“Irhal” (=“Leave!”), says the banner in Arabic (a slogan from the Egyptian revolution), directed at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and below in Hebrew: “Egypt is here!”
One of the most interesting things about the Egyptian Revolution is its global impact. Is has inspired people and movements around the world, from Spain to Greece, the USA, and now even Israel.
Initially mostly ignored from mainstream media, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the street and demanded social justice and “people before profits”. It is one of biggest waves of protests in decades in Israel.
Via an announcement by Jason Baird Jackson I learned about the blog by a PhD student who on her blog provides “an ethnographic glimpse of what is happening on the streets and in the parks there now”, both in texts, photos and videos. She has been in Israel for about a year to conduct research in a “multi-cultural” and “multi-ethnic neighborhood” in the Tel Aviv-area.
Her posts about the Israeli revolution are fascinating.
The last few days have been really moving, she writes in her most recent post One People, One Revolution - not because of the continually growing masses that are protesting, “but because of a few moments in which I saw how a movement like this can inspire greater human understanding and connection. I was humbled to watch as people on opposite sides of a fence broke it down, and saw each other for more than they knew the other to be until then.”
This uprising cuts across the population. “Lefties” joined Right-wingers and Zionists, single mothers protested together with students, African refugees and migrant workers, “Arabs and Jews”. As in Tahrir Square, tent cities have been established.
In Rothschild Boulevard, hundreds have been camping out in tents for two weeks now, the researcher writes:
The Rainbow Child-like scene is a growing communal living situation complete with a large shared kitchen (with fridge and composting/washing/recycling stations), first aid tent, salon-like “living rooms” set up every few hundred feet… people gather in circles and play music, smoke nargila/hooka, talk about the protest, read, and sleep there all night. They then wake in the morning, go to work, and return “home” to their tents in the evening when the weather has cooled only so immeasurably much.(…)
In the southern Park Levinsky, by the Central Bus Station — where most of the African and refugees and migrant workers live and congregate — the more radical “lefties” have set up camp, and hold nightly gatherings and dinners. On Friday night, hundreds of African men gathered around a group of drummers/dancers from Ghana who performed at the birthday celebration of one of the protesters, for example. It was an incredible scene that didn’t feel anything like the ’60s Woodstock scene on Rothschild, but which also brought people together in revolutionary spirit.
One of the protesters said:
(T)he government tries to make everyone feel as if they’re alone, as if they’re against each other, so that they can remain in control, in power. We must unite, and Tel Aviv with all its populations must be one.
Read her posts and watch her videos:
While according to many headlines, people protested “against high cost of living”, the the frustration runs deeper, as the New York Times explains:
The shift from state-dominated quasi socialism to markets and privatization — a shift that arguably saved the country from economic collapse in the 1980s — has been accompanied by some sense of loss of community, spiking prices and the accumulation of great wealth in a few hands. (…) Israel’s majority Jewish citizens feel they have suppressed their individual needs for the perceived good of the community over the course of many wars.
The heart of this protest is the affront and outrage over the government’s indifference to the people’s suffering, the double standard against the working population and the destruction of social solidarity.
The heart-warming sights of the tent cities spreading through Israel’s cities, of the doctors marching for their patients, of the demonstrations and rallies are in themselves a delightful revival of mutual fraternity and commitment. After all, the first thing these demonstrators are saying, even before “social justice” and “down with the government,” is: “We are brethren.”
A similar local cosmopolitanism was the fundament of the uprisings in Egypt. People unitied in order to fight inequalities and rebuilt the nation.
Sociologist Honaida Ghanim is one of many people who are certain that the recent events in Egypt and Tunisia had a large impact on the Israeli protest movement. In an interview with Amira Hass in the paper Haaretz, she says explains:
On the one hand, there is neo-liberalism and globalization that have resulted in an unacceptable gap between the wealth of the state and individuals and the harshness of life for the masses. On the other hand, these are similar tools – online social networks, with Facebook heading the list, which had a far-reaching effect on the media.
