Volume 93, #4

Fall 2020

Carolyn Schwarz’s “Paying for Something Bigger: The Sentiment of Sociality and Health Care Sharing Ministries in the United States”


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Volume 93, #4 • Fall 2020




Stories that Claim: Justice Narratives and Testimonial Practices Among the Wayuu

Pilar Riaño-Alcalá, University of British Columbia

ABSTRACT—This article explores storytelling and testimonial narratives as practices of social repair in the afterlives of mass violence. It demonstrates how emplaced narratives and testimony are employed by the Wayuu people of Bahia Portete in their claims for justice following atrocities committed against them during the armed conflict in Colombia. By focusing on the ethnographic reconstruction of a visit by a national and international judicial commission to the Wayuu ancestral territory, I interrogate the ways in which the Wayuu attend to matters of truth while negotiating meaning through various forms of storytelling: emplaced proof narratives, embodied testimonial practices and a performative remaking of the principles embedded in Indigenous and Western justice systems. I examine how notions of justice and truth are negotiated in spaces of uneven encounter. The article argues that these practices worked “against the grain” to reconstruct something more than “proof” of the violence suffered. They reconnected human and other-than-human worlds into a reconfigured memoryscape as a means of repairing fractured social and mythic worlds and as situated thinking to reimagine their past and present, their possible worlds.[Keywords: Storytelling; social repair; justice and truth-telling; armed conflict; Wayuu, Colombia]


Paying for Something Bigger: The Sentiment of Sociality and Health Care Sharing Ministries in the United States

Carolyn Schwarz, Goucher College

ABSTRACT—This article considers the ways that sociality is constructed and articulated in health care sharing ministries (HCSMs), which are faith-based, non-profit organizations that share in the payment of medical bills but are not insurance. When the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed in 2010, it included HCSMs in its list of religious exemptions to the individual mandate, and yet because HCSMs are not insurance, the law did not require them to follow any of its own reforms, such as the ban on pre-existing condition exclusions. What this has meant is that HCSMs are effectively operating as a stand-in for pre-ACA low cost, low coverage insurance in the post-ACA era and yet come with certain social benefits. Based mainly on ethnographic interviewing, I suggest that within the world of HCSMs, the loss of some coverage value has been replaced by the social value that these organizations offer to their members. I develop the concept of “socially-transacted health care” to explain how the payment side of health care comes to be experienced in HCSMs as a general feeling of knowing and being in relation with. I argue that this particular expression of sociality—or what I describe as “sociality as sentiment”—is achieved through a particular set of prescribed social practices, and together these do the work of constructing and binding persons as moral persons and lead people to think that they have good health care. The article therefore contributes to the renewed effort in anthropology to think sociality and adds to the emergent anthropology of insurance by showing that “good health care” is not necessarily or always measured by the yardstick of coverage and may be defined in other ways. [Keywords: Health care, insurance, sociality, personhood, gift-giving]


Real Fake Skin: Semiotics of Skin Lightening in the Philippines

Angela Reyes, Hunter College and The Graduate Center,
City University of New York

ABSTRACT—Skin lightening is a global industry that claims to transform skin as a way to transform persons. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork and skincare advertisements in the Philippines, this paper considers how the skin is drawn into semiotic frameworks that rely on implicit ideological links between race and nation by a capitalist modernity that disciplines a desire for commodified emblems of class distinction. Skin qualities become linked to race (e.g., “light” and “dark” skin tones) and age (e.g., “smooth” and “rough” skin textures), combining a desire for skin lightening with an anxiety about skin aging. Within this racial and temporal framing, lightening and aging apply not only to the skin but also to the nation, as the Philippines grapples with the seemingly competing pulls of Western modernity and postcolonial sovereignty. Reconstituted as desirable past and desirable future, “whiteness” is harnessed by skin lightening advertising to promise “light modern juvenescence” in a manner that allows persons and nations to remain real, not become fake. Consumers are thus recruited not as striving fakes, but as modern subjects who have moved beyond whiteness as colonial desire for racial Europeanness, and toward whiteness as cosmopolitan desire for youthfulness and modernity. This makes skin lightening no longer about becoming something you are not, but about fulfilling who you have always been. [Keywords: Skin lightening, semiotics, fake, Temporality, modernity, Philippines]


Self-Liberated Citizens: Unproductive Pleasures, Loss of Self, and Playful Subjectivities in Palestinian Raves

Nadeem Karkabi, University of Haifa

ABSTRACT—This article explores the meaning of taharrur (self-liberation) in an emerging Palestinian rave scene in Israel, which includes dancing to electronic music and consumption of illicit drugs. While identifying how the Israeli state enforces soft power on its Palestinian citizens by producing complicit and resistant Palestinian subjectivities, the article explains the connection between Palestinian nationalist and social religious moralities towards the ravers’ unproductive pleasures. Shaped by the liberal discourse of individual rights in regard to pleasurable activities, taharrur is described by Palestinian ravers as an act of disengagement from both Israeli state biopower and conservative moralities in their own society. Drawing on Bataille’s work, the article argues that the potency of excessive pleasure lies in extreme sensual acts of self-loss, the endurance of risk, and involvement in illicit activities to claim internal feelings of authority. Based on literature on play, sociality, and the experience of ecstasy in raves, I further argue that an intended process of subjectification occurs when ravers reduce their individuality to the rhythm of the group and external agency of drugs, to transgress their subject position and conjure a reality in which self-liberation can be momentarily felt. This experience may form subversive playful subjectivities that refuse to abide by Palestinian moralities and break free of Israeli definitions of “good Arabs” or “bad Palestinians.” [Keywords: Liberation, politics of pleasure, subjectivities, risk, rave culture, Palestine/Israel]