Volume 89, #3

Summer 2016

ARTICLES BY Colleen Cohen, Piergiorgio Di Giminiani,
EuyRyung Jun, Giulia Liberatore, Guillermo Salas Carreño,
Chris K. K. Tan, and Maurizio Albahari

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


Volume 89, #3 • Summer 2016




BVI Barbie: Materializing Subjectivity on the Beauty Pageant Stage

Colleen Cohen, Vassar College

ABSTRACT—The British Virgin Islands (BVI) is a small Eastern Caribbean country whose economy is based on elite tourism and financial services and where questions of local affiliation intersect with global prerogatives and competing national loyalties. These intersections were highlighted in the talent performance of the winning contestant of a 2009 pageant selecting a queen to represent the BVI in the Miss Universe pageant. In her performance, the contestant took on the persona of a collectible Virgin Islands Barbie Doll to address concerns about her racial and ethnic authenticity. Drawing from Inger Sjørslev’s work on public performance, I argue that, in performance, the contestant materialized a conceptualization of belonging that resists racial or ethnic embodiment and flows beyond the borders of the nation. The article illuminates how popular cultural forms represent and respond to local impacts of globalization, transnational migration, and neoliberal policies and practices, and adds to recent studies noting the emergence of new conceptualizations of citizenship, identity, and subjectivity in the English-speaking Caribbean. [Keywords: Caribbean, beauty pageant, performance, globalization, commodity, flexible citizenship, entrepreneurial subject]


How to Manage a Forest: Environmental Governance in Neoliberal Chile

Piergiorgio Di Giminiani, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile

ABSTRACT—Knowledge transfer is a central feature of environmental governance worldwide. Historically state action targeting small land holders is increasingly shaped around managerial ideals of natural resource use and conservation. By drawing on ethnographic research among farmers and forest officers in Chile, this article highlights the intersections between knowledge and monitoring in forest governance. In a departure from rigid narratives of power/knowedge in environmental governance, I show that forest management programs do not lead to the formation of uniform environmental subjects among farmers as functions of state discourses on natural resource use. Yet, forest management is far from being a neutral instance of knowledge transfer. By inserting farmers’ and officers’ actions within complex auditing systems, environmental programs serve to promote new strategies of monitoring through which ecological knowledge among both groups is marginalized in favor of legal regulatory frameworks and understandings of forest livelihood. Environment audit targeting small landholders constitutes a governmental solution to the restructuring of state intervention under neoliberalism, which aims at favoring the inclusion of smallholders in the global market in line with the principles of individual accountability and self-realization. [Keywords: Latin America, Chile, environmental governance, neoliberalism, audit culture, farmers, forest, landscape, settler society]


Migrant Workers Amidst the Waves of Volunteers: Discourses of Participation and Empowerment in South Korean Migrant Advocacy

EuyRyung Jun, Pohang University of Science and Technology

ABSTRACT—In this article, I explore the ways in which the conjunction between the liberal demand of autonomous subjects and neoliberal social responsibility played out in South Korean migrant advocacy. By focusing on discourses of the “volunteer activist” and migrant empowerment that emerged among “migrant centers,” grassroots advocates and service providers for migrants, I show that the demands of the autonomous yet interdependent society mobilize individual Koreans to give and share on behalf of migrants, and mobilize individual migrants to give back by organizing on their own. If lay volunteers are required to see themselves as no different from full time staff, offering their free labor lavishly, migrant workers too are asked to see themselves, not as mere recipients of benevolence, but as “leaders” of their own lives and communities. I argue that this is when the ambition, as well as the limit, of the South Korean moral community is rendered visible. It seeks to convert the have-nots and the socially excluded into subjects of responsibility and reciprocity by enrolling them in a symbolic struggle for recognition and by refusing the idea of charity. It does so, however, by not giving equal attention to the problem of inequality in rights. What remains ever more salient is the inherent inability of this kind of community to solve inequality through the demand of inclusion via responsibilization. [Keywords: Neoliberal social responsibilization, participation, empowerment, civil society actors, migrants]


Imagining an Ideal Husband: Marriage as a Site of Aspiration among
Pious Somali Women in London

