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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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Our second issue of the year offers six original research essays that consider themes both classic and contemporary in our (in)discipline. Heath Pearson’s work offers a deep history of the coercive character of labor in the rural agricultural zones of southern New Jersey, now dominated by the extractive political economy of mass incarceration. But in the face of these overwhelming structures of inequality, he offers us a portrait of men and women forging ways of working with one another to produce value, always precarious and fragmentary, for themselves.  Issues of labor figure large in Radhika Govindrajan’s poignant consideration of love within the political and ethical context of India’s state-sanctioned cow-protection policies.  Her work shows the gendered character of different registers of love—as devotion, as daily practice, and as grueling labor—in the Himalayas. Govindrajan asks us to consider the love of animals as deeply political, and one that may marginalize as much as it validates. With their ethnography of Buddhist memorial services for pet robots in Japan, Daniel White and Hirofumi Katsuno open a complex discussion into the reflexive understanding of the relationship between life, death, amusement, and play. In proposing “affect as method,” they lay the groundwork for a project that moves beyond essentialized notions of animism to a more dynamic consideration of animacy. Juliane Müller offers an intriguing consideration of the multi-dimensionality of market exchanges in the Andes, and how this contributes to their “efficacy.” Her work in Bolivia shows a critical feature of what seems like corporate-dominated branding, namely, the way that such marks can be taken by customers as expressions of loyalty, not just between consumers and producers, but between the local vendors and their clients who foster longer term relationships. Developing an analytic of “becoming-after,” Townsend Middleton explores what life, livelihoods, and aspirations remain on Darjeeling’s cinchona plantations following the demise of the quinine industry. Uncertain futures, he finds, continue to bind the inhabitants of plantation ruins to its depleted soils and dreams from long-gone days. Finally, the all too timely consideration of the circumstances of families facing detention and separations at the border of Texas and Mexico is explored in Erin Routon’s essay. Her work develops the concept of “legal care,” not only building on the burgeoning literature on care, but revealing its complexity in this context, one fraught with efforts both to legally protect and to legally constrain relationships of all manner.

The photo on the cover of this issue is by Sony.

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 Assembly in... 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