On the evening of 16 June 2012, after the announcement of the electoral results that had brought Syriza to second place behind the conservative New Democracy (but at 27 percent, risen almost seven-fold from the previous elections), Alexis Tsipras came on the stage in the midst of bittersweet celebrations in central Athens. Syriza , the party miracle of the radical Left, had been christened as the moral authority in Greece and the Eurozone: it had taken over the questione morale to center stage and monopolized it. In a moment of powerful semantics connecting past and future, the then-38-year-old Tsipras embraced the Syriza MP (today MEP) Manolis Glezos, then 90 years old, one of the most prominent anti–Nazi Resistance Europeans alive today. Tsipras then, among other interesting points such as tearing the debt Memoranda apart, uttered the classic phrase, “The future lasts a long time.” He didn’t actually quote Althusser, but we got the point.
Thessaloniki, 21 January 2015.
Since the announcement of the Greek elections, Greece has once again become the center of global attention. We know that just by watching the news on Greek TV channels. We learn bits and bytes about the discussion that has opened around possible scenarios for debt restructuring, possible domino effects of a Grexit, or analyses of the failed rescue plans. Yet, we learn substantially more about public statements coming from Wolfgang Schäuble and company, statements that address various audiences and that are meant to have disciplinary effects, to foster fear (or “reason,” in their terms). For one moment we feel happy that the era of brutal cultural stigmatization seems over (at least in mainstream media discourse), a time when Channel 4 could broadcast the reality show Go Greek for a Week. But maybe this is because we are now debating the future, not the causes, of the crisis. After all, Angela Merkel has been recurrently praising the hardworking Greeks who have patiently led the country out of the crisis.
On 20 December 2014, Romania got its new president: Klaus Iohannis. The processes surrounding this election deserve mention and anthropological scrutiny. Almost exactly twenty-five years after the execution of the Ceausescu couple on Christmas Day 1989, Romania is celebrating a brand new sort of President: a “Santa Klaus.”
During my fieldwork in Freetown, Sierra Leone, in 2013–14, I witnessed the unfolding of the current Ebola crisis that is so heavily affecting the region today. I saw how the regulations put in place to stop the spread of the virus impacted livelihoods, restricting transport and closing businesses, schools, and borders. It is no exaggeration to say that the Ebola outbreak affected every single person I know there. I experienced an unsettling atmosphere of uncertainty: personal plans were put on hold as each day became a struggle to make ends meet. And then there were the fears about Ebola itself, which intensified as the virus spread to the capital. Broadly speaking, people I know became more reliant on those “close” to them in the wake of the Ebola crisis, particularly family members, the providers of financial and practical support and care. However, this approach to support and care runs the risk of transmitting the virus, transforming an intimate relative or friend into an “enemy.” In this piece, I suggest that the Ebola crisis exposes deep-rooted tensions surrounding intimacy in Sierra Leone. Experiences and understandings of the “enemy within,” along with broader notions of transformation, in turn color responses and attitudes toward the crisis itself.
In fall 2013, an alleged spy was put behind bars in the Qena governorate in Upper Egypt. The accused’s name was Menes, and his summer residency was Hungary. Menes was caught by a villager who spotted a suspicious device on Menes’s body, and he was put in custody until he was released by an attorney. In 2013, several foreigners were arrested in Egypt on similar accusations. Perhaps the most reported story is that of three Al Jazeera journalists accused of spreading lies and supporting terrorism. They were recently sentenced to between seven and ten years in prison (Al Jazeera 2014).
With the rise of the Islamic State—ad-Dawlah al-Islāmīyah (“Da’ish”)—senior figures in the American and British establishment reportedly considered working with the Syrian government to “fight this threat.” As of 23 September 2014, such debates are academic—US bombs are falling over Aleppo and Raqqa. It’s unknown if the regime clandestinely offered its approval; what we do know is that—aside from stressing the need to respect international law, to cooperate with the Iraqi government, and to protect the lives of civilians—no official condemnation has been issued.1 In one year we’ve transitioned from debating strikes against the Syrian regime to a Western-led alliance now bombing the regime’s enemies. To some this might appear surprising, but for many opposition fighters engaged in the revolutionary struggle, these events were a long time coming. This post2 tries to explain why.
Blood and Fire is a volume of the “Dislocations” series published by Berghahn Books. The immense dislocations and suffering caused by neo-liberal 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.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in South Wales held 4–5 September 2014 was heavily mediatized in member countries as a “wake-up call” for this military alliance, for Europe, and even for Western civilization. Violence in eastern Ukraine, for which Vladimir Putin alone was allegedly responsible, was said to be catapulting the world back to the polarization of the Cold War. Yet when one looked more closely, Putin’s propaganda was restrained in comparison with the inflammatory rhetoric of the retiring NATO secretary general and the hyperbole of the US State Department and numerous European politicians with only one thing in common: They knew little or nothing about the history of Ukraine.
How to govern the “global land rush”1 was at issue in the final negotiations on the Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems at the Committee for World Food Security (CFS) in Rome, held 4–8 August 2014. For a week, a policy drama unfolded. On stage were private sector organizations, clearly supported by the United States, Canada, and Russia, that wanted to prevent any regulation of investments. Opposing them were Civil Society Organizations (CSOs)—supported by Brazil, Ecuador, and, to some extent, Indonesia and Sudan—that wanted commitments from the governments to assume their obligations to govern investments in such a way as to realize the right to food as a national priority.
This brief note suggests some directions that a rising Marxist anthropology might consider taking. Sandy Smith-Nonini and Donald Nonini have done a wonderful job explaining why Carbon Democracy is a “brilliant” book that is “essential reading for anthropologists” (2014), especially for those concerned with the political economy of fossil energy. Elsewhere, I have reviewed Timothy Mitchell’s book (Reyna 2012) and offered some suggestions concerning an approach to the anthropology of hydrocarbons (Behrends, Reyna, and Schlee 2011), so I do not propose to discuss here either the substance of Mitchell’s argument or the emerging literature on the anthropology of oil. Rather, I will explore two implications of Mitchell’s work for the very nature of the anthropological project. These implications deal with bloat (conceptual) and tents (pup and big top).