All posts by Focaal Web Editor

Gavin Smith: Chasm: Interrupted Lives

Over the last few years I have found myself talking to people who have experienced radical displacements in their lives as a result both of economic distress and of political disturbance. They have been obliged to “move on,” to “move out,” to “move away.” Yet these are not really narratives that help put order into the world we live in. They are less to do with narrative, which is a rather literary way of believing the world can be settled for us. They’re more to do with the simultaneous solidity and the elusiveness of the role place plays in these people’s lives—even when they are not there. And they’re about the slipperiness of a time-past that sometimes deceives people that it can help deal with the present, and a time-future that keeps jumping about and producing either perpetual anxiety or, simply, resignation.

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Gustavo Lins Ribeiro: IMPACTS OF THE DIGITAL ERA ON SCHOLARLY WORK

It is hard to make comments on the contemporary world without simultaneously prospecting the future. These endeavors are entangled. Under strong momentary impressions, we may believe we are facing pressing issues, but what seems so important today may quietly disappear into oblivion. At best, it is possible to scan the likelihood of various unfoldings in tune with identified trends and in analogy with previous historical examples.

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Winnie Lem: Materialist Feminism, Migration, and “Affective” Labor: Mediations in Capitalist Reproduction

In the American Anthropologic al Association (AAA) panel on “Anthropology’s Public Engagement with Capitalism: Beyond Gifts versus Markets” (Chicago, 2013), Don Kalb and Patrick Neveling asked us to advance on the genealogies that prevail as alternatives to anarchist and Maussian envisionings of communalism and societies against the state. They entreated us to visit perspectives that draw their analytical and political force from engagements that lie in the tradition of historical and global anthropology. Such alternatives, so Kalb and Neveling suggest, problematize the changing nature of profit, accumulation, and class that underpin capitalist (re)production. They also lie within traditions as practiced by Worsley, Wolf, and Mintz and as Neveling and Kalb suggest, as practiced by others. Here, I wish to advance such alternative genealogies by focusing precisely on some of those others who have intervened in this tradition of global anthropology by asking how gender mediates in the reproduction of capitalism.
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Luisa Steur: Indigeneity and Precariousness: Ontological Criticism Or Dialectical Force?

This piece, briefly, will argue that in studying and supporting the many indigenous movements that have emerged in the last decades of the twentieth century, a dialectical understanding of political identification processes and global capitalism dynamics is of key importance. I will also lay out how I came to this understanding through a combination of methodological engagement and fieldwork encounters.
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Patrick Neveling: Capitalism: The Most Recent Seventy-Two Years

On 1 November 1950, two Puerto Rican males tried to shoot their way into the provisional White House in Washington, D.C., aiming to kill President Harry S. Truman. Allegedly, the assassins were members of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, an underground resistance movement opposed to US colonialism on that Caribbean island and portrayed by a subsequent report to the US House of Representatives Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs as “a handful of independence fanatics…replete with terror” supported by the US Communist Party.
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Jaume Franquesa: Consolidating Power, Controlling the Future: Debt and Crisis in the Spanish Electrical Sector

In recent years, I have been studying the development of renewable energy in Spain with the aim of developing a better understanding of energy transitions. My research shows that energy transitions are nonlinear processes that open possibilities for new social arrangements, but it also highlights the ways that such new social arrangements rework inherited relationships of power. In this paper I want to elaborate on this idea by focusing on the way big electrical corporations have been mobilizing the current context of economic crisis to rewrite energy policy. As a result, these big corporations are able to consolidate and extend into the future their position of control over the energy system, understood here to include not only technologies and resources, but also more crucially the social structures and relations of production sustaining their operation (Debeir et al. 1991 [1986]).
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Gavin Smith: Intellectuals’ Contributions to Popular Mobilization and Strategic Action under Different Conditions of Possibility

The argument I make here is a fairly obvious one. It is that the spatially widespread insurrections in the global south during the ’60s, and especially their victories against France in Algeria, the United States in Southeast Asia, and Portugal in its various colonies, obliged anthropologists and historians on the Left to rethink the way they did anthropology: their methods, their research design, and the concepts they used. Though in many cases it may not have been explicit in their work, the fact is that they began to design their research questions in very much the same way as the issues of “What is to be done?” that insurgents themselves had laid out (or were laying out) in their various forms. Moreover, the work of this bridgehead of Left scholars had a knock-on effect on the discipline as a whole, reshaping the entire enterprise of what sociocultural anthropology was.
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Jonathan Friedman: Did Someone Say Globalization? The Mystification of Intellectuals and the Cunning of History

In the fall of 2008, the “shock doctrine” came home to roost in the form of what has been referred to as a financial meltdown in the American but also increasingly larger segments of the world economy. Many were quite surprised, and there was certainly a sense of moral indignation about the entire affair. With media support there has been an ongoing witch hunt for the culprits who “got us into this mess.” But the proliferation of discourses has reacted to this crisis as if it were quite unique. The vacuum with respect to a longer-term comprehension of the scale and dynamics of capital accumulation, the various cycles that are packed into it, from shorter business cycles to longer cycles (including what Giovanni Arrighi and others have referred to as hegemonic cycles), are not part of the immediate reaction to losing one’s savings, pension, house, or livelihood. Consciousness would seem to be a short-term phenomenon, and, in large parts of the Western world, it was for a time reinforced by a myth that somehow business cycles were over and that growth had become a permanent fixture.
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Jane Collins: Reclaiming the Local in Movements against Inequality: A View from the United States

Many European nations have seen protests in 2013 as the state shifts its historic roles and responsibilities and protesters respond to cutbacks in public support as a breach of moral economy. At the same time, individuals and collectives have responded to austerity by creating and deepening forms of self-provisioning outside the realm of state and market.
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August Carbonella: Dispossession and Emancipation: Reframing Our Political Imagination

Everywhere we look, it seems, we are faced with the human and environmental devastation caused by contemporary processes of dispossession. How we are to confront this is the urgent political question of the day. Not surprisingly, this question has reinvigorated scholarly interest in dispossession, much of it inspired by the work of David Harvey (2003) on accumulation by dispossession and Peter Linebaugh (2008) on an expanded understanding of what constitutes the commons. These conceptual interventions are clearly both welcome and important, yet their explications of dispossession and commons, in the end, do not adequately address the political question. In brief, Harvey’s assignment of different political logics to the dispossessed in the Global North and South and Linebaugh’s evocative juxtapositions of different various commoning practices do not enable us to bring these struggles into a common relational frame. I suggest that a more sustained focus on uneven proletarianization—the end result of dispossession—will better serve our goal of understanding present protests and political possibilities.
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