But she also points out that many Pakestinians feel rather indifferent towards the protests. No connections are made to the occupation.
But the current crisis is an opportunity for Israelis to understand that they too are victims of the occupation, two Palestinian activists, Nariman al-Tamimi and Afaf Ghatasha, stress:
All the tear gas grenades thrown at us in demonstrations cost money which cannot be spent on improving social conditions for Israelis.”
and the protests will in Sociologist Honaida Ghanim’s view allow the Palestinians to see that “Israeli society isn’t one-dimensional, that it is complex, that it shouldn’t be flattened, that it has struggles and oppressed classes of its own.”
Here a Al Jazeera feature:
Love instead of hate: Norway’s reaction after the terror attack. Photo: Erik F. Brandsborg, Aktiv I Oslo.no, flickr
Many new comments by anthropologists have appeared since my first post on the terror attack in Oslo. Here is a quick overview:
What good is it to devote my professional life to understanding nationalism, belonging, community cohesion, conceptions of difference and the like when I have done nothing to prevent the worst thinkable acts of violence to take place in my own country? Especially since I think – or I’m sure – that I’ve felt there was a need for worry (but of course, not to this unconceivable degree…). For several days now I’ve been thinking about how I can contribute. How can I contribute in the best way with my knowledge (of living with difference in Europe), my concern (for the future of us all) and my devotion (to work for a better world)?
Simone Abram: ‘Evil can murder a person, but never defeat a whole people’ (Savage Minds 26.7.):
Responses to the tragedy this weekend have included the massed flying of flags, using flag symbols as facebook identifiers, and so forth. (…) The tying together of national symbols with talk of love reinforces a sense of moral good associated with the Norwegian nation, and reappropriates the nation from racist nationalism. But in this endless tussle between a nation of care and an exclusive people, it seems that racism is the shadow-concept of nationalism. Nationalism is alive and well, and racism continues to creep along in its underbelly.
In a country where Social Anthropology is one of the more popular subjects for study at university, and where anthropologists retain a high media profile, the persistence of racist ideologies and acts and their resistance to rational argument raise difficult questions.
Sindre Bangstad: The Hatred in Our Own Eyes (Excerpt translated into English by stalinsmoustace 27.7.11):
Norway has produced Europe’s first anti-Muslim terrorist. It seems, however, that the public narrative about him and his actions will not accurately emphasise what is said concerning the direction Norway as a society has taken in the Islamophobic era.
No matter how many bombing raids Norwegian pilots conduct in Muslim countries, no matter how many innocent civilians are killed by Norwegian soldiers in the same countries, and regardless of how much the public debate about Muslims and Islam in Norway has been wallowing in the gutter, one thing is clear: We will not face the hatred in our own eyes.
(see also an article by him Fighting words that are not fought, written a month before the attack about Norwegian mainstream anti-Muslim discourse)
Thomas Hylland Eriksen: Anders Behring Breivik: Tunnel vision in an online world (Guardian 25.7.11):
Norway’s extremists don’t tend to gather in visible ‘rightwing groups’. But online, they settle into a subculture of resentment. (…) The fact that Breivik was Made in Norway, a homegrown terrorist with a hairdo and an appearance suggesting the west end of Oslo, and not a bearded foreign import, should lead not only to a closer examination of these networks, but also to a calm, but critical reflection over the Norwegian self-identity itself.
Thomas Hylland Eriksen and Jostein Gaarder: A Blogosphere of Bigots (New York Times 28.7.11):
The racism and bigotry that have simmered for years on anti-Islamic and anti-immigration Web sites in Norway and other European countries and in the United States made it possible for him to believe he was acting on behalf of a community that would thank him.
It is important I think to see how his ideas (but not his actions) not only are derived from bloggers and politicians but also who they resonate with and are grounded on a grassroots everyday level. I also think the Netherlands can give some clues to that and is relevant here since Breivik partly derived his inspiration from Wilders’ Freedom Party ideology.
