201-220 of 261 Results

Article

Police and Policing  

Paul T. Clarke and Julia Hornberger

Policing, perhaps more than any modern institution, has become the subject of intense political contestation. Police killings have sparked clashes in the public sphere and in the streets over the role of policing in society in diverse places such as the United States, Eswatini, Brazil, France, Hong Kong, and Iran. At the same time, policing from the vantage point of policymakers is often taken as a straightforward way of reordering society, of putting law into practice. What, then, could be gained by studying the police anthropologically—by following them in their everyday work, listening to them in their own words, and seeking to understand them in the context of their own environment? The anthropology of police and policing understands its object of study neither as just reflection of society nor pure execution of policy but as a potent force of imagination and action in itself. On the one hand, policing throws into stark relief the wishful thinking of what orderly society would like to be. This dynamic can take the form of people projecting their desires onto the police or the police performatively enacting these expectations and their own visions of power and authority and who they would like to be. On the other hand, policing manifests itself as a means of exclusion, inequality, and violent differentiation. It operates as a key force within societies at odds with the flourishing, and even survival, of many of those who live within it. The anthropology of policing’s unique perspective originates from the subfield’s diverse geographical and institutional scope, encompassing state and nonstate policing practices in places across the globe. It is also a product of the broader discipline’s approach to quotidian practices as always already embedded in multiple layers of context and inflected by broader social institutions. Within this vein, anthropologists have mobilized ethnographic studies to explore how states are given force and effect through mundane bureaucratic practices and how more foundational notions such as sovereignty, legitimacy, and authority are enacted through policing. Other scholars have shown how policing’s seeming ability to materialize these more transcendental aspects of statehood has lent policing to be embraced and animated by religious practice and justification. Crucial within this scholarship is an emphasis on policing as a provisional and emergent form of authority, which is ultimately dependent on spectacular and quotidian forms of performance. As a consequence, policing has become a rich site for the anthropology of policing to explore how contemporary citizenship is taking shape, how structures of exclusion within it are emerging, and how these exclusions are contested at multiple scales. As these contests have taken greater prominence, the subfield itself has been home to debates not simply over how best to do an anthropology of the police but also whether, in this tense political moment, it is worth studying the police ethnographically at all.

Article

Politics of Identity in Maloti-Drakensberg Rock Art Research  

Andrew Skinner

The contexts of hunter-gatherer rock arts of the southern Maloti-Drakensberg are characterized by enduring patterns of cultural acquisition and social transformation, resulting in communities with highly contextual identities and cultural possessions, but with nonlinear relationships between the two. Attempts to mitigate discontinuities between ethnographic source and interpretive subject, however, have left interpretive methodologies to represent authorship in more singular terms, to the exclusion of potential contextual sources who express identities not outwardly San, despite ancestral trajectories overlapping those of the artists. Recognition of the inheritances of the communities of the present Maloti-Drakensberg, and their transformative histories, necessitates their inclusion not only as sources, but as contributors to ethnoarchaeological process.

Article

Popular Infrastructures in West Africa  

Brenda Chalfin

Popular infrastructures in West Africa encompass a broad array of basic utilities enabling access to water, sanitation, power, communication, and transportation networks. Though characterized as “by the people, for the people” formulations, popular infrastructures are rarely stand-alone and intersect with services sponsored by states, international investors, and humanitarian organizations. These amalgams evince a complex politics where self-determination vies with elite accommodation and infrastructural operations command labor and impinge upon public and private life. Most notable across the region is the overwhelming inadequacy of state-based infrastructural orders and the heightened role of corporate capital and commodification to meet and modify basic infrastructural needs and installations. This is evident in the rise of both digital communication networks and high-tech megaports and extractive enterprise across this wide swath of nation-states, the one intensifying social relations and interdependencies, the other promoting de-peopling and alienation. Like the “just-in-time” humanitarian infrastructural aid packages that mark the region’s crisis zones, they each carry their own chimera of promise. Received and reflected on by a diverse populace, these offerings and impositions combine with infrastructural strategies already in place—evident in revitalized tea circles in Niger and Burkina Faso; repair, care, and fabrication networks in Guinea, Ghana, Togo, and Nigeria; public points of gathering in Gambia, Cote d’Ivoire, and Benin; or new conventions of domesticity in Mali, Senegal, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Irreducible to resistance or accommodation, popular infrastructural solutions prioritize opportunity and security in the face of the near inevitable predations of large-scale infrastructural interventions motivated by profit, development, or both.

