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Community-Based Participatory Research  

Michael Duke

Community-based participatory research (CBPR) refers to a methodological and epistemological approach to applied community projects in which researchers and community members collaborate as equals in the research process. Also known as participatory action research (PAR), CBPR has gained considerable acceptance both as a set of methods for identifying and addressing local issues of concern and as a vehicle for applying the principles of equity, cultural humility, mutual learning, and social justice to the relationships between researchers and communities. Although somewhat distinct from applied anthropology, CBPR shares with ethnography in particular an attentiveness to rapport building and community engagement and an overall validation of local knowledge. There is little consensus regarding the threshold of community participation necessary for a given research project to be considered CBPR. However, at a minimum the approach requires that community members define the problems to be assessed, provide consultation on the cultural and social dimensions of the study population, and serve in an advisory capacity over the entire project. The history of CBPR and its antecedents reflects its twin values as a pragmatic approach to researching and addressing local problems and as an emancipatory social justice project that seeks to diminish the hierarchical relationship between researchers and community members. Specifically, the pragmatic perspective was developed in the United States by social psychologist Kurt Lewin in the 1930s (and subsequently by the anthropologists Laura Thompson and Sol Tax), while the emancipatory approach derives from the work of educational theorist Paulo Freire in Brazil in the 1970s. Community Advisory Boards (CABs) play an outsized role in the success of CBPR projects, since they typically represent the community in these studies, and thus maintain oversight over all aspects of the research process, including the study design, sampling and recruitment protocols, and the dissemination of findings. Accordingly, nurturing and maintaining trust between researchers, the CAB, and the community constitutes a foundational practice for any CBPR study.


Consumer Credit and Debt  

Hadrien Saiag

The global crisis that erupted in 2007–2008 clearly exposed that debt with financial institutions has become a key element of household social reproduction in most parts of the world. One way to analyze how this situation impacts on people’s lives is to investigate the very nature of debt (its “essence”), which is often conceived as intrinsically violent. However, most anthropologists consider how people manage their debt and take a situated approach to debt in context. Their focus on people’s financial practices takes a broad view of consumer credit as any number of monetary debts that households incur to make ends meet. Their examination of how debt is managed within the household points up that consumer credit is often used to sustain meaningful social relations, although this can trigger a debt spiral. This spotlight on how people’s financial practices relate to broader historical and social contexts shows that the rise of consumer credit is instrumental in reshaping class, racial, and gender relations in their material and moral dimensions, and that people can be found to resist debt in many ways. Although these trends in the anthropological literature make for a rich understanding of debt relations, much could still be done to understand why people in most settings complain about their debts, but do not openly rebel against them.


Container Ships: Life Cycles, Chains of Value, and Labor in Maritime Logistics  

Elisabeth Schober, Camelia Dewan, and Johanna Markkula

Goods moved on board container ships constitute 70 percent of all world cargo by economic value, which makes container ships vital things in the broader agglomeration of contemporary global capitalism. These vessels are in themselves also containers of other forms of value: they on occasion store, move, and disperse noneconomic forms of social worth. Building on the insights of critical logistics studies and coupling them with anthropological insights on value, the article proposes an ethnographic “life-cycle” approach to the study of container ships that broadens maritime anthropology to encompass contemporary forms of seaborne capitalism. With the container vessel functioning as a connecting device between different “sited” fieldwork experiences in shipbuilding, shipping, and shipbreaking, such a collaborative effort can bring the larger system of maritime transportation into focus. Furthermore, when viewed through the value-within-life-cycle prism, the container ship may present itself not as an object that has a singular form but rather one that is made up of a multitude of ships that come in and out of being. By describing it as a gestalt—a dynamic material assemblage that is more than the sum of its parts—attention is paid here to how highly dependent the container ship is on geographical and social context, on ever-shifting layers of value attributed to it, and on the multifarious meaning-making among the workers laboring around it.


