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An epistemography of climate change

This book is a detailed exploration of the working practices of a community of scientists whose work was questioned in public, and of the making of scientific knowledge about climate change in Scotland. For four years, the author joined these scientists in their sampling expeditions into the Caledonian forests, observed their efforts in the laboratory to produce data from wood samples, and followed their discussions of a graph showing the fluctuations of the Scottish temperature over the past millennium in conferences, workshops and peer-review journals. This epistemography of climate change is of broad social and academic relevance – both for its contextualised treatment of a key contemporary science, and for its original formulation of a methodology for investigating and writing about expertise.

Utopias of development
Author: Stewart Allen

Through an ethnographic study of the Barefoot College, an internationally renowned non-governmental development organisation (NGO) situated in Rajasthan, India, this book investigates the methods and practices by which a development organisation materialises and manages a construction of success. Paying particular attention to the material processes by which success is achieved and the different meanings that they act to perform, this book offers a timely and novel approach to how the world of development NGOs works. It further touches upon the general discrediting of certain kinds of expertise, moving the book beyond an anthropology of development to raise wider questions of general interest.

The author argues that the College, as a heterotopia and a prolific producer of various forms of development media, achieves its success through materially mediated heterotopic spectacles: enacted and imperfect utopias that constitute the desires, imaginings and Otherness of its society.

Founded by the charismatic figure of Bunker Roy, the Barefoot College has become a national and global icon of grassroots sustainable development. With a particular focus on the Barefoot College’s community-managed, solar photovoltaic development programme, this book considers the largely overlooked question of how it is that an NGO achieves a reputation for success.

Lifestyle migration and the ongoing quest for a better way of life
Author: Michaela Benson

This is a study of how lifestyle choices intersect with migration, and how this relationship frames and shapes post-migration lives. It presents a conceptual framework for understanding post-migration lives that incorporates culturally specific imaginings, lived experiences, individual life histories, and personal circumstances. Through an ethnographic lens incorporating in-depth interviews, participant observation, life and migration histories, this monograph reveals the complex process by which migrants negotiate and make meaningful their lives following migration. By promoting their own ideologies and lifestyle choices relative to those of others, British migrants in rural France reinforce their position as members of the British middle class, but also take authorship of their lives in a way not possible before migration. This is evident in the pursuit of a better life that initially motivated migration and continues to characterise post-migration lives. As the book argues, this ongoing quest is both reflective of wider ideologies about living, particularly the desire for authentic living, and subtle processes of social distinction. In these respects, the book provides an empirical example of the relationship between the pursuit of authenticity and middle-class identification practices.

Banal activism, electioneering and the politics of irrelevance
Author: Alexander Smith

This book is an ethnographic study of devolution and politics in Scotland, as well as of party-political activism more generally. It explores how Conservative Party activists who had opposed devolution and the movement for a Scottish Parliament during the 1990s attempted to mobilise politically following their annihilation at the 1997 General Election. The book draws on fieldwork conducted in Dumfries and Galloway – a former stronghold for the Scottish Tories – to describe how senior Conservatives worked from the assumption that they had endured their own ‘crisis’ in representation. The material consequences of this crisis included losses of financial and other resources, legitimacy and local knowledge for the Scottish Conservatives. The book ethnographically describes the processes, practices and relationships that Tory Party activists sought to enact during the 2003 Scottish and local government elections. Its central argument is that, having asserted that the difficulties they faced constituted problems of knowledge, Conservative activists cast to the geographical and institutional margins of Scotland became ‘banal’ activists. Believing themselves to be lacking in the data and information necessary for successful mobilisation during Parliamentary elections, local Tory Party strategists attempted to address their knowledge ‘crisis’ by burying themselves in paperwork and petty bureaucracy. Such practices have often escaped scholarly attention because they appear everyday and mundane, and are therefore less noticeable. Bringing them into view analytically has important implications for socio-cultural anthropologists, sociologists and other scholars interested in ‘new’ ethnographic objects, including activism, bureaucracy, democracy, elections and modern knowledge practices.

Palestine– Israel in British universities
Author: Ruth Sheldon

For over four decades, events in Palestine-Israel have provoked raging conflicts between members of British universities, giving rise to controversies around free speech, ‘extremism’, antisemitism and Islamophobia within higher education, which have been widely reported in the media and subject to repeated interventions by politicians. But why is this conflict so significant for student activists living at such a geographical distance from the region itself? And what role do emotive, polarised communications around Palestine-Israel play in the life of British academic institutions committed to the ideal of free expression?

This book invites students, academics and members of the public who feel concerned with this issue to explore the sources of these visceral encounters on campus. Drawing on original ethnographic research with conflicting groups of activists, it explores what is at stake for students who are drawn into struggles around Palestine-Israel within changing university spaces facing pressures associated with neoliberalism and the ‘War on Terror’. It begins from this case study to argue that, in an increasingly globalised world that is shaped by entangled histories of the Nazi Holocaust and colonial violence, members of universities must develop creative and ethical ways of approaching questions of justice.

Tragic Encounters and Ordinary Ethics curates an ethnographic imagination in response to the political tensions arising out of the continuing violence in Palestine-Israel. It invites students and academics to attend to lived experiences within our own university institutions in order to cultivate ethical forms of communication in response to conflicts of justice.

The path to economic crisis in Scotland
Author: Jonathan Hearn

This book takes a body of ethnographic data collected in 2001-2, during a year's fieldwork at the Bank of Scotland (BoS) and HBOS, and revisits it from the perspective of the 2014-16 period. It explores the tension between the 'ethnographic present' of the author's original research and the unavoidable alteration of perspective on that data that the economic crisis has created. The original research had been planned to take place in the BoS but in 2001, before the research began, BoS had merged with the Halifax to form HBOS. The book provides a long-term historical perspective on BoS/HBOS, from inception to the 2008 financial crisis, and then a consideration of the nature of historical explanation, under the rubric of 'theory'. The main attempts to explain the proximate causes of the 2008 crisis, as well as more encompassing political economic arguments about the trajectory and dynamics of capitalism are examined. The concept of 'culture' as applied to both national groups, Scots and English, and organizations, BoS and Halifax, are also dealt with. The book examines other governing concepts such as organisational change in the business world and social change, identity and the way Scottish and English experience their own personhood, and comparative nature of ethnographic research. The conclusion reviews and draws together the themes of the book, returning to the overarching question of historical perspective and explanation.

‘Working the ground’ in Scotland

Ethnographies of labour at sea must examine the experience of that labour, rather than contemplate the commodities that are produced, or resort to trite metaphors about watery 'flow' and 'immersion' This book takes up a labour-centred Marxist approach to human-environment relations, place and language, human-machine relations, technique and technology, political economy and violence. It explores how fishers make the sea productive through their labour, using technologies ranging from wooden boats to digital GPS plotters to create familiar places in a seemingly hostile environment. While most analyses of navigation assume that its purpose is orientation, virtually all navigation devices are used in techniques to solve the problem of relative position. Fishers frequently have to make impossible choices between safe seamanship and staying afloat economically, and the book describes the human impact of the high rate of deaths in the fishing industry. The lives of fishermen are affected by capitalist forces in the markets they sell to, forces that shape even the relations between fishers on the same boat. The book also discusses techniques people used to extend their bodies and perceptual abilities, the importance of controlling and delicately manipulating these extensions and the caring relationships of maintenance boats and machines required. A 'new anthropology of labour' and a 'decolonised anthropology dispenses with the disciplinary emphasis on the "outside" of capitalism and encompasses the dynamism and interconnections of global society'.