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FocaalBlog is associated with Focaal: Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology. It aims to accelerate and intensify anthropological conversations beyond what a regular academic journal can do, and to make them more widely, globally, and swiftly available.

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Conversations on the Left

  • David Bozzini: Gabriella Coleman on the ethnography of digital politics – part 2

    David Bozzini is a research fellow at the Graduate Center, CUNY, where he is researching on Eritrean deserters movements and on the resistance to digital surveillance. He co-edits Tsantsa, the journal of the Swiss Ethnological Society. Gabriella Coleman is an anthropologist and holds the Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy at McGill University in… more...

  • David Bozzini: Gabriella Coleman on the ethnography of digital politics – part 1

    David Bozzini is a research fellow at the Graduate Center, CUNY, where he is researching on Eritrean deserters movements and on the resistance to digital surveillance. He co-edits Tsantsa, the journal of the Swiss Ethnological Society. Gabriella Coleman is an anthropologist and holds the Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy at McGill University in… more...

  • Zoltán Glück: Of politics and crowds: A conversation with Susan Buck-Morss

    This interview with Susan Buck-Morss took place at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center on May 12 2015. Buck-Morss is Distinguished Professor of Political Philosophy at the Graduate Center and has been a towering figure in continental theory since her publication of The Origin of Negative Dialectics in 1977. Her books include… more...

  • Ida Susser: From the underground resistance under Franco to Podemos, with Vicente Navarro

    Vicente Navarro is a leading analyst of the history and origins of the financial crisis in Spain (and Europe in general) and an economic adviser to Podemos. His book There Are Alternatives (Hay Alternativas: Propuestas para Crear Empleo y Bienestar Social en España), written with economists Juan Torres and Alberto Garzón, became an inspiration to… more...

  • Zoltán Glück: Archive of a Radical Geographer: Neil Smith’s Papers—An Interview with Don Mitchell

    In 2014, Don Mitchell was a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Advanced Research Collaborative, at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). His primary project during this time was to sort through the large collection of papers, files, clippings, and correspondences left behind by Neil Smith after his untimely death in… more...

  • Zoltán Glück: Focaal Interview with David Harvey – Part 2

    The Conversations on the Left project by Focaal opens its series with an interview with David Harvey, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Geography at the CUNY Graduate Center. David Harvey’s works have had a profound impact on the direction of leftist social science over the past four decades. A few months before this interview, in May 2013, an impressive… more...

  • Zoltán Glück: Focaal Interview with David Harvey – Part 1

    The Conversations on the Left project by Focaal opens its series with an interview with David Harvey, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Geography at the CUNY Graduate Center. David Harvey’s works have had a profound impact on the direction of leftist social science over the past four decades. A few months before this interview, in… more...

General Posts

Steve Reyna: Replacing Lady Liberty: Trump and the American Way

Der Spiegel, a well-thought-of magazine, ran in February 2017 a cover depicting the newly elected President Donald Trump, standing with one arm upstretched brandishing a bloody knife and the other arm raised flaunting Lady Liberty’s severed head, blood dripping from its wound. Lady Liberty is the Statute of Liberty. The cover came after Trump’s ban… more...

Focaal Volume 2017, Issue 77: Nonrecording states

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, www.berghahnjournals.com/focaal. This issue's theme section, titled "Nonrecording states" and guest edited by Barak Kalir and Willem van Schendel, shows explores why and when states knowingly refrain from recording… more...

Florin Poenaru: Romanian protests: A cake with three layers (and a cherry on top)

In the past four weeks, Romania has witnessed some of the biggest protests in the post-communist era. Hundreds of thousands of people in cities across the country took to the streets to protest a government bill that would potentially decriminalize corruption offenses and therefore help the case of the ruling Social Democratic Party leader. Hence,… more...

Stephen P. Reyna: Is Mr. Trump a legitimacy crisis?

In the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration, one US representative, John Lewis, fueled widespread media debates with a claim that he does not believe Mr. Trump to be a “legitimate” president. In a time when the many antagonizing executive orders and cabinet choices make these debates from mid-January appear like yesterday’s news, it is… more...

Carlos de la Torre: Trump: Fascist or populist?

Douglas Kellner in American Nightmare writes, “certainly [Donald] Trump is not Hitler and his followers are not technically fascists, although I believe that we can use the term authoritarian populism or neofascism to explain Trump and his supporters” (2016: 20). Kellner is not the only analyst who uses the terms fascism and populism interchangeably to… more...

Kate Crehan: Gramsci/Trump: Reflections from a fascist jail cell

Antonio Gramsci, condemned by Benito Mussolini to twenty years in prison, wrote his celebrated prison notebooks while sitting in a succession of fascist jails. He reflects on some of the following questions: why is Mussolini in power, while he and so many other leftists are in prison, dead, or in exile? What explained the defeat… more...

Steven Sampson: Angry white males as suffering subjects

"They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations." —Barack Obama, in a speech to donors during his 2008 campaign The above remarks, made while Obama was running for president, are eight years old.… more...