Nice. So even though the only terror attack so far came from the anti-Islamists, PST (Norwegian FBI) does not see much of a threat in them, whereas they believe that Islamists continue to pose the main problem in Norway it seems.
UPDATE: Thomas Hylland Eriksen sums up in a guest post at anthropologyworks:
It was only a matter of hours between the blast in central Oslo and my most extensive and exhausting engagement with international media since I started out as an anthropologist in the 1980s. Between Friday night and Wednesday, I spoke on radio, on television (via a mobile phone), to newspapers and magazines from China to Chile, and wrote articles for nearly a dozen publications in five countries.
My priorities shifted in a matter of hours. Our holiday house was turned into a makeshift media centre, and the computer was online almost 24/7.
Interesting article about biased terror research in the age of neoliberalism by Charles Kurzman: Where Are All the Islamic Terrorists?, The Chronicle Review, 31.7.11
The more that non-Muslims fear Islam, the more security threats are hyped, the more attention my colleagues and I get. I am in the awkward position of undermining the importance of my own field. My research finds that Islamic terrorism has not posed as large a threat as reporters and the public think.
Check also the most recent round-up by Erkan Saka and my first post: Terror in Oslo: Who cares about Christian right wing extremism?
The Rumi Darwaza ("the Turkish Gate") in Lucknow. Foto: Himalayan Trails / Rajesh, flickr
Why are some areas of this world more peaceful than others? In her master’s thesis Networks That Make A Difference, anthropologist Tereza Kuldova explains why the Indian city of Lucknow has remained peaceful throughout its history, even throughout such events as the Partition of India in 1947, and the demolition of Babri mosque in 1992 by Hindu nationalists in Ayodhya, less than 100 km from Lucknow.
“In contrast to the vast majority of studies concerned with communal violence in general and the Hindu-Muslim violence in India in particular, I opt the opposite point of departure, the one of communal peace”, Kuldova writes who is currently PhD fellow at the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo and author of several book reviews here at antropologi.info.
The heart of the peaceful nature of Lucknow is according to her “a particular blend of local history and networks of economic dependency which cut across the boundaries of class, caste, religion and locality. These networks are produced by the local embroidery industry, known under the name Chikan. Chikan is a traditional Muslim craft, and traded mostly by Hindu businessmen. In the last two decades there were more and more Muslims among the traders and Hindus among the embroiderers.
Chikan embroidery. Foto: Joey Berzowska, flickr
The Chikan industry gives employment to about 20 percent of the city’s population. It integrates people of different origins – rural, urban, lower class, middle class, men, women, Hindus, Muslims and creates according to her “an incredible network of mutual dependency, obligations and expectations".
Religion is often used by political leaders to polarize people. It is rarely the main source of conflicts. These economic networks of interdependency, writes Tereza Kuldova, neutralize the polarizing strategies of the political leaders and lessen the chances of the occurrence of the communal tension. They lead to the “priority of the processes of togethering” as opposed to the “processes of othering":
The growth of the industry and these networks, especially after 1990s, that is noticeably connected to the emergence and the ideology of the Hindu nationalism, has at the same time prevented the negative effects of this ideology, which have been violently felt in Lucknow’s neighbouring areas. This happened by expanding the cross-cutting networks and by turning a craft, which could have possibly been labelled as a “Muslim” craft, into a “traditionally Indian” craft. Chikan has been turned into embroidery which is worn by both Muslims and Hindus to express their Indianness, sense for tradition and fashion.
