of movement and stasis in turn recast relations of power that inform shifting horizons of possibility?

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Introduction: on God and society, borders and arms, and inevitable dreams

Author: Samuli Schielke (Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO))  email

Short Abstract

Why and how do some paths of movement and becoming reinforce themselves as inevitable facts while others become marginalised, even impossible? How can we understand the productive nature of such relations without losing from site their destructive potential? What does it mean to have alternatives?

Long Abstract

Inequalities, limits and walls are not simply something that prevent us; they also guide, direct and motivate. Rather than either generalised movement or immobility, the strivings of humans who live under condition of inequalities that are too great for them to overcome, are characterised by limited moves. Metaphorically speaking, they are like meandering steps along a well-trodden path, attempts to jump a wall or evade a dead end, but also the work of building and restoring walls and gates. Such limited moves are both enabled and restricted by the relations of powers the humans involved face - which often are also the powers which they try to make their own. In this introductory presentation the three panel convenors reflect about specific relations of power they have encountered in their fieldwork - notably the relationship between God and humans; the expectations of family and society; borders; violence; and imagination. Following the clues and ideas they offer, we ask: Why and how do some paths of movement and becoming reinforce themselves as inevitable facts while others become marginalised, even impossible? How can we understand the productive nature of such relations without losing from site their destructive potential - and vice versa? What does it mean to have alternatives?

Mobile form of life englobed by 'the (still) Other'

Author: Martin Fotta (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main)  email

Short Abstract

For Calon Gypsies, the maintenance of relationships with non-Gypsies, who are seen as morally distinct with lives characterised by motionlessness, is necessary for leading good lives. The paper discusses how autonomous and ethical mobile lives are constructed when fully englobed by ‘the (still) Other’.

Long Abstract

Two things can be said about the processes of identification among Calon. First, Calon of Bahia (Brazil), as Gypsy populations elsewhere, have always lived in the midst of non-Gypsies (Jurons); there is no original 'moment of contact' (however mystical). The maintenance of relationships with the dangerous, more numerous and morally dubious 'Other' is therefore central for achieving autonomy and ethical sovereignty of this mode of life. Second, Calon 'nomadic cosmology' (Ferrari 2010) foregrounds movement as a key element of 'Gypsy life'. Calon oppose travel (viagem) of Gypsies to dwelling (moradia) and fixed (fixo) work of Jurons. One's capacity to involve Jurons in the project of 'establishing' oneself (through, e.g., creating a stable client base) without being associated with 'stillness' that is shadowed by death, become attributes of their gendered social person.

The paper ethnographically substantiates these observations and shows that households are central for comprehending Calon assimilation of the Juron world through movement. This exercise reveals limitations of 'transcendence' assumptions, as far as this case is concerned: the limitations of imagining movement as a potentially narratable history of transformation from A to B, rather than a continuous socio-cosmological refraction; of approaching entities that capacitate or hinder movement as external to proper sociality, rather than the very conditions of life; and, related to both, of taking individuals as starting points for discussing mobility.

Inclusion limited: the Palestinians who carve out a life in Tel Aviv

Author: Andreas Hackl (University of Edinburgh)  email

Short Abstract

For Palestinians who move from elsewhere to the city of Tel Aviv, mobility is fraught with tension. As they commute or live in the city to work or study, their quest for a good and liveable life remains severely limited by intersecting powers they must constantly balance.

Long Abstract

This paper looks at the bounded character of social and human mobility among Palestinians who move into the city of Tel Aviv. In search of work, a career, or higher education, they seek to carve out a meaningful life by making use of this urban space. But their ability to do so in a sustainable way remains severely limited by 'greater powers' they cannot tame, which is why they must learn to balance and accommodate them.

Tel Aviv is widely figured as an essentially Jewish-Israeli place. It is also, however, a self-consciously liberal city. This confluence of ethno-national domination and urban liberalism creates intersecting forms of inclusion and exclusion for individual Palestinians: to succeed in Israeli Tel Aviv, they must often keep a low political profile; at the same time, recurring polarisation and conflict frequently upturn this fragile balance and lay the underlying power stuggles bare. As a consequence, the contradiction between senses of solidarity and their inclusion into Tel Aviv intensify during times of tension. However, pragmatism and the pursuit of a decent life often prevail against all odds. The city is then simultaneously enabling and limiting, a space of opportunities and yet a source of perpetual exclusion.

This paper will discuss how individuals balance multiple and intersecting powers in their search for a liveable life. This includes overlapping forms of cultural and political power and the individual compromises and distortions that arise out of limited urban inclusion and mobility.

Mobility and remoteness in Therassia, Greece

Author: Alexandra Bakalaki (Aristotle University, Thessaloniki)  email

Short Abstract

Mobility and remoteness in Therassia, Greece

Based on fieldwork in Therassia, the paper argues that the boats sailing between this island and adjacent touristic and cosmopolitan Santorini magnify the contrast between the two islands and enhance Therarriotes’ sense that they live in an empty place.

Long Abstract

Mobility and remoteness in Therasia, Greece.