Article

A Postcolonial Approach to the Right to the City  

Lucas Amaral de Oliveira and Bruna Triana

A postcolonial approach to the right to the city involves the intersection of two multifaceted topics that has yielded an extensive body of scholarship. On the one hand, a postcolonial perspective conceives knowledge production as connected to the colonial matrix of power—a process that resulted in a narrow, Western-centered understanding of the world. On the other, the right to the city, a political motto associated with the French Marxist Henri Lefebvre, focuses on rebalancing the power over urbanization processes by embracing citizens’ prerogatives to co-participate in decision-making concerning the city. Tackling the debate on the right to the city from the standpoint of postcolonial spaces includes exploring a range of social, political, economic, cultural, and spatial axes that offer renewed engagements with the “urban question” from across the social sciences and humanities. In this sense, it is essential to question the universal grammar of the “city,” considering urban changes and local variations, as well as the metrocentric tendencies in the dominant urban theory, such as the concentration on large cities based on a normative and Eurocentric conception of urbanity. A postcolonial approach to the right to the city takes various processes, histories, experiences, projects, spatial perspectives, and agencies into account, considering epistemological and political proposals from the Global South. Critical Urban Theory, for instance, has analyzed varied contexts, times, and places to determine current patterns of urbanization under global capitalism and their far-reaching consequences for contemporary urban life, especially for groups at the margins. In the early 21st century, Postcolonial Urbanism, whether led by political and social movements or scholars, has drawn attention to how imperialism and colonialism have profoundly shaped city landscapes and positioned urbanism within a singular script centered on Western capitalism, modernization, and progress. Both perspectives outline a critical call to rethink and decenter the debate on the right to the city, confronting topics related to contemporary urban dynamics. These topics may include but are not limited to the new designs of citizenship and agency, center-periphery relations, city-making processes not restricted to the Western system of meaning, urban precarity, housing displacement, gentrification, environmental racism, and the costs of housing injustice in different geographical contexts.

Article

Poverty and Resilience in Mexico  

Mercedes González de la Rocha

Resilience has become the dominant conceptual framework through which the changing lives of the poor are understood. Across the disciplines, resilience is taken to be an analytic measure of the capacity to resist, adapt, and transform itself in the impact of a given disturbance or crisis. Critical engagement with the concept and associated literature, however, shows this framework to be neither original nor competent in providing the heuristic tools for a comprehensive and empirical understanding of poverty, vulnerability, and adaptability or responsiveness. Older, socio-anthropological approaches emerging out of Latin American research from the 1970s to the early 21st century mark an important if unacknowledged precedent of resilience scholarship, while demonstrating the potential weaknesses of a conceptual framework that privileges constant capacity and flexible stability at the expense of disadvantage, damage, and irreparable loss.

Article

Precarity, Care, and Popular Economy in Latin America  

María Inés Fernández Álvarez and Florencia Pacifico

The notions of precarity and care have become increasingly central in academic debate. Although both notions have a history dating back to the 1970s, the debates over them have undoubtedly been renewed since the world economic crisis that emerged in 2008. Both concepts have been subject to various reviews according to different disciplinary views and contexts of knowledge production. However, it is possible to identify some points in common across the different lines of analysis that come into play in both cases. From a social and historically situated perspective, the understanding of precarity as an experience that goes beyond what is strictly labor-related has made it possible to bring visibility to the living conditions of a large sector of the population worldwide. By putting on hold views of work based on a formal/informal dichotomy, attention to non-European realities has opened the way to questions and reflections that have led to a rethinking of the ways in which work and the economy are understood, and to consideration of the ways in which individual and collective strategies are generated for the reproduction of life under unwaged and even non-commodified forms of labor. The concept of care, particularly as developed by feminist economics, has also aimed to problematize economic systems which are centered on a self-sufficient ideal subject who meets their vital needs only through the market, and which evidence hierarchies of gender and class that come into play in the valorization and distribution of work. In Latin America, the recent development of a series of unionization and mobilization processes led by workers from the popular economy has meant a revisiting of the debates about the various forms of reproduction of life in populations structurally excluded from wage labor. In recent years, in Argentina in particular, a series of collective organization processes led by unwaged workers has taken place with the aim of claiming rights and improving living conditions for sectors of the population defined as part of the popular economy. The ethnographic analysis of these experiences sheds light on the intersection between precarity and care, contributing to broader questions about ways of making a living and producing well-being in contexts of structural inequality and exclusion from the formal labor market. The dynamics of organization produced by the popular economy entail the implementation of collective forms of care and reproduction of life that stretch the limits of the Fordist model of welfare provision anchored in the labor market and in the nuclear family, thus renewing debates around the ways in which processes of class struggle are configured.