Additionally, Lucknow is by its inhabitants imagined as a peaceful and tolerant city, as the city of the Nawabs, rulers who bridged faiths:
Almost all accounts of the oral history that I gathered began like this: “In the times of Nawabs, the arts and architecture flourished, it was the time when a Muslim king danced as Lord Krishna…now where you can see that”. The Nawabs thus became associated with secularism; it is them who made Lucknow a “peaceful, clean and a neat city”
You don’t have to be born in Lucknow to be a Lakhnavi:
This imagination of anything or anyone as “Lakhnavi” goes in result beyond the dichotomy of Muslim vs. Hindu; it is rather about belonging to a particular place, which is populated by “Lakhnavis”, first and foremost.
The most persistent logic of the reasoning of why Lucknow is a peaceful city thus goes (tautologically enough) in the field as follows: “Lucknow is a peaceful city, because it is Lucknow, Lakhnavis do not fight, it has always been like that here and anyone who comes here just has to adopt that culture” (From a conversation with a Hindu businessman, 25.3.08.)
The discourse of the mythical past seems to work hand in hand with the economic structures and the social and economic networks in the city, creating both economic and discursive basis for the establishment of “relaxed” communal relationships.
As consequence of her findings, Tereza Kuldova encourages anthropologists to think rather and in terms of identifications than identities and in terms of networks than dichotomies:
Through the Chikan industry and through Chikan as a commodity, we can learn something about the fluidity of the social systems, about change and continuity, about the importance of the cross-cutting networks, about the discourses which govern the market and people’s choices and last but not least about the experience of modernity in India.
We have even seen that what is usually considered as unchangeable identities, particularly in the Indian context, namely the religious identities, are as mutable as any other. They are identifications, that might be at times stronger, at times weaker and at other times they might be replaced by new ones. People play with these identifications in a similar way as the popular Bollywood cinema does. (…) The concept of identification thus, being much richer, gives us more space to acknowledge the discursive shifts, which occur when the identifications are played out. At the same time as it acknowledges the situational and relational character of identity.
The network approach reminds us of the complexity of the social life and its situations, as well as of the impossibility to divide and classify the flow of social and economic interactions into clear-cut categories. (…)
Anthropology in general and I believe this study in particular, “has the authority and the ability to collapse a number of counterproductive dichotomies: the local and the global, the virtual and the real, the place-bound and the “non-place”, the universal and the particular. In real-life settings such contrasts evaporate” (Eriksen 2003: 15). “The “India”, where the past is inserted into the present and then projected into the future, questions the colonial dichotomies of “India” vs. “West”, “modernity” vs. “tradition”” (Favero 2005:24).
Why more scholarship on war than peace?
- Highlight the connections between people!
How to challenge Us-and-Them thinking? Interview with Thomas Hylland Eriksen
Mahmood Mamdani: “Peace cannot be built on humanitarian intervention”
An Anthropological Challenge to Assumptions about War and Violence
Applied anthropology: A wedding ceremony in support of durable solutions in West Timor
Presenting 2nd generation Multi-Sited Ethnography
Oslo, Saturday afternoon. Several thousands people are watching Germany-Argentina on the big screen. The man opposite to me is wearing the German jersey. He is not German, but Norwegian. He is not the only one who identified with the"others” during the World Cup. Not only teams from the rich “West” are popular. A few days ago, people from all nationalities cheered on Ghana. Norwegian TV2 interviewed fans of the Ivory Coast team in South Africa. Ivory Coast fans came from all over the world, and many of them were neither black nor from the Ivory Coast.
The Football World Cup is often associated with primitive nationalism. Watching the matches in different public viewing places made me wonder: What about seeing the event as an arena of everyday cosmopolitanism, where people engage with the world, identify with teams, people and nations from far away places?
Even German fans of the German team cheer on players with names like Mesut Özil and Sami Khedira. In the German team, 11 of the 23 players were eligible to play for a different country. What effect does this have on notions of Germanness and identifications in general?
But a quick google search revealed that the cosmopolitan aspects of the football world cup do not seem to be a popular research topic. I haven’t found papers that address this topic explicitly - but maybe a closer look at the 90 journal articles that Routledge Journals made free to access until the end of July will nuance the picture?
