Be aware of the fact that you are using the metaphor of spectrum to problematise an “uneven process”. This might occur offensive for some disability actors.
[As our knowledge of disability worlds deepens, we have come to expect that each case study is revelatory of the emergence of (or resistance to) “the new normal,” standing both for itself and the larger project of redrawing the social map of disability inclusion]
Extremely long sentence, difficult to grasp.
What is the new normal?
[who is a bit different,]
ableist language. Avoid.
In what way is this picture informative or supportive to the text?
[“We don’t just want everyone who participates to have a great day, we want to build new audiences for the future]
I believe that there is a lot to be discussed here. Obviously, TDF aims at the construction of a new “normal” here. I see many enthusiastic words here but still I would suggest that you keep your critical eyes on and problematize what is it at stake here or how organizations such as the TDF and/or ATI aim to “change the face of the american public culture”? What do people with disabilities say on that? Is their involvement in the MAC association (for example) effective or is this another case of disability washing?
[fieldwork on the spectrum]
How exactly your fieldwork was on the spectrum given that your material is based on your own notes and sources from institutional actors such as the ATI and TDF? In what ways, does this material selection constitute fieldwork on the spectrum, as in the first way invoked in your introduction?
[Everyone involved, from toilet attendants to Broadway stars, from restaurant wait staff to families enjoying a relatively unstressed outing, experienced what inclusion of life with a difference might be like if the aspirations, rights, and accommodations needed to include a wide range of people with disabilities are really in place]
Can we really draw this conclusion from the material presented in this short piece or is it kind of wishful thinking?
Some general comments:
What is exactly the aim of this piece? It is indeed an interesting case, but a case of what? How is it related to the rest of the book?
Is there a particular reason why there are no references at all to previous studies on disability and cultural activities?
Whereas I understand the point of writing this piece in an accessible language, it lacks analytical points and towards the end becomes very supportive of the actions and initiatives of the ATI and MAC. Does this constitute an action-research piece?
Could you reference the rich seam of disability scholarship that has outlined the paradoxical state of disability representation you note in your opening sentence, for example: David Hevey, Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Tobin Seibers?
Your research sounds really interesting, but I would like you to expand here on what you mean by the ‘new normal’.
Is the category of disability only expanding our understanding of humanity?
Whose understanding of humanity?
The politics of framing ethnographic work as ‘cases’ in the context of disability research needs attending to. Medical cases have been used to produce knowledge about disabled people’s bodies and minds, as if they were specimens. In what way is your research reproducing this power relationship?
I understand that ‘spectrum’ does some work towards situating ‘disability’ as a category that enlists many different bodies, but when you draw it together with ASD it gimmicky and unnecessary. Why do you want to evoke diagnostic language? What does this metaphor add to the critical purchase of your work?Perhaps, you are trying to reclaim ‘spectrum’ from ASD? If so, you should probably state that more explicitly.
How is Broadway the ‘most public of spaces’? Even with TKTS and initiatives that you describe below, is is hardly fully publicly accessible.
The location of your research is actually highly abnormal, I would have thought. As a visitor to NYC from a northern English backwater, I found NYC to be an incredible (and wonderful) culture shock, and feel that part of what the city’s imaginary trades on is being one-of-a-kind.
Your description of Matilda makes universalist claims about its appeal. This paragraph is also very long and could do with an edit. I wonder why you chose to cut from the last paragraph where you did. I’d like to see one paragraph that described TDFs work, with most of the emphasis on TAP.
I would be really interested in the audiences’ response to the curious incident show, as I know that there are many critical engagements with this text from neurodivergent scholars and activists relating to the ways in which the autistic character is represented.
As someone who is familiar with practices around making spaces accessible for disabled participants, I read this with interest, but feel that you don’t make enough of the case you present. The piece is very descriptive and is very positive about the initiative described. I don’t know how any of the actors (not the Broadway actors, but everyone involved) engaged with this attempt to re-organise Broadway to be accessible. Were there any failures, and what do they tell us? For example, how is this another form of segregation?
To contribute to the theme of the book, I would have liked more critical engagement, informed by disability scholarship and activism about what is means to present a Case in this context, rather than just describing this as a case. The history of using case to describe, produce knowledge about, and subjugate disabled people surely needs attending to here?
I read this contribution as a very interesting example of writing a case. It draws on one event (a theater performance) to exemplify an exception of the everyday. Still it leaves me with some general questions:
If fieldwork was part of “fieldwork on the spectrum”, I am curious about what we can draw from this case to broaden our understanding of “the spectrum”? That is, where in the case can we find the overlapping ideas (and more so) practices that overlap and finally constitute the spectrum?
How does this case relate to other cases of the research project on “Disability, Personhood, and “the new Normal”? Why did you choose this one for the bookCASE?
Where does the category of “the new normal” come from? Is it accompanied by “the new pathological” – and how? How are such new boundaries changing the “social map of disability inclusion”?
From this paragraph we learn a lot about the practices that make the exception of this performance possible – and hence about the practices of the rule.
Here is more reflection needed: Why was the performance for autistic audiences and their friends / families only? Why that? Why not marking performances as “friendly to new audiences”, but still keep tham open to ALL audiences?
You state that the case is one among many in slow but steady transformation. “It’s about time.”
Taking the case seriously: Where would us this steady transformation lead to? To separated performances for “special audiences”? Would this be the practice of “the new normal”? If so, what’s new?
I like the idea of beginning with “spectrum” with the imbrications and blending of ideas and categories that the word connotes. I wonder if it might help to establish (within the opening paragraph) that the authors are engaging the conceptual aspects of”spectrum” for the ‘broad range” as well as the “on the spectrum” language in ASD and DSM to expand a more respectful understanding of the “new normal.”
And, yes, a genealogy of what “the new normal” might mean for these authors.
Some of my students have asked me to frame classroom engagements with “Disability Studies” to “Differently-abled” – I realize that the legal and academic discourse right now tends to easily recognized “Disability” as the categorical word, but it’s perhaps worth noting that among those who would be categorized as “disabled” are asking for some variations to that nomenclature.
Broadway is indeed a fascinating space – and certainly more than one stage. Broadway with its music and theater strikes me as an important ethnographic space because the assumptions about (dis)abled humans and their (im)mobility are that participating in such artistic performances is beyond them. These articles are meant to be incredibly brief, but it would be worth having a sentence or two about why Broadway as this article’s ethnographic focus holds such importance.
This paragraph elucidates some of the reasons why the performative and culturally iconic space of Broadway has such importance for this article. The impact of early childhood literature, theater and film with who is portrayed as exciting, special, a hero or a villain is phenomenally essential to shaping how young minds grow to see difference. (Certainly, the impact of theater, film, and literature to influencing an “abled” public extends to other areas of (under)representation. Thinking of Black Panther, among other recent films – but this is beyond purview of this article. It is the potential for social impact that this cultural performance can have, that one finds exciting here).
perhaps “the value of a person who has felt ostracized for being called “different”… when the spectrum of human abilities is not fully acknowledged.
Struggling with the phrasing of: “the presence of disability” here. Assuming this is as a category, but also concerning people with disabilities or differently abled as some might prefer to be called. And what kinds of (dis)abilities? Delineating the focus on autism as opposed to the (legal) definitions of hearing-impaired, visually-impaired…
This all sounds amazing. Learning about the commitment to making a magical experience for all theater-goers.
nitpicky point – “special education” instead of “special ed”
Not sure if it is necessary or if there is an ethnographic point to not mentioning the authors’ investment in being there – unless its purely for the academic exercise of participant observation?
building new audiences for the future… it sounds a bit shady.. curious if there is any analytical comment about building these new audiences as an insurance against what might be a diminishing paying public?
also curious about questions of race throughout this article, as what counts as a disability has “spectral” effects within structural racism, no? might the “spectrum” also work with intersectionality when it comes to the many factors that limit people’s abilities to enjoy daily life, if not also the theater?