Article

The Pre-Columbian Inca Empire: The Capital and its Provinces  

Sonia Alconini

Recent multidisciplinary research combining archaeology, bioarchaeology, and DNA and isotope analyses has revolutionized our understanding of the Inca empire and the astonishing diversity of its inhabitant. This article aims to shed light on the sociopolitical dynamics of this pre-Columbian empire and the associated breakthrough research. The first two sections (Land of the Four Parts Together, and Building the Inca Empire: Historical Narratives), offer a discussion on the political structure of the Inca empire, including the chronology and sequence of expansion using historical documents and the emerging challenges. The following sections (Cuzco: The Imperial Capital and Sacred Center, and The Heartland: An Incomplete Project?) are dedicated to the capital of Cuzco, the current research on the imperial heartland that highlights processes of state formation, and disparate imperial transformations at the time of Spanish conquest. Emerging debates on the complex relationship between Inca material culture and imperial expansion are also included. In the next sections (The Swift Inca Expansion: Competing Explanations, and Tradition and Innovation: Socioeconomic Institutions in Imperial Expansion), a discussion on the competing explanations and challenges on the timing and scale of expansion is provided. This includes the ways in which the millions of participating communities in the Inca imperial project actively adapted, but also transformed many of the state socioeconomic institutions and practices. Comparatively, the next sections (Infrastructure and Imperial Power: Royal Estates and Imperial Centers, and Imperial Appropriations: Places of Creation and the “Other Cuzcos”) examine the role that royal estates, imperial centers, and “Other Cuzcos” played in broader socioeconomic processes. The final section (Elite Incanization and Indigenous Agency: Provincial Archaeologies) is dedicated to indigenous agency and the importance of provincial archaeologies in understanding the nature of the Inca empire on a finer scale.

Article

Preindustrial Mining and Metallurgy in Africa  

Foreman Bandama

Africa hosts some of the oldest mines (for exploiting ochre used in personal adornment) in the world, but the ones that relate to the transformation of rocks to metal occur much later when compared to those found in Eurasia. Throughout the world, the processes of identifying and winning ores from parent rock in order to transform them into metals and, ultimately, into usable objects is indeed considered to be a novelty. African ethno-archaeological research suggests that the realization that certain rocks contained sufficient quantities of metal for heat-mediated reduction into metals, as well as the appreciation of the different properties of targeted metals, have never been difficult issues to the local Africans but archaeometallurgists are still rationalizing how this novelty began without an apprenticeship phase, especially south of the Egyptian pyramids. Indigenous sub-Saharan Africa metallurgy is laden with symbolism, ritual, and taboos. This particular aspect made the whole craft to be derided by Western science as magical and therefore unworthy of proper scientific study. This prejudiced thinking has since been discredited by sound research, but the ripple effects still linger and archaeometallurgical research is still generally underfunded when compared to other elements of anthropological inquiry. Nonetheless, the limited research conducted to date firmly highlight the direction of preindustrial mining and metallurgical research in this region. In a pattern unknown in Eurasia, where copper and bronze preceded iron production in a very gradual process, sub-Saharan Africa metallurgy was ushered in by the simultaneous advent of iron and copper in parts of East, Central, and West Africa before this metallurgy was introduced to the southern subcontinent. Gold, tin, and cuprous alloys (mostly bronze and brass) were then introduced after centuries of ongoing iron and copper metallurgy. As the last block to take up metallurgy, Southern Africa is often uncritically assumed not to have had an innovative aptitude, but the historiography of mining and metallurgy of the whole sub-Saharan Africa constantly evokes prejudiced thinking about African incapacity or the counter discourse. A more careful reading of sub-Saharan metallurgy literature places this craft at par with the equivalent from Eurasia. Considering that the African continent is the cradle of humankind, this is not surprising. Fortunately, as products of a high-temperature process, archaeometallurgical objects and waste by-products retain in their physical and chemical properties partial histories of the transformations they went through, allowing archaeometallurgists glimpses into the technologies of past societies. Guided by concepts such as “materiality” and in agreement with Maussian thinking, Africanist archaeometallurgists consider the so-called magic to be just as important as the technical control because there is no chasm between the technological and anthropological factors of artifacts, and all technologies falls within the broader social paradigm of their construction.

