Category Archives: Blog

Jeremy Morris: Cheesed off, but not because of sanctions: Russians adapt to immiseration as global capital increases its grip

With the constant, confusing, and often misinformed media noise around Russia, you would be forgiven for believing a number of unhelpfully distorting half-truths: that Russia has been a pariah state for a while (connected to sanctions after the occupation of Crimea and intervention in East Ukraine); that Russia is on a kind of lockdown with no outlet for protests and careful management of dissent by the state; or that Putin is so popular that protests are pointless or restricted to a small educated minority. Lastly, you might get the impression that oil money continues to keep the Russians reasonably quiescent—after all, the government spent heavily on social programs before and after the initial shocks associated with the global financial crisis.

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Nithya Natarajan: Behind the Indian Boom

“Behind the Indian Boom: Inequality and Resistance at the Heart of Economic Growth” is an exhibition curated by Alpa Shah and Simon Chambers, located in the Brunei Gallery in SOAS, London.[1] The exhibition will run from 13 October to 16 December 2017, and there is an accompanying book entitled Behind the Indian Boom: Inequality and Resistance at the Heart of Economic Growth (Shah and Lerche 2017).

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Axel Rudi: Independence from Whom? The Aftermath of the Kurdish Referendum

 In the future, people will say, “On the 16th of October, it happened again.” The Kurds were once again betrayed by the international community. Afraid of losing their territory to the Kurdish self-governance authorities after the independence referendum, the Iraqi state responded with overwhelming military force, compelling the Peshmerga to lay down their arms. In the following days, the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) lost approximately 40 percent of their territory and withdrew into the pre-ISIS 2003 borders at the behest of the regional powers. The hopes and dreams for Kurdish independence were dashed again, and “the Kurds’ only friends are the mountains.” Shock and disbelief at these recent developments, however, belie a certain naïveté.

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Johan Fischer: Veg or non-veg? On fieldwork and food in India

Reporting from an ongoing fieldwork in Hyderabad, India, the central topic of this piece is the ways in which the vegetarian and the nonvegetarian are understood, practiced, and contested in contemporary India. I argue that “vegetarianism,” especially when seen to be inseparable from Hinduism and the caste system, can fruitfully be unpacked when explored empirically vis-à-vis the nonvegetarian. What is more, I show that context matters when exploring the vegetarian and nonvegetarian in the interfaces between state/politics, markets, and consumers in Hyderabad. My preliminary findings suggest that the relationship between the vegetarian and nonvegetarian is being redefined in contemporary India: the long-held idea that the more individuals and social groups follow a vegetarian lifestyle the higher social status they enjoy is breaking down. What is more, vegetarianism and meat-eating are increasingly individual lifestyle choices rather than determined by religious orthodoxy.

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Soe Lin Aung: Three theses on the crisis in Rakhine

By now, the main contours of the recent events in Rakhine State, in western Myanmar, are well-known. On August 25, an insurgent group calling itself the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) (previously Harakah al-Yaqin) attacked police posts in northern Rakhine, eliciting a broad counterinsurgency response from the Myanmar military that has displaced over 400,000 Rohingya people into Bangladesh. As in previous cycles of violence, the Myanmar military, or Tatmadaw, has reportedly targeted civilians in its “clearance operations,” leading to allegations of killings, rape, and the burning of villages. The UN’s human rights body has referred to this latest outbreak of violence as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

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Joe Trapido: Breaking Rocks: Music, Ideology and Economic Collapse, from Paris to Kinshasa

Breaking Rocks is a volume of the Dislocations series published by Berghahn Books, a series closely associated with Focaal and FocaalBlog. The immense dislocations and suffering caused by neoliberal globalization the retreat of the welfare state in the last decades of the twentieth century, and the heightened military imperialism at the turn of the twenty-first century have raised urgent questions about the temporal and spatial dimensions of power. Through stimulating critical perspectives and new and cross-disciplinary frameworks, which reflect recent innovations in the social and human sciences, this series provides a forum for politically engaged, ethnographically informed, and theoretically incisive responses.

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Chris Hann: Hayek versus Polanyi in Montréal: Global society as markets, all the way across?

The workshop “Geographies of Markets”—hosted over three days in mid-June 2017 by the Karl Polanyi Institute of Political Economy at Concordia University, Montréal—gave scholars from a wide range of countries and disciplines an opportunity to assess the continued relevance of the Polanyian critique of “market society.” Even if this critique lacks the formal rigor of neoclassical economics, even if Polanyi’s concept of market exchange fails to capture the institutional intricacies of contemporary markets, and even if the man himself was very much a European intellectual of his age, his approach still appears to provide the best scientific foundation on which to build global political and normative alternatives to neoliberal hegemony. Today, however, his geographic binary between East and West, like his ideal types of redistribution and market exchange, all need careful reappraisal.

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Petra Rethmann: The German question: Solidarity, Lexit, nation

On 14 May 2017, in North Rhine-Westphalia’s (NRW) state (Bundesland) election, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) won in emphatic fashion. Emphatic, here, does not express itself in numbers—33 percent for the CDU—but in the fact that the party won at all. The Social Democratic Party (SPD), which from 1966 to 2005, and then from 2010 to 2017, had governed North Rhine-Westphalia, crashed with roughly 31 percent. Party leader Hannelore Kraft resigned within 30 minutes of the polls closing. After a lengthy hiatus, the anti-statist and centre-right right Free Democratic Party (FDP) reached more than 12 percent, and the xenophobic Alternative for Germany (AfD) eased with more than 7 percent into NRW’s parliament. More left-leaning parties that ran on platforms arguing for greater social and economically distributive justice, including the Pirates and The Left, failed to clear the 5 percent threshold required by Germany’s electoral system. The one Land that in Germany had always been regarded as the center of Social Democracy went conservative.

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Focaal Volume 2017, Issue 78: Boredom after the global financial crisis

We are pleased to announce that the latest issue of Focaal – Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology has recently published and is available online at its new home,

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World Refugee Day: Free articles from Berghahn Journals

The United Nations recognizes World Refugee Day annually on June 20 to raise awareness of and show support for the millions of refugees who have been forced to flee their homes each year. This year, the UN Refugee Agency will also launch its #WithRefugees petition to send a message to governments that they must work together to ensure the rights and safety of refugees. Continue reading