Agreed, that it is “about time” for inclusion rather than exclusion for people considered “on the spectrum” of autism. Coming from a family of disability rights lawyers and activists, I do want more specificity about what is mean by disability in this article and how autism comes to stand for disability and for making “visible” the often”invisible” category of “disability.”
The 4th sentence could be re-written for more clarity.
Does the parenthetical information in sentence 4 add important information? It seems to be superfluous.
Probably should use the original publication date of Mauss
and I’m assuming, you changed this name
Why don’t you say “were murdered by illegal loggers.”
had become common for…
This photo would be better placed after Para. 26
I wonder if talking about “one’s own” name is problematic. Often people change their names because they don’t feel like their name reflects who they “really” are. Maybe the specific example used by Fanon would clarify this.
My second comment was supposed to point out a typo, Affluents > Afluentes
Of course, we wonder now if these are their real names and if it puts Juana in danger.
A very interesting case of how the ethnographer has the responsibility to use names that do not bring harm to participants, even if it goes against the wishes of the participants. Names under consideration could be pseudonyms or legal names. Choosing a work mate’s real name as a pseudonym points to a major rift in the community that might be a topic of another piece. I’m not entirely convinced that Derrida’s beginning quote is the right choice.
The question Ruth Goldstein poses at the head of this case reverberates: I read it and am instantly transported back to my high school years of reading Romeo and Juliet. Indeed, what is in a name? Can someone called by some other name still be themselves? Perhaps I should not be surprised, given the foreshadowing implicit in the title, that danger, betrayal, and death, all haunt this account. I would be intrigued to see further interweaving or surfacing of those themes, as doing so might allow the idea of trafficking to resurface at the end, perhaps more closely with the idea of “fact-checking.” Currently, trafficking fades away, despite the reference to Goffman’s work which could be used to easily bring the reader back in.
For me, this paragraph needs more stitching to come together: start out with Hunt Oil, with the controversy over drilling and access. Then lead us into the unknown / unseen forms of trafficking in information that are posited to lead to deaths, where names create traces that can bring danger back to people. Then move us forward–I think in a new paragraph–to the idea of how quickly are the words and naming practices of the anthropologist, too, traveling?
For readers non-familiar with this example, and in a world-wide audience there may be many, this example needs more explanation, especially given the way that Goffman’s name, and the legacy it carried, played a core role in the debate. There’s more here than fact-checking, than ‘what is truth’, there is also the situated ways in which names too circulate within academia.
Use of anonymity for her interlocutors, or for herself as researcher? Clarify. Again, too much pre-knowledge of the debate over Goffman’s work is expected of the reader here for a non-US based audience, or for an audience that has a short-term memory.
I appreciate the care taken in bringing the case around full circle, for reproviding the stakes of taking a name.
Clarify or bring forward the doubled practice of “taking a name” that happens here. All the pieces to capture that are already present, but this very taking of a name to harm another while protecting oneself can then be more closely tied to the political economies of extraction from the earth (another taking) brought out below.
Interactive or participatory? You may be interested in bringing forward your refusal here as an ethnographic method of the ethnographer, to then pair it with the refusal of extractive methods of taking from the earth that some of your interlocutors are themselves opposing. c.f. https://discardstudies.com/2016/08/08/ethnographic-refusal-a-how-to-guide/
See comments below about extractive economies; this might be the paragraph to more fully bring that out.
a copy-editing suggestion: …in the idiom OF our own personal lives…
The description of the demographic makeup and the social setting of the breakfast circle brings out the question of the ethnographer’s positionaility and subjectivity to me. I am imagining what kind of difficulties, alternative perspectives, and different interactions that I as a male ethnographer (with Chinese origin) would have if I were to be a participant observer in this particular setting. Not only the gender position matters in fieldwork here, but also the gender perspective is essential in narrating and discussing this case throughout the whole article.
I really enjoyed reading this chapter, short but very intriguing. I especially like the author Dr. Jennifer Carlson’s approach to the breakfast circle conversation as a rich and expansive case. (I suppose other authors in this book are taking similar or same approaches, but I haven’t read other chapters yet). While a casual conversation like this might be easily overlooked in ethnographic writing or even in fieldwork, Dr. Carlson approaches to it as a multi-layered case: well, at least double-layered, a case that the breakfast circle members made for renewable energy by invoking the Janssens family life, and a case that the ethnographer is making in her analysis in relation to the class politics of the energy transition. It seems to me that the title is implying another layer in this case, or another case, of “Technological Fix” that could be more explored and articulated in the body text of the chapter as well.
I feel this term of Dobbeners have been used to refer to different base populations. Based on the story told so far, the “Dobbeners” here in the first sentence of this paragraph refers primarily to the four women in the breakfast circle. But can the four at the breakfast represent the whole community of Dobbeners? If not, or if not sure, this statement here could be inaccurate and misleading as Dobbeners of other economic status and/or of other genders might not share the same perception and depiction.
This reference is in contrast the use of “Dobbeners” in paragragh 18 above.
This coment is associated with comment on paragrah 18.
The use of the term Dobbeners here seems to refer potentially to all members of the community. But not all uses of this term mean the same. Please refer to my comment on paragraph 25.
Does the plural form of “narratives” here (first word of this paragraph) imply that there are multiple narratives of green good life which are different from each? Multiple narratives at different geospatial levels, global, national, community, individual/family? I would really appreciate if the plurality of narratives/discourses could be better delineated and discussed.
While the (trans-)national narratives of renewable energy through small/family scale projects promises a much more distributed and thus more democratic energy regime compared to the old, very centralized regime based on fossil fuel and nuclear power, this promise is yet far from reality if not simply an illusion at local community level. I would love to see a little bit more about the mechanism of concentration at community level and the factors of class and gender in this mechanism.
The “green good life” can be developed analytically by engaging with the literature on this issue in Ecuador and Bolivia, where constitutional reforms have incorporated so-called indigenous concepts of Good Life (Buen Vivir/Sumak Kawsay). In South America, the good life has multiple meanings and us used by different groups to advance ‘alternatives’ to neoliberal capitalism. One variant draws from so-called indigenous ontologies (forms of knowing and relating to the landscape) to build “sustainable” economies and communities. What are the knowledge practices that constitute the “green good life” in Germany? How do these knowledges travel? How are they translated and materialized in infrastructural forms at various scales?
Class and gender politics?
How would Maike define the good life and how does it square with enviro policy in Germany described below?
Interesting, is energy citizenship similar to the kind of infrastructural citizenship described by Nikhil Anand? Is the social project a biopolitical project? it seems that you have different pieces here that can be linked up, good life, citizenship, infrastructure, biopolitics, and ‘just-talk.’
“Citizen participation” sounds a bit neoliberal to my ears. Consider replacing with a different term to distinguish your analysis from the ecocapitalist governing project you are describing.
Lovely descriptive writing here. What is the potential of the glasshouses as a “lived and lively space”? Does ‘ruin’ inform the good life? And, would this be different than how Maike or German policy come to understand the meaning and practice of the good life?
If gender is another mechanism through which the ‘green good life’ is unequally share and distributed then what else might women’s “just-talk” do here? It seems that you can push the final sentence a bit further…
I agree with Shaozeng Zhang’s comment–be sure to discuss the plurality of the green good life narratives throughout the essay
I’m having trouble posting my comments into paragraph 29, so I will leave it here:
I agree with Shaozeng Zhang. The plurality of narratives around the green good life do not come through in the essay. Be sure to develop these perspectives throughout the essay.
