Category Archives: Features

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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Marina Gold: The end of the pink tide: Cuba

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

Does Obama’s visit herald the end of the Cuban Revolution?
On Thursday, 18 December 2014, I received an urgent WhatsApp message from a Cuban friend, who was then in Spain with his Spanish girlfriend.[1]

“Pon CNN ahora mismo! Se acaba el bloqueo.” (Turn on CNN now! The blockade is over.)

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Thomas Grisaffi: After the Referendum: Evo Morales and the Movement Towards Socialism

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

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In February 2016 Bolivian President Evo Morales, an indigenous Aymara and former coca grower, lost his bid to amend the Constitution to allow him to stand for a third consecutive term. This was a blow to Morales, who has won re-election twice (in 2009 and 2014), and has triumphed in two previous referendums. Commentators saw the defeat as evidence that the pink tide in Bolivia is receding. But such evaluations are premature; 49 percent of the population still voted in favor of the amendment, and while members of the “no” camp might want to see change at the top, they don’t necessarily want a return to neoliberal orthodoxy. The Morales administration has experienced its fair share of corruption, conflict, division, and poor planning, but on balance most Bolivians have done better under a left-leaning government.

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Iselin Åsedotter Strønen: After the Bolivarian Revolution: What’s in store for Margarita?

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

I still clearly remember Margarita,[1] the first “Bolivarian activist” I got to know in Venezuela. It seems so long ago now. For more than ten years, I have followed what I in my mind envisage as the rise and fall of the Bolivarian Revolution’s golden years as seen from the grassroots’ perspective. My first encounter with President Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela was in the fall of 2005, when I as a master’s student in Anthropology of Development came to Caracas for the first time. Through a friend of an acquaintance of an acquaintance, I was brought to the barrio (shantytown) of La Vega to meet with a group of women engaged in a housing and infrastructure project through the recently established Committees for Urban Housing (Comités de Tierra Urbana).
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Alfredo Saad-Filho: Overthrowing Rousseff: It’s class war, and their class is winning

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

The judicial coup against President Dilma Rousseff is the culmination of the deepest political crisis in Brazil for fifty years.

Every so often, the bourgeois political system runs into crisis. The machinery of the state jams, the veils of consent are torn asunder, and the tools of power appear disturbingly naked. Brazil is living through one of those moments: it is a dreamland for social scientists, a nightmare for everyone else.
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