Cultural Heritage and Conflict in Africa  

Webber Ndoro

Throughout history the continent of Africa has witnessed major conflicts and wars. Most of these conflicts have wreaked havoc in people’s lives and their socio-economic well-being. The nature of conflict on the continent has both indigenous and exogenous origins. Past colonial wars of occupation and the subsequent occupations generated conflicts and wars of its own. These led to the creation of what the so-called modern states that exist in Africa. Most of these creations by colonial powers were designed to serve their own interest. However, the wars and movements of independence also generated conflicts of their own. The modern states created during the colonial days are also the root cause of some of the conflicts today in Africa. The world conflicts during the Cold War also generated Africa’s own conflicts. The rise of extreme religious movements like Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), and their affiliates have taken advantage of the fragile states of Africa to cause destruction in the continent. All these conflicts have had an impact on the heritage of Africa and in some instances generated its own places of commemoration and remembrance. With the creation of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s World Heritage Convention in 1972 and its efforts to protect heritage places, Africa has registered some of the places of remembrance and commemoration to the prestigious World Heritage list. Some of the sites registered are a result of conflict. But what concerns UNESCO is the management of the sites on its World Heritage list. Thirteen of these sites from the continent are on the danger list, largely due to the conflicts ravaging Africa. Through the 1954 Hague Convention, UNESCO has tried to ensure that African state parties adhere to the norms of protecting heritage in the event of a war or conflict between nations. Unfortunately most conflicts in Africa are not between conventional armies but largely internal through guerrilla warfare, thus limiting the application of the 1954 Convention. Some of the conflicts in Africa that have had an impact on heritage have attracted attention from major powers in the world. For example, the conflict in Libya has had countries such as Italy, the United States, and France interested in protecting the heritage places there. In the same vain France has been attracted to the conflict in Mali, which threatens the famous sites of Timbuktu among others. In all these UNESCO has played a part in highlighting the need to protect heritage and in the case of Mali even successfully enlisted the International Court of Justice to prosecute the perpetrators of these attacks on heritage. In some cases, like in Nigeria with the Boko Haram attacks on the world heritage site of Sukur Cultural Landscape, there has been a deafening silence from either UNESCO or any other international organization or country.


Design Anthropology  

Christine Miller

Design anthropology and the factors that converged to facilitate its emergence are examined. Design anthropology has been alternately described as a “fast-developing academic field” and “distinct style of knowing” (Otto and Smith), “an emerging transdisciplinary field” (Miller), and “as a distinct subfield of interdisciplinary research” (Clark). These descriptions have in common an agreement that design anthropology is a distinct form of knowledge production that integrates design and anthropological practice and theory that is supported by a growing network of proponents, both academic and practitioner. Design anthropology’s origins have been traced to several factors: the emergence of the participatory design movement in Scandinavia toward the end of the 1990s, the introduction of ethnography in design in the late 1970s, and the earlier influence of the work of designer and educator Victor Papanek in the early 1960s. In the United States, it is often categorized as a subdiscipline of business anthropology. Within Europe and Scandinavia, it is accepted as a field in its own right with a “distinct style and practice of knowledge production.” In spite of these differences and amidst the creative tension resulting from the convergence of anthropological and design methods, concepts, theory, and practice, design anthropology has emerged as a new form of naturalistic inquiry that is based on rigorous empirical research and critical inquiry, a transdisciplinary field that is intentionally interventionist, participatory, and transformative. Design anthropology reflects shifting attitudes and changing modes of engagement in its parent fields. Within anthropology, the concept of an interventionist, transformative, and future-oriented practice runs counter to deeply embedded attitudes around passive observation research and ethics. Likewise, in design where craft, “doing,” and “making” have dominated, there is a renewed surge of interest in more scholarly-based design research, emphasizing empirical research and a designerly version of theoretical reflection. Theory in design has traditionally been related to various aspects of form. Design theory is also “made through” design. Johan Redström refers to this form of theory as “transitional theory,” “a kind of design theory that is inherently unstable, fluid, and dynamic in nature.” This conceptualization of theory is similar to the grounded theory approach in the social sciences in which theory emerges from original data and is developed from the ground up. Beginning with a summary of the conditions and forces that engendered the emergence of design anthropology, the field is described as evolving in ways that are provoking change in traditional forms of design and anthropology. Beyond the influence on its parent disciplines, design anthropology represents an evolving trajectory of emerging fields that open to the possibility of imagining, designing, and co-creating sustainable futures based on social justice and virtuous cycles of growth.