Given their proximity and geological continuity, the differences between the adjacent Cycladic islands of Therassia and Santorini are stark. Santorini is a major international tourist destination with a thriving economy, while Therassia is depopulated, small, undeveloped and dependent on the market and services of Santorini. The need to go "across" frequently to buy essential goods like food or gas, reinforces the Therassiotes' sense that they live in an empty place. Additionally, it generates bitterness over their treatment by the Santorini-based municipal authorities who decide the boat routes and schedules. The authorities, they say, see them as a taken for granted source of profit for Santorini entrepreneurs, and care little about making the Therassiotes' compulsory trips more convenient. Moreover, public transport is also inconvenient for tourists. According to Therassiotes this is because the authorities safeguard the interests of Santorini tourist entrepreneurs who organize short day excursions to a specific spot in Therassia. The ethnographic material I collected in Therassia suggests that the boats which connect the two islands, also work to enhance Therassia's remoteness. Their routes enable Therassiotes to conceptualize their island as belonging to a larger geographic, political and economic entity from which it is nevertheless, separated off by virtue of its emptiness.

Horizons of healing: modes of power in seeking solace and hope through Australia's Stolen Generation's reparation campaigns

Author: Fiona Murphy (Queens University Belfast )  email

Short Abstract

The focus of this paper is to chart through ethnographic vignettes how the lives of members of Australia's Stolen Generations are perceived as becoming more liveable through political and social movements such as campaigns for (financial and symbolic) reparations.

Long Abstract

There is a long history in Australia of Indigenous Australians being removed from their families to be institutionalised or adopted under the guise of assimilation policies (the Stolen Generations). With the tabling of the Bringing Them Home report (1997) -which was the result of an inquiry into these forcible removals- the Stolen Generations - have been collectively pursuing different forms of reparation. This paper asks how such campaigns for reparation can engender a particular kind of 'hopefulness' that sees these movements as potentially capable of bringing forth a remedy to suffering and trauma, "the sense that one may become other or more than one presently is or was fated to be" (Jackson 2011:xi). This, however, is a fraught space of possibility and hopefulness that is structured by political forces and societal movements where members of the Stolen Generations struggle daily to make their lives more liveable. For some members of the Stolen Generations such movements enliven, even politicise their lives in ways that bring solace, even healing. For others, however, the collective, political nature of such movements can become limiting horizons of possibility or censure (e.g. an apology not on their terms), even further- disabling, in the sense that they find themselves unable to move beyond their experience or story of removal. The focus of this paper is thus ultimately to chart through ethnographic vignettes how such lives are perceived as becoming more liveable through political and social movements such as campaigns for (financial and symbolic) reparations.

Milk, money and motion: worldly and divine reconsiderations of women's mobility in Cameroon

Author: Tea Virtanen (University of Helsinki)  email

Short Abstract

The paper explores the multiple powers that advocate restrictions on the physical mobility of the Mbororo women of Cameroon. The focus is on women’s milk selling trips that have recently faced increasing objection. The paper examines the differently motivated powers behind the restrictive projects.

Long Abstract

The paper explores the multiple powers that advocate limiting and reshaping the physical mobility of the Mbororo (Fulani) women of Cameroon. Traditionally the socio-economic dynamics of the Mbororo society have been based on cattle herding that requires people's high mobility. For women the mobility has been related to their milk sharing activities within the pastoral group and their milk selling trips to market places. This constant movement with milk, and the milk money it generates, have been fundamental constituents in women's understanding and concrete construction of good life by providing them the economic possibility and socio-spatial frames to pursue their gendered individual interests as well as foster and create relations both in their own community and in the outside world. In recent years, however, this setting has started to change along with an increasing tendency to restrict Mbororo women's mobility, especially by denying them to leave the camp for milk selling purposes. Although this phenomenon, resonating the wider Islamic practice of female seclusion, is usually justified by religious tenets, a more careful look discloses a web of diverse interests and powers behind the restrictive projects. The paper scrutinizes the differently motivated representatives of these powers: Islamic teachers authorized by God, husbands torn by jealousy, villagers demanding female decency, and development activists spreading the cause of modern progress. The main focus is on the question of what makes the milk selling a particularly precarious activity while many other, old and new forms of female mobility evade moral condemnation.

Emanet bodies in Istanbul: exercise, temporality and change

Author: Sertac Sehlikoglu (University of Cambridge)  email

Short Abstract

This paper introduces Istanbulite women’s exercise trend, spor merakı (interest in sport) through the lens of time. By analysing women’s physical movement in relation to shifting temporalities in their lives, it presents how women reconstruct their being the world.

Long Abstract

Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, in-depth interviews and participant observation with exercising Istanbulite women, this paper focuses on the changing relationship women build with global trends, through their moving bodies. This paper is about how women understand and experience their moving bodies in and through time, through cosmological and everyday rhythms and patterns. I especially deal with the Islamic notion of "emanet" which is often translated as "trust" and refers to the temporality of the body. By looking closely at the way in which women define the concept, I suggest that women shift the meaning of the concept from an understanding that is based on guarding certain body parts against committing sins to an Islamic understanding based on caring for one's body. While doing so, I argue, my interlocutors also change the ways in which the body is thought about in relation to a larger cosmology (i.e. the afterlife). I argue that exercising enables my interlocutors to gain their own sense of temporality, open up a path for change that is not only more than a bodily change, but involves a transformation in the way they see their temporal connection to the world and to their lives.