Using Dobbeners in the fifth sentence of this paragraph makes it sound as if you are speaking about the entire village. Are you referring to only Regina and her husband? Do you think they are representative of the rest of Dobbeners?
I can’t seem to post my comments for paragraph 28. When I leave a comment it publishes it as copy of my first comment.
In the following paragraph, 28 line 5, your use of Dobbeners is confusing. It seems that you are referring to all of the people of the village. Are Regina and her husband representative of all Dobbeners?
This essay was fun to read and the imagery was lively. Focusing on ordinary or ‘just talk,’ this engaging essay reveals the ways in which the language of the good life circulates, stretching into new contexts and serving as a fix for a problem that not in fact need a “fix.” I am reminded of the projects for the good life in Ecuador and Bolivia, and wonder how Germany’s version squares up with the South America cases. The economic transition to renewable energy in Dobbe is well explained, including an uneven distribution of its benefits, however, the plurality of meanings and practices related to the green good life should be further explored in the essay. One way of approaching this is to provide a thicker description of the women’s breakfast group, the contours of heterogeneity among the women and the different ways they are positioned in relationship to the good life. I imagine the breakfast table as a vibrant space, where just talk is filled with as many possibilities as the ruins of the glasshouses. But, just like the glasshouses, so too does the breakfast table need a bit more analysis: what are the various social and ecological relationships they envelop? The technological fix in the title is mentioned, but remains to be fully developed and connected with relevant literature. Pictures/video, etc. would be an amazing addition.
[ Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 Rather than see all cases as instances of a universal category: ‘Bell’s palsy’, I follow medical anthropologists who examine how meanings, categories, and emotions configure distinct illness experiences, which are further shaped by social, historical, and political contexts. I am also interested in bodily intensities and nervous systems, in the plural, as historical and social artifacts. What might these cases of derrame reveal about how Guatemalan social and political realities congeal in living bodies and affective imaginaries? How does bodily affect blur the line between individual experience and social worlds? ]
This should be moved to the intro of the text and act as an aim and research questions.
[This metaphor of ingestion ]
How can this be translated into a methodological point about the ethnographic case? How can this clue be related to relevant methodological debates within anthropology and ethnography?
None of the pictures are commented or referred to in the text.
Perhaps the work of Ingunn Moser on embodiment might be relevant here. Suggestively,
Ingunn Moser (2009) A body that matters? The role of embodiment in the recomposition of life after a road traffic accident, Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research, 11:2, 83-99.
How are all the cases presented related? What is a common pattern and what can they say about the ethnographic case in the context of this book?
This comes a little bit out of the blue. Either link the your paper to postcolonial studies or skip.
This is a great essay that considers an apparent epidemic of derrame facial in northwest Guatemala. You weave together medical definitions, accounts from sufferers, and descriptions from those who treat them. I think you could foreground what I take to be your unique contribution about bodily intensities, or ‘habitual disposition of defensive girding’ as processes through which the biological and political shape each other. See my comments below.
I wonder if the epidemic itself can be read as a case, not only individual sufferers, as you write at the end? A case against a reductive or simplistic biological model of affliction?
Re title: It might be compelling to use the term from the field, something like: ‘Swallowing injustice: Facial paralysis in Guatemala’. Titles are not my forte, but the metaphor of ‘swallowing injustice’ is striking and conveys more about your concern in the piece, compared to the general ‘somaticizing’.
Consider deleting or using a different word? Or was it indeed an accident in the conventional sense?
You could give a hint in this section about what comes at the end, regarding bodily intensities or habits of dispositions.
I meant to mark the above comment on the first paragraph.
This study was from 1971. Is it canonical, or are there more recent epidemiological surveys, either in the US or in other places, that you can reference in addition? I understand from the following paragraph that the US description circulates widely, but to use this one study as evidence for the US-as-universal-biomedical reads a bit thin.
You could switch the order of the first two sentences to relate directly to the description above, and link the claims about universality and specificity/heterogeneity to what follows.
I am curious about the statement, ‘belies its origins in specific studies with distinct populations’. Could you add a phrase or sentence to elaborate? Are you referring to the 1971 Rochester study cited above, or to other studies?
…’a higher prevalence than that suggested in North American studies’?
I noted this too. The images are great, will they be commented on or at least have a title and caption?
[North American understanding]
Here and throughout the essay, I wonder if you can nuance or better specify this contrast to avoid a sense of a straw figure. It is a lopsided comparison between your reich and compelling ethnographic material from Guatemala and a generalisation about North American understanding based on a Mayo clinic study, or a definition in a US-published diagnostic manual. In other words, do you want to claim that there is a singular North American understanding of Bells Palsy, and if so, on what grounds? What is most central to you: the region (‘North America’), the medical tradition (‘biomedical’), or something else?
[bodily intensities and nervous systems]
I too would like to see the piece revolve more tightly around these interests.
Yes, ‘swallowing’ is something to follow and attend to.
I wonder if another and more original point you make is about intensities and habitual dispositions that weave together biology, emotion, poverty, discouragement, injustice, and family and political violence.
Rather than a translation of alegria or other nouns as ‘cultural and historical products’, what if the important case and translation here has to do with how one lives life within serious constraints? The somatic specificity of derrame is not only a product of Guatemala’s culture or history, but of habits, dispositions, intensities.
The face is important. Can you include a paragraph or a sentence or two above on the significance of the face for your interlocutors? A nice example, from a very different project, is Tine Gammeltoft’s discussion of the face in Viet Nam, towards the end of her book, ‘Haunting Images’.
Hi Carole, it was a pleasure reading your contribution. I’ve a background in STS and my main topic of interest are forensic (DNA) technologies, so my comments and suggestions below originate from those perspectives.
[Family is kin, but kin is not only genetic.]
This reminds me of Pottage’s The socio-legal implications of new biotechnologies (2007: 337) when a US judge decided that, despite a negative DNA test, a non-genetic father remains the legal father because the “paternal relationship had formed well before the DNA test was made.” While your case is in sharp contrast with this conclusion, it would be interesting to use this or other examples as to demonstrate that other rules and logics apply when the claimant is domestic; that other systems are possible. In addition, and i think this is important, referring to some other work in STS/socio-legal studies would widen the scope of the analysis; similarly, paternity testing is a forensic test, a word you don’t use in your contribution, and relating your text to some work in that area would render your story more relevant to scholars in other fields.
I think this concept requires some further elaboration…
[A wife may learn about her husband’s infidelity and feel there is nothing she can do. Or she might confront him or leave him, or confront his mistress, or worse. A husband may learn of his wife’s infidelity and do nothing about it, or may confront her or her lover. Or he may also do something worse.]
I’m not sure if I like this style of writing. Couldn’t you just say that wives and husbands have similar powers/abilities/agency to confront their partners?
[do not share enough of the same chromosomal patterns]
I don’t think this is an accurate way of saying it. Simply use ‘shared alleles’
[As with so many other families, with those formed through adoption or second marriages or reproductive technologies or some other means, genetic belonging is not what holds Tashi’s family together. Care, commitment, shared stories, and social recognition of claimed family status do.]
Like this :=))
I think this paragraph provides an excellent mirror-image to the DNA stories we usually hear, and it is a very strong example of the real social consequences of this technology. So maybe you’d make the paragraph’s argument a bit more central or dominant (but i realize it’s a matter of style).
In addition, I’m hungry for further info. When did Tashi decide on moving back to South Asia? What happened to the family after two children were not his genetic offspring? Did the Tashi divorce from his wife because of this new truth? And what happened with your testimony? Did it change the case, or other cases?
