The return of remoteness: insecurity, isolation and connectivity in the new world disorder 
Martin Saxer (Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich)
Ruben Andersson (University of Oxford)
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Start time:
21 July, 2016 at 9:00 (UTC+0)
Session slots:

Short Abstract:

Remoteness has returned in world politics. Focusing on the intersection of remoteness and power, we ask how certain parts of the world are being reimagined - once more - as remote and dangerous, how they are intervened upon, and what the legacies of anthropology can teach us about these dynamics.

Long Abstract

For a brief post-Cold War moment, it seemed as if marginal regions would be rewired into the world economy and global divisions would yield to connectivity. But instead we have seen new forms of 'remoteness' emerge in ways we have yet to fully understand. This panel focuses ethnographically on the global 'return of remoteness' by bringing to the foreground our discipline's legacy of studying marginal, out-of-the-way places (Ardener 1987). In recent years anthropologists have radically reframed remoteness, showing how seemingly 'distant' or marginal areas are fundamentally tied into national and global orders (Harms et al 2014; McDougall and Scheele 2012; Piot 1999; Tsing 2005). Building on this debate, the panel focuses on the intersection of remoteness and power. Insecurity has, in the post-9/11 years, come to be emblematic of many new 'danger zones', from the Sahara to the Hindu Kush, and world powers are actively drawing distance between themselves and these zones. Yet global 'centres' are at the same time actively forging connections with these areas, albeit often in shallow, brutal or counterproductive ways, as seen in the 'remote-controlled' drone attacks in the 'AfPak' borderlands, the long-distance interventions of Somalia or northern Mali, or the 'criminal' networks linking the Sahara or Highland Asia to national or global markets. In casting an ethnographic eye on these power dynamics, this panel will debate the politics of remoteness in today's world, while arguing for a 'return to remoteness' in anthropology itself as we critically reactivate our disciplinary heritage.

Accepted papers: