Category Archives: Features

Patrick Neveling: “Vote like humans”: Elections in a posthuman political economy

This post is part of a feature on the 2017 UK elections, moderated and edited by Patrick Neveling (SOAS, University of London).

As I left Bournemouth train station this afternoon, a homeless man approached me and asked for some change. Shelters in Bournemouth and elsewhere in the United Kingdom charge money to rough sleepers on a per night basis. The going rate is currently four British pounds in Bournemouth, and it is certainly a common experience for commuters returning from Southampton and London to this southwestern English seaside town to be asked to for a contribution to those fees at the train station. In fact, the local council adds further pressure to an anyhow pressurized population of homeless in Bournemouth. As the current Tory government has cut several welfare packages, the number of homeless has risen dramatically across the United Kingdom in recent years.

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Michael Jennings: UK Election 2017 manifestos and international development: Common ground and clear water

This post is part of a feature on the 2017 UK elections, moderated and edited by Patrick Neveling (SOAS, University of London).

With the election coming up today, I thought it would be interesting to look at the commitments to international development in the manifestos of the Labour PartyConservatives, and Liberal Democrats.

The day-to-day realities of election campaigns tend to soon undermine the carefully calibrated and plotted plans of campaign managers. So this election that was intended (by the Conservatives) to be the Brexit election has moved in new directions as the policies put forward in the manifestos came under scrutiny and attack.

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John Gledhill: It’s Corbyn’s critics who need the history lesson

This post is part of a feature on the 2017 UK elections, moderated and edited by Patrick Neveling (SOAS, University of London).

In his very carefully argued speech of 26 May 2017 on the relationship between contemporary terrorism and foreign policy, Leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn observed: “Many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services, have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries and terrorism here at home.” Conservative and Liberal Democrat politicians immediately accused him of bad timing and muddled and dangerous thinking. Some critics, exemplified by Conservative Security Minister Ben Wallace, argued that Corbyn needed a history lesson, since it was obvious that the roots of “Islamic” terrorism predated 9/11 and then US President George W. Bush’s invasion of Afghanistan. “These people hate our values, not our foreign policy,” Wallace insisted in a radio interview that I listened to this morning.

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Alan Bradshaw: On the prospect of a Tory majority!

This post is part of a feature on the 2017 UK elections, moderated and edited by Patrick Neveling (SOAS, University of London).

As an Irishman living in England, I am struck by the total difference between how Brexit is discussed in both countries. In Ireland, it is clear that Brexit will bring economic disaster, but this can be mitigated against by significant planning and coordinated response by government and business. That even at this late stage, the form of Brexit is unknown is a source of great anxiety in Ireland. By contrast, in Britain to have any discourse of Brexit as impending economic ruination is simply unacceptable. Those who dare to utter prophecies of economic trouble are bullied into silence by a raging right-wing media. Brexit can only be allowed to be framed in the positive.

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Cris Shore: What is a European?: Solidarity, symbols, and the politics of exclusion

This post is part of a feature on anthropologists on the EU at 60, moderated and edited by Don Kalb (Central European University and University of Bergen).

Earlier this year, a curious incident occurred in Auckland that ignited a heated debate over the meaning of the term “European.” A new student club calling itself the Auckland University European Students Association announced it was withdrawing its applications to affiliate to the university on the eve of the new semester’s orientation week. The withdrawal came after members of the club were threated with violence and accused by people both on and off campus of racism. This controversy erupted because of the images posted on the group’s website, including Celtic symbols used by US white supremacists and paintings depicting the unification of Germany. The group’s Facebook page included an image of Captain Cook and the motto “our pride is our honour and loyalty,” a phrase reminiscent of the Nazi SS slogan, “my honour is called loyalty.”

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Michal Buchowski: Our coveted Europe

This post is part of a feature on anthropologists on the EU at 60, moderated and edited by Don Kalb (Central European University and University of Bergen).