[What is a family]
Maybe you’d elaborate a bit more on your question towards the end of the section?
The problem of DNA might be widely observed in Nepal and India, where family prefers the arrange marriage instead of love marriage. The pressure from the parent and society lovebird are unable to go against their’ interest. The illicit sexual relation between boys and girls foster the suicide, abortion, and crime in South Asia. In addition, labor migration and impact of social media (i.e. Facebook and mobile phone) increase the extramarital relation both in rural and urban areas. Social taboo and religious values keep secret such an illicit sex relation. Rana Prime Minister Chandra Shamsher categorized the Rana into three classes A, B and C. Those who were born through the marriage are in A Class. Those who were born without marriage are in B-class and those who were born from illicit sex relation are in C-class. These facts show that genetic issue is more than the biological, which changes social relation and their position both in the family and beyond. Thus, the state should recognize the social realities and cultural practices rather impose the governing technologies.
What kinds of confrontation between husband and wife when they know secret affair and infidelity. What kinds social practice they have been following to leave or divorce one another. Does woman choose the house of a lover when they have the confrontation in the infidelity case? If women choose the lover’s house does she face social and psychological challenges for adjustment? what kinds of practice (legal and customary) do they follow? If they choose separation after infidelity, how they divide their property? Who is responsible to look after the children. In Nepal, Jari(adultery) system was widely popular, though it is illegal. Are the Tibetan society follow such practices in the process of divorce.
I am not a native English speaker and just wanted to ask whether the informal word kids is used here on purpose? Wouldn’t “children” be more appropriate in written English unless these are his words?
[His claiming them was not enough because, as the government asserts, refugees lie.]
This is a very strong claim and I would like to see a quote or some other form of evidence for that statement. “The government” is very generalized and if it asserts that in general than there should be some proof for it.
[What is the responsibility of the anthropologist to confirm or challenge these truths?]
The what question takes for granted that there is a responsibility. While I totally agree that there is a responsibility (with Howard Becker one could argue that it is quite clear who’s side we are on or should be on) I just want to raise the question whether or not this can and should really be taken for granted.
[The presumption of the Canadian government official was that Tashi knew about his wife’s infidelity and lied about it. However, while DNA may suggest infidelity, it does not decide family.]
This section skips some steps or explanations. Even if the DNA test might suggests infidelity (there are plenty of other explanations) it not only does not decide family, it also does not say anything about whether or not Tashi knew.
I really enjoyed reading this chapter. It is well written and makes important points. It also adds new facets to the existing social science literature which is fantastic. Joly (2017) DNA testing for family reunification in Canada: Points to Consider. Journal of International Migration and Integration 18(2). It is more of a legal piece but could still be interesting to look at.
[“the populations and population-specified markers that are identified and studied mirror the cultural, racial, ethnic, national, and tribal understandings of the humans who study them” (TallBear 2013: 5). That is, DNA testing rests on categories of belonging that do not necessarily belong to the group being tested.]
I am not quite sure whether the quote works here for two reasons. Firstly, I think the argument is rather complex and would require some more information and details in order to be easily understood. Secondly, DNA testing for family reunification does not necessarily rely on populations and population-specified markers. Population statistics are still used but they are not necessary in order to get sufficient results. That does not invalidate the overall argument of the importance of the social context in which the tests are used. But as I said I think the quote goes to far or makes a different point than what is needed for the argument in this chapter.
[Part of this has to do with the modern truth claims of science, and another part rests on the 21st century fascination with new technologies.]
There is a third explanation that is somewhat related to it: It is a convenient way for immigration officials. Convenient because they think they do not have to deal with messy documents and because there is seemingly no doubt about the interpretation (it seems to be a yes/no answer).
[If DNA testing shows that parent and child do not share enough of the same chromosomal patterns, there is no automatic immigration process to continue the investigation of the claim.]
A very good point though it is even more complicated. The DNA test shows that the man and the women are the biological parents of two of the children and the women is also the biological mother of the other two. So by proxy of the mother, the father is related to all of them too. In Germany for example, this constellation would be sufficient for family reunification. As you rightly point out it is a reality that Canadian immigration officials create and the story could easily be told a different way even with the use of DNA.
I agree with Victor. It should be phrased otherwise, maybe repeats instead of patterns because this is what it is: STRs.
I really enjoyed this point. It is great how you show how important this intervention is but also how challenging.
Starting off with boundaries and lures, I’m drawn right away to what is being done in encasement. With the opening line, I’m already excited that there’s a politics here in ordering, segregating, foregrounding (or not). And, yes, the text offers up generative boundary-makings in its casino evocations: representational/immersive, intimate/general, secret/public, attuned/distracted. But it never becomes clear to me how the breachings and blurrings of these boundaries through cases and gaming spaces relate to the “cases” of method, of reading and writing practices, of tracing the tos and fros of subjects and place- or space-makings, of critical curatorial insights. It is as if boundaries, blurrings, and lures are merely being indexed and, as I read through, I keep asking “what for?”—especially when something like a politics surfaces in the text (for example the “selective strategy” that invisibilizes histories of displacement and dispossession).
This isn’t to the detriment of the text, I get what I want at the end: I learn that what I am reading about is a reading and writing practice centered on sensory engagement and not a text that wants to press into whatever containments or openings are done in the boundary-making practices of cases. In this sense I wonder if the language of “boundaries,” “ordered spaces,” or “partition” is misleading as an introduction. Really, isn’t it about how histories, fabulations, natures/materialities, sensory cues, circulation strategies, etc. are multiply held-together in both the space of the Mohegan Sun and in this textual and photographic intervention?
I keep getting stuck here. Why do we have both “local imagined identities” and “Tribal historians”? Are tribal identities imagined or is “imagined” related to what tribal identities are being used for (a casino). Indigeneities are multiple, contested, impure, diasporic, reconstructed post-genocide—but they aren’t imagined. Even when they are on offer in a casino. Is this paragraph suggesting that a non-imaginary tribal identity must focus on the experience of oppression? I don’t think that this is at all what you intend to put across when I balance my feelings, here, against the intent of the text overall.
I can see that the photos offer up “Mohegan symbols” and “distracting interiors.” Without captions, I have no context for what I’m looking at (much like a casino-goer): what is a stylized design element, what is Mohegan cosmology? I found this strategic unlinking very helpful for imagining what is being held together in the space of sensory engagement at Mohegan Sun.
“The interior design at once effaces and hyper-refers to the outside.” But, does it? Is the casino not also part of Mohegan tribal life, of place, of nature? I can’t help but feel like there is an appeal here to some kind of “uncontaminated” indigeneity.
As I read through, I get the sense (and maybe I’m wrong) that Mohegan histories and knowledges as they show up in the casino are represented in this text as a kind of burlesque of “real” Mohegan tribal practices. As if the symbols and stories are displaced or somehow made-deficient in being placed-casinowise.
But if casino spaces really are continuous with “traditional” exhibition spaces as you go on to suggest, this doesn’t hold. In a gallery space, Indigenous self-representations are generally appraised as sovereignty-making acts of fierce resistance, revitalization, and resurgence. How is a casino on the same continuum if Indigenous self-representations are considered in this “case” to be stylizations or imaginings of a “particular kind of nowhere?”
For non-US based reader, “Indian gaming” might not be a self-evident phenomenon. Perhaps explain it in a sentence?
Some copy-editing suggestions:
We choose this site because it… (to avoid repetition of “case” and the unwieldy “case of focus”)
“The absence … seeks to erase the outside” (it doesn’t really erase the outside), or “suspends time and space”
Some more copy-editing:
I don’t understand the m-dash in the last sentence or why “eating, walking, observing” are separate or higher-order activities.
