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Volume 92, #2 • Spring 2019

 

ARTICLES

 

Dancing Dolls: Animating Childhood in a Contemporary Kazakhstani Institution

Meghanne Barker, University of Chicago

ABSTRACT—This article shows how marginalized children use performance to animate hyperbolic representations of ideal childhood at a state-run home for children in Kazakhstan. Children growing up in institutional group homes, such as orphanages, are frequently objects of pity and stigmatization. These institutions rely on state and private donations. They compete for continued support with an increasingly diverse field of alternative social welfare programs. Based on observations between 2012 and 2014 at Hope House—a temporary, state-run home (with private sponsors) in Almaty—I examine how teachers socialize children into roles of performing for visiting adults. Their songs and poems solicit affection and ongoing engagement from visiting spectators, who include state inspectors, corporate sponsors, and parents who have promised to return for them. These animations stage ideal versions of childhood: children show their vulnerability, and thus their need for support, but also offer promises of their potential. That is, the children work to show that they require assistance now, but will grow up to be competent adults, despite the perceived threat that early institutionalization presents to their development. As these children take on roles that render them helpless or even object-like, they nonetheless actively participate in inviting and sustaining interaction with and investment from visiting adults. Teachers compel children to recite poems and to dance as puppets come to life, exercising both care and control. These routines are thus not simply a show for outsiders. Rather, teachers socialize children through repetition and rehearsal. These animations form a crucial modality through which the children develop relationships with adults inside and outside the institutional home. [Keywords: Childhood, animation, performance, postsocialism, Central Asia, institutionalization, marginalization]

 

Dignity in Death and Life: Negotiating Agaciro for the Nation in Preservation Practice at Nyamata Genocide Memorial, Rwanda

Annalisa Bolin, Stanford University

ABSTRACT—The ideal of agaciro, or dignity, is foundational for the contemporary Rwandan nation-state. More than two decades after genocide, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) government seeks to make dignity a core characteristic of the new, post-conflict nation. At the same time, the state uses heritage sites, especially genocide memorials, to establish the nation’s history and identity. Focusing on the intersection of the dignity imperative and the value of genocide heritage to nation-building, this article examines the mobilization of dignity through a study of a joint Rwandan-American preservation initiative at Nyamata Genocide Memorial. Such memorials are essential to the RPF’s nation-building project, and according dignity to the remains of genocide victims is powerfully linked to re-establishing dignity for living Rwandans and the new nation. This article examines how dignity has historically shaped choices about the burial and display of the victims and artifacts of genocide, and how preservation work at Nyamata encounters new manifestations of these ongoing questions. Given dignity’s importance to the state and the connection between genocide and the new nation’s identity, the crucial but complex decisions about preservation are a key material engagement at the root of a key national characteristic. Tracing the practical transformations of a foundational abstraction for the post-genocide Rwandan state, this article shows that the state’s commitment to dignity at the memorials is based in an agentic conception of genocide remains, an understanding with powerful implications. But despite this, and although the state insists on dignity’s importance to the new nation, dignity is not only contested as a material practice but also remains uncertain as a basic principle for the new nation’s engagement with its defining moment. [Keywords: Rwanda, heritage, genocide, dignity, nation, memorialization, human remains]

 

Not My Job? Architecture, Responsibility, and Justice in a Booming African Metropolis

Marco Di Nunzio University of Birmingham

ABSTRACT—Calls for professional ethics and lawful conduct pervade the ways architects assess their contributions to urban development and ground their sense of responsibility towards the city and its dwellers. However, the centrality of professional ethics in architectural practice constitutes a way of delimiting the extent of this responsibility, rather than triggering a commitment to achieve greater social justice. By investigating the place of architecture in the development of Addis Ababa, a booming African metropolis, this article offers a critique of professional ethics, and an examination of how professional practice could be otherwise. I document how a limited number of architects seek to break rank to take responsibility for the ways social inequalities are reinforced in the process of urban change. I explore how individual attempts to change the terms and narratives of one’s relatedness to the plight of unknown others can make achieving social justice a potential objective of urban politics. [Keywords: Architecture, professional ethics, responsibility, justice, development, Africa Rising, Ethiopia]

 

Praying for Rights: Cultivating Deaf Worldings in Urban India

Michele Friedner, University of Chicago

ABSTRACT—This article ethnographically analyzes the emergence of deaf worlding in New Delhi, India centered around Christianity, deaf rights, and deaf sociality. Approaching disability through human rights frameworks involves the worlding of rights-focused subjectivities. However, disability as a social and moral category and experience is frequently routed through and exists alongside other domains in which rights may be of differential importance. Thus disability rights, especially as a global initiative, intermingles with other ways of being in and out of the world. The focus of human rights often has different bases and priorities than, for instance, religious worlds, which are often otherworlds or interworlds. This ethnography thus examines how deaf people cultivate selves, socialities, institutions, and goals that are interworldly. An analysis of how deaf people pray for rights foregrounds deaf and disability activism that is not solely located in a liberal international human rights regime and allows for other kinds of deaf/disability personhood and worldings. A focus on cultivation becomes a means to think about the interactive and processual emergence of interworldly orientations, institutions, and futures. [Keywords: Rights, deafness, signed language, Christianity, disability, India]

 

“When the Orthodox Went Away”: Histories of Displacement and Extermination on the Polish/Belarusian Border

Aimée Joyce, University of St. Andrews

ABSTRACT—This article asserts that the current rise of right wing nationalism in Poland utilizes a set of nested historical erasures and silences. As Trouillot demonstrates, all history making is about selective acts of remembering and forgetting, and close attention to specific “unthinkable” histories reveals how power infuses the process of history making (1995:29). In the Polish case, the authorized historical record produces a homogeneous model of Polish identity by excluding specific histories of dispossession and destruction. Here, I focus on two places that relate to the horrors of Operation Vistula and the Holocaust. I begin by introducing these two silent spaces which trouble a small town on the eastern Polish border. The article moves first to explore how local people engage and evoke these silent spirits via the fragmented and intricate materiality of these haunted spaces and through acts of remembrance and forgetting. I argue that these practices are an attempt to negotiate a complex multi-ethnic history of conflict and cohesion. Yet they also reveal that some conflicts are more unsayable than others. Finally, the article demonstrates the different qualities of silence around these two historical atrocities. It draws on this difference to understand how local memory interacts with, and is undermined by, the historical narrative espoused by the current government. [Keywords: Poland, silence, affective space, materiality, the Holocaust, Operation Vistula]