EASA2016: Anthropological legacies and human futures

Oikos: households, markets and nation
Location U6-6
Date and Start Time 21 July, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 2


  • Stephen Gudeman (University of Minnesota/ Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology) email
  • André Dumans Guedes (Universidade Federal Fluminense) email

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Discussant Benoît de L’Estoile, Adam Kuper

Short Abstract

This panel ethnographically explores the multiple ways houses can be considered, especially the ways in which “households” “markets”, and nations are related.

Long Abstract

This panel explores the relations and tensions between the multiple ways houses may be considered ethnographically: as a socio-spatial or as a moral category, or as an institution that is central to concerns about family, making a living, leading a ‘good life’ or allowing one to become a ‘proper person’. It is also a "base" (Gudeman) for making a living, in contrast to and in association with the market ; in that respect, one can explore its links with the notions of ‘household’, specific to English, and ‘family’. With the objective of making these tensions and relations productive analytical and descriptive devices, we highlight the importance of the Greek term “oikonomia” (de L'Estoile 2014 ; Gudeman 2015) – originally referring to the “government of the oikos” the house/ family, it has originated what we call nowadays “the economy”.

The different meanings and practices associated to these ideas will be explored as we consider a variety of ways through which “households” and “markets” are related, or how various economic practices are associated to different and often conflictive forms of government: in situations where houses become sources of income or are thought of as units of productions; where the material transformations of the houses (their building, reform or decay) materialize and expresse social change induced by wider structural forces; transnational and translocal contexts, challenge taken-for- granted ideas about the “stability” or “permanence” of the house.

This Panel shares concerns with Panel 6 (“Oikonomia-government of the house/politikè »).

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


The alternative economy: gifts, christmas and the family business

Author: Adam Kuper (Boston University)  email

Short Abstract

Stephen Gudeman argues that two economies coexist uneasily everywhere. One is based on the market. The other, rooted in the house and the family, is an economy of mutuality, gift-giving and reciprocity. Intertwined and interdependent, neither can be fully understood in isolation from the other.

Long Abstract

There are, everywhere, two distinct economies. One is based on competition and the market. Its mode is the deal. The other is based on the family or the little community. Its medium is the gift. Both ways of thinking and exchanging characterise modern Western economies, but their confusion is strongly resisted. It is illegitimate to try to profit from relatives, friends or guests. On the other hand, the medium of the gift is treated with suspicion in the market-place, as a tactic for buying custom, a loss-leader to lure in the customer. A gift given at the wrong time, in the wrong context, may even be taken for a bribe. This inbuilt tension haunts Christmas festivities and causes confusion in the understanding of one of the most successful capitalist institutions, the family business.

In his new book, Anthropology and Economy, Stephen Gudeman argues that the relationship between the two economies is a dialectical one, full of tensions, their rebalancing an acute issue. We have been so blinded by standard economic theory that we lack the tools to recognise that alternative economy, to analyse it, and to nurture it. Yet the two economies are locked in a tight but uneasy partnership. An economics that deals only with the market leaves out a crucial dimension of the economic experience of most people, most of the time, wherever they may be.

Governing a (guest)house: the market for and against the house in the Rhodope mountains, Bulgaria

Author: Detelina Tocheva (CNRS, GSRL / Groupe Sociétés, Religions, Laïcités)  email

Short Abstract

In the Bulgarian Rhodopes, family-run guesthouses emerged with the implementation of market economy. Located at the intersection of domestic and market life, these houses follow diverging trajectories, attesting to ambivalent entwinements of the domestic, market and political spheres.

Long Abstract

In Bulgaria, the political authorities advertise rural tourism as a new economic sector for mountain areas affected by the continuous economic downturn. In the Rhodope mountains, virtually all families are faced with unemployment, chronical precariousness and work-related out-migration.

My ethnographic fieldwork since 2009 in the southern Rhodopes shows that families who host tourists experience the relation between governing their own (guest)house and the political government of the market economy in various ways.

I focus on two houses, where the enmeshments of domestic life and the tourist business are organized in two different ways, exemplifying two distinct modes of participation in the encompassing political economy and two distinct projects of self-assertion.