I think the “particular kind of nowhere” might benefit from a brief nod to Marc Augé’s work on “non-places”, a “space which cannot be defined as relational, or historical, or con-cerned with identity” (2008, 64). Since you then describe the casino as a “site for longing” and “a sense of place specifically connected to..” this might provide for an opportune moment to expand/challenge Augé. Just a thought.
I don’t quite understand what you mean by “local imagined identities” – imagined by whom? And imagined in contrast to live and real? Also, please detail what/who “tribal historians” are. Is this your designation?
Details on the design process would be good: who commissioned, how was it done, etc. Just to get a sense of power vectors involved.
Would be interesting to reference natural history museum displays (dioramas) here – Donna Haraway’s Teddy Bear Patriarchy comes to mind. Also, could make a more complex/complicated/troubling argument about inside/outside – especially since it’s not clear what the “outside” is.
Copy-editing: Last sentence is repetition. Cut.
[whisper (or not) secret (or not) stories ]
I’m not sure I understand the meaning: does it whisper or scream secret or public stories? Or does it whisper or silence? And what would be the “secret” stories? The ones not intelligible wihtout the purchased guide book?
Again, not entirely sure about the use of “imagined”. Also, what do you mean by “groundings”?
I think rhetorically it is nice to make a case for secrets and silences amidst the blaring jumble of the casino, particularly in relation to the encasements and boundaries of museum displays introduced in §1. But that doesn’t mean that mess and order, diversity and homogeneity, the corporate and the indigenous can be easily mapped and are mutually exclusive. For example, the dioramas here at the natural history museum (Berlin) seem perfectly still and congruent and life-like (scientifically accurate) but this appearance betrays many inventive compromises, interets and negotiations, and really rather incommensurable modes of orderings.
I think there are important differences in the opposites (visible/invisible, public/secret, mute/silent) you employ and it would be good to be really specific about their use and meaning in the context.
I think a more relational understanding/articulation of inside/outside, real/imagined, indigenous/corporate etc. might get you out of the issue that Mathew points to.
Also, it would be nice to link it with discussions on the (self)representations of indigenous lives as well as on representations of “native” and “tribal” objects in museum contexts: James Clifford, Andrea Laforet, Ruth Phillips come to mind and the catalogue Tribing and Untribing the Archive. Here you could maybe think about how the “contemplative immersion” is performed by display cases which afford engagement at hygenic distance, thus enacting the boundary between the modern (outside viewer) and the “native” (inside the case). In addition, the literature makes some interesting arguments about time and temporality which in relation to “tribalised” artifacts (in the African context pretty much any object that was taken) tended to be arrested (in a past).
I agree with Mathew that the images require captions. In addition it might be nice to give them space on the page to somewhat re-enact the immersion. So maybe reproduce full-bleed and include explanations (perhaps even quotes from the guide).
Human-worm relationships are fascinating, and definitely an ethnographic subject worth investigating. This essay may be short, but it is big on ideas. The interspersion of drawings (by the author? It’s unclear.) is entertaining and effective in using the hypertextual format of the online book.
However, there is one very conspicuous absence that prevents this piece from living up to it’s compelling potential. Where/what is the CASE? The author says in the first line, “In this short essay, I will try to convince you of the importance of earthworms in thinking about politics,” yet most of the essay consists of discussing a western history of politics–worms don’t make an appearance until halfway through, and even then do not have a very strong, agentive presence. A clearly identified case from the start (this essay is not about making a case at a dissertation defense) would strengthen the argument for “living with worms,” and would situate this chapter within the bigger project of this book. At present, both the “ethnographic” and “case” elements of this essay require substantial shoring up.
Part of the problem is, that despite important claims about overcoming the limiting binary of nature and politics, this essay operates on two seemingly unconnected levels—philosophy and science. The methodologies, concepts, and practice of both does not seem to be problematized, hybridized, or collaborative. They don’t feel like they come together. Again, the introduction and working through of a specific case might help fix this.
What is this adding to your specific argument? I’d much rather be hearing about worms!
“Some” is key–anthropology has certainly not always recognized this.
I’m worried that this seems a fairly reductive (and Euro-American-centric) recounting of anthropology’s racist, colonizing, problematic history.
I wish this was the beginning of the essay, with much more added about the author’s ethnographic work, and what worms do and mean.
Do you take this science, uncritically at face-value?
I would like to see much more said about eating if you want to use this as an important framework for your argument.
How? Not only do we very much need your working definition of “politics,” but I would like to hear much more about how you perceived the scientists reifying this division. Most ethnographic work with scientists discovers blurring of those boundaries rather than their reinforcement.
I love how this all sounds–but I don’t know what it means in practice. I don’t have a clear picture of what that living together actually looks like.
How is this particular to worms? This connection needs much more explanation. There is an entire literature these days about living, being, becoming together. We need to see why worms are worthwhile in these relationalities and ontologies, and why they are different (or the same?) as mushrooms, microbes, and meerkats.
[Instead, she worked to describe the minute contingencies of the processes involved:]
Isn’t this just social science thinking? A more complexified context through ethnographic study? Can you draw a closer tie between ethnography, worms, and the science? That would be an exciting connection to see being made.
I don’t know that much about Dune, but are those the worms you really want to be aligning your argument with, even metaphorically? Aren’t they monstrous, scary, sacred, and uncooperative? I don’t think of the Dune sandworms as models of togetherness with humans in the way you are suggesting!
I would be interested to see you engage w/ Paxson and Helmreich’s piece “The perils and promises of microbial abundance” Social Studies of Science 44 (2), 2014 here, given that you are using worms as a model ecosystem for politics. What is it about this case that makes for such a compelling call to Euro-American social scientists? Should it speak to any other social scientists, too? If not, why not?
This is a beautifully written (and recorded) and thought-provoking case. Two things struck me while reading it: first, what does the act of listening do to the body? Tom Rice, who’s study of a London hospital is discussed, shows how repeated medical practices of listening can reify and isolate aspects of the body, turning them into objectified clinical cases. Could more be done to draw out the differences between the cases (of medical listening and patient hearing)? Not only in terms of what is happening to the body, but also in terms of the differences between listening and hearing, active and passive, desired and unwanted? Some of this is touched on in paragraph 13, but it could be developed. Second, I was reminded of anthropologist Paul Stoller’s book Sensuous Scholarship, in which he argues that the scholar’s body needs to be awakened. A nice connection that might be pursued in relation to the enrolment of the anthropologist’s body (paragraph 13).
its (not it’s)
P.S. In thinking about the differences between the cases I am also thinking about drawing out a broader argument about the comparative work of bringing cases together.
Is there ever fear?
“nice case studies” for whom, exactly? And in what ways, should there be multiple groups who find this a nice case study.
rather than “the case study”, mirror the language in the previous paragraph “one case study”
I second Charlotte’s comments about the tightness of the writing here. I do think that in addition to Stoller’s insights, it may be useful to also bring in insights from Shigehisa Kuriyama’s The Expressiveness of the Body, as a mode for thinking through or expanding out the examination of the ways that embodied modes of knowing the body get mobilized as they travel across space, time, or context.
This is an intriguing topic — something mundane that the author makes thought provoking.
Anna Harris suggests at least two kinds of case comparison: ‘pedagogical’ listening where medical students assess the sounds of other bodies against the ‘gold standard’ of their own; and pedagogical vs. pathological autophony, such as tinnitus or the more exotic examples recounted in the medical literature like listening to your eyes move. Perhaps she could push these comparisons a bit more by considering the sociality of autophony. In the pedagogical case, the sounds of your own body are easily audible to others, either directly or with the medium of the stethoscope. In the pathological cases, the sounds are only audible to yourself. Hearing voices is considered by some to be another kind of pathology, though the question here is whether such voices are experienced as coming from your own body.
