NYAS @ WGF: April 29th

This upcoming Monday is the final meeting of NYAS’ anthropology section at WGF for this season. We will be welcoming Ana Y. Ramos-Zayas of Baruch College, CUNY and Edgar Rivera Colon of Columbia University to discuss Cartography of “Racial Democracy”: Race, Affect, and the Production of Abject Subjects among Brazilians and Puerto Ricans in Newark. 

In this presentation I consider the kinds of affective social entanglements and emotive practices required of US-born Latinos and Latin American migrants as they “learn race” in the US By focusing on the experiences of Brazilian and Puerto Ricans in Newark, I examine the impact of US racial projects on transnational individual’s affective worlds and perspectives on the emotional subjectivities of the racialized others they encounter. As demonstrated through ethnographic materials drawn from nearly a decade of fieldwork, Brazilian immigrants and US-born Puerto Ricans in Newark analyze unfamiliar racial situations through quotidian emotional epistemologies that serve as a cartography to navigate otherwise illegible social encounters. Assumptions about affect and its adequate expression guide Brazilian migrants and US Puerto Ricans to developed nuanced interpretations of how one “should feel” when the goal is to create an affective persona that is consistent with Newark’s neoliberal aspirations. Informed by transnational racial ideologies of “racial democracy,” my interlocutors develop complex social practices around performances of Blackness, understandings of socioeconomic hierarchies, and expectations of belonging on multiple scales, like the neighborhood, nation state, and the market. I am particularly attentive to how engaging in this process of “learning race” renders Brazilians and Puerto Ricans “street therapists” dedicated to observing and correcting “defective” (non-marketable) forms of Blackness, developing appropriate feeling rules, and, hesitantly embracing a neoliberal personhood.

The 7:00 PM lecture will be held at the WGF office on Park Avenue and will be preceded by a reception at 6:00 PM. Refreshments will be provided. It is free to attend this and all other events in this series, but registration is required in advance; please visit the NYAS website or call 212-298-8600.

NYAS @ WGF: “The Problem with Fundamentalism” (AUDIO)

Earlier this month, we hosted the penultimate installment of the New York Academy of Sciences Anthropology section’s 2012-2013 monthly meeting and lecture series. In what has proven to be a fantastic procession of fascinating subjects, we welcomed a panel of New York City-area scholars to discuss “The Problem with Fundamentalism (And Other Liberal Myths About Religion)”. Now the recording of the panel discussion and the following Q&A session are available for download. Enjoy, and tell us what you think!

WGF Symposium: The Anthropology of Christianity (AUDIO)

Symposium participants, Sintra

Last month, a group of anthropologists gathered at Tivoli Palácio de Seteais in Sintra, Portugal to convene the latest Wenner-Gren Foundation symposium, “The Anthropology of Christianity: Unity, Diversity, New Directions”. Since the 1950’s, the foundation has convened more than 140 of these meetings between small groups of invited scholars to foster intensive discussion and debate around key sites of contention within the field, using a rigorous format first developed at the Foundation’s original retreats in Austria. Beginning in 2010, symposia have resulted in special gold-colored supplementary editions of Current Anthropology, with 100% of content freely available as open access scholarship.

While the special issue for this particular symposium will be forthcoming, organizer Joel Robbins of the University of California – San Diego has prepared a statement to capture the thrust of the symposium and offer a glimpse of what to expect when the special issue rolls off the presses.

And in the meantime, listen to an interview with Dr. Robbins conducted by our president Leslie C. Aiello as part of the Annette B. Weiner lecture series at New York University.


Inside Current Anthropology: Why Are the Greeks So “Indignant” about Austerity?


image courtesty Wikimedia Commons

The April issue of Current Anthropology is out now. Here’s a press-release preview of The University of Kent’s Dimitrios Theodossopoulos’ ethnographic study of Greek citizens during the financial crisis of 2011 explores the causes and consequences of the rhetoric of discontent.

The austerity measures introduced as a response to the financial crisis in Greece have inspired a wave of discontent among Greeks. A new Current Anthropology paper explores Greek “indignation” with economic austerity in the general context of the financial crisis.

In 2011, a protest movement was born that was pointedly critical of politicians’ handling of the economy. The protesters were not alone in their indignation: an overwhelming majority of Greek citizens at the time, regardless of political affiliation, claimed they were angry, outraged, infuriated, and exasperated with the way the situation had been handled by those in power, as well as the general conditions of austerity.

While much of the coverage in the international media has been concerned with the public manifestations of the protest, this article is primarily interested in the perceptions and interpretative trajectories of ordinary Greek citizens, and their views about accountability for the country’s economic woes. Paying close attention to local conversations in Greece during the anti-austerity protest, Theodossopoulos argues that the interpretive tactics of local citizens do not merely represent an attempt to evade culpability, but also demonstrate a desire to reinterpret and renegotiate responsibility and blame.

Theodossopoulos found that local commentary often centered on the causes of indignation. In some cases, responsibility was traced to external causal factors, such as inefficiencies in the political system, as well as inequalities in the global financial system. While on the surface these blame tactics may seem self-serving, the author contends that they represent a persistent attempt to explain a massive crisis in locally meaningful terms. In everyday life, where social obligations matter, character evaluations provide more persuasive explanations than abstract economic concepts. Seen from this point of view, engaging in conversations about the crisis and the austerity measures can be seen as an empowering act—even allowing protesters to dare to imagine alternative solutions to current economic and political problems. In this respect, indignation with the causes of the crisis may lead to explanations that question established political and economic theories.

Theodossopoulos’s ethnography provides a fascinating look into the ways Greeks view themselves and others in the shadow of the crisis, and shows what an anthropological approach to contemporary economic issues can add to the international discussion by highlighting the complexity and meaningfulness of local responses to the crisis.

Current Anthropology, published by The University of Chicago Press on behalf of the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, is a transnational journal devoted to research on humankind, encompassing the full range of anthropological scholarship on human cultures and on the human and other primate species. Communicating across the subfields, the journal features papers in a wide variety of areas, including social, cultural, and physical anthropology as well as ethnology and ethnohistory, archaeology and prehistory, folklore, and linguistics.