Article

Primate Conservation  

Stacy Lindshield and Giselle M. Narváez Rivera

While anthropological primatology is known for its basic research on understanding the human condition from comparative and evolutionary perspectives, its applied and practicing domains are equally important to society. Applied researchers and practitioners often work in the fields of environmental sustainability and conservation, biomedicine, captive care and management, and education. For sustainability and conservation specializations, primatologists seek careers in higher education, government, and nongovernmental organizations and may work in large and diverse teams on conservation and management problems for nonhuman primates (hereafter, termed primates). Primate conservation has largely focused on population monitoring in protected and unprotected areas; measuring effects of agriculture, extractive industries, and tourism on primates; and evaluating intervention strategies. Primate population management in urban and peri-urban areas is a growth area; these landscapes pose risks for primates that are absent or rare in protected areas, which include dog attacks, animal–vehicle collisions, and electrocutions. Anthropologists can leverage their deep knowledge of primate behavior, cognition, and ecology as part of interdisciplinary teams tasked with environmental mitigation in these human-centered landscapes. One example of this work is the use of arboreal crossing structures for primates to move safely through forests fragmented by roads. Primate conservationists recognize that environmental sustainability extends beyond conservation. For instance, primates may create public health problems or nuisances for local communities in cases where they are potential disease vectors. While these circumstances lead some people to view primates as pests, in a subset of these cases, cultural norms and values prohibit culling (i.e., killing or otherwise removing from a population) as a management strategy. Primate conservationists working on these issues may integrate human perspectives and attitudes toward primates in localized intervention or mitigation programs aimed at environmental sustainability and/or natural resource management. More than half of the world’s nonhuman primate species are threatened with extinction, and this problem is mostly a modern and global phenomenon related to unsustainable land use. Primates enhance many societies through providing ecosystem services, enriching cultural heritage, and advancing scientific research. It is for these reasons that primatologists often contribute to conservation programs in protected areas. Protected areas are designed to allow wildlife to flourish in spaces by restricting land use activities, but the history of protected areas is fraught with social injustices. Such areas are often but not always associated with higher biodiversity than adjacent and unprotected spaces. People and primates have shared spaces since time immemorial, often in sustainable ways. In addition, allocating a majority of primate range areas to fortress-style protection is at odds with the economic growth models of some primate range countries (i.e., nations with indigenous wild primates). Furthermore, many primatologists recognize that conservation benefits from integrating social justice components into programs with the ultimate goal of decolonizing conservation. Primate conservation continues to build on the foundation of basic and applied research in protected areas and, further, contributes to the development of community conservation programs for environmental sustainability. Examples of these developments include participating in offset and mitigation programs, introducing ethnographic methods to applied research to evaluate complex social processes underlying land use, and contributing to the decolonization of primate conservation.