Focaal Volume 2016, Issue 76: Adivasi and Dalit political pathways in India

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, www.berghahnjournals.com/focaal. This issue's theme section, titled "Adivasi and Dalit political pathways in India" and guest edited by Nicolas Jaoul and Alpa Shah, shows how political ethnographers of “insurgent… more...

Gavin Smith: Out of the academic enclosure

Marc Edelman ends his recent piece on FocaalBlog, “The forces of justice and decency will need to move from feel-good slacktivism to the streets, to face-to-face engagement, whether lobbying, community organization, or classroom dialogues.” This got me thinking. In the following manner…[1] Experts have crowded round to make their analyses of the Trump Disaster. Some… more...

Marc Edelman: The nastiest candidate won: Now what?

In the end it was filmmaker Michael Moore who got it right. It wasn’t Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com, with his sophisticated polling models, or Nobel Prize winning economist and liberal pundit Paul Krugman, who confessed on election night that “I truly thought I knew my country better than it turns out I did.” “Trump’s election,”… more...

Lesley Gill and Norbert Ross: What's class got to do with it?

Unsettled by Donald Trump’s bigotry and xenophobia, liberal pundits have struggled to understand his improbable anointment as the nominee of the Republican party. Many have sought answers in the experience and behavior of the white-working class, the bedrock of Trump support. Why, asks the New Yorker’s James Surolecki, would any working class person support Trump.… more...

Bruce Kapferer: Brexit and Remain: A pox on all their houses

A crisis is always good for humor. The English satirical magazine Private Eye caught the spirit of uncertainty and the possible tragedy of Brexit—that many of those who voted for it may have intensified their abjection as a result. One spoof comment for The Daily Turkeygraph (a composite of the conservative Daily Mail and Telegraph… more...

Karen Sykes: The estranged citizens of Brexit

It was political 16 June 2016 I first heard the BBC Radio 4 announce the death of the Labour MP for the Spen Valley, West Yorkshire while I was driving along the A62 from Manchester, where I work, to the Colne Valley, where I live. My commute follows an ancient trade route that crosses the… more...

Douglas R. Holmes: No Exit: London, July 2016

I arrived in London on 10 July, a few weeks after the Brexit referendum. I was in Parliament the following day—the day Theresa May was named the new prime minister. Reading about the situation is one thing; dealing with it ethnographically is another. I have no idea how to proceed, nor do I trust my… more...

Polina Manolova: Brexit and the production of “illegal” EU migrants

Bulgarians on their way to the “West” EU immigration was the primary source of contention in the debates surrounding the recent referendum about the United Kingdom’s EU membership. The “leave” campaign continuously bombarded the public with warnings about “uncontrollable hordes” of EU benefit seekers (for a discussion on the construction of migrant categories, see Apostolova… more...

Focaal Volume 2016, Issue 75: In/visible—In/secure

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, www.berghahnjournals.com/focaal. This issue's theme section, titled "In/visible—In/secure" and guest edited by Ieva Jusionyte and Daniel M. Goldstein, illustrates the multiple and shifting intersections of in/visibility and in/security in… more...

Focaal Volume 2016, Issue 74: After dispossession

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, www.berghahnjournals.com/focaal. This issue's theme section, titled "After dispossession" and guest edited by Oscar Salemink and Mattias Borg Rasmussen, addresses how seemingly global processes become entangled in local affairs… more...

Ines Hasselberg: Enduring Uncertainty: Deportation, Punishment and Everyday Life

Enduring Uncertainty is a volume of the “Dislocations” series published by Berghahn Books. 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… more...

Chris Hann: On Saxony-Anhalt bashing

Regional elections in Germany have seldom if ever attracted as much attention as they did on Sunday, 13 March 2016. This was the first opportunity for the electorate to express its opinion about the “refugee policy” pursued by Chancellor Angela Merkel since early September 2015. Not only her own Christian Democratic Union but also the… more...

Céline Cantat: Migration struggles and the crisis of the European project

This post is part of a series on migration and the refugee crisis moderated and edited by Prem Kumar Rajaram (Central European University). In April 2015, when four boats carrying almost two thousand people consecutively sank in the Mediterranean Sea, with a combined death toll estimated at more than 1,200, the idea that Europe was experiencing… more...

Raia Apostolova: Economic vs. political: Violent abstractions in Europe's refugee crisis

This post is part of a series on migration and the refugee crisis moderated and edited by Prem Kumar Rajaram (Central European University). The “economic migrant” must leave. From Berlin’s widening of the definition of “safe country” zones and the fast execution of deportation orders, to hunters of economic migrants along the Bulgarian–Turkish border, our memory is persistently… more...

Edward Simpson: The future of the rural world?

The conference “The Future of the Rural World? Africa and Asia” was hosted by SOAS, University of London during October 2015. The event marked the end of a major project funded by the United Kingdom’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) on "restudying" village India. It also coincided with the launch of an exhibition and film… more...

