Volume 89, #4

Fall 2016

Nation, Nationalism,
and Sport: Fijian Rugby in
the Local-Global Nexus

by Daniel Guinness & Niko Besnier


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fax: 202-994-6097

Volume 89, #4 • Fall 2016




I Will Vote What Is in My Heart”: Sierra Leone’s 2012 Elections
and the Pliability of ‘Normative’ Democracy

Catherine Bolten, University of Notra Dame

ABSTRACT—The 2012 national election laws in Sierra Leone addressed the campaign violence and discord experienced in previous elections with heavy restrictions on everyday freedoms such as movement, expression, and assembly. The sitting government requested the presence of international observer missions to legitimate the election as “democratic” in spite of these human rights restrictions. Rather than transforming local practices to conform with international norms, Sierra Leonean lawmakers used bureaucracy and the performance of compliance to buttress local practices involving shows of public unity and the dissimulation of political negotiation into covert venues. By re-energizing practices of political secrecy, Sierra Leoneans achieved their goal of a non-violent election, free of voter fraud. Observers labeled this election “free, fair, and transparent,” consonant with international democratic norms in spite of its marked singularity. The pliability of “normativity” within democratic elections illuminates the notion of “vernacular democracy” as analytically inadequate. Rather, the 2012 elections in Sierra Leone invite anthropologists to focus on the recognition of the exercise of public will as a defining feature of democracy, which exists in a dialogic between the local and global. [Keywords: democracy, human rights, normative/vernacular, unity, secrecy, Sierra Leone]


Quandaries of Advertising Censorship in South Korea: Freedom-loving
Censors, Smart Consumers, and Cynical Sensibility

Olga Fedorenko, Seoul National University

ABSTRACT—South Korean advertising has been historically subjected to rigorous scrutiny by various authorized and self-appointed organizations. By the early 2000s, however, interference with advertising grew harder to justify even to the censors themselves, as liberal freedom became a hegemonic ideal. I draw on ethnographic observation at a quasi-government censorship board, the Korea Communications Standards Commission, to explore how advertising censors navigated the contradictory demands to protect the unwary public and to respect advertisers’ freedom. Suggesting that the censors’ quandaries exemplified the deadlock in the liberal ideologies of freedom, I argue that advertising censorship, though ostensibly limiting advertising discourses, ultimately produced “smart” consumers, to use the censors’ parlance—subjects whose cynical distance toward advertising allowed maximum freedoms for advertisers. [Keywords: censorship, cynicism, freedom, liberalism, neoliberalism, South Korea, advertising]


The Proliferation of Men: Markets, Property, and Seizure in Jordan

Geoffrey Fitzgibbon Hughes, London School of Economics

ABSTRACT—Spurred on by massive influxes of Palestinian refugees in previous decades, the 1970s and 1980s were marked by acute struggles over land and housing in Jordan. This article places those struggles within the context of a historical look at property in Jordan spanning from the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire to more recent waves of refugees from Syria and Iraq. Drawing on recent research in the social studies of finance and feminist substantivist critiques of “the economy,” I argue for more attention to the role of violence and war in the formation of markets and property regimes. Moving between a World Bank squatter settlement standardization program and interviews with contemporary planners, speculators, homeowners, and construction workers, I argue that the sublimation of violent contestation over property has required subtle but important transformations in gender norms that privilege new strategies of accumulation. Yet many of my interlocutors insist that this novel “proliferation of wealth” remains subordinate to the role of large agnatic kin groups in the communal defense of land (“the proliferation of men”). Ongoing struggles between financiers, agnatic kin groups, and the Jordanian state illustrate the ways in which seizure is key to the work of market formation. [Keywords: infrastructure, squatter settlements, settler colonialism, violence, kinship, masculinity]