Development and Anthropology  

Riall W. Nolan

International development is one of humanity’s most important global undertakings, but it is also a “wicked problem” characterized by uncertain and shifting priorities, disagreements, and unexpected outcomes. Created during and in the aftermath of World War II, the development industry of the early 21st century is large, complex, and highly influential. It is also relatively opaque to outsiders and largely independent of normal means of democratic control. Anthropology has been involved in development from colonial times, but particularly so since the 1950s, and anthropologist practitioners have made several important contributions to development planning and implementation. The discipline’s influence overall, however, has been overshadowed to a large degree by other disciplines, such as economics, which still remains dominant in the industry. Anthropological influence has waxed and waned over the years, both as a response to development policies and priorities, and as a response to changes within the discipline itself. Anthropological analyses of development, as well as detailed development ethnographies, have helped people inside and outside the industry understand why and how development efforts succeed and fail, and indeed, how to define success and failure in the first place. At the same time, anthropologists have enhanced our appreciation of the role of language, power, and agency in the development process. In the future, anthropology is likely to become more important and influential in development work, given the growth of disciplinary trends favoring practice and application and renewed focus within the development industry on poverty eradication.


Dollarization and Crisis in Argentina  

Mariano D. Perelman

Since the early 21st century the US dollar has been a public issue in Argentina, where the dollarization of sectors of the economy has been an ongoing process for some time. Indeed, circulation of the dollar has grown to the point that it is considered the best way to build savings and has a significant influence on daily economic life. Since 1980, the process of dollarization and outbreak of economic crises have been intertwined. This period can be divided into different crises: 1989 was a crisis of hyperinflation, 2001 was a major debt crisis, and the 2011–2015 crisis grew out of a struggle between the middle classes and the government in response to a ban on buying and accumulating dollars in large quantities. This latest round of crisis continues. Money is a universal measurement of value, encompassing values beyond the purely economic. In Argentina, the US dollar both activates crisis and is activated by crisis. Quotidian rituals have developed and standardized in conjunction with the popularization of the dollar, making it a central object of everyday life in Argentina. Indeed, the dollar provides an excellent starting place for a decently thorough history of contemporary Argentina. By focusing on the relationships and practices that have developed around the dollar, one can begin to understand how flesh and blood people have worked to build dignified lives and ways of living in relationship to one another. The dollar, both as a form of currency and in its demonetarized form, articulates a series of imaginaries about what a life worth living is. The dollar has catalyzed national models and projects. The dollar is a part of the daily experience of large portions of the population. And, when uncertainty grows, the dollar stabilizes.


Economies of Advice  

Deborah James and Insa Koch

Because of academic divisions of labor, anthropologists have come late to the study of the changing landscape of welfare and advice provisions in Euro-America (and beyond). However, this study is crucial to understanding contemporary economies. Attention to the increasing informalization, hybridization, plurality, and complexity of welfare-care-advice provisions in the context of 21st-century austerity in Europe challenges the widely held view of how state bureaucracies operate. The corollaries are the difficulties in accessing what help is available (hence the increasing need for advice) and an increase in grass-roots mutual aid and activism to supplement, and in some cases even supplant, state advice provisions.


