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Past Events

Autumn 2017

Thursday 26 October 2017 (Room 246)

Opening session by Mette Louise Berg, UCL. Followed by drinks.

Jointly organized with the Centre for Integrated Caribbean Research.

Schooling, Mobility and Belonging in Socialist Cuba and its Diaspora

Based on an ethnographic study of transnational networks of alumni of an academically selective boarding school in Havana known as La Lenin, this paper explores the nexus between social and spatial mobilities and belonging in the context of socialist Cuba and its diaspora. La Lenin was founded on Ernesto Che Guevara’s ideal of the Hombre Nuevo or New Man, and was part of the revolutionary project of constructing an independent, modern, and socialist Cuba. Today, many alumni of La Lenin participate in transnationally extended affective webs of belonging forged through family links and friendships fostered at the school. These webs constitute not only emotionally sustaining networks, but also provide material support for those alumni who emigrate from Cuba. Through the networks, alumni embrace belonging to the school but implicitly reject Cuban nationalism, and intriguingly reproduce many of the cultural forms of nationalism and nationhood in the process. The school has thus come to represent a site of identification for a globally dispersed non-national diaspora. The paper concludes by arguing for a fuller understanding of how different kinds of mobilities are interlinked with each other and with the production of migrant subjectivities, and that scholars of migration need to embed international migration and its significance within people’s lives broadly understood, including their pre-migration experiences.

Thursday 9 November 2017

Philanthrocapitalism in the Brazilian Context: Corporate Elite Engagement in a Localised Development Agenda, by Jessica Sklair, ILAS

The emergence of new forms of philanthropy under the banner of a globalised ‘philanthrocapitalism’ has been accompanied by claims for the potential of corporate and wealth elites to bring about sustainable social change, through the application of market-based solutions to a diversity of global development challenges. How is this trend taking root in Brazil, and what can it tell us about the engagement of Brazilian elites in attempts to alleviate enduring patterns of poverty and inequality in their own country? This presentation will look at the changing relationship between elite philanthropy and wider third sector activity in Brazil since the fall of the military dictatorship, and through the years of Workers’ Party rule, examining how the recent philanthrocapitalist turn has influenced philanthropic trends already in course amongst Brazilian elites. It will also discuss the symbolic role played by philanthropy within elite Brazilian families, where family narratives of socially responsible business practice are increasingly central to processes of identity building and family business succession. Pulling together these different strands of ethnographic enquiry, this paper will examine the role that Brazilian elites see for themselves in tackling the country’s development challenges, the ideological framework on which this philanthropic intervention is posited and the broader implications of these emerging forms of elite engagement for Brazil’s development agenda.

Thursday 23 November 2017

The Pine Nuts are Waiting for You: Pine Nut Gathering and Time Travel in the Pehuenche Veranadas, by Gabriela Piña Ahumada, LSE

Life in a Pehuenche rural community is spent in two stations, the invernada (winter station) and the veranada (summer station). The invernada is the lowlands of the community where families live roughly from May to December. There they build their houses, raise their animals and grow vegetables in small orchards. As the temperatures begin to raise and the snow melts on the mountain tops, families move to their veranadas with their cattle. These places are too cold and remote to inhabit throughout the year, but during the summer and early autumn they represent a generous source of pasture for the cattle, firewood and the araucaria pine nuts the Pehuenche gather for family consumption and for selling to traders. The proposed paper explores the space of the veranada as a place that allows for particular experiences of the past and nature that are constitutive of Pehuenche personhood.

Thursday 7 December 2017

Darkroom Revolutions: Photography and Political Life in Nicaragua, by Ileana L. Selejan, UCL

Politically motivated imagery has had a prominent role in Nicaragua’s recent history, particularly in the aftermath of the Sandinista Revolution (1978-79). During the decade of the 1980s the Sandinista government utilised photography in a variety of settings, illustrating newspapers and magazines, producing posters and pamphlets, in order to promote revolutionary idealism and to implement its agenda. Paralleling these movements, various communities and citizens’ groups sought to affirm their own ideals, and to voice their claims in a public forum, creating new images or repurposing extant ones to their ends. Nation-building efforts thus coalesced at the intersection of state programs and citizen demands.