Carlos E. Chardón: Masking Puerto Rican state failure

With the recent default on debt payment (see Franqui Rivera and Colón-Garcia 2015), Puerto Rico became a failed state. State failure is the inability or incapacity of a government to provide services it determines are absolutely necessary to its population. Thus, if a government tries to provide services it deems necessary for its population and… more...

Lisa Jahn & Sarah Molinari: New developments in Puerto Rican economic readjustment?

This commentary comes from a discussion panel hosted on Tuesday, September 8, by the Center for Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino Studies (CLACLS) at the Graduate Center, CUNY, featuring the authors of the recent FocaalBlog article “Puerto Rico Is NOT Greece: Notes on the Role of Debt in US Colonialism,” Ismael García-Colón and Harry Franqui-Rivera. The authors… more...

Stef Jansen: Yearnings in the meantime

“Normal lives” and the state in a Sarajevo apartment complex Yearnings in the Meantime 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… more...

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Mallika Shakya: Ethnicity in Nepal’s new constitution

From politics of culture to politics of justice Nepal promulgated its constitution on 20 September—the first after ending the monarchy, and one replacing the interim constitution in place since 2007. That interim constitution had been put in place to mark the peace agreement with the Nepali Maoists, mainstreaming them into democratic politics and unarming them… more...

FocaalBlog Event: CUNY Panel Discussion on Puerto Rico's Debt Crisis

On Tuesday, September 8, the City University of New York (CUNY) Center for Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino Studies is hosting a free panel discussion and presentation based on the recent FocaalBlog post "Puerto Rico Is NOT Greece: Notes on the Role of Debt in US Colonialism." Where: The Graduate Center 365 Fifth Avenue Room… more...

Joe Trapido: Elections, politics, and power in central and southern Africa

The conference “Elections in central and southern Africa, dynamics of exclusion and participation,” at SOAS on 26 June 2015, prompts me to some personal reflections. Elections in central and southern Africa are marked by a paradoxical dynamic of participation and exclusion. Ostensible rituals of mass participation and of legitimation by civil power, electoral processes in… more...

Ismael García Colón & Harry Franqui-Rivera: Puerto Rico Is NOT Greece

Notes on the Role of Debt in US Colonialism UPDATE: On Tuesday, September 8, the City University of New York (CUNY) Center for Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino Studies is hosting a free panel discussion and presentation based on this blog post. For more details, visit the FocaalBlog event page here. Early July 2015, at an… more...

Alan Bradshaw: European austerity and collective blame

According to Richard Seymour (2015), current European austerity politics ought to be regarded not as a temporary period of economic rationalization during crisis but rather as a shift toward a new political economic paradigm. This new paradigm is to be driven by a rhetorical commitment to “worker flexibility” and “labour market competitiveness”—both euphemisms for a… more...

David Cooney: The Montréal student protests

Vers un Automne Érable?1 Whenever threatened, the first thing power restricts is the ability to linger or assemble in the street. —Henri Lefebvre2 In September of 2014, I arrived in Montréal to study the students’ strike that had erupted throughout the province of Québec three years earlier. I was particularly interested in learning more about… more...

Sharryn Kasmir: Mondragón coops and the anthropological imagination

In 2013, Fagor Electrodomésticos, the home appliance division of the world-renowned Mondragón cooperative group, declared bankruptcy. The announcement disheartened coop advocates who consider Mondragón the most successful worker-owned enterprise in the world. Headquartered in the Spanish Basque city for which it is named, the Mondragón Corporation (MC) began in the 1950s as a Catholic Action… more...

Susana Narotzky: Hope for Change: The Problem with Podemos

Podemos is hailed by many as the only hope in a Spanish landscape devastated by austerity. In the elections to the European parliament (2014), Podemos received 7.97  percent of votes and 5 MPs. In the elections to the Autonomous Parliament of Andalucía, it gathered 14.84 percent of the vote and 15 regional MPs, becoming the… more...

Barbara Karatsioli: Syriza and the return of the political

The electoral win of Syriza in Greece substantiates cross-European objections to austerity. Contrary to recurrent warnings that have for years emphasized how Syriza’s electoral victory would jeopardize Greece’s future in Europe and plunge the economy further into crisis, the first weeks in government underline that Syriza’s rise to power may be just what was needed… more...

Vintilă Mihăilescu: Santa Klaus: Presidential elections and moral revolt in Romania

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.” There were fourteen candidates running for president… more...

Jonah Lipton: Intimacy, transformation, and danger in Sierra Leone

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… more...

Philip Proudfoot: Interventions, Conspiracy, and the (Un)making of the Islamic State in Syria

Introduction 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… more...

Chris Hann: The Expansion of NATO and the Contraction of Eurasia

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… more...

Steve Reyna: Bloat and tents: Further thoughts on Timothy Mitchell’s Carbon Democracy

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… more...

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… more...

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… more...