Today’s political map of the world, and of Europe in particular, is not the same as in the recent past. Until only a hundred years ago, most states that we now take for granted did not exist. In Central and Eastern Europe, where I happen to come from, the four great empires of Russia, Prussia, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottomans dominated. By the beginning of World War I, only the Ottoman Empire was in recession. A veritable revolution of the political map of Europe came about as a result of WWI when new nation-states were established in Central and Eastern Europe. World War II moved some states westward. The collapse of the Soviet bloc led to the emergence of several new polities. In the newly emerged space of postsocialist Europe, the number of nation-states rose from 9 to 20, including the European part of Kazakhstan. East Germany was the only polity that integrated with another state to form a bigger country. Five countries remained untouched: Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Albania. The creation and expansion of the hybrid political body of the European Union represents in this perspective a counter-project to the ongoing political fragmentation that took place in this part of the continent over the past hundred years.

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Don Kalb: The EU at 60: the Treaty of Rome is a smoke screen

This post is part of a feature on anthropologists on the EU at 60, moderated and edited by Don Kalb (Central European University and University of Bergen).

The EU commemorates its 60th birthday today (25 March 2017), at a time when the institution is more contested than ever. The 1957 Treaty of Rome was an indisputable step toward undergirding the Western part of the continent of Europe with a set of international institutions that would help to secure peace, prosperity, and shared social citizenship—the sort of internationalism that had been urged by the likes of Keynes and Monnet long before the war. This happened against a historical background of half a century of deep, recurrent crisis, escalating class conflict, rivalry, and revenge that had unleashed industrialized destruction on an unprecedented scale. Without any irony, therefore, two loud cheers, please, for the Treaty of Rome and what it sought to secure. This is the basis of what majorities on the continent still like to imagine, defend, and wish to become part of, as their common and cherished symbolic home.

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Chris Hann: Beleaguered pseudo-continent: Happy birthday, Europe!

This post is part of a feature on anthropologists on the EU at 60, moderated and edited by Don Kalb (Central European University and University of Bergen).

Sixty this month, the European Union is almost as old as I am. Should we, in March 2017, celebrate a beacon of liberal-democratic sanity between the populists of Washington and London to the West and those of Ankara and Moscow to the East? Or is it time to pension off the construction launched with the Treaty of Rome in 1957, since it has come to violate basic desiderata of economic efficiency and equity, as well as democratic legitimacy?

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Thomas Hylland Eriksen: Norway and the transformation of the EU

This post is part of a feature on anthropologists on the EU at 60, moderated and edited by Don Kalb (Central European University and University of Bergen).

In Norway, the second referendum over EU membership in 1994 resulted in almost the exact same figures as the first one, back in 1972. The proposal to join the European Union—backed by the two largest parties (Labour and Conservatives), the main newspapers, and the private sector—was defeated, admittedly by a narrow margin—52 percent against 48 percent—but defeated nonetheless. I found myself in a tiny minority, as a left-of-center intellectual favorable to membership in the union, losing a few friends in the process. In Norway, leftist movements have been staunch nationalists for decades, and the very term “union” had unfortunate connotations in that it recalled the unpopular, enforced union with Sweden that lasted from 1814 to 1905. A widespread view also held that the EU was mainly an economic union whose sole beneficiaries were the already rich and powerful.

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Mariya Ivancheva: The revolution will not be criticized? The (im)possibility of left-wing critique in Venezuela

This post is part of a series on the Latin American pink tide, moderated and edited by Massimiliano Mollona (Goldsmiths, University of London).

After heading the pink tide in Latin America, the Bolivarian government in Venezuela has most recently experienced significant challenges (Bolton 2016). With oil prices sinking, inflation skyrocketing, and consumption goods chains being blocked by commercial networks sympathetic of the opposition, the government has started losing support in its base. Gloating over power cuts and “food shortages”—or more accurately, deficits of certain consumables—opposition-supporting international and Venezuelan private media are hysterically preparing for a pyrrhic victory of the free market over socialism. Scandalized by ever-stronger reactions against Dilma Rouseff’s presidency in Brazil, Venezuelan government supporters home and abroad take an ever more defensive stance shielding the government from internal and external critique alike.
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