All kinds of other bodily noises are easily audible to others, but we try to control the sounds (not coughing loudly or blowing one’s nose in others’ hearing).
Anna mentions ‘the gurgles of digestion’ in passing and digestive noises are particularly intriguing. In many cultures they are not supposed to be audible to others; farts and belches are best for private listening.
If autophony is a specific case of the general pattern of sensing one’s own body, then it would be interesting to consider how listening differs from seeing or feeling. Can the distinction between pedagogical and pathological be made here too? Is Anna Harris mainly interested in the pedagogical events where health workers compare their own bodily senses to those of patients? The concluding suggestion that ‘through self-listening bodily borders are crossed’ seems to apply primarily to her pedagogical examples.
would it be possible to include examples of resonant and dull percussions, for example of healthy lungs and those affect4ed by TB?
Maybe explain the last sentence
So in the end, the concern is with the pedagogical and not the pathological. What do the examples of pathological autophony help us to understand about self-sensing as a basis for knowing others?
The last sentence seems to open up to all kinds of sensory knowledge, not only the auditory. That is good, but maybe it could be discussed a little earlier.
Law, medicine, psychoanalysis … I like your selection. However, not all cases in law become a precedent, not all criminal cases are mysteries, not all medical cases are unusual. The standard or normal case is as relevant for the understanding of thinking in cases. Case-work may learn from the both in relation: ordinary and extra-ordinary.
The ethnographic case entails more, I think, than just a narrative. There might be various obligatory components that make a case a complete case: consisting of thick description, relevant theoretical or conceptual references, categories that identify what the case is a case of.
The legal case, for instance, consists of matter-rule-verdict. All components are integrated to one unity. The case-worker needs to work on all components, not in a series, but in relation, in order to make them one whole.The case-reports use all three components to place them close to relatively similar/different cases.
A similar operation is done with ethnographic cases. They are more than just a collection of stories. It would be interesting to ask, when exactly an ethnographic case is completed and how it can be related to similar/different cases. By the analysed activity field, by comparable theoretical frames, by similar/identical/related concepts.
The author is an ordering device rather used in literature studies. Thinking with ethnographic cases would be stronger, in my opinion, if the strong author-function could be weakened in light of the field-concept-theory. Not the author and its ethnographies, but ethnographic fields and their authors. But this might be an empirical, not an analytical question.
Styles of writing in relation to the other components might be a forgotten or undervalued component. How does the style articulate the field and the author and certain theoretical preferences?
I like this! Teaching ethnographic cases is cool. The question that dervies from this: How do we learn from related cases? How do we discover similariities and differences that teach us something about our own field and how it could be shaped and articulated ethnographically.
The same case-practice, or doing ethnographic cases, applies to referecing the work of others. To place our field in the midst of related others would inform our work and would turn the rather individual work of an ethnographer into a matter of collective learning of the ethnographic community. However, most of the time, ethnographic cases are too hermetic, too little explicated in the relevant components. Cases then remain unrelated.
I am not happy with this concentration of narratives. The lack of conceptual and theoretical work in order to complete the ethnographic case may cause the difficulties that I mentioned above: that we are not able to related different ethnographic cases.
This includes certain ways/styles of cutting or delimiting the field to one more ore less coherent whole that allows us to say something about it in terms of modes, structures, orders, multiplicity, networks etc.
I guess you have a broad undestanding of narrative, but probbaly it might be useful to think more in terms of necessary or minimal components. A sense of sufficiency, of completness even that would make us go on with the research circle, because the ethnography is not completed yet.
I don’t think that worlds could materialize through research (alone). The worlds offere themselves to research as well, and provide a set of events and materialities that can be translated into data or stories or experience.
Sometimes, our ethnographies do not live up to the world as it works; we then would not recognize the field in the writings, or the natives would not recognize themselves and what they tried to tell and teach the ethnographer about their ways and views.
The ethnographic ontologies and epistemeologies are not at all one-directional. Materialization, at least, is a complex, distributed, ongoing inter-objectivity and inter-activity.
Sorry, for my farreaching comments. I fully understand when you stick to your agenda. Perhaps my comments remind you of the huge differences within the field of ethnography and the different ways, ethnographic cases are brought into interplay. This may explain why we do not have one ethnographic casuistic, something that classical ethnography once tried to achieve. We rather find different case-systems, each with its own ordering, case-formats, modes of relating, etc.
Thanks! Fixed. 🙂
Christian Lund has written a pearl of a piece called “Of What is This a Case?: Analytical Movements in Qualitative Social Science Research”
To paraphrase, I have always found it exceedingly fascinating and helpful to think along the lines “of what is this an ethnographic case?”
name the group
asked by whom?
A good case study of working with heterogeneous activist groups. I think that Donna Haraway’s quote in paragraph 29 might be a better organizing element than extractivism. The title as it is appears to succumb to a kind of totalizing discourse (extractivism and refusal) interpreted to end in failure. Haraway’s quote points to the messiness which is, in fact, embraced by the author in the final paragraph.
Teresa Velasquez’s examination of refusal and failure brings into focus anticipations of ethnographic “neatness” or success, activist or no, queering the framework of both ethnographic endeavor and the best laid plans of recursive exchange. For Rosita, learning “how to speak” included refusal to engage with certain interlocutors, and rejecting Velasquez’s understanding of a shared project. Her refusal forces recognition of the conflicting interpretations of mutuality and the murkiness often characteristic of fieldwork collaborations. The speculation that Rosita’s refusal perhaps indicated fear of information circulating beyond her control points to our own desires for validation, both within the communities or sites in which we work, and in the academic communities in which we participate. Velasquez’s analysis recognizes that learning “how to speak” also includes learning how to not speak.
The questions asked in the opening paragraph don’t appear to be the questions that engage the author. The focus of the piece seems less on the extractive nature of anthropological work, and more on messy and awkward entanglements of activism and anthropological research. The potential for messiness in heterogeneous activism also surfaces, when Doña Patricia and other women initially agreed to participate in the workshop, to be overruled by Rosita. Can the piece be pivoted to reflect this? (This speaks to Joan’s comment above, as well.)
Collaboration offers one way to consider The Ethnographic Case as a project. As collaborative anthropologists, we benefit from thinking together, checking ideas, challenging first and second impressions, and being in a productive space of ongoing re-consideration. Our reading benefits from our relationship, and recognizes the rewards and challenges of collaborative work. The larger project invites careful conversation and thinking about different ethnographic and anthropological issues and positionings, whether “in the field” or not.
how about ‘return research’ instead?
is there a reason for the shift from ‘cooling off’ to regaining trust? Is it more than a simple question of time?
[By rejecting the government’s proposal in mining policy]
by rejecting the government’s mining policy proposal
I’m not quite clear why rejecting a government mining proposal is a refusal to embody a neoliberal subject position? I get the general point, but in this context do all such rejections constitute a similar form of refusal? Are there other ways of reading such rejections? Are all refusals a refusal of neo-liberalism? Also, does Rosita articulate her own refusal in feminist terms?
I enjoyed this foray into feminist anti-mining activities. It is written in an engaging fashion, and brandishes a sincere positional ethics.
I was wondering about the initial analogy of the extractive similarities between ethnography and mining. As someone that has worked on extraction issues I find it an intriguing proposition. However, I feel that the piece never really gets round to fleshing out the proposition in more detail. It is hinted at in Rosita’s refusal to reengage with the ethnographer, and while we are told in paragraph 11 that “her concerns were translated into the idiom of extractivism” we don’t learn in what ways. How did she articulate this? Would it be possible to reflect a little on this at the end of the piece after we have been given the ethnographic detail?
