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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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Featuring seven research articles, the November 2022 issue of Cultural Anthropology is the final issue edited by the collective of Chris Nelson, Heather Paxson, and Brad Weiss.

In “Orders of Protection,” Kelly Gillespie critically dissects the tactical logic, and the reactionary politics, of feminist recourse to police intervention to help protect women in Cape Town, South Africa, from domestic violence. Rather than making the personal be political through carceral means of “anti-privatization,” Gillespie brings her ethnography into dialogue with recent theory to point instead toward a feminist politics that aspires to life-affirming, social transformation for all. In a sensitively written essay, Stefan Williamson Fa offers a distinctive take on the putatively “immaterial” dimensions of Muslim practice in Eastern Turkey. Perceptively turning his attention to the devotional songs that are characteristic of Shia practice in this community, he reveals how the sensory character of worship discloses new forms of intimacy and bodily connection with more-than-human beings. Uniting approaches to kinship, phenomenology, and ontology, Williamson Fa enriches our grasp of religiosity as a material process.

In a timely and compelling article, Lauren Woodard explores strategies of “racial passing” among migrants to Vladivostok, Russia from post-Soviet countries in Central Asia. To avoid being presumed as “illegal” (and not the citizens they are or are entitled to become), some migrants opt to “pass” as ethnic Russian by modifying their names, accents, or clothing. On this evidence, Woodard argues that ethnic Russianness operates as a form of “whiteness”—despite the common understanding among Russians that, thanks to its Soviet legacy, “racism does not exist” in their country. Looking to Hungary, Victor Orbán’s authoritarian measures are much admired and promoted by Western right-wing media. Annastiina Kallius and Rik Adriaans offer a welcome rejoinder to these endorsements through their careful—as well as playful—examination of a rather different form of media, namely, “memification.” Their ethnography hones in on the “meme radar” of young men and women in schools across Budapest, where the premises of liberalism are both queried and embraced in social media challenges to growing state oppression. Kallius and Adriaans demonstrate the ways that young Hungarians are navigating an increasingly polarized political order, one that closely resembles orders found around the world today.

Hiroko Kumaki’s “Suspending Nuclearity: Ecologics of Planting Seeds After the Nuclear Fallout in Fukushima, Japan” considers everyday practices of care and cultivation following the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster. It is both a complex and compassionate analysis of resilience and recovery in the aftermath of catastrophe, and a critical and original rethinking of the category and experience of nuclearity. Mette M. High looks into the “Utopias of Oil” envisioned by oil industry entrepreneurs in the U.S. West and finds, intriguingly, that relatively progressive ideas for how to “do oil differently”—with “caring” consideration for the environment as well as human workers—are often thwarted by the profit demands of private equity funders. Capitalism, she reminds us, is not one. Finally, in “Corporations and States: A Customer-Service Corporation Inside the Punjab State Police,” Matthew S. Hull offers a provocative ethnography of the collaboration between state and non-state actors. Subtle and creative, his exploration of the sociotechnical practices that constitute this collaboration suggests ways of understanding that go beyond conventional binary distinctions to explicate new and productive emergences.

 

Cover and table-of-contents image by Hiroko Kumaki.

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... 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

Affect, Embodiment, and Sense Perception

Affect, Embodiment, and Sense Perception

Recent trends in social theory have placed great importance on affect for both analytic and political reasons, but the term is somewhat vague and ambiguous.... More