Or maybe rather not?
“Academic treatments of football have tended to focus either on the game’s capacity to inspire xenophobic hooliganism amongst its followers or how it has been exploited by politicians for nationalistic purposes", writes Peter Hough in one of them called “Make Goals Not War“. There he highlights the mostly ignored positive contributions of international football to international relations. But he is not addressing cosmopolitanism either.
Anthropologist Hans Hognestad shares his view.
“Despite the apparent existence of transnational football fandom there seems to be a reluctance in academe to view this as generative of new identities contesting more traditional ones related to the nation as a privileged frame for structuring and reproducing identities", he writes in the paper Transglobal Scandinavian? Globalization and the contestation of identities in football that is not freely accessible (mostly about club football, though).
Why is this so?
“The lack of understanding of the popular and cultural appeal of sport seems to me linked to the incomprehension about and instinctive dislike of patriotism", argues Sunder Katwala. In a comment to The football world cup is not xenophobic by Robert Sharp, he criticizes the view “that we will (only) have a better world when people do not identity with national identities, but instead only with the brother-and-sisterhood of humanity.” Instead, cosmopolitanism can in his opinion be achieved “through supporting positive and outward-looking national identities which see the value as internationalism as important to “who we are”.
Maybe the World Cup constitutes such an arena for creating these identities?
Khaled Hroub has written a wonderful text about watching the World Cup in Palestinia and Palestinans identifications with other teams
For more texts see the overviews by Erkan Saka, among others http://erkansaka.net/archives/4233 and http://erkansaka.net/archives/4132
There is also a comprehensive overview at GlobalVoices
Or take a look at Steps to an ecology of transnational sports by Thomas Hylland Eriksen and Ambivalent Football. An Ethnographic Approach to Postcolonial Player Migration by Kristian Dyrkorn
UPDATE: Interesting post by anthropologist Martijn de Koning: Orange Fever: Notes on the Worldcup, football, nationalism and Deep Play in the Netherlands
It happened already around 200 years ago: Aboriginal Australians marry Indians. Afghan cameleers open up the interior of Australia for transport and development. Indian seamen fight for Indonesian independence. And long before Australia was colonised by white settlers in 1788, Aboriginees have had longstanding relations with the Indonesian archipelago.
A few weeks ago I met Devleena Ghosh. She is conducting interesting research about the movements of people and ideas in the Indian ocean. We often link transnationalism to today’s world, but Ghosh shows that people have lived globalised lives already several hundred years ago. Australias history consists of more than white settler history.
- It is important to highlight the connections between people, she told me. It is important to challenge the popular belief that migration is something new, that people lived seperated from each other, hating each other. Because that’s not true.
I totally agree with her.
Relationships between South Asians and Australians during the colonial period and earlier have been little investigated. The same can be said of Norwegian history. It was not more than seven years ago, that the first history of immigration was written.
Because of this lack of transnational history writing, the incorrect view of the world as consisting of isolated and self-sustaining societies has been able to dominate the public and scientific discourse. This view has been a fruitful breeding ground for ethnic chauvinism, racism and - in social science - methodological nationalism (pdf).
Devleena Ghosh and her colleagues have published some open access papers:
Devleena Ghosh, Heather Goodall, Lindi Renier Todd: Jumping Ship: Indians, Aborigines and Australians Across the Indian Ocean (Transforming Cultures eJournal, Vol 3, No 1 (2008)
”The Eurovision Song Contest is torture to my ears”, was one of my recent Facebook status messages. But as I learnt, the mega event is not primarily about music, it’s a ritual, a transnational social event that connects people and that - according to a recent paper “produces a new form of unity among people in Europe".
In her view, the ESC is a good place to discuss potentials for creating a critical, post-national and cosmopolitan European public sphere that challenges the governing paradigms of identity and belonging.
