Volume 94,#2

Spring 2021

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

 

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

 

Volume 94, #2 • Spring 2021

 

ARTICLES

Liquid Metal Masculinity: The New Man, Will, and US Military Pharmacological Supersoldiers

Andrew Bickford, Georgetown University

ABSTRACT—My focus in this article is on the connections between masculinity, “will,” ideology, and biomedical and pharmacological enhancements designed to make soldiers—either the New Man of modernity or the emergent pharmacological “supersoldier” of the current era in the United States—more effective and resilient on (and off) the battlefield. The body is, as we know, a site for expressing political ideals; for fascism and communism, the armored body of the New Man was to be the ultima Thule of commitment and love of the party, and all the party represented. For the emergent US pharmacological supersoldier, the body is the site for expressing the goals of neoliberalism: the military body is a site of protection, salvation, and enhancement, as well as a site of ever-expanding research and production. But all conceptions of the New Man deal with the ideas of internal armor and steel. I examine the tension between the “belief” or “will” armor of fascism and the embedded biomedical armor of US military performance enhancement research programs. As points of comparison, I examine the similarities between German and Italian fascist and Soviet discourses and aesthetic representations of the internally-armored, “mechanical” body and US military discourses, conceptions and research projects concerned with the development of pharmaceutical interventions designed to protect and enhance US soldiers in combat. All of these conceptions of the soldier’s body focus on the internal armoring of the soldier, and the ways in which biomedicine and “will” or “belief armor” can be manipulated to produce reliable, resilient, combat-ready, and combat-willing soldiers. [Keywords: Militarization, biotechnology, war, memory, violence, body, aesthetics]

 

“Puttin’ Eyes on a Horse”: Horsemanship Attunements and the Merry-go-round of Kentucky’s Thoroughbred Racing Industry

Carolyn Barnes, Washington University in St. Louis

ABSTRACT—This article examines how Thoroughbred trainers in Kentucky learn, experience, and practice the embodied tradition of horsemanship within the economically declining and ethically fraught American horse racing industry. I explore how horsemen are inculcated into this tradition of agrarian masculine knowledge in orientations and attunements. I also consider how the particular practice of “puttin’ eyes on horses” evokes affective tones and ties between horse and horsemen that are said to enable trainers to “listen to horses,” facilitating partial knowing and compelling forms of care. In an agrarian industry that brands itself in terms of nostalgias, good horsemanship is valorized at the same time as economic constriction and consolidation marginalize and undermine many trainers’ expertise and social roles. Even as horsemen know this life with horses is unsustainable, I demonstrate that they feel trapped on what they call “the merry-go-round” of racetrack life. In contrast to much contemporary anthropology that narrates human-animal ties in terms of the transformative and open possibilities of continual becoming, I find that the affective force relations and associated social roles in animal care compel relationships that entrench people into agrarian lives and livelihoods that they know they are economically and socially problematic. This article thus speaks broadly to the precarities and difficulties experienced by swathes of middling workers and managers in stagnating contemporary middle America. [Keywords: Affect, attunement, agrarian expertise, multispecies anthropology, horses, training, North America]

 

Interweaving Piety and Prosperity: Religion, Neoliberalism, and the Environmental Practices in Indonesia

Ulil Amri, Gonzaga University

ABSTRACT—This article discusses the emergence of religious neoliberal environmentalism in Indonesia, where my interlocutors negotiate religious and economic interests in their everyday environmental actions. Drawing on ethnographic work conducted mainly in the Sunan Drajat pesantren (religious educational institution) in Lamongan Regency, Indonesia, I look at how these environmental actions are produced and maintained through religious neoliberal environmentality. These actions are driven by both religious environmental ethics and neoliberal calculative reasoning. This article argues that religious neoliberal environmentalism produces multiple subjectivities that complicate contemporary socio-environmental actions. These intricacies, in turn, have become the main feature of the contemporary socio-environmental practices in Indonesia. In this article, I suggest that the concept of religious neoliberal environmentalism highlights the innovative role that religion, economics, and ecology play in creating new socio-environmental practices. [Keywords: Religion, neoliberalism, environmentalism, socio-environmental practice, Indonesia]

 

Following His Majesty’s Directives: Corporate Generosity, Social Responsibility, and State Making in Oman

Robin Thomas Steiner, Westminster College

ABSTRACT—This article investigates the social and political effects of the introduction of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Oman. With oil reserves dwindling, Oman faces the challenge of transforming a society and economy long dependent on distributive state spending into a diversified economy capable of continuing the nation’s prosperity after oil. As a seemingly market-based solution to the problem of “too much” government, CSR has been championed by officials and practitioners as a tool to empower private sector businesses to replace the state as a provider of welfare and services. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork and interviews with members of Oman’s business community, state officials, and others, this article challenges these presumptions, demonstrating that CSR has been implemented in Oman in ways that perpetuate the nation’s dependence on oil revenues and distributive state subsidies. Pointing out that the Omani state’s subsidy-driven development has long relied on the incentivized collaboration of private sector businesses, this article argues that the introduction of CSR in Oman has occurred in ways that resonate with older practices of corporate generosity. Instead of introducing market-based alternatives to state-guided subsidies, CSR has been instituted in Oman in ways that allow the state to leverage private sector organizations to extend its distributive reach. In conversation with scholarship on the role of neoliberal discourses and practices in the diversification efforts of states of the Arab Gulf, this article highlights the discrepancy between development plans and their outcomes to demonstrate how seemingly neoliberal interventions may be co-opted to achieve alternative ends. [Keywords: Corporate Social Responsibility, rentier governmentality, diversification, neoliberalism, expertise, the state, Oman]

 

The Political Opportunity of Heritage: Appropriations, Memories, and Identities in Cabanyal

Beatriz Santamarina, Universitat de València

Eva Momp, Universitat de València

ABSTRACT—Charitable aid is sometimes characterized as an activity saturated with emotion, in which outpourings of feeling and care draw individual volunteers to the work (Muehlebach 2012, Adams 2013, Malkki 2015, Caldwell 2017). Yet the affective practice of humanitarian care can take different cultural forms, some of which may not appear deeply affecting. Drawing upon ethnographic research with the long-term US volunteers of a faith-based medical aid organization in Minneapolis/St. Paul, this article develops a linguistically and semiotically informed approach to affect in order to deepen understanding of charitable affect as an actively made experience with cultural variability among long-term charitable volunteers, rather than a singular or stable phenomenon. It argues that affective displays are central to a multifaceted ethical practice through which charitable volunteers seek to demonstrate virtuousness in their ordinary aid activities. The article explores how, within the Minneapolis faith-based organization International Health Mission, volunteer commitment is culturally scaffolded or made socially legible through a combination of conversational exchanges, embodied labor practices, and examples of the ethically disfavored course of action. Applying linguistic and semiotic tools to the analysis of charitable aid illuminates the mechanisms through which affect economies are variously realized, contested, and practiced. Though charitable volunteers may seek to demonstrate a sense of duty or care for other people, the ways they culturally exhibit these complex ethical positions may vary substantially. Charitable work can produce the feeling of participating in a shared social contract, of rectifying the inequalities and failures of the state in some cases. This article concludes that the affect practices central to mobilizing such action may not be the same, nor importantly look the same across charitable endeavors. [Keywords: Affect, volunteerism, ethical practice, charitable aid, semiosis]