Article

Public Architecture in Ancient Mesoamerica  

Takeshi Inomata

The study of temple-pyramids and other public buildings has long been an important focus in Mesoamerican archaeology. Scholars generally use the term public architecture to refer to structures for use, visitations, and gatherings beyond individual households, but the term public needs to be examined more critically. Public buildings are tied to the formation and transformation of the public sphere, a social field shaped in specific historical contexts that enables and restrains the political action of people. Traditional studies commonly viewed public buildings as reflections of society, political organization, or worldviews. Investigations before the 1960s often focused on the descriptions of public buildings or used them to define cultural areas and traditions. The rise of processual archaeology in the 1960s and 1970s encouraged researchers to examine social processes through the analysis of buildings. Some scholars assumed that the size of public buildings and the labor investments in their constructions reflected the levels of political centralization. At the same time, the symbolic aspect of buildings continued to be an important theme in Mesoamerican archaeology. The underlying assumption was that public buildings, through their shapes and orientations, or associated images and texts, represented worldviews or cosmologies. While these approaches continue to be common, various Mesoamerican archaeologists have begun to examine the recursive processes in which buildings shaped, and were shaped by, society. In this framework, some scholars focus on people’s actions and perceptions, whereas others view buildings as active agents in social processes. Sensory perceptions, particularly visibility, are examined as critical media, through which the recursive relations between buildings and people unfolded. Construction events are also viewed as critical processes, in which collective identities and social relations are created, negotiated, and transformed. The meanings of buildings still represent an important focus, but instead of searching for fixed, homogeneous meanings, the new theoretical perspectives have urged scholars to analyze how diverse groups negotiated multiple meanings. In the early 21st century, public buildings at archaeological sites continue to be a subject of negotiation among diverse groups, including the governments, descendant communities, archaeologists, developers, and the general public.

Article

Publics and the Public Sphere  

Andrew Graan

Mass communication is a constitutive part of social life and experience across the world today, affecting how people work, practice religion, engage in politics, understand others, and so on. Indeed, in many world contexts, social actors interact with mass media on a daily basis. In doing so, they not only consume or produce media artifacts but also participate in publics. A public is a particular kind of social form that coalesces as discourse circulates among, and thereby creates, audiences of mutual attention. Through participants’ ongoing orientation to and engagement with circulation of texts and images, publics produce social arenas that link disparate persons into collectivities of shared interests, issues, and convictions. Some publics are large, general, and sustained, such as those centered on national news. Other publics focus on particular topics, such as those related to religious communities, political ideologies, marked social identities, professional worlds, or even hobby and fan cultures. Others still are relatively small scale, such as those formed among the diffuse groupings of friends and acquaintances connected on social media platforms. As venues constituted by the circulation of discourse, publics have wide-ranging social and political consequences. The interests and identities that they privilege and presuppose shape broader processes of social belonging, exclusion, and contestation. Publics ground claims to political authority through assertions of the public interest. Publics also mediate contemporary consumer capitalism, as when advertising targets particular networks of public circulation. In short, publics lie at the center of contemporary social formations and political economies. The anthropology of publics and the public sphere examines how practices and structures of mass communication mediate and generate wider forms of social and political organization. How do publics normalize some identities while marginalizing others? Under what conditions can publics emerge as political actors? How do dominant public spheres shape political cultures? In taking on these questions, anthropologists attend to the regimes of publicity; that is, constellations of participation norms, social imaginaries, media infrastructures, language ideologies, and metadiscourses that organize publics. This analytic perspective illuminates both how normative publicity is reproduced and challenged and to what effect. In addition, in focusing on discursive circulation, scholarship on publics has pushed anthropologists to develop research methodologies that go beyond face-to-face, participant observation as a tool of data collection. The anthropology of publics and the public sphere has thus emerged as a theoretically generative and methodologically innovative field that endeavors to illuminate mass communication and its implications for social life. In doing so, it has generated novel theoretical understandings of mass media, power and affect, consumption and capitalism, identity, belonging and exclusion, and the bases and limits of democratic representation.

