I recently interviewed Benedict Anderson. He wrote one of the most read books on nationalism, “Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism”. I was surprised over Andersons positive views on nationalism. He thinks that nationalism can be an attractive ideology because it makes you feel that you're member of a society:
"You follow the laws because they are your laws - not always, because you perhaps cheat on your tax forms, but normally you do. Nationalism encourages good behaviour. (...) I am probably the only one writing about nationalism who doesn’t think it ugly. I actually think that nationalism can be an attractive ideology. I like its Utopian elements."
Anderson is quite critical towards recent theories of globalisation and modernity. Despite all the talk of transnationalism and fluid identities, he stressed, nationalism is in the best of health. Newer examples of nationalism are the long-distance nationalisms of migrants: Jews in the USA fighting for a state in the Middle East, or Tamils in Norway working for their own state in Sri Lanka. Some of the most ardent Sikh nationalist are situated in Australia and Canada - thanks to the Internet and cheap airline tickets.
One thing that fascinates Benedict Anderson is how nationalism evolves along with other developments in society. Right now nationalism “clashes” with the Internet and mobile technologies. Previously it “clashed” with the women’s movement.
>> read the whole interview (Link updated with copy. I also published a copy at https://www.lorenzk.com/english/2005/benedict-anderson-interview/)
Anna Tsing, professor of anthropology, has received the 2005 Senior Book Prize from the American Ethnological Association (AEA) for her book, Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection (Princeton University Press, 2004). Tsing shares the prize with Michael Fischer, professor of anthropology and science and technology studies at MIT, who was honored for his book Emergent Forms of Life and the Anthropological Voice, University of Santa Cruz reports:
In Friction, Tsing challenges the widespread view that globalization invariably signifies a "clash" of cultures, and she develops the concept of friction in its place as a metaphor for the diverse and conflicting social interactions that make up our contemporary world. She focuses on the Indonesian rainforest, where local and national environmentalists, international science, North American investors, advocates for Brazilian rubber tappers, UN funding agencies, mountaineers, village elders, and urban students, among others, all combine in unpredictable, messy misunderstandings, but misunderstandings that sometimes work out.
Amazon writes on Fischers book:
A vigorous advocate of the anthropological voice and method, Fischer emphasizes the ethical dimension of cultural anthropology. Ethnography, he suggests, is uniquely situated to gather and convey observations fundamental to the creation of new social institutions for an evolving civil society. In Emergent Forms of Life and the Anthropological Voice Fischer considers a dazzling array of subjects—among them Iranian and Polish cinema, cyberspace, autobiographical and fictional narrative, and genomic biotechnologies—and, in the process, demonstrates a cultural anthropology for a highly networked world.
Anthropology, Fischer explains, now operates in a series of third spaces well beyond the nineteenth- and twentieth-century dualisms of us/them, primitive/civilized, East/West, or North/South. He contends that more useful paradigms—such as informatics, multidimensional scaling, autoimmunity, and visual literacy beyond the frame—derive from the contemporary sciences and media technologies.
Interesting article in Anthropology News October by Brasilian antropologist Gustavo Lins Ribeiro on the lacking globalisation of anthropology:
Globalisation in anthropology has mirrored unequal relations existing within larger structural processes. Theory, for instance, has flown from metropolitan centers to non-metropolitan centers while the flow of “raw data” makes the opposite movement.
The consequence is that a large part of anthropological knowledge remains unnoticed:
English has become the global language to the detriment of a more diversified linguistic and stylistic scenario. Think, for instance, of the size of anthropology in Japan or Brazil. But few read Japanese or Portuguese outside of their original language communities. Furthermore, only a small internationalized elite interacts on a global level. Nation-states remain the primary place where the reproduction of the profession is defined in particular ways.
So what can be done? How can foster the visibility of non-metropolitan works of quality and enhance our modes of exchanging information? How can we create and consolidate a more plural anthropological community?
He suggests among others:
- Translation of different anthropological materials into English. But to to avoid linguistic monotony, German anthropologists should be translated into Japanese, Mexicans into German, Australians into Portuguese, Brazilians into Russian, and so on.
- Online communication: An electronic collection of classics from different countries and a global anthropology e-journal are real possibilities.