Encountering Tourism  

Valerio Simoni

Tourism affects the lives of an increasing number of people across the world and has been growing and diversifying immensely since the turn of the 21st century. Anthropological approaches to tourism have also expanded from the early contributions of the 1970s, which tended to focus on the nature of tourism and its “impact” on peripheral host communities. These first interventions see anthropologists theorizing tourism as a “secular ritual,” studying its workings as a process of “acculturation,” and countering macroeconomic views of tourism’s potential for the economic development of peripheral societies by underscoring instead its neocolonial and imperialist features. Tourism is linked to the exacerbation of center-periphery dependencies, seen as an agent of cultural commoditization and responsible for the promotion and dissemination of stereotypical images of people and places. Moving beyond the impact paradigm, which has the disadvantage of portraying tourism as an external, disembedded, and imposed force on a passive population, constructivist approaches highlight its creative appropriations and integral role in the reinvention of culture and traditions. Anthropologists pay attention to the varied range of actors and agencies involved in tourism, accounting for the multi-scalar dimensions of this phenomenon and the uneven circulation of images, discourses, and resources it engenders. Tourism exerts a powerful global influence on how alterity and difference are framed and understood in the contemporary world and contributes to the valorization and dissemination of particular views of culture, identity, and heritage. Tourism is increasingly intertwined with processes of heritage-making, whose study helps advance anthropological reflections on cultural property, material culture, and the memorialization of the past. A key source of livelihood for a growing number of people worldwide, tourism is also becoming more and more associated with development projects in which applied anthropologists are also enrolled as experts and consultants. The study of the tourism-development nexus continues to be a key area of theoretical innovation and has helped advance anthropological debates on North–South relations, dominant responses to poverty and inequality, and their entanglements with neoliberal forms of governance. Given its diffuse and distributed character, tourism and touristification have been approached as forms of ordering that affect and restructure an ever-growing range of entities, and whose effects are increasingly difficult to tease out from concomitant societal processes. The ubiquitous implementations of tourism policies and projects, the influx of tourists, and the debates, reactions, and resistances these generate underscore, however, the importance of uncovering the ways tourism and its effects are being concretely identified, invoked, acted upon, and confronted by its various protagonists. Research on tourism has the potential to contribute to disciplinary debates on many key areas and notions of concern for anthropology. Culture, ethnicity, identity, alterity, heritage, mobility, labor, commerce, hospitality, intimacy, development, and the environment are among the notions and domains increasingly affected and transformed by tourism. The study of tourism helps understand how such transformations occur, uncovering their features and orientations, while also shedding light on the societal struggles that are at stake in them. The analysis of past and current research shows the scope of the theoretical and methodological debates and of the realms of intervention to which anthropological scholarship on tourism can contribute. .


Energy Anthropology Scholarship, Practice, and Advocacy  

Mari Clarke

Although anthropologists have described, analyzed, and theorized about energy and culture for decades, in the 21st century there has been a tremendous increase in ethnographic research and public engagement on a wide range of energy issues. Human-induced global climate threats along with activist calls for action are increasingly challenging anthropologists around the globe to rethink their roles, methods, and paradigms. Anthropologists are engaging in energy research, public debates, and action on energy policies, extraction processes, offshore oil, nuclear waste and power plant meltdowns, energy consumption, failing electrical grids, renewable energy, and the people and environments they impact. Emerging from this growing engagement is an international, globalized anthropology of energy, with diverse, interdisciplinary branches linking to the humanities, information sciences, semiotics, public policy, climate sciences, energy institutes, environmental health, geospatial sciences, engineering, science and technology, and other disciplines. Energy anthropology has spawned primary energy source–specific anthropologies of energy for coal, oil, and gas (a subset of which is the anthropology of fracking); nuclear energy, hydropower; bioenergy; solar energy; wind energy; and geothermal energy as well the electricity generated from many of these primary sources. Anthropologists conducting ethnographic research, policy analysis, advocacy, and activism for these various anthropologies of energy have employed a wide range of theoretical frameworks and constructs. A few examples include social practice theory, critical global ecologies, environmental justice, political ecology, feminist political ecology, institutional economics, game theory, critical race theory, postcolonial theory, and settler colonialism. At the same time, there is a trend away from grand, abstract, explanatory theories to focus on contextual details in power relationships, differing conceptualizations of energy, and specific impacts of the various energy regimes on communities and their environments. Concepts that have emerged in energy anthropology analyses, such as extractivism, petrocultures, energyscapes, energopower, energopolitics, hydrosocial territories, cultural flows, aeolian politics, radiogenic communities, nuclearity, and nuclear colonialism, are explained in the sections highlighting the range of issues and approaches in specific anthropologies of energy. A number of common issues of concern cross-cut anthropological work on the different primary energy sources and electricity. The links between energy and political and economic power are the focus of a significant amount of energy anthropology. This focus ranges from intercountry power dynamics such as those between Paraguay and Brazil, over energy generated by the Itaipu Dam, to state deployment of electricity to extend territorial control within Turkey. It includes state-foreign company collusion to push Indigenous and minority people from lands wanted for hydropower dams, wind farms, solar farms, geothermal power plants, or tar sands oil extraction in many countries. A number of the analyses examine colonial, postcolonial, and settler colonialism exploiting resources and people and expropriating their lands. Also of concern are inequalities based on race, gender, caste, minority, or ethnic status that are caused or exacerbated by energy production and distribution. For example, high-caste elites in India deny electricity access to low-caste households; women have more limited access than men to the grid in Kenya; and electricity powers the mines in Zambia but not the homes of the minority people displaced by the construction of the dam that powers the mines, or the communities disrupted and displaced by the mining operations. Energy anthropologists also have focused on the exploitation of Indigenous and minority groups for uranium mining and milling in Africa and the US Southwest with no protection from radiation. They have shed light on the human impacts of nuclear testing over many Pacific Islands and biomedical research that was conducted to investigate the impacts of these tests without the consent of the impacted people. They also have examined the impacts of the mechanization of mining that has left miners without livelihoods in many countries. Other issues explored in energy anthropology include the impact of energy extraction and production on the health of people and the environment; differing conceptions of and discourse about various types of energy and their uses; the impact of electricity on social, economic, cultural, and political life; and community resistance to various forms of exergy extraction. Energy anthropologists work in universities and associated energy research centers, energy think tanks, government agencies and congressional offices dealing with energy policy, international multilateral and bilateral agencies with energy and climate change programs, national and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and energy industries. They engage in energy ethnography; critical analysis of energy practices and programs; energy policymaking and policy analysis; energy program assessment, design, implementation, and evaluation; energy product design; energy advocacy; and energy activism.