In the first case, the effort of keeping up with the demands of hosting tourists permeated all aspects of the hosting family's life and led to an affective and economic fission in the family.

In the second case, taking in tourists is kept at some distance from the life of the family; it is not the family's main economic resource.

Thus, governing a (guest)house appears as the art of finding a balance between two contradictory, yet related processes: the involvement of the house in the market and its separation from it. I use this observation as an entry to discuss what Gudeman has termed "economy's tension": the tension between the house, as a material 'base' and moral entity, and the market. I bring in Gudeman's framework key political dimensions to underscore diverging modes of government of the house.

Home as a commodified tourist attraction: the case of Cuban casas particulares

Author: Oskar Lubinski (University of Warsaw)  email

Short Abstract

Taking as an example Cuban family rent-houses this paper explores how family life becomes commodified in service of tourism industry and how this industry disciplines this family life.

Long Abstract

As tourism in Cuba developed in the 1990's along with it came a sprawl of small family-enterprises aimed at tourist services. Principally they served to remedy the lack of sufficient infrastructure such as hotels or restaurant, but soon became an important selling point for Cuba offering cheaper accommodation and family atmosphere. Thus casas particulares, small private houses which offer lodging to tourists, have become increasingly popular among tourists visiting the country in search of personal, 'authentic' relations with local communities.

This paper aims to explore how family experience and family space becomes commodified in casas particulares in Cuba - their hosts have to at the same time maintain family life and make the place attractive for the tourists. Hospitality and family life, as such, are constructed as the product aimed at the international visitors to the country. At the same time, casa particular becomes a point of reference for the whole family and organises family-, as well as personal life where family members become involved in activities that provide services to tourists.

Thus home spaces and family life become reduced to what MacCannell (1992) defines as 'empty meeting grounds' of globalised economy where sense of community and family life is transformed into a product to be consumed by tourists.

The paper is a result of an ongoing research from 2014 realised in cities of Havana, Matanzas, Varadero and Viñales.

The new integral Europe's post-peasant house

Author: Juraj Buzalka (FSES Comenius University)  email

Short Abstract

I discuss the cultural economy concept of ‘post-peasant house’ as a tool for understanding the success of post-socialist integralism in East Central Europe alias New Integral Europe that goes beyond the imprecise categories of ‘class’, ‘ethnicity’, ‘ideology’, and the like.

Long Abstract

I wish to discuss the concept and practice of 'post-peasant house' as a tool for understanding the ongoing success of post-socialist integralism in East Central Europe alias New Integral Europe. In my previous work I identified patterns of the anti-modernist movement emerging from socialist and post-socialist transformation and called it 'post-peasant populism'. As I argued, this post-peasant populism is not about the peasantry; rather, it can be defined as a type of modern political culture based on a non-urban social structure and imagined rurality as emerged under ambivalent modernization of state socialism.

In this paper I focus on the interplay of two concepts related to post-peasant populism -- 'the house', inspired by the work of Stephen Gudeman, and 'integralism', the Counter-Enlightenment politics conceptualized by Douglas Holmes. I argue the 'post-peasant house' emerged under state socialism and represents the idea and practice of livelihood, its change and transmission over time, which incorporates material, symbolic, and intellectual components of people's economy. This economy as a model is 'embedded' within and gives rise to patterns of politics that leaders know intimately well and cultivate it for their followers. I call it 'post-peasant integralism'. I believe the post-peasant house, the security and defense of its 'good life' via post-peasant integralism, goes beyond the imprecise categories of 'class', 'ethnicity', 'ideology' and the like and offers better understanding of region's politics entrenched in longue durée processes, ambivalent modernization under state socialism, and resulting from post-socialist and European integration.

The complementarity of house and market in Nigerian Hausaland

Author: Paul Clough (University of Malta)  email

Short Abstract

In Nigerian rural Hausaland, building a polygynous household is the central goal of social life. Polygyny is the paramount value. The expansion of the market has not caused the erosion of the ‘base’ (Gudeman 2008) of household provision. The market has been essential to household expansion.