- Increased presence of international participants at national anthropology congresses and creating connections and fostering exchange is to capitalize on already existing national and international anthropological associations. The creation in 2004 of the World Council of Anthropological Associations was an important step in this direction.
Why are there such different patterns of identity and community formation among second-generation migrants? A transnational perspective with focus on the migrants' relationship to their (or their parents') homeland is neccessary, argues anthropologist Susanne Wessendorf in her paper "No Pizza without Migrants: Between the Politics of Identity and Transnationalism: Second-Generation Italians in Switzerland":
"Politics of identity, transnationalism and integration should not be regarded as mutually exclusive, but as complementary strategies or reactions of migrants to the challenges of and tensions between mobility and settlement"
Wessendorf has among others studied Italian migrants in Switzerland and their political Secondo movement that fights against the negative image ascribed to them (They designed and sold T-Shirts as a way to communicate their pride in being members of the second generation, and to show that even if you do not look like a foreigner, you might well be of immigrant origin).
Wessendorf critizes concepts which describe fragmented second-generation integration as simply ‘bicultural’, moving ‘between two cultures’:
"But these new spaces can neither simply be called ‘transnational social spaces’, she writes: They are clearly embedded in the political, economic and socio-cultural realities of the nation-state in which they emerge. Rather, they are counter-hegemonic attempts to deal with both a national legal system and, sometimes, the nostalgia for the homeland."
PS: This one of the Working Papers of the Center of Migration, Policy and Society at the University of Oxford
"We fishermen have knowledge about the Mekong based on our time-tested experiences," said Oon Thammawong, 57, of Ban Had Bai in Chiang Rai's Chiang Khong district. "But policy-makers dismiss us as simple folk so that they can dismiss our voices and impose their policies, which only benefit businessmen but destroy our way of life."
Over the past five years, in the wake of the building of dams and the blasting of rapids in China, the condition of the Mekong as it flows through Chiang Khong has drastically deteriorated. Like other communities, the Bangkok-oriented education and political systems have robbed the locals of their historical roots and pride in their culture.
Local pride swelled, however, when a group of residents took on the role of researchers to profile Chiang Khong's ethnographic history and document changes in their hometown. "Reconnecting with one's past and understanding what has shaped one's present is always an empowering process," explained veteran anthropologist Srisakara Vallibhotama, director of the project, which is supported by the Thailand Research Fund. >> continue
Local taboos could save the seas
Eurozine is a netmagazine that publishes both own texts and articles previously published in European magazines. Their new "focal point" looks very interesting. From their introduction: "Have borders become irrelevant with the project of a united Europe, which is supposed to overcome the historical divisions of the continent and the political isolation of its East? No, just the opposite. Essayists and researchers look at the dilemmas of border building and cross-border cooperation in the EU and its neighborhood. >> continue (link updated)
San Francisco Chronicle
Five years into the millennium, Japan's most visible export isn't economic, but cultural. The jury's still out on whether anime (Japanese animation), manga, toys, gadgets and fashion will sweep across middle America. "This stuff is getting globalized like never before," says Anne Allison, chair of cultural anthropology at Duke University, whose examination of the subject, "Millennium Monsters: Japanese Toys and the Global Imagination" (University of California Press) will be out in 2006.
"In the last decade, especially in the last five years, Japanese pop culture, particularly youth culture -- anime, manga, Pokemon, kids cards -- has circulated not just in the United States, but in Western Europe, East Asia and South America." >> continue
Interview with anthropologist Anne Allison about her research in Japan (Japan Review)
Book review: Japan Pop!: Inside the World of Japanese Popular Culture (Japan Review) , see same book reviewed by H-Net Review
Media Monitors Network
A valuable new contribution to unearth and interpret America's bizarre conduct is Mahmood Mamdani's study "GOOD MUSLIM, BAD MUSLIM". The author, a distinguished political scientist and anthropologist, explains that the book grew out of a talk at a church in New York after 9/11 when to bear an identifiably Muslim name was to be made aware that Islam had become a political identity in America.
Perhaps the heart of this book can be found in the first chapter titled "Culture Talk; Or How Not To Talk About Islam And Politics". The author is able to penetrate the limits of conventional discourse on democracy and dictatorship, poverty and wealth and also succeeds in locating "culture" within the chasm of globalisation. >> continue Link updated 29.5.18
Interview with Mahmood Mamdani (Asia Source) Link updated 29.5.18