EASA2016: Anthropological legacies and human futures

(P075)
Moral entrepreneurship: revisiting human rights [PACSA]
Location U6-28
Date and Start Time 22 July, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 1

Convenors

  • Susana Durão (UNICAMP (São Paulo, Brazil)) email
  • Daniel Seabra Lopes (CSG-ISEG/University of Lisbon) email
  • Elif Babul (Mount Holyoke College) email

Mail All Convenors

Discussant Elif Babhul, Susana Durão

Short Abstract

Human Rights have become a transnational industry that continues to grow and to absorb many funds, even if, in many cases, it is unable to deliver its promises. Is this a new moral entrepreneurship? We invite researchers to submit recent ethnographic papers that discuss this contemporary problem.

Long Abstract

As an overall preoccupation, the promotion of Human Rights is a fundamental anthropological legacy and certainly a universal basis for the planning of human futures. As such, a growing number of anthropological studies are reflecting upon the ways Human Rights programs are implemented in zones of conflict, whether in emergent or transitional states. Notwithstanding this, when such programs are translated into practice, they seem to be received with suspicion and even cynicism in some contexts. We would like to invite to our panel reflections from researchers who are trying to build up ethnographies of power / knowledge transfers (often North-South oriented, but not exclusively) aiming at creating or transforming ethical subjects. More specifically, we are interested in studies of training experiences, post-colonial network mobilization, and diverse violence and democratic management processes. It is our intention to bring together critical ethnographies of moral projects - or what could be named moral entrepreneurship - related to the following elements: i) The political conversion of "weaker" states; ii) the transmission of specific modes of being, of believing and of behaving as moral subjects to both individuals and groups; iii) the mixing up of nationalist idioms and transnational technologies in different parts of the world. In sum, we are interested in an ethnographic debate around the complex ways of building up moral institutions and ethical subjects.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Virtuous imperialism: African police cadets training in Portugal

Author: Susana Durão (UNICAMP (São Paulo, Brazil))  email

Short Abstract

I analyse the ambiguous and nation(ilst) process of "virtuous imperialism" and human rights of a study program for the training of future police leaders, both Portuguese and African. How do African cadets cope with it?

Long Abstract

Applying both policing theory and practice, a prestigious police academy, ISCPSI - the Portuguese Higher Institute of Police and Internal Security Sciences runs an intensive 5-year study program. Participants include Lusophone African citizens (students from the former Portuguese colonies) studying in an environment purpose designed to train future police leaders in Portugal, by principle respectful of human rights. I coordinated a project which aimed to follow-up and scrutinize the experience of those African officer trainees. I asked questions such as: What models and dynamics are activated in such an unusual program? How are "cooperative" African cadets actually involved in a Portuguese police academy? I show how (the turn to) democracy and Portuguese, as the common spoken language, prove the main ingredients of what I term virtuous imperialism, which, in the end, absorbs and transforms into a contextualized national(ist) institution questions and issues underpinning the very notion of human rights. "Teaching by example" establishes a certain transnational geo-relationship among nation states - based on a post-colonial aid-imperative (by the Portuguese State) in a practice converted into a gift-imperative (that must be accepted on its own terms by the African states and their subjects). Thus, macro aspects of Portugal-Africa cooperation can be studied by observing the micro dynamics of the everyday life of police cadets. While in public spheres, African cadets do celebrate belonging and gratitude towards the ISPCSI in particular and Portugal in general, in more private and discrete fashions, they still live and deal with the ambiguities of a post-colonial power-asymmetrical relationship.

Ethnographic and theoretical reflections on the transmission of rights discourse in campaigning seminars against Female Genital Cutting (FGC) in Egypt

Author: An Van Raemdonck (Ghent University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper reflects on the cultural transmission and translation of transnational rights discourse in the context of campaigns against Female Genital Cutting in Egypt, organized in the form of educative, awareness-raising seminars.

Long Abstract

Following the recognition of women's rights as human rights by the Vienna Declaration on Human Rights and the definition of Female Genital Cutting (FGC) as a form of Violence Against Women (VAW) by the Declaration on Violence Against Women, both in 1993, a global consensus and norm was established that is resolved to fighting FGC practices worldwide. In contemporary Egypt, a combination of actors, ngo's and state employees, the Coptic Church and the Islamic al-Azhar institution, are actively shaping the Egyptian campaign mainly by organizing awareness-raising campaigns.