Nation, Nationalism, and Sport: Fijian Rugby in the Local–Global Nexus

Daniel Guinness & Niko Besnier, University of Amsterdam

ABSTRACT—The changing architecture of the professional rugby union has created a seeming contradiction in Fijian nationalism: the best Fijian rugby players are now representing other nations and yet remain national heroes regarded by many Fijians as the embodiment of masculine indigenous Fijian ideals. Fijian ideologies about rugby problematize Benedict Anderson’s celebrated but problematic understanding of the nation as based on a territorially-bounded imagined community in which perceived commonality and deep horizontal comradeship override a reality of inequality and difference. Instead, the semiotic connections among rugby, indigenous masculinity, and nationalism operate to the exclusion of other potential claimants to the Fijian nation, particularly members of a sizable minority of South Asian descent, in ways which are better understood using George Mosse’s conception of nations as defined through the marginalization and exclusion of internal countertypes. Furthermore, Fijian nationalism operates in relation to the institutional and corporate structures in world rugby, which serve to standardize particular forms of nationalism that differ in significant ways from the commonsensical understanding of nationalism as coterminous with citizenship. An ethnography of an amateur club in Fiji, a multi-sited ethnography of Fijian players based overseas, and the analysis of mass media highlight the multiple levels on which Fijian nationalism is produced and reproduced through rugby. Nationalism is not culturally or socially bounded by a nation, but rather linked, in this case through sport, to identity politics that are at once intensely local and masculine while at the same time global, corporate, and nationalized. [Keywords: Nation, nationalism, sport, rugby, migration, cultural identity, masculinity, ethnicity, Fiji, Pacific Islands]


Insult and Insecurity: Discernment, Trust, and the Uncanny in
Two US Pentecostal Communities

Frederick Klaits, State University of New York at Buffalo

ABSTRACT—Within many North American evangelical Christian communities, discernment denotes attentiveness to an interior voice that believers learn to identify as God’s. This article adopts a comparative perspective on everyday domains of perception and feeling that practices of discernment implicitly distinguish as unmarked by God’s activity, and as characterized by specific forms of anxiety from which believers desire to be redeemed. In a majority White Pentecostal congregation in suburban Buffalo, New York, believers cast emotional insecurity as a condition demanding redemption, while members of African American churches in the inner city hope to be redeemed from sensitivity to insults. While practices of discernment counter such anxieties by fostering forms of intimacy and trust, they also reinforce anxiety by focusing believers’ attention on how familiar relations may be distorted in uncanny ways. [Keywords: Pentecostalism, discernment, trust, the uncanny, urban United States]


Latour’s AIME, Indigenous Critique, and Ontological Turns in a
Mexican Psychiatric Hospital: Approaching Registers of Visibility in
Three Conceptual Turns

Beatriz M. Reyes-Foster, University of Central Florida

ABSTRACT—The “ontological turn” presents an opportunity to re-examine anthropological engagements with various phenomena across multiple modes of existence. One possible terrain for engagement is the acute ward of a psychiatric hospital in Yucatan, Mexico, where psychiatrists, patients, and various invisible beings coexist. By examining the actions and words of patients and doctors in the ward, I consider Latour’s engagement with invisible beings in his recent publication, AIME, alongside critiques from indigenous scholars who argue that scholarship in the ontological turn ignores indigenous frames of reference that already grant ontological status to nonhumans. I engage in an ontological reading of the concept of (in)visibility in the writing of indigenous scholars to explore how indigenous ontologies can inform my analysis. Finally, I build on my engagement with Latour and indigenous critique to introduce the concept of registers of visibility as a mode of existence that encompasses both what an actor is capable of seeing and how an actor renders themselves visible to others. [Keywords: Indigenous scholarship, (in)visibility, ontology, Latour, modes of existence, psychiatry, Mexico]


On Class, Culture, and the Creation of the Neoliberal Subject:
The Case of Jordan

Mayssoun Sukarieh, Brown University

ABSTRACT—A growing body of literature in anthropology, geography, and development studies argues for the need to recognize the importance of local agency, resistance, and contestation in processes of neoliberal subject creation. These studies emphasize the spatial and historical diversity of neoliberalism and provide an important corrective to the often totalizing and universalizing accounts of previous Foucauldian studies of neoliberal governmentality. Despite this, there continues to be a general neglect of class analysis and political economy in studies of neoliberal subject formation. This article—drawing on an ethnographic study of an entrepreneurship and microcredit youth program in Jordan—argues for the importance of political economy in understanding local contestations of neoliberal governmentality. The analysis provided here points both to the need to recognize the continuing importance of material constraints—in addition to cultural and ideological convictions—in shaping local engagements with neoliberalism and to the relevance of class awareness, even in contexts in which specific class identities and consciousnesses may be blurred. [Keywords: Class analysis, entrepreneurship, governmentality, Jordon, neoliberalism, youth]