Volume 93, #2

Spring 2020

Reassessing Charitable Affect: Volunteerism, Affect, and Ethical Practice in a Medical Aid Agency


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


Volume 93, #2 • Spring 2020




Between Tatami Mats and Sawdust: The Ambiguity of Breton Wrestling Sites,

University of Milano-Bicocca, University of Milano-Bicocca

ABSTRACT—The competitive schedule of gouren, Breton wrestling, is divided into two seasons. During winter, the wrestlers compete in indoor sports halls, while in summer they wrestle en plein air, in outdoor sawdust arenas, confronting each other in a “traditional” contest called “Mod Kozh” (“old-fashioned”). The structure and the symbolic references of these two kinds of tournaments clearly differ. This article focuses on the different processes of cultural management of space and history carried out by wrestlers in each of these competitive patterns, in an apparently contradictory frame between modernity and tradition, globalization and localization. In fact, the winter indoor sports arenas can be described as kinds of “non-places,” impersonal and strictly operational. These settings are similar in every part of the world and represent the stages of many other modern sports—not only gouren. On the other hand, Mod Kozh tournaments take place in typical and recognizable settings, which clearly evoke the traditional features of gouren and immediately reflect the stereotypical representation of Breton culture and history. In such places, athletes immediately feel “at home.” In fact, Brittany’s landscape has represented their “natural” habitat since Breton wrestling was first practiced by their ancestors, the Celts. Nevertheless, Mod Kozh tournaments are actually a more recent re-invention than indoor competitions. This article describes how Breton wrestlers use the cultural representations of spaces and “landscapes” to define their activity, and themselves, as authentically Breton. In fact, these representations both enact and contribute to shaping Breton identity, even now that gouren has been transformed into a competitive modern sport. [Keywords: Gouren, Breton wrestling, Breton identity, landscape, sporting places, Brittany, wrestling]


“How to Earn a Million in the Glory of God?” Ethics and Spirituality among Orthodox Entrepreneurs in Contemporary Russia

Victoria Fomina, University of Toronto

ABSTRACT—This article explores the emerging convergences between Orthodox and neoliberal discourses on morality in contemporary Russia. It follows the case of Saint-Petersburg-based Union of Orthodox Entrepreneurs (UOE) that was established in 2012 with the goal of promoting a culture of entrepreneurship based on Orthodox values. Drawing on fieldwork with the UOE, I explore how Orthodox understandings of spirituality and moral self-transformation through virtuous practices become entangled with neoliberal discourses of self-development in shaping contemporary Orthodox entrepreneurs’ understanding of business ethics and their practices of ethical self-fashioning. Despite the UOE’s ambition of creating a shared “ethical” culture of entrepreneurship, most of its members still hold highly idiosyncratic views on the morality of commonplace legal and illegal business practices and resist the idea of subscribing to a unified code of ethical behavior. I argue that the Union’s failure to produce a unified ethical model is associated both with the constraints of the market practices that limit entrepreneurs’ ability to act on their proclaimed values and with the distinct model of ethical formation inherent to Orthodox tradition, which resists reduction to a narrow ethical code and offers believers multiple individualized ways of pursuing spirituality. Thus, a peculiar characteristic of the emerging alignment between Orthodoxy and market ideology is that religiosity in the contemporary Russian context does not translate into any specific pattern of economic behavior or model of handling business. [Keywords: Orthodox Christianity, neoliberal ethics, entrepreneurship, spirituality, Russia]


Metamorphoses of Popular Sovereignty: Cinema, Short Circuits, and Digitalization in Tamil India

Francis Cody, University of Toronto

ABSTRACT—This article is about how digitalization has fostered a networked media environment enabling metamorphoses in popular politics. With the recent passing of two leaders of the Tamil nationalist movement, a half century of politics dominated by film stars and script writers leading Dravidian parties appears to be coming to an end in Tamil Nadu, India. Two recent political formations are especially worth focusing on in the new context: 1) Emergent leaderless forms of mobilization are reclaiming and reconfiguring nationalist idioms of populism, and 2) violent, dominant caste-based, anti-Dalit politics appear to be fragmenting the hegemony of Dravidianist politics at the very same moment. Despite the appearance of a paradoxical coincidence or contradiction, both caste politics and the new protests recall pasts that have been built through film and Dravidianist party imagery. This article examines logics of popular sovereignty where changing media technologies of image production have played a central role in “shortcircuiting” older claims to representation. [Keywords: Publics and politics, Tamil Nadu, India, cinema, digital media, networks, populism]


Old Spirits of Capitalism: Managers and Masculine Alterity in/as the Korean Office

Michael M. Prentice, University of Manchester

ABSTRACT—This article analyzes the aging of a figure of labor: the male Korean office manager. In contrast to its normative heyday in late 20th century East Asia, the figure of the older manager has become a devalued and deviant figure in contemporary Korea. Based on ethnography of a Korean white-collar workplace, I argue that the older male manager has emerged as a “figure of alterity” that seems to permeate all aspects of Korean company life. By attuning to the ways this figure is observed and discussed in different areas, from narration to policy, I show how their negative presence can be cited to justify new office reforms. Younger managers shape their own office identities in contrast to older figures and formal office policies emerge as the foil of managerial stereotypes. An “old” spirit of capitalism, embodied in a personified figure, is just as central in articulating and differentiating models of capitalist subjectivity and institutional identity as a new one. [Keywords: Labor, gender, Korea, aging, corporations, enfiguration]


Trusting the Poor: Cash Grants and the Caring Bureaucrat in Kenya

Tom Neumark, University of Oslo

ABSTRACT—Across the world, attempts are being made to challenge and rework bureaucratic hierarchies. One such attempt is the policy to give cash with no strings attached to the poor. Lying at the heart of these grants is the belief that it is these people, and not experts, who know what they need to do to improve their lives. Benefactors seek to trust the poor by removing the regulation and bureaucracy from the charitable gift. But in one slum in Nairobi these efforts were met with opposition by local, slum-level bureaucrats, who took a keen interest in shaping and managing the visibility of behavior of the poor they represented. I argue that this interest was a form of care that took place in the context of particular social relationships, norms, and values within which the grants were embedded. This care work highlighted not the legitimacy of hierarchies, but the work that is involved in making them work. Against popular and scholarly images of the bureaucrat, this article calls for a recognition of the ethical and caring dimension of the bureaucrat, an actor cast, perhaps too often, as a morally suspect intermediary. It also calls for greater scrutiny of the ostensibly laudable goals of, on the one hand, extending trust, and on the other hand, flattening, inverting, and hollowing out hierarchies that are taking place across the globe. [Keywords: Trust, charity, bureaucracy, cash transfers, grants, hierarchy, Kenya]