As part of my PhD research I conducted ethnographic fieldwork and attended a series of ten awareness-raising seminars in Cairo and Luxor (December 2013-June 2014). This paper reflects on how normative campaigning discourse against FGC - formulated on the transnational level - is transmitted and translated within the frame of the awareness-raising seminars. While the seminars are highly scripted and embedded within the discourse of the global campaign, local trainers educate and inform women within predominant Egyptian cultural frames. The paper focuses therefore on the politics of knowledge transmission through a discussion of trainers' educative strategies and choices and their employment of affective registers. It interrogates the nature of this transmission as a moral project that aims to restructure and transform women's moral imageries. Finally, it argues that these efforts result in a reinforcement of dominant gender ideologies and certain cultural tropes and in the strengthening of an overall narrative that centers women's roles in contributing to the nation's progress.

Morality and the civilizing enterprise of the Military Police in Rio de Janeiro: the construction of the 'ethical' soldier?

Author: Sara Leon Spesny (École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS))  email

Short Abstract

Transfer of knowledge for the promotion of Human Rights mobilizes the Military Police in Rio de Janeiro, but the ‘rise’ of Human Rights as threat to police-work puts on stake the construction of ‘ethical’ soldier.

Long Abstract

Instead of thinking about human rights as a monolithic encompassing concept, the military soldiers working in a Police Station in a favela, reveal residual and contradictive uses of the notion (in their discourses and in their interaction with their public, namely the urban poor). I often heard the expression 'human rights for humans' implicitly attaching deep ontological differences of what it means 'being human' in Brazil. The police struggle with ambiguous goals, such as the fight of 'internal enemies'- a heritage of the dictatorship- and the respect for human rights-a modern imperative-. In the case of the Pacifying Police Unit, the transfer of international knowledge and the goal to achieve respect for Human Rights has gained specific attention. The struggle to create 'ethical' soldiers is ongoing and strong but with constant cases of abuse and serious violations. In such a context, there is a constant tension between the humanization of violence and the criminalization of rights. While the enterprise of constructing 'ethical', moralizing and civilizing soldiers is an indirect goal of the pacifying process, the 'rise' of Human Rights is still perceived as a threat to police work.

Based on a yearlong ethnography we seek to show how the military police work vis-à-vis the social order and how this order constantly challenges the moral, civilizing enterprise of the pacification process. Human Rights as vacuity seem to capture -at least partly- this discussion, but is the 'ethical' soldier rising?

The no rights squeeze play: from PIC to SIC

Author: Brackette Williams (University of Arizona)  email

Short Abstract

Persons released from the US prison are increasingly dependent on a “non-profit” services for food and shelter. As “customers” many see the organizations’ practices augmenting civil rights erosion to put human rights beyond their reach, to which they respond in ways that increase recidivism.

Long Abstract

Forty years of increasing federal and state felonies, stacked charging, coercive plea bargains, long sentences, and extended time served before eligibility for parole have combined in the US to produce an imprisoned population of 2.4 million. In mid-1990s prison conditions declined with calls to eliminate "luxury" from prisions and jail, to offer only the constitutionally required level of medical care, and to outsource food services, charge prisoners for much of remaining subsistence. By 2005, more than 2000 statutes—known as felony-follows laws—restricting released persons' access to state and federal subsidized loans, housing and education, and to broad range of occupations. Release annually of mlore than 700,000 persons adds the millions already living under varied forms of state supervision. Increasingly concentrated in a few neighborhoods in a few large cities, members of this population compete for poor quality, scare housing, and jobs in a high unemployment, mainly service sector job market. While no released person encounters all the restrictive laws, "re-entry" service program become essential to survival. From research conducted among newly released persons in Arizona, I show how local market conditions combine with felony-following restrictions to make non-profits programs a service industry on which released persons must depend. In their stories we hear them service industry controls that emulate prison regulation, preferring to live on the street, resume criminal activity, and, when on parole, deliberately violate and return to prison. Another cycle of a civil rights erosion squeeze play moves them beyond the reach of international human rights conventions.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.