Epigenetics and Applied Anthropology  

Charles H. Klein

Since Francis Crick and James D. Watson’s discovery of DNA in 1953, researchers, policymakers, and the general public have sought to understand the ways in which genetics shapes human lives. A milestone in these efforts was the completion of the Human Genome Project’s (HGP) sequencing of Homo sapiens’ nearly three million base pairs in 2003. Yet, despite the excitement surrounding the HGP and the discovery of the structural genetic underpinnings of several debilitating diseases, the vast majority of human health outcomes have not been linked to a single gene. Moreover, even when genes have been associated with particular diseases (e.g., breast and colon cancer), it is not well understood why certain genetically predisposed individuals become ill and others do not. Nor has the HGP’s map provided sufficient information to understand the actual functioning of the human genetic code, including the role of noncoding DNA (“junk DNA”) in regulating molecular genetic processes. In response, a growing number of scientists have shifted their attention from structural genetics to epigenetics, the study of how genes express themselves in particular situations and environments. Anthropologists play roles in these applications of epigenetics to real-world settings. Their new theoretical frameworks unsettle the nature-versus-nurture binary and support biocultural anthropological research demonstrating how race becomes biology and embodies social inequalities and health disparities across generations. Ethnographically grounded case studies further highlight the diverse epigenetic logics held by healthcare providers, researchers, and patient communities and how these translations of scientific knowledge shape medical practice and basic research. The growing field of environmental epigenetics also offers a wide range of options for students and practitioners interested in applying the anthropological toolkit in epigenetics-related work.


Ethnoarchaeology of Cattle in Zimbabwe and Surrounds  

Plan Shenjere-Nyabezi

Iron Age archaeological research in Zimbabwe and surrounds has shifted from traditional concerns with culture histories and reconstruction of the sociopolitical and economic organization. Archaeologists have become concerned with a wider range of issues such as ritual, the meanings of material culture as well as the ideological backgrounds and contexts within which societies produced and reproduced themselves, and how archaeological invisibles may inform different aspects of the organization and development of past cultures. The quest to read more into the material remains from the past in context, beyond their materiality, was the inspiration behind the development of ethnoarchaeology. It is against this backdrop that the study of faunal remains from Iron Age sites in southern Africa, particularly those of cattle, has been shifting from analysis and interpretation of the bones, from a subsistence-economic-organization point of view, to attempts to read more from this class of archaeological data. Here, the contemporary Bantu cattle-keeping societies have been the subject of studies aimed at gathering data that may be usable in engaging with the bone remains from archaeological sites. The ethnoarchaeological approaches have initiated a new methodological dimension to the study of faunal remains. Gender studies have been one of the most important areas of concern in archaeology over the past five decades. In this regard, cattle-based ethnoarchaeological studies in southern Africa have opened opportunities for alternative ways of thinking about cattle ownership and sociopolitical organization and development in the past. Here, the traditional perceptions and interpretations of cattle as an exclusively male domain have been questioned as it has emerged that women would in fact have been active players in the cattle world. Within the context of the archaeological interest in ritual, ethnoarchaeological studies have also been informative from various dimensions where indications are that the cattle-bone remains that are recovered from archaeological sites could have resulted from a variety of ritual activities, rather than food alone. Ultimately, such ethnoarchaeological studies in the region have persuaded archaeologists to begin to think about cattle bones beyond the obvious.