Article

A Reappraisal of the Chalcolithic of Central and Deccan India  

Shweta Sinha Deshpande and Esha Prasad

The Chalcolithic Period of India, first identified at the site of Jorwe in the 1950s, is an important cultural period in the history of India’s civilizational development, especially for the Central, Deccan, Southern, and Eastern regions of the subcontinent. The period ranges from the 3rd millennium bce to the mid-1st millennium bce and covers the origin, development, and decline phases of the Chalcolithic cultures in these regions. While traditionally referred to as two distinct groups, the “Central” Indian and “Deccan” Chalcolithic cultures represent a cultural continuum across the regions of southeast Rajasthan or Mewar, Central India or Malwa, and the Deccan. The archaeological sites are found along the river valleys, and some of the typological sites include Ahar, Balathal, and Gilund in Mewar; Kayatha, Eran, Navdatoli in Malwa; and Savalda, Inamgaon, and Daimabad in the Deccan region. The Central Indian and Deccan Chalcolithic cultures form a cultural community defined by the Black-on-Red Ware (B-on-RW) and the Black-and-Red Ware (B&RW) ceramic types, along with their associated pottery types that have helped frame the chronology and cultural sequence of origin, development, and decline. Also referred to as the early farming communities, they are defined by a sedentary lifestyle with permanent and semi-permanent structures, an agropastoral economy with the production of goods for exchange and commerce, along with variations in religious practices that include fire worship, bull worship, and distinctive burial customs, among others as identified by the excavators. Based on stratigraphic sequence, stylistic similarities, and material culture, five distinct cultural phases have been identified in Central India and the Deccan—namely, the Ahar, Kayatha, and Savalda followed by the Malwa and Jorwe. The origin of these cultures, while not distinctively clear, has been attributed to various native and foreign elements including the Mesolithic and Neolithic cultures of the region, contemporary Pre-Early-Mature-and-Late Harappan cultures, and West Asian influence, among others. The Chalcolithic period in the history of the Indian subcontinent provides a bridge between Prehistory and Early History while raising several relevant questions with regard to its identity in terms of origin and influence, and its placement within the general frame of existing archaeological chronology between the Mesolithic, Neolithic, and Iron Age. Interaction and exchange networks within cultures such as the Southern Neolithic and Harappans—including Early, Mature, and Late periods of Haryana, Gujarat, and north Rajasthan, which contribute to the Chalcolithic period’s rich material assemblage—need to be seen from a fresh perspective. In addition, it is important to reexamine the excavated material from these sites, and possibly undertake fresh excavations in light of new information from sites in southeast Rajasthan, to establish the cultural continuum that these Chalcolithic cultures represent within the chronology of cultural development of the subcontinent.

Article

An Archaeology of Pastoralism and Agropastoralism in the Sudan  

Michael Brass, Isabelle Vella Gregory, Ahmed Adam, and Rayan Abdallah

What might an archaeology of pastoralism in the Sudan look like? This challenging question is hampered by an uneven archaeological record and a lifestyle that has a long and complex biography. While acknowledging that pastoralism continues to be a part of contemporary life, the period up to the early 1st millennium ce, contemporary with the end of the Meroitic state, was a particularly important period for pastoralism in the Sudan. Moreover, the nature of pastoralism after the 1st millennium ce is significantly different to this period.

Article

Global Entanglements of Recycling Policy and Practice  

Catherine Alexander and Joshua Reno

In line with rising public and policy concern about wastes, there has been a distinct rise in scholarly analyses of these and other developments associated with economies of recycling, focusing especially on people’s material and moral encounters with reuse. These range from nuanced investigations into how lives and materials can both be re-crafted by recovering value from discards; following an object through its many social lives; or focusing on a material such as plastic or e-waste and tracking how waste is co-produced at each stage of creation and (re)use. Examining contested property rights in wastes, together with the infrastructures and ethics of engagements with wastes and their recovery or otherwise, reveal how global economies intersect with a rapidly shifting policy environment and systems of waste management. The global entanglement of policies and practices not only shapes what becomes of waste but also how it is variously imagined as pollutant or resource.

Article

Religion and Moral Economy  

Webb Keane

Religious stances toward moral economy have long provided important resources for critical reflection on economic life. When religious institutions seek to build alternatives to existing economic systems and financial practices, however, they also encounter a range of problems. In contrast to many secular critiques of economics, religious ones tend to be explicit about both their moral directives and the ontological assumptions on which they are grounded and give rise to distinctive economic habits and financial institutions. For this reason, their ethnographic study sheds light on a range of more general anthropological questions about the sources of value, the limits of rational calculation, the morality of debt, the meaning of inequality, economic justice, and the legitimate purposes of an economy.