Paragraph 28 gives us the text’s second moment of refusal. Here we learn that this is the refusal to embody a neo-liberal subject position. I think the move to neoliberlism, while understandable, is too sudden. What would happen if this concept was sidelined temporarily? Also, what is the connection, if any, between these two moments of refusal?
In paragraph 26, we learn that the ethnographer was asked to ‘cool off’ her collaboration, but then we learn that trust was regained. Might it be interesting to tell us a little bit more about this transition? At the same time, I’m wondering if this might be connected to Rosita’s refusal to reengage. What might the connections be between the breaching and regaining of trust, and Rosita’s refusal?
The final paragraphs, 28 through 30, characterises the frictions in the relationship between the ethnographer and Rosita as one of differential positioning between feminism and ethnography. But I’m left wondering if that the key distinction? Drawing on Strathern is interesting because Strathern herself uses the distinction between feminism and anthropology in a highly reflexive way to make a point about concepts and comparisons. It would be interesting to see if the author can make a reflexive move that does more than invoke the distinction as the ground for divergence between ethnography and activism.
To what extent is the power you have also related to (academic, activist and other) public arenas and networks – which you might have helped to developed through your activism?
They ‘end with something sexual’ – like what, for example?
When first reading the text, I got confused about which emails you are referring to in relation to the emails mentioned in the opening paragraph. There is a rather long suspense until the ‘unsettling’ email is revealed.
I’d find it helpful to learn a bit more about ‘discernment’ in this paragraph – what are typical forms and practices? What is its alleged purpose, what are some of its effects (even if you elaborate this further below)?
Can you be a bit more specific about how they Mennonites engage a ‘masculinist discourse’, and what ‘their choices in response to those who called them queers’ have been?
Are there any resources publicly available that document some of the violence you refer to? I’d find it helpful if you could include some references/links.
This is an insightful and deeply moving piece. I liked the way in which the case around the legitimation and de-legitimation of knowledge is developed through ethnographic descriptions. In particular, I liked the discussion of the intricacies ensuing from the endeavour to confront established practices and forms of knowledge through activist interventions.
At some places, some more context (especially on ‘discernment’) as well as specificity might be helpful – I’ve inserted some comments below.
In line with the book’s aim to advance scholarly debates, the text could also engage feminist (and other) discussions around power/knowledge/representation. Foucault’s notion of ‘pastoral power’ also comes to mind. What seems to be specific in the case of the Mennonites, though, seems to be the way in which formations of power and knowledge are stabilized through collective practices such as discernment (rather than through the priest’s sovereignty). It might be interesting to bring out such specificities and reflect on their effects regarding the wider discussion of why it is so difficult for the subaltern to speak and be heard.
(regarding my comment on the whole page see paragraph 1)
small copyediting thing – there’s a “one,” but not a “two”
or maybe – what gets to be counted as a case in the first place? what is dismissed in these institutions never rises to the level of even an aberrant case, but instead is part of a gray space or something more ill-defined / or of a process of sexualization. obviously the definition of a case helps to bound it as aberrant, but I think there’s also the politics of acknowledging a case even exists.
Very nice chapter! This first paragraph reminds me of Peter Sloterdijk’s contribution to Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel’s Making Things Public (MIT Press, 2005), where he argues that ‘the list’ is the oldest democratic technology. Sloterdijk suggests that having a list of speakers in a political meeting ensures that everyone has the opportunity to talk; there’s no need for tricks or the silencing of others.
It’s interesting to think about how Sloterdijk’s claim relates to other contexts and ways of being present. In a political setting, one is expected to be able to sit quietly, waiting for his/her turn, but in many other settings that’s not necessarily easy. Yours is a good case of contrast…
This resonates strongly with a paper I co-authored with Sebastian Abrahamsson titled ‘Becoming stronger by becoming weaker’ https://link.springer.com/article/10.1057/s41268-018-0140-6
The paper is about a hunger strike that took place in 2012 in Brussels, at the Free University. The hunger strikers were 23 men from North Africa and the Middle East, illegal immigrants hoping to get a residency- or work permit in Belgium. The Belgian state’s official response was that the hunger strike was an act of blackmailing; the hunger strikers should have just waited for their turn, like everyone else. As if they had eternal time…
It’s a really interesting question what temporal regimes waiting supports and what temporal regimes it makes difficult or impossible.
It would be good to either unpack this paragraph here and/or already introduce the argument in the introduction. There’s lots to be said about Agamben’s uses of bare life and politically qualified life, especially when these notions are complicated/elaborated through ethnographic stories. Perhaps it’s interesting for you to look at Sovereign Lives https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/9781135937959
I’m not sure about the use of Agamben’s ‘bare life’ here, for two reasons. First, it is my understanding that bare life, for Agamben, refers to the human being stripped of rights, as enacted through the state of exception – that is, the contrary to the definition provided here. Secondly, I found the analysis along the lines of personhood presented above (p. 9-11), more compelling and more closely related to the ethnographic material presented. I would suggest expanding on it, rather than introducing Agamben.
Can you explain what you mean by ‘attachment to hierarchy’ in this context? The reference to ‘the degradation of poor people’s personhood’ also needs unpacking in my opinion. This would help making this first paragraph tighter.
See comment on para. 12 re Agamben.
I liked your overarching analytic insight, that is, how certain forms of ‘formal’ equality can indeed threaten personhood. It made me think about what this may mean for rethinking the state (decolonising it?) along more progressive lines.
I appreciate your meditation on bare life here, but find that I am not so convinced that this is what is going on here as the state of exception in which one becomes bare life is recognized when one is killable. This is why Agamben uses the camp as his model. Apart from the obvious sense in which a waiting room is not, in this case, a place where one might be reduced to a killable body (although this might not apply to all waiting rooms), it begs the question as to whether the power and discipline of waiting for the deployment of care in service of life-sustaining practice is better described through some other mechanism. Thanks for making me think about this line of flight.
Interesting think piece, that raises relevant questions.
Some things might need some further explanation.
First, I get no sense as to what Javier and Kati think/hope/expect to get out of having their lives filmed and exposed to a broader audience. What do they think a film is and does? What is the status of the medium in Equador? What fantasies of fame, recognition, ‘being someone worthy of attention’ does the camera trigger? Nick Couldry’s work on “media rituals”, which addresses the way people attribute power to media, and turn “media spaces” into the realm of ‘things that matter’, might be relevant here.
Then there is the issue of “representation”. I agree that representation of any sort is fraught, and its ethics slippery. One solution would be to make that problem, and the discomfort that comes with it, explicit in the film: indeed, one off my main critiques of the documentary genre is that it often fails to bring up these issues in the film, but only addresses them outside the film (in debates, Q & A sessions, writings). Shouldn’t anthropological film distinguish itself exactly on this point, and seek to make these issues part of the film? The text does not tell me what kind of documentary this is: in what way is the filmmaker present in the film? Is there voice-over narration? Is the intersubjectivity of the encounter made explicit? I find that the essay film, for instance, offers many interesting ways to make the issues that are raised here part and parcel of the film.
A third issue: I’m curious to learn how the film seeks to arrive at something akin to ‘thick description’: obviously, for a non-local spectator to make sense of Javier’s and Kati’s actions, the cultural codes specific to their lifeworlds need to be brought in. In this text, these are only addressed in the most general terms. How to avoid that non-local audiences watching the film will mobilize their own moral frameworks to process the stories the film brings to them?