Ethnographic Explorations of Intellectual Property  

Rosemary J. Coombe and Susannah Chapman

Ethnographic research into intellectual property (IP) gained traction in the mid-1990s. During this period international trade agreements mandated that all states introduce minimum IP protections, property rights in intangible goods were expanded to encompass new subject areas, international Indigenous Peoples’ human rights were being negotiated, and protecting biodiversity became a global policy concern. Anthropologists considered IP extension in terms of the processes of commodification the law enabled, the cultural incommensurability of the law’s presuppositions in various societies, the implications of these rights for disciplinary research and publication ethics, and the modes of subjectification and territorialization that the enforcement of such laws engendered. Recognizing that IP clearly constrains and shapes the circulation of goods through the privatization of significant resources, critical anthropological examinations of Western liberal legal binary distinctions between public and private goods also revealed the forms of dispossession enabled by presuming a singular cultural commons. Anthropologists showed the diversity of publics constituted through authorized and unauthorized reproduction and circulation of cultural goods, exploring the management of intangible cultural goods in a variety of moral economies as well as the construction and translation of tradition in new policy arenas. The intersection of IP and human rights also prompted greater disciplinary reflexivity with respect to research ethics and publication practices. Analyzing how IP protections are legitimated and the activities that their enforcement delegitimizes, ethnography illustrated how the law creates privileged and abject subjectivities, reconfigures affective relationships between people and places, and produces zones of policing and discipline in processes of territorialization.



Fiona McCormack and Jacinta Forde

The anthropology of fisheries is a core focus of maritime anthropology. Scholarship in this field is multifaceted, exploring fishing ways of life, fishing knowledge, marine tenures and economies, the gendered nature of fishing, how people cope with danger and risk, and the specificities of how this particular watery nature is manifested in social, political, and cultural systems. Fishing can be defined as a productive activity that takes place in a multidimensional space, depending more on natural or wild processes than manufactured processes. The idea of fishing being closer to nature is an analytical thread, giving the anthropology of fisheries a particular edge on the multispecies and more than human ethnographic turn in contemporary anthropology. Research in fisheries anthropology has long held the connections between fisher and fish to be of central concern. Significant too, however, is the thesis that the construction of commodity fisheries as a natural domain, of which fishers are atomistic extractors to be managed, is a highly politicized process involving the bioeconomic creation of fish stock and broader political economies. Anthropological research on fisheries engages critically with neoliberalizations, the extension of privatizations, and the proliferation of industrial aquaculture, thus challenging Blue Economy attempts to reconfigure nature–culture relationships and reposition the marine environment as a locus for the enactment and perpetuation of inequality.


Food Consumption and Power: Nourishment and Identity  

Carla Guerrón Montero and Joan Gross

All humans need food to stay alive, but food is also a complex social fact. As such, it is central to how people’s individual and collective identities are constructed and how others see us. Food is also associated in multiple ways with production and consumption processes; consumers influence these processes, whether they are motivated primarily by nourishment or by identity. Anthropology has been concerned with the study of food through different angles in connection with nourishment and identity, including the “classic” approaches (food taboos, gifts, and commodities, recurring commensality, food as material culture, hunger, food insecurity), while also taking new directions (the senses, culinary and food tourism, the nutrition transition, food sovereignty, food activism). Food consumption is embedded in webs of power that constrain food’s physical and social meanings. Food is nestled in systems of racism, sexism, and colonialism, resulting in embodied trauma. Yet, food also lies at the heart of reciprocity. Sharing food brings people together in their struggle for connection and agency. Whether we focus on physical nourishment or identity construction, food consumption is never separate from power. Anthropology provides an effective way to study these complexities. The broad range of anthropological approaches allows for a deep understanding of food consumption’s complexities and power inequalities. Whether the question is approached from a physical nourishment angle or that of social identities, anthropological research has shown how the two cannot be divided. Similarly, anthropologists have taken a broad view of consumption, noting how recurrent commensality constructs the deep relationships that form the basis of human society. They have also shown the critical role that consumption plays in food production, distribution, and preparation. Robust critiques of the global food system have emerged from this work. They have led many anthropologists to work side by side with people attempting to improve their food systems to be more localized, nutritious, and fair.