Long Abstract

In central Hausaland, Nigeria, gida (literally, house) is at once a socio-spatial and a moral category, for the mai gida (owner or controller of the house, ie., household head) is responsible for the feeding, marriages and tax payments of all household members. Because the attainment of a stable and expanding polygynous household is the central value of social life, the responsibilities of the household head are onerous. Men evaluate each other's character (hali) in terms of their success in fulfilling hidima (literally, responsibility) in securing and expanding the polygnous household in its relations with other households. Drawing on case studies of accumulators in my Morality and Economic Growth in Rural West Africa (2014), I argue that while capital accumulation is strenuously pursued, it serves household or polygynous accumulation. Even the crucial relationship of economic patronage draws its inspiration from polygyny, because the value placed on polygyny engenders a peculiarly extraverted sense of obligation to trading friends (abokanan ciniki) outside the household. Although central Hausaland has been deeply inserted into world markets for a century, commodification has served to expand polygynous households. I place my approach to the market in conversation with Stephen Gudeman's Economy's Tension. Gudeman argues that the market necessarily erodes the 'mutual base' of household provision, because calculative reason is both individualizing and profit-oriented. By contrast, in Hausaland, because polygyny is the 'paramount value' (Dumont 1977), fine-tuned monetary calculation preserves mutuality inside the household and between households, and prevents them from becoming a source of individualization.

Gond household autonomy and self-sufficiency in central India

Author: Smita Yadav (University of Sussex)  email

Short Abstract

What is the impact of the informal labour market on Gond households?

Long Abstract

The impact of the informal economy on rural households in India has brought back the study of the 'household' as the unit of economic study . With the increasing evidence of low impact of the welfare state in their lives, these households are organising and reorganizing themselves around the newer market forces in the form of participation in a highly unregulated labour market of India and attaining autonomy and independence from the welfare state. In this paper, I will discuss ethnographies of the Gond household autonomy and self-sufficiency in central India due to increasing integration with the informal economy. The Gonds are predominantly a tribal population but also are dependent on farming as the forest department has restricted their access to the forests. As a result, the Gonds are experiencing a threat to their traditional forms of forest dependent livelihoods and resort to the market to meet their needs without any state assistance. This leads to experiences of autonomy and self-sufficiency to avoid both food starvation and debt bondage which are a real threat to the households. These households integrate their lives with the informal labour market and as a result, experience an ideological shifts in their kinship, gender, and patriarchal practices.

Envisioning and inhabiting translocal domestic spaces: long-distance homemaking in a Punjabi Diaspora

Author: Sara Bonfanti (University of Trento)  email

Short Abstract

In the daily experience of Punjabi diasporans, homes make a threshold for seeing global household relations and local social connections. How can we tie the government of a migrant house in resettlement, with the simultaneous search for translocal homemaking?

Long Abstract

The paper addresses our most daily eco-system, the home, from the vantage point of the anthropology of migration. How is this environment imagined and lived by Diaspora groups, who defy normative sedentariness and literally "settle into motion" ?

Drawing on my multisite ethnography carried out between Italy and Punjab, I analyze a peculiar cultural geography of home, discussing some contested practices of homemaking in global migrations. I thread the tales of a transnational household shifting kin and possessions back and forth in order to inhabit their multiple houses across two continents, in both presence and absence.

Locating transnational homes reveals how migrant people envision, construct and timely reside in far apart but connected domestic spaces: from provisional or permanent dwellings in resettlement, to aspired and remitted to new abodes in the homeland. Long-distance homemaking strategies signal different engagements with properties, rural and urban landscapes and local communities. With tenancy being fiddly for immigrants (for administrative and informal sociability reasons in contexts of mounting diversity), budding expats' investments in real estate seek out city flats in gated residences or countryside family mansions. Social mobility can thus be detected through the simultaneous but ambivalent aesthetic re-production of homes in migration: if the right to housing is still denied to a large destitute population in South Asia, diasporans' middle class hopes materialize into neoliberal homes as icons of consumer display. Last, changes in domestic structural designs suggest new interpretations of space living at large in built and natural environments and stir the interest of committed development planners.