Grounded in this history, my project investigates forms of vernacular photography and their impact on politics through participation and identification across various social and cultural sectors. I seek to understand how photography has contributed to the formation of political identities in Nicaragua, evaluating the legacy of this ideological visual record and how it is reflected or overturned (perhaps altogether ignored) in present discourses. Building on dissertation work in art history, the paper will address recent ethnographic fieldwork, exploring current political imaginaries, as well as fractures and contestations in the story of the revolution.

This project is a part of Citizens of Photography: The Camera and The Political Imagination: “an empirical anthropological investigation of a hypothesis about the relationship between photographic self-representation and different societies’ understanding of what is politically possible.” http://www.ucl.ac.uk/anthropology/photodemos

Spring 2017

Thursday 4 May 2017

Blurring the Line Between Grassroots Activism and Green Imperialism: New Forms of Activism in Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula, by Clate Korsant, Goldsmiths

The practice of environmental activism in the Osa Peninsula is varied and changing in ways revealed by research participants who discuss “grassroots” activism, the “new school” of conservation, and other forms of activism meant to empower communities through its outreach.  Many informants have demonstrated as much, as well as a passion for their work that has translated into better-established trust and communication between activists and communities than previously acknowledged. Because of the institutionalized character of Costa Rican environmentalism, meetings and collective action align with many state-sponsored objectives; and similar environmental meetings and festivals in the Osa are particularly revealing for understanding the nuances of conservation in local practice.  The semi-formal talks – for example – organized in Puerto Jiménez by a few Costa Rican environmentalists drawn to the Osa, were spaces that came to exemplify grassroots activism, demonstrate the tensions of community outreach, characterize a shift in our understanding of environmentalism, and expose how enviro-national values are negotiated in such a setting.  By exposing details regarding the practice of biodiversity conservation, this chapter complicates the “binary” of green imperialism and grassroots activism; explaining both as differing forms of normative action, but the effort to move towards the grassroots as more egalitarian and anthropocentric.

Thursday 18 May 2017

Connecting Sentiments, Separating Worlds: New Media and Transnational Families in the Colombian Context, by Maria Angel, UCL

My project aims to establish an account of the digital practices between transnational parents and the children they leave behind and how these practices alter the ways they express emotions and communicate at distance. These methods of communication, in turn, affect how the parents construct and frame their new experiences and their existing familial relationship.  This project bridges many areas of Anthropology. In this instance, I must establish semiotic patterns for these channels of digital communication, as they are essential in the construction of ideas of self, identity and the way that a person reflects upon their emotional life. It is also an interdisciplinary study, which integrates Social anthropology; New Media; Migration and Transnationalism; Colombia’s Kinship; Anthropology of Childhood; Anthropology of emotions. This study will compare and develop their work to establish a new theory of emotions through the digital age.

Thursday 1 June 2017 (PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELLED)

Screening and discussion of the ethnographic film Cuéntame, by Claudia Gianetto, Goldsmiths

Based on 14 months of fieldwork in an indigenous community of the Eastern Yucatan, the film explores the role and status of Mayan women within particular configurations of kinship and community. Through the protagonists’ personal narratives, the film looks in particular at women’s labour conditions in relation to male work migration, and at their contribution to the household economy as producers of embroidery for the tourist market.

Winter 2017

Thursday 2 February 2017

Sonya’s Place in the World: Spatial Negotiations of Class and Gender among Higglers in Jamaica, by William Tantam, ILAS

This presentation looks at spatial negotiations of class and gender in a small rural town in Jamaica. It examines how socioeconomic hierarchies are produced spatially, and specifically attends to how female market traders, or ‘higglers,’ experience their marginalisation as working-class women. I will explore the ways in which these women produce areas in which they can operate outside of formal and state institutions and locate the relationship between space, women, and the state within a wider historical perspective which traces the antagonism between higglers and the state in Jamaica to the plantation system in which female market traders first emerged. This presentation looks at the ethnography of a young higgler, Sonya, and how she locates herself within multiple, overlapping spatial levels. The paper points towards the everyday negotiations of space through which Shana experiences her place in the world, and uses such negotiations as a lens onto the contemporary Jamaican state.