Food Sovereignty  

M.P. Pimbert and Priscilla Claeys

“Food sovereignty” is an alternative paradigm for food and agriculture that aims to guarantee and protect people’s space, ability, and right to define their own models of production, distribution, and consumption. It is a response to the deep social, economic, and environmental crises generated by the dominant model of food and agriculture in capitalist, communist, and socialist states. Confronted with hunger, food insecurity, massive de-peasantization, and the commodification of food through the neoliberal transformation of food systems, the food sovereignty movement seeks to reverse inequitable and ecologically destructive industrial farming, fisheries, forestry, and livestock management and to rebuild the social, economic, cultural, political, and spiritual foundations of our agri-food systems. Deeply transformative in its vision and practice, the food sovereignty movement affirms that food is a basic human right—as opposed to a commodity—and should be regarded as an integral part of culture, heritage, and cosmovision. This implies that food providers and consumers should be directly and meaningfully involved in framing policies for food and agriculture. The notion of food sovereignty is perhaps best understood as a transformative process that seeks to re-create the democratic realm and regenerate a diversity of relocalized and autonomous agri-food systems. Food system transformation is grounded in agroecological practices based on diversity, decentralization, democracy, and local adaptation within and between territories, with a view to build ecological sustainability and keep life within safe planetary limits. Food sovereignty cannot be achieved without gender and intersectional justice, equity, and economies of care, as it ultimately seeks to achieve peaceful coexistence among peoples and care for the earth. The concept of food sovereignty has rapidly moved from the margins to more center stage in international discussions on food, environment, development, and well-being. Since it was first proposed by the transnational agrarian movement La Via Campesina in 1996, food sovereignty has become a policy framework adopted by some governments and international organizations. In response to advocacy campaigns by peasant organizations and social movements, the United Nations has recently adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (UNDROP), which recognizes new human rights to land, water, forests, seeds, and natural resources, and outlines states obligations with regard to human rights–based natural resources governance. The UNDROP itself recognizes food sovereignty as a collective right. As the food sovereignty paradigm is gaining traction, the global food sovereignty movement, best described as a movement of movements, is diversifying. Peasant farmers, indigenous peoples, agricultural workers, nongovernmental organizations, and scholar-activists working on food sovereignty are engaging in dialogues with other social actors. The global food sovereignty movement is calling for the convergence of all antisystemic and anticapitalist movements, including climate and labor justice movements, feminist movements, black movements, degrowth economics, and antiwar movements. Food sovereignty as a concept, as a right, and as a paradigm for food systems transformation is a valuable starting point for the formulation of joint proposals and actions for systemic change in this emerging confluence of movements. Food sovereignty is also an increasingly popular research topic for a wide range of academic disciplines, including anthropology, geography, history, law, philosophy, agronomy, and ecology, as well as transdisciplinary research on agri-food systems. Historical, decolonial, feminist, cross-cultural, transdisciplinary, and critical perspectives are all needed to further understand the origins, development, and politics of food sovereignty in different contexts. Place-based and nuanced explorations of the multilevel processes that enable and constrain systemic change for food sovereignty can help inform policy and practice in different settings. These are important future directions for research on food sovereignty.


Framing Migration  

Judith Freidenberg

The physical movement of a human being from his or her place of birth to another locality, a process that occurs over time as well as space, is usually known as migration. Together with fertility and mortality, migration helps track population changes. Migration also helps capture the political mood of a country, as migrants are perceived as either as threats or welcome additions. Anthropologists tend to think about migration from the perspective of two paradigms: immigration and mobility. For the immigration paradigm, human movement is an exceptional occurrence; for the mobility paradigm, human movement is innate to the human condition and therefore constant. Neither paradigm considers the migration experience as an interactive process that engages movers and nonmovers alike, which is the focus of a proposed third paradigm. The domains of research, practice, and policy reflect these framing paradigms, alone or in combination. By working on the interstices between these domains, anthropology could contribute to a transdisciplinary field of migration studies.



