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Cultural Anthropology

Cultural Anthropology publishes ethnographic writing informed by a wide array of theoretical perspectives, innovative in form and content, and focused on both traditional and emerging topics. It also welcomes essays concerned with ethnographic methods and research design in historical perspective, and with ways cultural analysis can address broader public audiences and interests.

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The final issue of 2020, a year too abundant in significance to characterize easily, brings us five original research articles. The issue begins with a consideration of dispute mediation in China explored by Andrea E. Pia. Pia shows how dissent is carefully managed in Yunan by mediators who effectively constrain the epistemological limits of legal dispute in a way that assures the subservience of citizens to a hierarchical order. His analysis offers an innovative contribution to legal and political anthropology. Readers of Cultural Anthropology are familiar with the shifting perspectives offered by the ontological turn. Leigh Bloch demonstrates how these perspectives transform archaeological excavation and insight, as their work with Muskogee communities whose understanding of the living, mobile monuments and the landscapes they inhabit suggest the possibility of decolonizing legacies of archaeological practice. Malini Sur’s essay presents a novel perspective on multispecies worlds. She demonstrates how Indian commitments to and renewed legal protection of the lives of cattle creates unexpected prospects for value production for the cattle traders permitted to sell cattle bound for slaughter across the border with Bangladesh. These transactions depend upon a cunning manipulation of time, and embed these traders in a process that provokes anxiety and the threat of violence in these highly but erratically regulated border zones. It is by now an anthropological truism to recognize that the body is a barometer of the wider social and political projects in which subjects’ lives unfold. George Paul Meiu’s gripping analysis moves beyond this premise to explore the way that intimate encounters between the state and its citizens in Kenya are not only disclosed through images of scandalous undergarments—particularly diapers—but the diapers themselves can be read as “queer objects” that bespeak fears and desires, alternative possible lives, but also broken and traumatized histories. Here the body reveals and conceals, suggesting connection as well as rupture to encompassing fields of power. Finally, we offer Andrea Ford’s account of childbirth and childbearing in Silicon Valley. The forms of personhood and creativity characteristic of this affluent and highly self-conscious birth culture throw into relief many contemporary contradictions of selfhood and its possibilities, and show that relationships can be both cultivated and foreclosed through the structures of birth and the family being developed today.  

The photo on the cover of this issue is by Andrea E. Pia.

Curated Collections

Sovereignty

Sovereignty

After the words “America” and “United States,” President Donald Trump mentioned sovereignty more than any other topic in his speech to the United Nations General... More

Precarity

Precarity

Precarity is an emerging abandonment that pushes us away from a livable life. In a growing body of scholarship centered on social marginalization, the concept of precarity has... More

Reclaiming Hope

Reclaiming Hope

Has hope become a word that betrays you? In an escalating “war on words” (van Eekelen et al. 2004, 1), has hope bulldozed over our dreams? During the 2008 U.S.... More

Everyday Islam

Everyday Islam

This collection gathers five articles previously published in Cultural Anthropology, by Hayder Al-Mohammad, Kenneth George, Naveeda Khan, Arzoo Osanloo, and... More