Thursday 16 February 2017

Taxistas in Buenos Aires: The Contours of the Trade, by Juan Manuel del Nido, University of Manchester

This presentation is in essence ethnographic. I outline here a series of organising elements of the Buenos Aires taxi driving industry as they appeared to me during my fieldwork. Firstly, because of the unrepeatable, asymmetric and elusive character of taxi riding as an urban transaction, taxis are defined as a public service in the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires. This situates a number of fundamental aspects of the trade – fare, mechanisms of control, verification and scale of the industry – under the aegis of the city state. Secondly, I will look at how the fundamental relations of property (owns or does not own a car) and labour (drives for himself or drives for someone else) organise not only the political aspects of the trade, but also the economic, social, associative and recreational possibilities of taxiing in Buenos Aires today.

Thursday 2 March 2017

Narratives of Terror, Coffee Farming and Ethical Trade in Colombia, by Jonathan Newman, Sussex University

Ethical trading schemes, like Fairtrade, tell stories of production that offer a double fantasy about coffee:  our consumption of an inanimate object transfigures the lives of producers, delivering them from an uncertain, less radiant future, while the same farmers celebrate the magic of coffee that liberates them from globalised subjugation. Meanwhile, in the nations of coffee production, rates of homicide and other acts of violence are some of the highest in the world.

The anthropological canon also has a divergence between narratives about coffee production and narratives about violence. Seminal ethnographic studies that took place in Colombia during the 1980s appear to describe farming and terror as incompatible worlds. The talk examines the relationship between farming and violence in Colombia in order to explicate these two themes of ethical trading and the formation of anthropological silos. Comparisons between the two systems of knowledge production exposes conceptual and methodological questions that briefly take us through ideas on inter-sectionality, affect, performance and that ontological turn. The discussion reveals an unnecessary gulf between anthropologies of violence and economy that is reflected in the tales, and analysis, of ethical trading.

Behind these contrasting narratives are practices of representing conflict or production in far away lands. The talk concludes by reflecting on the location of knowledge publication, or performance, and questions the extent that this location is formative of a persistent narrative disjuncture between violence and economy.

Thursday 9 March 2017 (Please note this session will be held at the Seligman Library, 6th Floor Old Building (OLD 6.05)

Art Photojournalism in Amazonia: Wauja People in Sebastiao Salgado’s “Genesis”, by Christopher Ball, Notre Dame

My talk addresses the relation between primitivist realism as a genre of documentary photography and the representation of Amazonian peoples in popular media. Specifically I look at the work of photographer Sebastiao Salgado and I document his 2005 visit to the Wauja community in Central Brazil as he made photographs for his 2013 book Genesis. I discuss ethnography of the photographic encounter, and I also take up Wauja people’s reactions to the book a decade later in 2015. The analysis calls up the themes of representation and voice, the semiotics of images, and global indigenous politics.

Thursday 16 March 2017

‘My Phone is My Weapon’: Independent Media for Human Rights in Complexo do Alemão, Rio de Janeiro, by Charlotte Livingstone, Goldsmiths

Coletivo Papo Reto is an independent media collective from Complexo do Alemão, one of the largest favela complexes of Rio de Janeiro. The collective aims to produce media from and about the favela with a human rights ideology, challenging negative media stereotypes and physical and structural violence by the state. Based on collaborative ethnographic research in 2014-2015, this paper explores some of the ways in which the collective works, through a digital, collective and constantly evolving methodology, armed with little more than cell-phones and a Wi-Fi/3G connection. The Coletivo can be considered as one node in a global network of activists challenging racialized state violence who act and organised in the dialectic space between the online and the offline. Yet whilst groups such as Black Lives Matter have had some success in bringing international attention to police killings of black people in the United States, experience of grass-roots activism to draw attention to a much higher frequency of police lethal violence in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro is often met with an epidemic of indifference.

