For some of us, conferences like the AAA are a great place to test out new projects and get important critical feedback from colleagues. This year, my panel “The China Model: An Anthropological Critique” featured papers by colleagues Lisa Hoffman (University of Washington, Tacoma), and Jennifer Hubbert (Lewis & Clark), as well as commentary by our discussant, development expert, Tania Murray Li (University of Toronto). Hubbert and I have been collaborating on a book project that examines the so-called “China Model” of development that some worry could replace basic Western assumptions and practices of modernization. In response to the many macro-level, policy-oriented or economics-based studies of this issue, our hope is to use an anthropological approach to reframe debates about China’s global re-emergence and its stakes for different actors. For the panel, our individual papers provided a glimpse into what that anthropological critique would look like. Each of us offered ethnographic analyses of how China is projecting itself around the world, with an eye to the actual practices, values, and relations that define China’s efforts, as well as to how actors in these other places engage them.
My paper, “New Arenas of Development: The China Model in Latin America” drew on my ongoing research in Costa Rica to examine China’s new role in Central American development politics, especially in terms of Central American perceptions of these budding transpacific relations. I argued that contrary to popular belief, China’s projects in Costa Rica seem to actually extend Western-style modernization projects rather than threaten them. Nonetheless, these projects are shaped by a particular brand of South-South politics that suggest important new ways of thinking about the meaning of First and Third World identities and their implications for the global development landscape.
The charming streets of old Montreal
Last week I returned from my annual trip to the American Anthropological Association meeting in Montreal. All five anthropologists from our department were there, and Gareth and I thought it would be a great idea to give you a brief overview of the papers and sessions in which each of us participated. So without further ado …
With my friend and graduate school colleague Brian Burke (University of Arizona), I co-organized a panel entitled “Purposive Economies in the Neoliberal Era.” Brian and I crossed paths in Mexico a year ago, and we ended up having a fairly interesting conversation about some of the parallels between our two field sites. Brian works in Medellin, Colombia, where he studies the barter markets and economies that have arisen amongst the disenfranchised denizens of that city. He’s interested in how people go about organizing this form of non-capitalist trade, as well as how they conceptualize that activity in relation to more dominant forms of exchange.
As you know, I’ve been working in Qatar over the past years, and one of the things I’ve focused on is the role of government employment in citizens’ lifeways. The paper I presented was entitled “Lazy Arabs: A Reconceptualization of the Rentier Economy.” In this paper, I argue that the often-criticized public sector in the Gulf Arab States strategically insulates citizen-employees from the grinding logic of the private sector, and thereby allows them to maintain customary social relations and cultural practices. I argue that it’s a purposive non-capitalist sector maintained by the state, and that public sector employment is essential to authoritarian legitimacy in the region.
The other papers in our panel pursued similar quarry: Benjamin Jewell (Arizona State) presented a paper that explored urban gardening in Detroit; Karen Rignall (Kentucky) contributed an excellent paper concerning land tenure in Morocco; and Boone Shear (UMass) analyzed community-level reactions to the Green Economy in Massachusetts. Jane Gibson (Kansas) graciously served as our discussant, and at this point we’re trying to polish the papers for submission to an academic journal.
If so, here’s an opportunity to keep in mind. Students studying abroad in the spring or fall semester of 2012 should consider applying to the Bill Campbell Fund of the Phi Beta Kappa society. The fund provides students with money to extend their stay abroad and continue their research and/or study. Considering how important the duration of stay is to the ethnographic endeavor, this seems a particularly appropriate fund for students in CSOC.
Here are the details: The Campbell Fund funds research for one or two Puget Sound students who are studying abroad. The purpose of the grant is to give students a chance to extend the period of their study abroad program in order to complete a special project or course of study. Awards typically range from $500-$1,500. In 2010 two students received scholarships totaling $2100 for research on young Japanese recluses and on open-air markets in France. The application form is attached. It requires a two-page description of the research project and the budget. Students should apply directly to Greta Austin (CMB firstname.lastname@example.org) by November 15, 2011.
We’re happy to announce that the CSOC Club’s third and final guest speaker for the semester will present this Thursday. Professor Michael Vicente Perez will talk about his research with Palestinian refugees in Jordan. Here’s the key information and a brief description.
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Title: Religion and Everyday Nationalism Among Palestinian Refugees in Jordan.
Based on two-years of ethnographic research in The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Professor Perez will focus on the politics of everyday nationhood among Palestinian refugees. Professor Perez will examine how Islam and nation combine to form particular ideas about the Palestinian homeland, people, and struggle and how these claims underscore the importance of understanding nationalism in the context of everyday discourse and practices. Please join us!