Aditi Saraf

The term “frontier” is generally taken to mean an area separating two countries, or a territorial limit beyond which lies wilderness. But frontier is also used symbolically to refer to the limit of knowledge and understanding of a particular area, as in “frontiers of science” or in the idea of outer space as the “final frontier.” A certain elasticity therefore inheres in the term. Scholarship on frontiers generally examines geographical and cultural “peripheries”—zones that are viewed both as political barriers and sites of contact and exchange. However, the frontier as an empirical object as well as a scholarly heuristic is intertwined with long and often violent histories of colonialism, imperialism, and resistance. Anthropological concepts of the frontier are developed in relation to neighboring terms such as border, boundary, and line and methodologies for its empirical investigation in relation to other social science disciplines like history, international relations, geography, and gender studies. Drawing on a multidisciplinary perspective, ethnographic research aims to destabilize conventional notions of the frontier as the limit of settlement or as a space of statelessness, anarchy, or disorder in order to attend to the diverse cultural and political institutions that produce distinctive ideas of sovereignty, mobility, commerce, and community in such spaces.


Gender in African Metallurgy  

Louise Iles

Gender is frequently invoked as a core explanatory factor for many aspects of past African metallurgy, including conceptualizations of the technological process by its practitioners, the organization of—and participation in—metallurgical production activity, and the acquisition of power and wealth that is associated with it. If a study of technology is to contribute to our understanding of the African past, an exploration of the socioeconomic framework of a production activity is as important as understanding the materiality of a technology; gender is an essential part of that framework. Ethnographies offer an unparalleled opportunity to consider concepts such as technological style, symbolic expression, and gender in relation to technological activity and materiality—structuring principles that can be of limited visibility in the archaeological record. It is through ethnographic and historical documentation that gender has been made highly and dramatically visible in African smelting and metalworking processes. A stark focus has tended to rest on the cosmologies of fertility and human reproduction that permeate many (though certainly not all) iron smelting technologies across the continent. Metal production is positioned as a form of social reproduction, enabling the continuation of cultural activity through technological production. Metaphors of transformation are reproduced through the design and decoration of technological artifacts, through taboos and prohibitions, and through the symbolic songs, words, and actions of the metal workers, and have been closely tied with narratives of female exclusion from (and conversely male access to) metallurgical activities. Insights from the ethnographic and historical records of sub-Saharan Africa have been used to inform archaeological interpretations, both implicitly and explicitly, within and far beyond the continent. Yet the insights they provide need to be tempered by a critical evaluation of the ways in which such analogies are selected from a vast bank of historic and ethnographic data and how they can be most appropriately utilized. Importantly, the variability that is present within the ethnographic record cautions against the construction and promulgation of overgeneralizations, and strongly suggests that gender and gendered work roles within African metallurgy, past and present, are not yet fully understood.


Genetically Modified Crops  

Glenn Davis Stone

In 1958, a Nobel laureate predicted that one day scientists would be able to use “biological engineering” to improve all species. Genetic modification of viruses and bacteria was performed in the early 1970s. Genetic modification of plants was announced in the early 1980s, followed by predictions of revolutionary improvements in agriculture. But nearly forty years later, the improvements brought by genetic modification are meager: few crops have been modified and 87 percent of all area planted to genetically modified (GM) crops contains traits for herbicide tolerance (HT), which increases use of herbicide but not productivity. The only other widely used modification, which causes plants to produce insecticide, has improved agriculture in some areas but not others. Debate on why genetic modification has fallen so short of expectations have centered on three factors. Public resistance to GM crops and foods is blamed for slow progress by some. Excessive regulation is cited by some, especially those involved in the development of GM crops. But the main factor has been patent regimes that concentrate the development of marketable GM crops in the hands of a small number of companies that hold large patent portfolios and that can afford to enforce the patents. New technologies for genetic modification such as CRISPR-Cas9 are being heralded as offering revolutionary change in agriculture, much as genetic modification was in the 1980s.