Volume 88, #4

Fall 2015

Kerry Chance, Azra Hromadzic, Matthew Kohrman, Karen Ringnall, Chris Tan, Greta Uehling and Chigusa Yamaura


phone: 202-994-3215  e-mail: ifer@gwu.edu


Volume 88, #4 • Fall 2015




Sacrifice After Mandela: Liberation and Liberalization Among South Africa’s
First Post-Apartheid Generation

Kerry Chance, Harvard University

ABSTRACT—This article examines sacrifice in a post-Mandela South Africa. Twenty years since the fall of apartheid, South Africa remains one of the world’s most unequal societies. From street protests to labor strikes to xenophobic pogroms, dissatisfaction with current socio-economic conditions is being expressed through urban unrest, particularly in townships and shack settlements. This article analyzes an emerging idiom of “sacrifice” among youth activists in response to deaths and injuries sustained during recent street protests. I argue that this idiom draws from understandings of liberation and liberalization, popular imaginaries of the anti-apartheid struggle, and processes associated with the country’s transition to democracy. Broadly, I suggest that sacrifice under liberalization reveals the blurring boundaries between “the gift” and “the market” in political life. [Keywords: Sacrifice, politics, violence, poverty, liberalization]


On Not Dating Just Anybody: The Politics and Poetics of Flirting
in a Post-war City

Azra Hromadzic, Syracuse University

ABSTRACT—This article is an ethnographic investigation of mixing and flirting among ethnically divided youth in the Bosnian and Herzegovinian city of Mostar. Building on more than 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork, I focus on how young people at the famous Mostar Gymnasium and beyond engage in flirting across ethnic lines to negotiate and eventually reassert boundaries and coordinates of difference. The article describes numerous discursive and non-discursive flirting moments during smoking in the school’s unisex bathrooms as well as on school trips. I focus on these instances of “weak power” to capture how youth come together and flirt, creating both palpable boundaries and points of convergence. These experiences simultaneously challenge and reinscribe the ethnicization of everyday life in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina. [Keywords: Mixing, flirting, youth, ethnonationalism, “weak power,” Bosnia and Herzegovina]


Cloaks and Veils: Countervisualizing Cigarette Factories In and
Outside of China

Matthew Kohrman, Stanford University

ABSTRACT—In this article, I consider the visual legibility of a notorious product’s primary place of fabrication. Few products have been criticized in recent years more than cigarettes. Meanwhile, around the world, the factories that manufacture cigarettes rarely get problematized. What have been the optics helping these key links in the cigarette supply chain to be overlooked? What has prompted such optics to be adopted and to what effect? I address these questions using a comparative approach and drawing upon new mapping techniques, fieldwork, and social theory. I argue that a corporate impulse to hide from public health measures, including those of tobacco control, is not the only force to be reckoned with here. Cigarette factory legibility has been coproduced by multiple processes inherent to many forms of manufacturing. Cigarette makers, moreover, do not always run from global tobacco control. Nor have they been avoiding all other manifestations of biopolitics. Rather, in various ways, cigarette makers have been embracing biopolitical logics, conditioning them, and even using them to manage factory legibility. Suggestive of maneuvers outlined by Butler (2009) and Povinelli (2011) such as “norms of recognizability” and “arts of disguise,” cigarette factory concealment foregrounds the role of infrastructural obfuscation in the making of what Berlant (2007) calls “slow death.” Special focus on manufacturing in China illustrates important variations in the public optics of cigarette factories. The terms cloak and connote these variations. Whereas tactics currently obscuring cigarette manufacturing facilities generally skew toward an aesthetic of the opaque cloak in much of the world, there are norms of recognizability and arts of disguise applied to many factories across China that are more akin to a diaphanous, playful veil. The overtness of this veiling in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has helped normalize cigarette manufacturing there, encouraging Chinese citizens to consider the cigarette factory as a commonplace, congenial, unremarkable facet of the urban landscape, at the same time that people in China and elsewhere continue to learn more and more about the dangers of smoking. I conclude with a discussion of how this article’s focus on factory legibility gestures toward novel forms of intervention for advocates working at tackling tobacco today, offering these advocates an alternative political imaginary in what is one of the world’s most important areas of public policy making. [Keywords: Biopolitics, infrastructure, global health, tobacco control]


