Volume 94,#4

Fall 2021

Victoria Bernal’s “The Cultural Construction of Cybersecurity: Digital Threats and Dangerous Rhetoric”


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


Volume 94, #4 • Fall 2021




The Data Multiple: Seeing Double in Digital Entrepreneurialism

Yuliya Grinberg, Drew University

ABSTRACT—Media and critical data scholars often critique digital entrepreneurs for endorsing narrow and positivist models of data and corporeality. But what happens when device makers plan for digital uncertainty and are invested in fostering interpretive fluidity of both data and bodies? Drawing on two years of ethnographic fieldwork with makers of wearable computing in New York City’s Silicon Alley, this article argues that creators of wearable technology work with more pluralized concepts of data than digital scholars often recognize. In marketing materials and public-facing documents, devices makers often do promote the idea that wearable technology can help people to patiently synchronize their digital records so as to compile Borgesian archives of their experiences. In practice, commercial imperatives effectively require that product makers also cultivate a multifaceted regard of personal data and somatic experience. In examining how device makers capitalize on the ambiguities inherent to digital knowing and thus enact a digital economy shaped by pliable rather than atomized notions of corporeality and data, this article opens onto wider debates about the politics of digital representation. [Keywords: Personal data, wearables, quantified self, digital economy]


The Cultural Construction of Cybersecurity: Digital Threats and Dangerous Rhetoric

Victoria Bernal, University of California Irvine

ABSTRACT—This article explores the contemporary construction of public culture around cybersecurity in the United States, using discourse analysis to critically examine the rise of militaristic rhetoric around digital threats in news reports and public statements by government officials and corporate experts. Cybersecurity has gone from being an obscure focus of tech and security experts to an issue of public concern. My approach advances theorizations of digital media and politics by bringing together insights from digital media studies and the anthropology of security to analyze how public culture around “cybersecurity” is being discursively constructed by authorities, and to advance theorizations of digital media and politics. Given the pervasive role of digital media in Americans’ lives, I contend that discourses that represent cybersecurity in terms of national security, equating hacking with cyberwar and cyberterrorism, contribute to the militarization of private civil and social life while failing to address wider vulnerabilities and threats to democracy associated with digital media. [Keywords: Digital media, security, militarism, internet, democracy, war on terror, hacking]


Navigating Seas, Markets, and Sovereignties: Fishers and Occupational Slippage in the South China Sea

Edyta Roszko, Chr. Michelsen Institute

ABSTRACT—Oceans have always been arenas of crime, drugs and human trafficking, and poaching. When such violations occur on fishing boats, they fall under the rubric of “fisheries crime.” Political scientists and economists have tended to assume that these criminal fishers simply abandon their legal occupation and take up illegal practices, labelled “transnational organized fisheries crime” by the United Nations. On the other hand, some scholars have also argued that subsidized and militarized fishers in the South China Sea are simply acting as instruments of their states’ geopolitical agendas, responding to regulations, non-enforcement of regulations, and incentives. Such present-centric approaches both obscure the modalities of fishers’ embodied skills and knowledge and their motivations, and downplay the inter-ethnic networks that connected different fishers beyond state territories and localized fishing grounds in past and present. Charting the spike in maritime trespass in (and out of) the South China Sea, this article combines ethnography and historiography to show how fishers move in and out of legal and illegal, state and non-state categories of fisher, poacher, trader, smuggler, and militia. I propose the concept of occupational slippage as a way of going beyond the fiction of fishing as mono-occupational and theorizing the realities of fishers as mobile maritime actors who enact and conceal multiple—simultaneous and consecutive—livelihood strategies while navigating not just seas, but also markets and territorial sovereignties. Thus, I argue that the fishers’ practices reflect wider interconnections between modern, state-supported, and technology-driven fisheries with older pre-nation-state patterns of mobility and knowledge accumulated through generations, producing new forms of versatility that operate under the states’ radars. [Keywords: Fishers, occupational slippage, tidalectic, market, sovereignties, maritime militia, South China Sea]


Social Memory, Iconicity, and Gendered Spaces in Tuareg Sedentarization and Urbanization

Susan Rasmussen, University of Houston

ABSTRACT—This article explores selective memories of nomadic gendered spaces, as expressed in the iconicity of housing built forms and their surrounding motifs and practices in terms of their meanings in relation to changing social contexts among the previously more nomadic Saharan Tuareg in sedentarization and urbanization. The approach here takes the apparently temporal idea of historical change in a formerly nomadic society and connects it to the spatial continuities and transformations in settled and urban organization and practice, analyzing their impact upon gender constructs and relations between the sexes, and exploring ways women and men actively respond to and manipulate these new spaces through evoking selective memories of their rural nomadic milieu. It is shown how local and national social constructions of memory and history sometimes converge, sometimes diverge, and have changed under wider pressures, while Tuareg women’s lives and their place as makers of much material culture have been transformed. It is argued that agency in gendered spaces in oases and towns of Niger and Mali alternately obliterates and commemorates important gender constructs central to cultural identity. More broadly, this article argues that spatial and iconic meanings emerge only when animated by practices focused on both remembering and forgetting, practices not always rigidly opposed or mutually exclusive. [Keywords: Symbol, Africa, gender, social memory]



Wealth is King: The Conceptualization of Wealth in Igbo Personal Naming Practices

Eyo O. Mensah, University of Calabar & Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies, University of Freiburg

Queendaline I. Iloh, Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Port Harcourt

ABSTRACT—Personal names among the Igbo people of South-eastern Nigeria can also be understood and contextualized within the fringes of their cultural values, worldviews, emotions, and economic resources. This article explores the conceptualization of wealth in Igbo personal naming practices from an ethnopragmatic paradigm, which uncovers the hidden meanings underlying the interpretation of language. Drawing on ethnographic data sourced through participant observations, semi-structured interviews, and informal conversations with 30 participants (name-bearers, givers, and users) in the eastern heartland of Owerri (Imo State) and Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, we contextualize the pattern of wealth-inspired names among the Igbo as symbolic capital aimed at securing the welfare and future life trajectories of their bearers. We conclude that the concept of wealth has an intrinsic value among the Igbo for social class distinction, and it is reinscribed in the onomastic system to reflect parental aspirations for enduring social status, positioning, and belonging in the institutionalized class system. In this way, Igbo personal names function as economic resources for identity construction and social status classification. [Keywords: Personal names, wealth, ethnopragmatics, cultural identity, Igbo]