Transnational households: migration, mutuality and the 'good life' among Portuguese-Bangladeshis

Author: José Mapril (Universidade Nova de Lisboa and Center for Research in Anthropology (CRIA))  email

Short Abstract

Drawing on a long term fieldwork about Portuguese Bangladeshis, the objective of this paper is to show the articulations between households, extended families, transnational migration and the ‘good life’.

Long Abstract

The main objective of this paper is to highlight the way extended families, as moral persons, are transnationalized and how these are associated with ideas (and practices) about the search for a 'good' life and the reproduction of the household status.

This argument is based on a long term ethnography of Bangladeshi extended families living between Portugal and Bangladesh. Over the past 20 years, Bangladeshis in Portugal have reunited their families, invested in businesses and in their children's education, while maintaining a close relation with their non-migrant relatives in the desh (bengali word for home, in this case Bangladesh, see Gardner 1993), through economic and social remittances, rituals, the circulation of food, among other examples (tangible and intangible goods circulate in both ways, though). These forms of intergenerational participation and mutuality (Sahlins 2013) take place mainly at the level of the household and within extended families, and they reveal how the house, as a moral category and person, is transnationalized in a context marked by a search for a 'good life'.

Matrifocality in poverty and relocation: of social, mental and infra structures in Banda Aceh

Author: Silvia Vignato (Università Milano-Bicocca)  email

Short Abstract

In the paper I ask in what way and to what extent the structure of matrifocality copes with destructive episodes like the 2004 tsunami and a civil war in Aceh through the analysis of a very poor, diminished household and its evolution (2008-16).

Long Abstract

The story of a decaying house issued from an agency of Humanitarian Aid after Tsunami, of its symbolic value in a reconstructed landscape and of its transformation into the sign of poverty does not match the reconstruction of an inner "structure of feeling" such as the matrifocal attitude of the women and men inhabiting it.

The "mother" at the centre of this study embodied a powerful cultural creative alertness enabling great endurance when the fundamental material base of a household, the house, is unexpectedly washed away together with that material aspect of society that is the village.

She mobilized all her physical, mental, social and cultural assets and was allotted a house.

Marleni reconstructed an affective and meaningful matrifocal unit in that house, practiced an economic rationality based on her work as a cleaner and consciously raised her long displaced teen-aged daughter, Mimi, into the same emotional, economic and affective principles until she died, in 2012, of a sudden stroke, aged 43.

Mimi at 17 had to lead the household while the house was fast degradating until she, her father and brother faced sheer poverty. When she married, Mimi "brought her husband back" to that very house. Although she now says that she hates that decaying construction, Mimi says that a woman is like a house: she cannot collapse. That feeling of strength, of appropriatedness, of fulfilled duties as well as the newly found job make her say that in the decaying shack she now has "a good life".

Ethnography of habitation and social change among the Urarina (Peruvian Amazon)

Author: Emanuele Fabiano (Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS))  email

Short Abstract

Through an anthropological approach to habitation, the objective of this paper is to analyse how the Urarina, by way of their more frequent contact with exogenous practices and actors, redefine or modify its relationship with the house.

Long Abstract

For many contemporary indigenous societies, the house, like many things conceived as living entities, transforms itself, becomes sick, deteriorates and dies. Therefore, the house is not a mere container of human activity, but rather the place in which a collective composed of human and non-human entities develops and renewed itself.

The house does not just constitute an aspect of indigenous material culture, but its transformations offer starting points for reflections on the dynamics of the reproduction and innovation of indigenous cosmologies in their contact with the market economy, their increased relationships with extractive companies, religious congregations, NGO's and the state. These factors, alongside new forms of indigenous migration to urban centers, represent some of the more visible aspects of an articulated process of interaction which are manifested in the communal reality in the form of innovative models of residence: flexible forms of interaction which activate new dynamic relationships with the domestic space, the community and the territory.

The objective of this paper is to analyse case studies arising from ethnographical research conducted among the Urarina which, by applying an anthropological approach to habitation, allow us to analyse how this contemporary indigenous society by way of their more frequent contact with exogenous practices and actors, redefine, and/or modify, their relationship with the house.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.