My thesis is that both the ESC and the strategies of Serbia’s participation in this event present attempts to move on from bipolarisation (East/West on the geopolitical map of Europe and First Serbia/Second Serbia in Serbia), respectively, to turn bipolarisation to multiplicity – and through that, paradoxically or not, to produce a new form of unity.
The Western, more ironic stance towards the competition can be seen as opposed to a more strategic attitude of the Eastern European participants, she writes. Similar observations were made by Onnik Krikorian at Global Voices. “While some media reported lagging interest in the 54-year-old competition", he writes, “countries such as those in the former Eastern bloc continue to take it seriously.”
Popular culture events such as the ESC have according to Marijana Mitrovic “the power and ability to reshape the geopolitical map of Europe and are also used in this way by the new and aspiring member states of the European Union":
Those are mostly countries that are undergoing a post-socialist transition. Participation in the ESC and a potential victory are a chance for them to invert the social and economic order, on a symbolic level. But paradoxically or not, with that inversion, they also integrate into Europe and inscribe themselves into its symbolic map. Thus rite de passage becomes a transition ritual indeed.
The contributers used the ESC to transform the image of the Balkan/Serbian from a militant and non-cultivated savage, into someone civil, emotional, yet archaic - while at the same time promoting a ”certain level of (Balkan?) universality”. The “new face of Serbia” is “pacified and friendly” and “meets both European and local values". This new Serbia “is a ‘country in the Balkans, a country of peasants’, but peasants who recognise European values.”
An example is the performance of Zeljko Joksimovic (2004)
The anthropologist comments:
Visual identity, crucial for the whole construction, is almost entirely recycled form the ‘memories’ of medieval Serbia. The members of his ad hoc orchestra are dressed in quasi medieval garments, while Joksimovic’s suit is modern, white and minimalist, but with an impressive ‘ethno’ accessory – modification of the belt typical of Serbian costume with an attached golden needle. He has a perfect haircut, his beard is tidy, he is sophisticated, reserved, unobtrusive and somewhat apart from the scene.
By means of a minimalist and modernised wardrobe, accessories and make-up which strongly referred to the medieval tradition of Serbia, the Balkans, but also the Byzantine Empire (not the Ottoman, although the Balkans are often associated with the Ottoman legacy), the Serbian team tried to transform the image of the Balkan/Serbian male, and people for that matter, from a militant and non-cultivated savage, or brute, always ready to fight, into someone civil, emotional, yet archaic
The recipe, she writes, was followed by the Croatians in 2005 and 2006, the Bosnians in 2006 and 2007, and peaked in the winning solution in Serbia’s 2007 winning song Molitva.
Many different groups, including socially marginalized groups, ethnic and sexual minorities invest their expectations and cultural preferences in this spectacle. Gay organisations are among the greatest fans of the event. They see this event as a symbolic representation of differences that guarantees the possibility of their social visibility according to Marijana Mitrovic:
Although some have derogatively proclaimed Marija Serifovic’s performance as an overtly lesbian one, that did not prevent their countrymen from awarding her a maximum 12 points. (…)
Preparing her ESC performance, her creative team reached the solution intentionally offered to be read as gay (with five female backing vocalists dressed in male suits the same as that of the lead singer, one of them locking hands with Marija to connect two halves of the heart tattooed on their hands). The symbolic value of her victory gained special weight through the association of her performance with lesbians and her origin with Roma communities in Serbia. It was argued that this was a victory for Serbian minorities as well.
But the problem with the new politics of Serbian identity is according to the researcher that the last revision of the past has erased all recent past, more than half a century of the region’s history:
Instead of continuity, ‘a time hole’ is opened up. This was reflected in the performances chosen to represent the state. For the turbulent sociocultural Serbian history, identity constructions based on the recycling of different memories turn out to be some of the main mechanisms for the construction of potential ‘new’ identities. Music themes and the way they are performed, as part of the representational and signifying system, manage to evoke and embody the nostalgia for the memory of the past in rational and affective ways; nonetheless, they also shape and direct the process of building and performing the national identity in the present and for the future.
