Vol. 36 No. 3 (2021)
Our August issue opens with the Colloquy “‘L’enfer, c’est les autres’: Proximity as an Ethical Problem during COVID-19.” Six authors, in dialogue with one another, ask us to consider the ways in which ethical practices have shaped and been shaped by the encounter with the novel coronavirus pandemic. The first research article is Emily Reisman’s exploration of the “politics of care” amid a bacterial outbreak in the once-flourishing almond groves of Mallorca. Reisman shows how the transformation of Mallorcan landscapes through the industrial growth of tourism, climate change, and restructured land holding expands the dynamics of care beyond farmers and trees but incorporates a host of multi-species actors—including the bacteria themselves—to help us grasp the broadest implications of the political. In an ethnographically lively essay, Jessica Hardin introduces the notion of subjunctive health to analyze preoccupation in Samoa with the new food category of “vegetables,” even when these are rarely eaten. In her thoughtful analysis, public health and development discourses frame a “dual instrumentalization” of vegetables as both a source of health and illness and a sign of poverty or wealth; as such, people have come to view both vegetables and themselves, as eaters and food provisioners, subjunctively: as if they were this or that. Anna Eisenstein contributes to anthropological understandings of “waithood” by focusing ethnographic attention on young women in Uganda who, far from feeling “caught” by social exigencies, both relish and take moral pride in their ability to intentionally pause along their way through the life course. By pursuing the logic of pace, Eistenstein usefully highlights the strategic agency of waiting—in this case, for divine guidance as well as for the chance to coordinate with others. Moving beyond contemporary concerns with haunting and ruination, Joseph Weiss explores the Indigenous Haida Nation’s experience of Canadian military occupation. Through a thoughtful, nuanced ethnography of Haida social space, Weiss portrays a settler colonial project that was both deceptive in its promises of a shared future and persistent despite claims of its conclusion. Finally, based on his research in the world of machine learning of algorithmic recommender systems, Nick Seaver takes as his ethnographic object programmers’ and tech entrepreneurs’ attempts to reconcile the seemingly contradictory values of care and scale. Taking a cue from their metaphorics and techniques, he provocatively suggests, can push anthropological theorizing of these familiar analytics in productive new directions.
The photo on the cover of this issue is by Thomas Strong.