Anthropological Quarterly is a publication of

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   Institute for Ethnographic Research

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Volume 92, #2 • Spring 2019




The Ambivalence of Belonging: The Impact of Illegality on the Social Belonging of Undocumented Youth

Francesca Melon, Northumbria University

ABSTRACT—How do undocumented young people establish a sense of belonging when they are afraid to disclose their migratory status? And when they could be separated from the persons they love and care for? Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Canada, this article explores how illegality shapes youth’s belonging. It argues that the experiences of undocumented youth, as well as the attitudes of the state towards them, must be understood as forms of “structural ambivalence.” On the one hand, I show how marginality is reproduced not only through explicit policies of exclusion (e.g., deportation, surveillance, or immigration documents), but also through laws and practices that are often silent and opaque, rendering people non-existent at a social and legal level. On the other, I analyze how youth negotiate such discourses of invisibility by forming a revocable sense of belonging. I suggest that ambivalence is not only produced by the social exclusion of young people. It is also a form of agency which enables youth to endure the risk of deportation, and to detach themselves from the disempowering conditions they are caught in. [Keywords: Migration, illegality, undocumented, youth, children, belonging, agency, Canada]


Reconstructing Blackness in Grassroots Interactions Between Chinese and Africans in Guangzhou

Shanshan Lan, The University of Amsterdam

ABSTRACT—This article examines the racial implications of daily life interactions between African traders and rural-to-urban Chinese migrants in China’s southern metropolis Guangzhou, due to a recent wave of African migration to China. Differing from previous generations of Africans in China who were mainly students from elite backgrounds, these new migrants consist of individual traders and small entrepreneurs who purchase cheap consumer goods in China and ship them back to Africa for sale. Despite language barriers and cultural differences, the two migrant groups share similar structural marginalization in urban China due to their non-resident or non-citizenship status. By focusing on these two underprivileged groups in urban China, this research foregrounds a grassroots interpretation of Sino/African trade relations, which is largely absent from official propaganda. I argue that racial learning between non-elite Chinese and Africans is a bi-directional and interactive process, which may involve mutual stereotypes and racialization on both sides. However, Chinese migrants’ shared structural marginalization with black Africans may also give rise to alternative constructions of blackness that move beyond the hegemonic black/white binary. Due to the relative absence of whiteness and white privilege in grassroots Chinese/African interactions, the notion of white supremacy can be de-centered and replaced by multiple parameters for evaluating blackness, such as nationality, English proficiency, class and economic status, indigenous aesthetic values, religion, and cultural differences. [Keywords: Blackness, China, African diaspora, race, mutual racialization, grassroots interactions]


Murabitun Religious Conversion: Time, Depth, and Scale among Spain’s New Muslims

Mikaela Rogozen-Soltar, University of Nevada, Reno

ABSTRACT—This article calls for a reworking of the concept of religious conversion, one that goes beyond the recent tendency to focus on temporality as the defining feature of religious change. This emphasis on time has led to a bifurcation of scholarship between work on rupture-oriented Christian conversion and on return-oriented Muslim reversion. I draw on ethnographic fieldwork with Sufi Murabitun converts in southern Spain to illustrate the limits of these common temporal frames. I argue that the Murabitun hold a vision of conversion that combines temporal orientations toward both the past and the future, while also entwining temporality with particular uses of depth and scale in the service of a religious conversion that is both spiritual and political in nature. Specifically, the Murabitun prescribe slow, piecemeal changes to achieve radical ruptures, they privilege truth and purity over superficiality or simplistic change, and they envision conversion as a multi-scalar project that propels transformation from the individual, to the Spanish nation-state, to a global Islamic utopia. I suggest that a broadened conversion concept, one untethered to particular configurations of time, opens analytical space for bridging the divide between work on Christianity and Islam. In the process, I underscore how the current split between scholarship of different religions results from an initial desire on the part of anthropologists to take religious subjects seriously. The article thus points to the ironic danger of overreliance on emic categories for anthropological analysis more broadly. [Keywords: Spain, Europe, Islam, Conversion, Murabitun, Temporality, Scale]


Cartographies of Consignment: First Nations and Mapwork in the Neoliberal Era

Tom Özden-Schilling, Johns Hopkins University

ABSTRACT—Anthropological critiques of development on First Nations territories increasingly conflate indigenous participation in government- and corporate-led information gathering projects with a broader resignation to neoliberal governmentality. New government-authored resource management plans and incremental treaty agreements (e.g., short-term revenue-sharing plans and self-government measures), however, have transformed the defensive research and information-sharing strategies which characterized earlier land claims confrontations. This article explores how field mapping techniques and concepts of territory originally developed around participatory mapping and traditional use and occupancy studies have been re-systematized for the constraints and complicities of corporate-funded environmental mapping and database work. Drawing on my experience with mappers contracted to trace an alternative route for a gas pipeline proposed to bisect the traditional territories of the Gitanyow First Nation, I argue that iterative map-work methods allow First Nations experts to engage in long-term territorial politics while deferring direct confrontations and emotional investments in specific development proposals through a process I call “consignment.” This process has helped technicians working for groups like the Gitanyow to weather new uncertainties generated by the neoliberalization of resource management and territorial politics, and to safeguard key anti-colonial projects even as they are forced to defer other political goals. Contextualizing new institutional instabilities within the long history of indigenous mapping projects in British Columbia, I outline how the contingencies of map-work expose connections between technocracy, daily life, and the politics of indigeneity in the neoliberal era. [Keywords: Expertise, indigeneity, pipelines, co-management, transects, gig economy, consignment]



Volume 92, #2

Spring 2019

Dancing Dolls: Animating Childhood in a Contemporary Kazakhstani Institution