Land and the Politics of Custom in a Moroccan Oasis Town

Karen Rignall, University of Kentucky

ABSTRACT—In this article, I explore a case of agrarian transformation in a Moroccan oasis to reflect on the role of customary land tenure and discourses of tradition in current movements for food sovereignty and land rights. A half-century of labor migration from Morocco to Europe enabled formerly subjugated groups to challenge indentured sharecropping as a regime of racialized domination in Morocco’s pre-Saharan oases. By methodically refashioning the same customary institutions that had enforced their historical subjugation, the strategies of former sharecroppers shed light on the role of custom in movements for land and food sovereignty. Rather than using “custom” to return to traditional modes of farming, peasant farmers in the oasis valley invoked customary land tenure to challenge repressive traditions and forge a nascent commercial agricultural sector. I argue that one way custom works is through its performative and transactional qualities. Instead of challenging the relationship between political authority and land, former sharecroppers reworked status relationships by investing customary land tenure institutions with new meanings. They produced forms of communality that managed exclusions productively, eschewing rights talk for the language of custom and tradition. I extend recent scholarship on movements around land and agrofood systems, exploring how a politics rooted in the practice of agriculture can challenge repressive institutions not by dismantling the architecture of exclusion so much as reworking its boundaries. [Keywords: land tenure, labor migration, customary law, agrarian change]


Pink Dot: Cultural and Sexual Citizenship in Gay Singapore

Chris Tan, Shandong University, China

ABSTRACT—Once considered the Asian country least likely to have any positive LGBT developments (Leong 1997), Singapore has witnessed a number of such advances in the last decade. Invoking the ideas of cultural and sexual citizenship to critically frame my examination of a failed gay pride parade and an immensely successful rally for the freedom to love called “Pink Dot,” I make two assertions. First, I maintain that attempts at asserting one’s citizenship succeed more often when they take into account the country’s communitarian ideals. Second, I argue that Singaporeans once gave the state the right to determine the contours of their citizenship, but now take full advantage of every single loosening of the state’s rules. This study illuminates the processes of queer cultural citizen-making in Singapore. [Keywords: Cultural citizenship, sexual citizenship, Pink Dot, Singapore]


The Responsibilization of Refugees in the United States: On the Political
Uses of Psychology

Greta Uehling, University of Michigan

ABSTRACT—Contemporary theorizing about refugees has centered on the refugee as a victim of disciplinary coercion and a focus, especially in camps, of biopolitical control. This article expands that line of inquiry in a different direction by closely considering the interstitial space between providers and recipients of refugee services. Analytics of governmentality reveal not the victimization but the responsibilization of refugees through orientation programs that utilize psychology to attain political and economic objectives. Relationship education programs provide an additional site for reconfiguring gendered domains, entailing technologies of the self that encourage refugees to rethink intimacy. The individualized and psychologized framework is especially clear in refugees’ encounter with services providers who focus on intimate partner violence. While some seek to change refugees’ “whole concept of the world,” refugees maintain their ability to establish hybridized identities and define normal for themselves. [Keywords: Refugees, resettlement, governmentality, gender, technologies of the self, responsibilization]


Marrying Transnational, Desiring Local: Making “Marriageable Others” in Japanese–Chinese Cross-Border Matchmaking

Chigusa Yamaura, University of Oxford

ABSTRACT—This article examines cross-border marriages by analyzing the phenomenon in terms of negotiations of marriageability between Japan and China. It focuses on the commercial matchmaking practices between a transnational marriage agency in Tokyo and Dongyang in northeast China. Regardless of the participants’ initial hesitation to engage in transnational matchmaking practices, I argue that it was the negotiation of local marital norms on a transnational scale that rendered participants marriageable to one another. Specifically, I demonstrate how the brokers and participants in these practices negotiated the cultural boundaries of marriageability—by constructing and reproducing essentialized similarities and proximities—within local–global contexts. On the one hand, the Japanese men involved sought to frame Chinese prospects as “almost Japanese brides” so that their marriages would be “almost national endogamous marriages.” The Chinese women, on the other hand, attempted to marry off and into a “proximate” community where many friends had already wed. By both relying on and stretching local marital values, they engaged in flexible imaginings of marital norms on a transnational scale while simultaneously reaffirming them at the local level. Ultimately, this article provides an alternative framework with which to analyze transnational marriages based not on desires for either “difference” or ethnic “sameness,” but on “similarity” and “proximity” in a way that tactically negotiates boundaries of appropriate and inappropriate relationships. [Keywords: Cross-border marriage, matchmaking, multi-sited ethnography, Japan, China ]