Autumn 2016

Monday 10 October (Room G26)

A Political Economy of Many Worlds? Latinamericanizing the Onto-Crowd.

Inaugural lecture by Sian Lazar, University of Cambridge. Followed by drinks.

The somewhat flippant title of my talk indicates its exploratory nature. These are first thoughts, resulting from a sense that recent ontological anthropologies from and of Latin America have an important intellectual and political history that is too rarely acknowledged. What does that mean for the politics of the ‘ontological turn’? Can this work be truly radical or is it little more than a sterile re-working of much older versions of identity politics? Could we imagine an alternative ‘cholo’ anthropology, one that privileges mixing, change, and the simultaneous occupation of different positionalities and perspectives?

Thursday 27 October (Room 234)

Off/On the Map and Beyond: Recalibrating Lima’s Art Scene and the Networking of Latin America, by Giuliana Borea, ILAS.

With a focus on references to be “on the art map” and other topographic announcements as the “new geographies of art,” I show how the expanding visibility and repositioning of Latin American art needs to be traced not only to strategies and projects in Euro-American circuits or in local art scenes but to art agents’ simultaneous multi-scale work. After explaining three key moments of the reconfiguration of the Lima art scene since the late 1990’s, I focus on the second period of institutional reinforcement and the expansion of networks, when Peruvian and other stakeholders initiated a set of strategic transnational practices in connection to the strengthening of Latin American art networks and platforms. I conclude that while new possibilities of participation and some different narratives of art have been addressed, the getting “on the map” has required adjusting to “global” standards and protocols: therefore, this expanded cartography lacks still of diversity.

Thursday 10 November (Room 234)

Is A Non-Bororo Man A Mr. Wrong?’ Exploring Gender and Kinship Through the Generation of Filmic Knowledge, by Flavia Kremer, University of Manchester.

‘Is a non-Bororo man a Mr. Wrong?’ is a feature length film exploring new configurations of kinship among the Bororo people in Central Brazil. In Bororo villages today there are a number of ‘wrong marriages’, marital alliances that classic anthropology would have classified as ‘incest’, which the Bororo justify through an idiom of ‘love’ and ‘modernity’. Building on a period of twelve months’ fieldwork, I explored this issue through a film experiment: the making of the ethnographic ‘romantic comedy’ ‘In Search of a Bororo Mr. Right’. In order to produce ‘Is a non-Bororo man a Mr.Wrong?’ I shall return to the Bororo village, screen ‘Mr.Right’ and then refashion some of its sequences whilst incorporating feedback from Bororo viewers. The film will integrate observational footage, interviews and a reflexive approach to the exploration of a ‘fictional’ ‘romantic comedy’ through memory and feedback. Through a mixture of inductive and deductive approaches to filmmaking, the project seeks to contribute to key debates around gender and kinship in anthropology.

Thursday 1 December (Room 234)

Taxing the Indigenous: A History of Barriers to Fiscal Inclusion in the Bolivian Highlands, by Miranda Shield Johansson, UCL.

Following the electoral success of left wing and pro-indigenous President Evo Morales, the indigenous poor in Bolivia find themselves at the centre of a new vision of the state, echoed by a fervent citizenship project to include them as contributing participants in this new Bolivia. The state is working to initiate these hitherto informally employed subjects into an individualised fiscal regime: to make them into “taxpayers.” While the highland indigenous population is firmly loyal to Morales, they resist the inclusion into a state sponsored project. This is not simply about avoiding financial obligations but their resistance is instead firmly rooted in the historical experience of fiscal exploitation, as well as suspicion of state sponsored projects. I argue that in order to overcome these barriers the state has to succeed in separating fiscal expansion from association with the state and instead link it to Morales and his project of indigenous inclusion.