New Anthropological Perspectives on Natural Resource Environments

Volume 87, #1

Winter 2014

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


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Volume 87, #1 • Winter 2014




Hunter and Prey: Patrolling Clandestine Migration in the Euro-African Borderlands

Ruben Andersson, Stockholm University and London School of Economics

ABSTRACT — In the past decade, the European Union and its member states have invested heavily in a far-reaching, diffuse, and technologized border regime targeting the elusive figure of the clandestine or “illegal” African migrant. Taking the mismatch between these large investments and the statistically small number of overland irregular migrants as its starting point, this article explores the embodied effects of illegality engendered in the policing of the Euro-African borderlands. Based on fieldwork with West African police forces, aid organizations, and migrants, it focuses on the migration circuit between the Sahel and Spain, where a joint European response to irregular flows was first tried and tested under the umbrella of the EU border agency Frontex. By highlighting the means of detection used to apprehend “illegal migrants”—from bodily signs to presumed “intentions to migrate”—the article looks at how an increasingly reified and embodied modality of migrant illegality is produced on the circuit between West Africa and Europe’s southern shores. This production of illegality crucially depends on the incentives offered to African forces for participating in European controls. Tensions among African officers over the unequal gains from such incentives and ambivalence over the rationale for controls, I argue, make the transnational policing of clandestine migration a fraught site of state investment and concern. [Keywords: Irregular migration, phenomenology of illegality, border policing, embodiment, West Africa, Spain]


For Social Emergencies “We Are 9-1-1”: How Journalists Perform the State in an Argentine Border Town

Ieva Jusionyte, University of Florida

ABSTRACT — This article focuses on Puerto Iguazú, an Argentine town bordering Brazil and Paraguay, where the local media create a patchwork of substitute social services that form the basis of governance. More than 1,200 kilometers away from the federal capital, Iguazú was historically neglected by the central governments: water shortages, power cuts, natural gas and fuel scarcity, impassable roads, and squatter settlements contributed to infrastructural collapses in a territorial periphery. Local news coverage has been consistently critical of the failing state in Iguazú, treating governmental neglect as social emergency, which requires an urgent media intervention. Through their routine news itineraries and agendas, social solidarity, and assistance campaigns, Iguazú journalists have taken on certain pragmatic functions ordinarily understood to be the task of the government. In reference to Foucault’s theory of capillary power, I call this locally embedded performance of the state, separate from official policies and projects, capillary governance. I pay special attention to the role of infrastructure, showing how different infrastructural networks—from power and water supply to communications technologies—interconnect, at times enabling and other times disabling the work of journalists. Merging anthropology of journalism with political anthropology, this article analyzes media practices on a remote border, where official governmental policies and actions are tentative and uneven, showing how Iguazú journalists take on the role of state actors. [Keywords: Border, media, journalism, state, governance, Argentina, Triple Frontera]


Migrant Assemblages: Building Postsocialist Households with Kyrgyz Remittances

Igor Rubinov, Princeton University

ABSTRACT — More money now flows into developing countries from the remittances of labor migrants than from official foreign aid. To make use of these crucial inflows, migrants rely upon transnational livelihoods strategies to allocate remittances. Remittance practices support individual needs and communal reciprocities by engaging a site of inter-household collaboration. While recent theories of transnational migration situate households prominently within these practices, ethnographic research in Kyrgyzstan reveals that households do not make use of remittances on their own. Communal practices span households by employing relations of debt, reciprocity and trust. This article seeks to bridge the development literature focused on transnational livelihoods with an anthropological attunement to the social reciprocity of remittances. The resulting assemblages require constant upkeep while exposing social obligations to distortion and normative change. [Keywords: Households, livelihoods, reciprocity, debt, labor migration, remittance practices, Kyrgyzstan]