Anthropology

Disaster, displacement and resilience in Bangladeshi char villages
Mohammad Altaf Hossain

This chapter focuses on the precarious lives and livelihoods of people living in temporary Bangladeshi villages located on river islands. Ambiguity is seen in their livelihood practices as they live between hope and uncertainty. The chapter illustrates people’s complex agency ethnographically in the face of seasonal river floods and erosion, which leave inhabitants of river islands in ambiguous situations. Ambiguity is seen in their understanding of climate change and the causes of hazards. Coupled with hazards, the prevailing social and economic structures can be seen in the people’s experiences of displacement and the everyday practices of multiple livelihood strategies. Recently, development intervention has played an important role in building disaster resilience. However, precarity in the lives of vulnerable people cannot be reduced unless it is addressed as a national crisis.

in The anthropology of ambiguity
Menara Guizardi
,
Claudio Casparrino
, and
Felipe Valdebenito

This chapter invites our readers on a visual journey through the Azapa Valley and the Agromarket, spaces that articulate Indigenous Bolivian migration in Arica (Chile). The chapter seeks to contrast the visual records and ethnographic field diaries with the information about these spaces detailed in the previous literature. First, it outlines Arica’s current social and economic configurations, providing demographic data on international migration in the city. Second, the profiles of the thirty women interviewed are examined in-depth, providing key information to situate their trajectories and testimonies (which will be taken up in the following chapters of the volume). Third, the Azapa Valley will be described, showing how its farmland has been transformed into one of the most important agricultural enclaves in the Atacama Desert. The chapter also presents the Bolivian women’s working spaces in the Agromarket of the city.

in The elementary structuring of patriarchy
Abstract only
Menara Guizardi

This chapter reviews Lévi-Strauss’s Alliance Theory, drawing on feminist critiques from the seventies and current archaeological findings to clarify the analytical frameworks of the book. It argues that Lévi-Strauss’s arguments are linked to a specific form of masculine domination that became hegemonic from the nineteenth century onwards (as a scientific, colonial, and Eurocentric discourse). The second section offers a brief glossary of terms on kinship (which will be useful for reading the whole volume), while the third indicates some interpretative reservations to be considered when reviewing the “classics” works of this anthropological subfield. With this background, Lévi-Strauss’s proposals on kinship are retrieved in section four. In the fifth section, the current archaeological findings on Paleolithic human groups are synthesized, providing scientific evidence that endorses a deconstruction of several of Lévi-Strauss’s maxims. In the conclusions, the definition of patriarchy as hegemony is proposed.

in The elementary structuring of patriarchy
Bolivian women and transborder mobilities in the Andes
Editor:

Based on an ethnographic study on the Andean Tri-border (between Chile, Peru, and Bolivia), this volume addresses the experience of Aymara cross-border women from Bolivia employed in the rural valleys on the outskirts of Arica (Chile’s northernmost city). As protagonists of transborder mobility circuits in the Atacama Desert, these women are intersectionally impacted by different forms of social vulnerability. With a feminist anthropological perspective, the book investigates how the boundaries of gender are constructed in the (multi)situated experience of these transborder women. By building a bridge between classical anthropological studies on kinship and contemporary debates on transnational and transborder mobility, the book invites us to rethink structuralist theoretical assertions on the elementary character of family alliances. The women’s life histories and the ethnographic data analyzed show that the limits of gender are configured as a triad between gender violence, kinship restrictions, and female mobility for the study’s protagonists. This contributes to denaturalizing both the androcentrism of the classic arguments on kinship and the emphasis on the experiences of circulation of contemporary theories. Consequently, this book also contributes to the field of border studies by overcoming the insistent invisibility of the role of women in border regions through a model of analysis that privileges female discourses, experiences, affections, and practices. The book’s focus on the reproductive tasks performed by the women allows a rethinking of the relationship between gender violence and female care as a key element to the survival of Iindigenous groups in border areas.

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Menara Guizardi
,
Esteban Nazal
, and
Lina Magalhães

This chapter begins the analysis of the life-history interviews of the Aymara women who inhabit Arica (Chile). First, the initial work experiences of the interviewees are described, shedding light on the gender relations in their Bolivian Aymara communities. Then, we analyze the relationship between kinship and the obligation of mobility that weighs on women, which is illustrated through Casimira’s life history. The chapter also describes the economic and political macro-global processes that traversed these Aymara communities in Bolivia, exploring how the women act by transforming as well as reproducing communitarian kinship and gender structuring in contexts of social change. The last section returns to the debate on the elementary structuring of patriarchy, showing – now based on ethnographic data – how the constitution of a triad between the Aymara kinship systems, gender violence, and female mobility has shaped the transborder trajectories of the women.