Giulia Liberatore, University of Oxford

ABSTRACT—This article is about “marriage talk” and the forms of imagination and aspiration that it entails. It draws on discussions and debates about ideal husbands among young Somali Muslim women in Britain who, in recent years, have begun practicing Islam. Through these debates, these women draw on various different discourses, values, norms, and ideals to rethink and reimagine themselves in relation to multiple others, including kin, friends, and God. Marriage, I argue, is a site of aspiration, as it engages the ethical imagination—the means and modes by which individuals reimagine relations to self and others (Moore 2011). By reflecting on, discussing, and imagining a future spouse, these young women draw on different forms of knowledge in relation to enlarged visions of self and other. I demonstrate that analyses of the complexly constituted Muslim subject need to pay attention not only to the coexistence of multiple moral registers or rubrics, but also to how these connect to the ways in which individuals imagine new ways of being. The article brings to the fore the importance of intersubjectivity and shines light on the processes of imagining and aspiring, which are crucial for understanding the complex lives of young women who turn to practice Islam. [Keywords: Islam, gender, piety, subjectivity, aspiration, United Kingdom, Somali]


Places are Kin: Food, Cohabitation, and Sociality in the Southern
Peruvian Andes

Guillermo Salas Carreño, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú

ABSTRACT—This article is a contribution to current scholarship reevaluating classic assumptions about kinship and sociality, and it proposes that Quechua forms of social interaction in the region of Cuzco (Peru) emerge through embedded notions of food circulation and cohabitation. The implications of this sociality are that the relations among humans and the places where they live and work are built upon exactly the same notions through which human social relations are constructed. Named places are social individuals and are attributed the thoughts, capacities of action, emotions, and intentions of all social beings. Humans cannot exist except by cultivating social relations with places. This article proposes a framework that focuses on presuppositions prompted by semiotic forms to analyze ontological particularities grounded in face-to-face interactions. [Keywords: Kinship, place, food, semiotic presupposition, nonhuman beings, Quechua, Cuzco, Andes]


Gaydar: Using Skilled Vision to Spot Gay “Bears” in Taipei

Chris K. K. Tan, Shandong University, China

ABSTRACT—Popular US queer discourses endow gay men and lesbians with the ability to determine the queerness of another person with a mere glance. Although the same discourses construct this queer-detecting “gaydar” as an inborn talent, I argue that it is, in fact, a form of “skilled vision” (Grasseni 2004, 2007) that anyone can acquire through sufficient socialization with gay men and lesbians. As much as it is about looking, it is equally about being looked at. In this article, I illustrate the cultural workings of gaydar using ethnographic data gathered during ongoing fieldwork among Taipei’s gay “Bears.” After tracing the origins of the Taiwanese Bear through Japan and ultimately back to the US, I critically examine how Taipei’s Bears embody Bearness through their clothes and bodily movements. I draw two conclusions. First, while the Bear originally celebrated somatic diversity, interpersonal competition increasingly homogenizes Taipei’s Bears’ attire to reveal the limits of Bear sociability. Second, gaydar remains important to the majority of gay men who dress more subtly, as the ways they look convey their interest in the men that they encounter. [Keywords: Gaydar, skilled vision, gay Bears, gay fashion, Taipei]


Mediterranean Carnage: Heretical Scholarship and Public Citizenship
in an Age of Eloquence

Maurizio Albahari, University of Notre Dame

ABSTRACT—The shipwreck of October 3, 2013, when at least 366 Eritrean refugees drowned off the Italian island of Lampedusa, points to ongoing border carnage in the region. As an anthropologist with research experience on Mediterranean migrations and as an Italian citizen, I seek to inform broader publics and policy discussions of this issue. My substantial contributions to the public sphere have, in turn, foregrounded analytical tensions involving anthropological knowledge, critical citizenship, and the politics of immigration and of representation. But is it even relevant to engage broader publics when our interventions risk inconsequential incorporation into the vortex of the corporate news cycle? Probing a densely occupied terrain of knowledge production, this article illuminates narrow interstices where anthropological knowledge can be publicly disseminated. Anthropological knowledge does not settle for a fatalistic chronicle of structural injustice, and yet it resists merely pleading for the world as it ought to be. It confronts a lethal status quo by conveying the transformative power of actually existing realities. In particular, the article makes the case for an unyielding commitment to a relational, anti-essentialist approach. This approach, encompassing anthropological knowledge from production to dissemination, constitutes a distinctive analytical and political asset. It challenges the entrenched reification of migrants and refugees, and allows for the public dimension of scholarship and of citizenship to come to fruition. [Keywords: Epistemology, anthropology in the public sphere, critical citizenship, expertise, undocumented Mediterranean migrations]