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Years in the making
Author: Cathrine Degnen

Seeking to better understand what it means to grow older in contemporary Britain from the perspective of older people themselves, this richly detailed ethnographic study engages in debates over selfhood and people’s relationships with time. Based on research conducted in an English former coal mining village, the book focuses on the everyday experiences of older people living there. It explores how the category of old age comes to be assigned and experienced in daily life through multiple registers of interaction. These include ‘memory work’ about people, places and webs of relations in a postindustrial setting that has undergone profound social transformation. Challenging both the notion of a homogenous relationship with time across generations and the idea of a universalised middle-aged self, the author argues that the complex interplay of social, cultural and physical attributes of ageing means that older people can come to occupy a different position in relation to time and to the self than younger people. This account provides fascinating insight into what is at stake for the ageing self in regards to how people come to know, experience and dwell in the world. It describes the ways in which these distinctive forms of temporality and narrativity also come to be used against older people, denigrated socially in some contexts as ‘less-than-fully adult’. This text will be of great interest to researchers and students in anthropology, sociology, human geography and social gerontology working on interests in selfhood, time, memory, the anthropology of Britain and the lived experience of social change.

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Everyday life and conflict in eastern Sri Lanka
Author: Rebecca Walker

This book focuses on the experiences of Tamil-speaking people who have lived through and continue to face conflict and violence in Sri Lanka on a daily basis. It focuses on the years between 2005 and 2007 when the country was facing massive change in the lead up to the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamils Eelam (LTTE). At this time, while violence waxed and waned, intensifying at times and at others casting a dark shadow over daily encounters, people carried on with their lives, negotiating through and around the violence. The way in which the topics in the book flow reflects the author's journey of research and the various issues that became important along the way. Thus, in following the author's experiences through the conflict and the tsunami, the book builds up a larger and richer picture of life in Batticaloa that moves between accounts of everyday violence and suffering. Using ethnographic experiences and narratives collected over twenty-two months between 2004 and 2007, the book argues that to look to the moments of hope and imagination as well as the everyday endurance must constitute a core element of anthropological representations of violence and suffering. This includes highlighting the non-violent spaces or parts of daily life, which are less dramatically framed by violence, and are often lost in contexts of conflict, faded out as weak shadows to the more forceful violence.

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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.