in The elementary structuring of patriarchy
Humour, anxiety and existential ambiguities in the public sphere
Anton Piyarathne

Sri Lankan democracy and politics are full of ambiguities. Sri Lankan political elites adopt surreptitious tactics – i.e. usage of local mysticism, myths and occult practice with the colonial planted democracy. Political elites employ these practices to divert public concerns and overcome politically difficult situations. Fear of the mythical world surfaced between 2010 and 2011 in connection with the infamous Grease Yakā phenomenon, when greased-up night-time prowlers clad only in underwear terrorised local communities. These events led to ambiguous relations between state and society, as the mythical and the (party) political joined together to create social unease and tension. Against this backdrop, this chapter explores how satirical cartoons and everyday humour were used to express citizens’ anxieties about the political and the occult. Together, they were used to develop new social narratives to construct a space in which the public and cartoonists could critically evaluate the absurdity of a situation while proposing political solutions through tactics of dark humour without arousing the anger of political elites who militarily defeated the most powerful Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The chapter highlights the doubleness of ambiguity: on the one hand, the increased public agency within the political realm to enable everyday social lives to be created amidst, on the other hand, the terror of the occult, with ambiguity being embraced and challenged through creative responses.

in The anthropology of ambiguity
Menara Guizardi
,
Carolina Stefoni
,
Isabel Araya
,
Lina Magalhães
, and
Eleonora López

This chapter addresses the episodes of gender violence narrated by the Bolivian Aymara women interviewed in Arica (Chile). Its objective is to analyze specifically those female experiences that take place in “the hidden sites of violence”. That is, the aggressions suffered by women in their family environment, where these facts remain hidden, although they often take place in plain sight and with notorious consequences. The chapter returns to the narratives of the thirty interviewed women to describe the aggressions perpetrated by the male figures of their families of origin (fathers, brothers, stepfathers), but also by their mothers. In addition, it analyses how these abuses are repeated in the relationships these migrant women build with their own partners and their children. It shows a difference in the intensity of violence and the protection mechanisms found against it on the Chilean and Bolivian sides of the border. Indeed, the recognition of this difference motivates female transborder mobility.

in The elementary structuring of patriarchy
Menara Guizardi
,
Felipe Valdebenito
, and
Pablo Mardones

The chapter offers a historical reconstruction of the relationship between gender, identities, and human mobility in the territories of the Andean Tri-border, focusing on the outskirts of Arica (Chile), where our ethnography was carried out. Based on a review of the previous literature, the chapter analyses historical elements to interpret the current experiences of Bolivian Indigenous women in these areas. It will start by characterizing some of the identity tensions of the territory in the Tiwanaku and Inca Empires. It also discusses how the colonial order (from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries) intensified patriarchal inequalities, increased gender violence, and imposed symbolisms and moralities that made native women inferior. Finally, the formation of nation-states (in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries) is addressed, exploring how the wars that forged the borders between Chile, Peru, and Bolivia reinvented long-lasting identity conflicts. This war process further intensified patriarchal asymmetries, naturalizing the notion that border control enables the exercise of violence against women (especially if they are Indigenous).

in The elementary structuring of patriarchy
Abstract only
Timothy Heffernan
and
Mahnaz Alimardanian

Human life is positioned between the realms of mystery and mastery, with ambiguity understood as the essence of being and becoming and part of navigating the complexity of the human condition. The editors’ introduction to the book reviews the history of key anthropological encounters with ambiguity and the nuanced relationship between experience, meaning, action and outcome. It draws on philosophical and ethnographic accounts to explore the challenges and virtues of sitting and being with ambiguity as it is demonstrated and discussed in this volume. Emphasis is given to some of conceptions of ambiguity stemming from Victor Turner’s work and the philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir.

in The anthropology of ambiguity
Abstract only
Menara Guizardi
and
Herminia Gonzálvez

This chapter summarizes the topics, hypotheses, questions, and theoretical proposals that structure the volume. It explains that the book results from an ethnographic study that inquired on the configurations of gender and kinship in Aymara groups and their relations with the transnational and transborder mobilities of the women of these communities in the Andean Tri-border (between Chile, Peru, and Bolivia). In that vein, it outlines the volume’s feminist anthropological perspective and its criticisms of the anthropological structuralist formulations on kinship and alliance in patriarchal, patrilineal, and patrilocal communities. In doing so, it introduces the theorizing that links violence, kinship, and the mobility of women. The chapter also explains the ethnographic methodology adopted, outlining a feminist approach to the Extended Case Method. The fieldwork process is described, detailing the organization of the research team, its dynamics of reflection, the collection of empirical materials, the systematization of this data, and the analysis techniques applied. This is followed by a quick reading guide to the contents of each chapter.

in The elementary structuring of patriarchy