I just picked some parts of her paper that is only available for subscribers.
On her webpage you can read a related paper about music and the “new face of Serbia": Serbia – from Miki and Kupinovo to Europe: Public Performance and the Social Role of Celebrity (pdf).
Marijana Mitrovic is by the way member of the Eurovision Research Network.
Check also the overview over the ESC 2010 by anthropologist Erkan Saka
Links updated 23.5.2014
During my research for the new overview over open access anthropology journals, I made many great discoveries. I’ll try to present some of them.
One of the discoveries was Invisible Culture. An electronic journal for visual culture. The most recent issue includes an interview with famous Benedict Anderson about colonial cosmopolitism or cosmopolitism from below.
Cosmopolitism does not mean that you have to spend more time in airports than in your own bed. You don’t need to travel at all, Anderson, the author of “Imagined Communities. Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism” says.
In this interview he takes a different take on this term than in 2005 when I interviewed him. “I haven’t met many cosmopolitans in my life, perhaps no more than five", he said.
In the interview in Invisible Culture, he tells us the story of Kwee Thiam Tjing, a poor Chinese-Indonesian journalist, in order to explore the role of cosmopolitanism in the life of the “colonial subject". Kwee lived in Indonesia.
In terms of colonial cosmopolitanism, I thought it was interesting because this guy was absolutely a cosmopolitan, but he almost never went anywhere—not even to China, as many of his Chinese acquaintances did. So I had to think about cosmopolitanism to talk about Kwee.
Interviewer Cynthia Foo asks Anderson how he would describe Keew as a cosmopolitan.
His family had been in Indonesia for 300 years, but Dutch colonial policy had been always, as much as possible, to segregate the Chinese and not let them assimilate with the natives (a policy which was of course quietly resisted). So Kwee was very aware of the fact that he wasn’t a native of the country, although he was extremely patriotic about the country.
He spoke Hokkien, which nobody except the Chinese spoke, as well as Indonesian and Javanese. He started out, really, with 4 languages: he had a home or “in-the-house” language of Hokkien; he spoke Javanese, which is a street language; Dutch he got in school; and Indonesian he learned in his teens, I think, maybe early 20s, because that was the popular medium for writing in newspapers and magazines. So you start off with a guy who at 20 is a master of 4 languages, and you’ve got something right there.
The second thing to add was that this was a very rich colony, yet little Holland didn’t have the power to say “only for us,” so all kinds of people came to seek their fortunes: Indians came, Yemenese came, Europeans of different kinds—Germans, Austrians, English, Americans—and so forth. This is why the population was very mixed; there was also a huge migration of natives, mainly Javanese, from the interior where people were looking for better ways to live. The Chinese ghetto system broke down in the 1910s, so, wherever you went, you were running into all kinds of people.
I have to confess I have an ambivalent relation to initiatives like the Earth Hour. But anthropologist Stephen Bede Scharper casts an interesting perspective on this new way to save our planet.
He describes Earth Hour as “the first globalized ritual", a `liminal space’ and therefore “a potent opportunity for change":
Earth Hour combines a spiritual quest, a moral mandate and a communal practice into a unique and truly global event. It can thus be considered a transcultural action of moral responsibility for the planet, a statement that “another world is possible.” It is not driven by brands, consumerism or corporate logos. Earth Hour is not Coca-Cola teaching “the world to sing in perfect harmony,” nor Nike telling us to “Just Do It.” It is, rather, approximately one billion people entering the threshold of a different relationship with both the planet and the cosmos.
Earth Hour has arisen, almost organically, outside of established religious and secular institutions. The fact that churches and municipal governments are now participating is a testament not only to its popularity, but also possibly to its motivational power and persistence, something that places the event in the category of “ritual.”
UPDATE: Antarctica to Pyramids: Lights dim for Earth Hour (ap, 28.3.09)