Article

Resilience and Early States in Southern Africa  

Munyaradzi Manyanga

Several states developed in southern Africa between the 9th and the 18th century ce. Some of these states include Mapela, Great Zimbabwe, Mapungubwe, Toutswe, and Khami. The foundation of these states was agriculture and other local branches of the economy, like mining, local and regional trade, hunting, and crafts production. Because of the agricultural foundation of these states, environmental and climatic variables are always considered important in their development and collapse. Despite repeated episodes of climate change and variability, environmental deterioration, and even political upheaval, these early states of southern Africa demonstrate longevity and spatial growth through time in various regions. The oversimplistic correlation of favorable climatic and environmental conditions with growth of states and adverse climatic conditions and environmental deterioration with their demise has been questioned. Rather, it has been suggested that precolonial sociopolitical systems adapted to environmental and climatic changes. This process created new forms that archaeologists often interpret as denoting collapse. Changes in material culture, new spatial configurations, expansion into new territories, changing livelihood strategies, and new innovations in food production, processing, and storage, among other things, all point to the adaptive strategies that mitigated against adverse conditions. The resilience of the socioecological system allowed societies to absorb changes, adapt, and reorganize. Thus, what has been perceived as collapse is rather a transition to a different way of life.

Article

Restitution and Archaeological Collections in Africa  

Didier Houénoudé, Monica Coralli, and Didier N'Dah

By outlining the features, we can affirm that the construction of identity in each country is generally based on—and accompanied by—the definition of what constitutes “heritage” in its territory. On the African continent, this process was not uniform at the time of the proclamation of independence, or at least it did not always follow the same dynamic. It is clear that the heritage issue is approached in different ways depending on the period. In fact, it has gone through several phases in which the emphasis is placed in turn on the magnificence of the power in place, the popular recognition of symbols that can testify to national unity. For the past two decades, the states, strengthened by their achievements since obtaining independence, and in parallel with the creation of new emblematic monuments, have adopted, with respect to their former colonizers, an obvious desire to recover looted property. These objects, taken out of the territory not only by the hands of the colonists but also by missionaries or art lovers in various circumstances, become political instruments capable of bringing public opinion together. Thus, the restitution of African heritage goods, exhibited in foreign museums, to their countries of origin, amounts to recovering—and (re)discovering in a concrete way—a part of community identity that was thought to be lost forever. This process, which, through the cultural component, is in fact redrawing the balance between the countries of the North and South. Benin is setting itself up as a model in the implementation of heritage strategies based on the return of goods and their conservation and valorization in situ. Other countries are following suit.

Article

Rhetoric Culture Theory  

Robert Hariman, Shauna LaTosky, Michał Mokrzan, Jamin Pelkey, and Ivo Strecker

Pragmatic linguistics, discourse analysis, and the ethnography of speaking developed rapidly from the middle of the 20th century, when researchers began to be able to take ever smaller and more efficient audiovisual recording equipment to the field, and computers helped them play back, analyze, and discuss these especially rich new data with their interlocutors on location and with their colleagues at home. Part of this newly energized research was the comparative study of rhetoric—that is, of how distinctive speech practices could have persuasive effects. It soon led to the finding that specific forms of culture produce specific forms of rhetoric, as when economic horizons (hunters, herders, cultivators, etc.) provide specific metaphorical repertoires. However, a further finding took longer to emerge. It was first articulated by the rhetoric culture project, which seeks to explore not only how culture structures rhetoric but also how rhetoric structures culture. This fundamental chiasmus was initially discussed at several international conferences in Germany and the United States and has been elaborated in nine volumes of the Berghahn Books series Studies in Rhetoric and Culture (2009–2022). A key premise of Rhetoric Culture Theory (RCT) is that human beings are neither fully free nor fully determined in what they can do, and that this tension is mediated by the continual generation of discourses from the interaction between intention, convention, and performance. Stephen Tyler has provided a model for this complex process which illustrates the open-ended and emergent nature of discourse and explains how cultures, with their diverse customs, conventions, habits, and lifestyles, are self-organizing configurations continually recreated, negotiated, and changed through texts and performances. Cultural explanation is advanced through attention to processes of argument and appeal, dissonance and resonance, variation and feedback, and the like, but the results may not be objectively functional. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s Don Quixote de la Mancha was chosen as RCT’s icon and telling example of this rhetorically produced and potentially fantastic nature of culture. RCT is also inspired and supported by understandings of the power of the word in other (and especially non-European) cultures. An example of this is Baldambe (Father of the Dark Brown Cow), an elder from Hamar, southern Ethiopia, who provided “historic” moments where in collaboration with the ethnographer spoken words were transformed into written ones, and texts with their own distinctive features and literary style emerged as documented in a number of publications. RCT is also influenced by the tenor of its time, not least an impending climate collapse and other threats that characterize the Anthropocene. Rhetorical and cultural abundance can be part of the existential crisis and resources for renewal on behalf of equity and sustainability. Reflecting on the relationship between speech practices and deep problems can reveal how all of culture is challenged by vicissitudes that are unanticipated and that scale up disastrously, and that call up inventive answers while testing the limits of human ingenuity.