"Going out": missionary and migratory movements and the search for a liveable life in contemporary Kyrgyzstan

Author: Madeleine Reeves (University of Manchester)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores the practice of Muslim proselytising (davat) and departure for seasonal undocumented work in Russia to ask how we might recast the relationship between physical and existential mobility in contexts of economic crisis and the normalisation of migrant deportation.

Long Abstract

This paper explores two forms of explicitly outward-oriented movement in contemporary Kyrgyzstan that are rarely held together in the same analytic frame: the practice of Muslim proselytising (davat), which seeks to draw notional or non-practicing Muslims to a more explicit articulation of their faith; and the practice of 'going to town' (shaarga baruu): that is, making a living from seasonal, often undocumented, migrant labour in Russia. These two forms of movement appear outwardly very different: the first oriented towards spiritual and moral renewal; the second, to sustaining domestic livelihoods in a context limited options for rural employment. Moreover, the circulations of movement they entail are quite distinct: the first, collective and premised upon intra-regional movement; the second, upon movement away from Kyrgyzstan. In both cases, however, success is premised upon the capacity to mobilise a variety of human and non-human powers as a way of taming future uncertainty and navigating between competing domestic obligations. More fundamentally, both are concerned with the realisation of a life that is 'good', in both moral and material terms. The paper draws on fieldwork with migrants and involuntary non-migrants in Batken, Kyrgyzstan and Moscow to explore how the conditions for future hope are sustained when a 'migratory disposition' is stymied by economic crisis and the widespread subjection to re-entry bans. In so doing it considers 'going out' as an analytic that can afford insight into the intersections of physical and existential (im)mobility in contexts of economic and political uncertainty.

'Men do not get scared! (rjjala mā tāy-khāfūsh)': luck, destiny, and the gendered vocabulary of clandestine migration in Central Morocco

Author: Laura Menin (University of Milano Bicocca)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores the vocabularies of clandestine migration in Central Morocco. Focusing on Kamel’s story, I show how he mobilises notions of luck and destiny to reflect on constraints and possibilities in his migratory experience and explores the limits of his action in the face of broader powers

Long Abstract

This paper explores the social worlds and vocabularies that surround clandestine migration in a rural region of Central Morocco with transnational connections to Italy and Spain. Focusing on Kamel's narrative, I show how he creatively mobilizes ideas of 'risk', 'gambling', 'adventure', 'luck' and 'destiny' to tell his experience of border-crossing and to reflect on constraints and possibilities in life. Whereas the Islamic notion of 'destiny' (maktūb, qadar) evokes events that go beyond personal control and understanding, folk ideas of 'luck' (zahr, l-ḥḍ) propel the individual search for money and adventure in the 'outside world', a foreign land of socioeconomic possibilities and moral threats. Navigating the tensions between 'luck' and 'destiny', he explores the limits of his action and his actual power to change his situation in the face of broader social and transcendental forces. Tracing how Kamel interweaves different vocabularies and cosmologies in his narrative, the paper hopes to capture young men's gendered and existential anxieties about the future vis-à-vis the combined effects of neo-liberal restructuring, raising unemployment, and the increasing 'illegalization' of migration.

Reconsidering 'refuge': imaginaries and realities of liveable lives between asylum and resettlement

Author: Georgina Ramsay (University of Delaware )  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores how forced migration mobilities can rupture existential imaginaries of refuge. I show how powers of humanitarian intervention, political governance, and cosmology both inspire and constrain horizons of possibility for Congolese refugees in asylum in Uganda and resettlement in Australia.

Long Abstract

Is 'refuge' possible? In this paper, I draw on ethnographic fieldwork I conducted with women from the Democratic Republic of Congo in contrasting settings of urban asylum in Uganda and refugee resettlement in Australia to explore how the possibility of 'refuge' is imagined in contexts of asylum, and—ostensibly—lived in settings of resettlement. I consider how their pursuit of liveable lives through mobilities of forced migration cannot be reduced to static frameworks of 'refuge' such as those proposed by the UNHCR, in which resettlement is designated as a 'durable solution' to displacement; and which thereby presuppose the possibility of a good life for refugees who are resettled. For Congolese women, the experience of 'refuge' is existential, and the movement towards a good, or simply liveable, existence depends on a capacity to regenerate life through acts of cultivating gardens, sharing food, and bearing children. Paradoxically, this imperative to regenerate life is not automatically fulfilled upon resettlement in Australia, where forms of governance—including migration restrictions on family composition and child welfare policies that threaten the connectedness between mother and child—disrupt, and at times make impossible, the capacity to experience existential viability. Focusing on how physical mobilities of forced migration can rupture existential imaginaries of 'refuge,' I show how intersecting and often contesting powers of humanitarian intervention, political governance, and cosmology serve both to inspire and constrain horizons of possibility for refugees.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.