Article

Risk and Finance  

Horacio Ortiz

To study risk in the financial industry, rather than using the concept as an analytic category, anthropological research should instead examine the multiple technical and political meanings it has in the highly standardized procedures used by financial professionals worldwide. One important definition of risk concerns the concept of risk-free, used to qualify the bonds of the most powerful states worldwide, which are expected not to default because of their capacity to find money to pay creditors and their willingness to prioritize them against the rest of the polity. Financial professionals use risk-free bonds as a standard to assess any other activity vying for the funds of the financial industry. If professionals consider the activities riskier according to the risk-free criteria, they will demand these activities pay higher returns, a differential designated as a risk premium. The notion of risk-free thus tends to reproduce a geopolitical order where the most powerful states set the standard of financial value for other financial assets. Another definition of risk includes the mathematical concept of standard deviation, often called volatility, established by considering that prices, returns, or other such financial information have a mathematically “normal” distribution, and hence it makes sense to use probabilistic thinking and tools, such as the calculation of averages and correlations. These methods are combined with a political imaginary of market efficiency established in neoclassical economics, according to which, in efficient markets, maximizing investors seek all available information about assets, so that prices reflect this information and thus function as signals for a socially optimal allocation of resources. In this case, investors should not try to “beat” the market, but accept its prices as signals, and the investment strategy should only seek to minimize volatility. By mathematical construction, the standard deviation of a bundle of series that is not completely correlated is lower than that of one series. According to this view, investment should diversify into as many assets as possible, buying the “whole market.” This is the conceptual foundation of indexed investment, which tends to produce investment portfolios that replicate the market, so that the proportion of each asset in the portfolio supposedly matches its proportion in the “investment universe” of all available assets that pay the risk-free rate of return or a risk premium. This leads to a reproduction of the distribution of money among existing assets and thereby to the reproduction of the social hierarchies that include and exclude social activities from financial industry funding, instituting a small group of powerful states as the global foundation of financial value. In everyday practice, financial professionals thus mobilize standardized definitions of risk, with various ontologies and political meanings, in a way that tends to reproduce current monetary distribution and the global hierarchies that result from it.

Article

Rock Art Conservation with a Focus on Southern Africa  

Ghilraen Laue and J. Claire Dean

Rock art sites around the world are disappearing due to natural weathering, vandalism, and development. In Africa, conservation problems are compounded by the continent’s colonial legacy. Conservation can no longer just be seen in the narrow sense of conserving only the rock art; rather, there is a need for “consultative conservation” that includes the broader significance of a site and accommodates all stakeholders, including local communities. In this way, we can decolonize practices and work toward ideas for sustainable African conservation. Before embarking on conservation projects, all the values and significance of a site need to be considered. There is no point conserving an object or a site unless people find meaning in that conservation. The natural deterioration of a site can be due to exposure to the elements, rain, fluctuations in humidity and temperature, biological growth both on the art and in front of it, animal activity, wildfires, and geological and seismic activity. Human activities that degrade a site include scratching or writing of graffiti, repainting or adding details to images, water or other liquids splashed on the paintings to bring out the details, smoke from fires made in the shelters, and target practice. Some of these conservation problems can be mitigated with remedial interventions, but these require the skills of professional conservators that are often expensive and out of reach for many rock art conservation projects. Conservation through the management of sites is far more common and feasible in Africa. In working toward management practices that take all a site’s significance into account, there is a need to acknowledge and work toward undoing injustices, coercions, and exploitation in both conservation practice and legislation. Rather than seeing the conservators’ way of doing things as “best practice” to be implemented from a top-down level, local conservation practices that have worked for centuries need to be considered alongside other conservation measures. Although attempts here are made to be as inclusive as possible the authors’ experience means that the focus and many of the examples given are from southern Africa.