Lastly, I’m curious to know: was there ever a moment that the filmmaker decided that the film should not be made? Was that ever a real option? I mean, I can totally imagine that giving up on a film is the last thing a filmmaker wants to do, but then again, if the film is going to be made “no matter what”, the whole ethics discussion becomes a bit superfluous.
Other than that, I’d like to repeat that I greatly liked the piece.
Are clips going to be included? Would be great.
Consider link with next paragraph, which switches to Javier’s story.
[As a result, the above clip is powerful because Javier finally acknowledges that Kati had never fallen during pregnancy.]
I don’t think this needs to be reiterated.
[This case is about this (mis)representation]
I think I get the tension you’re trying to highlight by using (mis)representation, but I wonder if it needs to be unpacked? I don’t see why focusing on an exception would be an instance of misrepresentation – this would only be the case if one expects the case to speak for the whole (i.e. to be representative), an assumption that would be problematic for many anthropologists and ethnographers.
[The film’s narrative arc ended up focusing on Javier’s redemption story]
I find this very interesting, as it speaks to another tension your case alludes to: that between certain established forms (i.e. the documentary narrative arc) and the messy stories we encounter during fieldwork. Does relying on familiar formats preclude an openness to the plurality of forms that social life takes? Would abandoning familiar forms mean alienating our audience?
I think this is very important: focusing on Javier is also a way of sustaining your interest in gender and kinship, including motherhood. It generates a powerful tension between the seen and the unseen, the said and the unsaid, that reveals social concepts and expectations.
This chapter is a sublime instantiation of how story-telling shapes our knowledge and practice – the main theme of this collection. Anna’s chapter resonates with many things that matter to story-telling as a “continuing struggle with description” in the words of Marilyn Strathern. And as Strathern continues “[d]escription presupposes analysis, an analysis presupposes theory, and they all presuppose imagination. … one description is always interpreted in the company of others and nothing is in that sense by itself”.
It is this struggle that this chapter pays attention to and that I would like to pause at. Paying attention to this struggle requires a sensitivity for “neglected things” (Puig de la Bellacasa 2011) and/or “invisible work” (Star 1991, Suchman 1995). The chapter might benefit from drawing much more explicitly on such analytical sensitivities of feminist technoscience work in a broader sense. In which way, I wonder, does such attentiveness require an “ethical responsibility” as Anna concludes? What does “ethical responsibility” mean for scholarly story-telling? Inspired by María Puig de la Bellacasa’s contribution to Matters of Care: Speculative Ethics in More Than Human Worlds and Helen Verran’s contributions on “ontological disconcertment” I would like to suggest that such “response-able” (Haraway 2016) storytelling implies a realisation – taking the double meaning of the word literally – of our always already ongoing involvement in more than human worlds and the possibilities and obligations this realization of involvement entails.
In this way, I would like to suggest Anna’s inclusion of her own discomfort in her struggle to (mis)represent deserves utmost attention; this allows her to – as Verran would put it – pay attention to “the figure of the knower” in the story-telling. Cultivating such moments also cultivates modesty and situatedness of knowledge practices through the life-stories we live-tell. In this sense, I imagine such moments not so much as leading us to tell stories about “exceptions”, but rather as moments that allow us to cultivate a persistent practice of asking the cui bono question (Star 2015), always afresh, caring for difference and marginalization; also the marginalizations that the “figure of the knower” in the story-telling entails.
Haraway, Donna J. 2016. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
Puig de la Bellacasa, María. 2011. “Matters of Care in Technoscience: Assembling Neglected Things.” Social Studies of Science 41(1):85-106.
Star, Susan Leigh. 1991a. “Invisible Work and Silenced Dialogues in Knowledge Representation.” Pp. 81-92 in Women, Work and Computerization, edited by I. V. Eriksson, B. A. Kitchenham and K. G. Tijdens. North-Holland: Elsevier.
Star, Susan Leigh. 2015b. “Revisiting Ecologies of Knowledge: Work and Politics in Science and Technology.” Pp. 13-46 in Boundary Objects and Beyond, edited by G. C. Bowker, S. Timmermans, A. E. Clarke and E. Balka. Cambridge and London: The MIT Press
Strathern, Marilyn. 1999. Property, Substance & Effect. London: the Athlone Press.
Suchman, Lucy. (1995) Making Work Visible. Communications of the ACM 38: 56-64.
Verran, Helen. 1999. “Staying True to the Laughter in Nigerian Classrooms.” Pp. 136-55 in Actor Network Theory and After, edited by J. Law and J. Hassard. Oxford, UK / Malden (MA), USA: Blackwell Publishers.
Verran, Helen. 2001. Science and an African Logic. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.
Verran, Helen. 2017a. “Concepts as Companions.” PhD Summer School Concepts as Companions, Aarhus, Denmark.
This feels like the moment where you create some ‘sticky’ points for the reader to attach their own projects and thoughts to your case. But this moment could be ‘stickier’, for me. Reciprocity and gift-exchange is rarely logical or rational, so assuming it should be does not seem a rich place to start (unless you can put it together with more recent anthropological gift literatures). What else might you say about this Lithuanian hospital cake?
Perhaps tell the reader about why you, as a reasearcher, find this cake so ‘tasty’ and appealing?
This paragraph is a wonderful little reflection on future-making, how powerful the future is as an imaginary in places of care. The little envelope of care that entangles ‘before’ and ‘after’, that entangles time and hope, as a practice: could you do more with this lovely little ethnographic reflection?
As a reader, I am interested in how futures are made with care, how care is made to endure, so perhaps you could engage with this, here? For example, by connecting cake crumbs with soil samples in Maria Puig de la Bellacasa’s ‘Making time for soil’ paper (2015).
I rather liked this ending to your story, although I did wonder if an ‘epilogue’ might be useful: what were the ‘bits of an ongoing story’ that were being passed on?
How did the nurses and doctors tell the story of the cake to each other, or to their families, other than it being an exchange item? The ‘cake as story’ is not the same as ‘cake as currency’. How did the ‘cake as story’ travel with its slices around the unit, and outside the unit? Sharing the cake seemed ‘baked in’ to the gift, since it can be passed around, but was storytelling also ‘baked in’?
These and other reflections and questions are intended to help open up this piece, to see if the case of the cake could be cut differently–perhaps a little sharper.
Overall, the writing style of the piece is well done for a short vignette, and I enjoyed the small bite, here.
Was the nurses’ ‘eye roll’ a mutual recognition of Galina’s ‘backwardness’? Their comments on her poverty frame her behavior as irrational. Is the lavish cake giving interpreted as part of a larger pattern of irrational behavior that keep Lithuanian’s poor?
You could note that the gifting worked in the textbook Maussian fashion, stimulating debt and regifting, even among nurses who disparaged the practice.
is guilt a new emotion associated with this practice in the neoliberal context?
This rich paragraph contains a lot that could be unpacked, and then turned into a framing argument for the piece, connected to your observation about multiple forms of care embedded in the gift interaction. How an why does the logic exceed the gift to become a bribe? What interpretive work is involved as reading it as one or another or both? How might this connect to broader narratives of modernity? Is ‘bribe’ a more recent (neoliberal, democratic) disparagement of gift exchange? This could be an important dimension to consider in light of the kind of future(s) that might follow (thinking of other comment here as well). To what extent has gift giving become understood as part of a broader range of behaviors that keep Lithuania (and similar countries) in the past, economically, socially and politically? What might this case reveal about recent transformations of ethical frameworks and new meanings of gift exchange in relation to modernization narratives, as well as the persistent remainders or aporia in these new logics? I am reminded of Kregg Hetherington’s analysis of the interminability of transparency in regards to neoliberal land titling in Uruguay.
Fascinating – who or what (to follow your great line of argument RE sensing objects) identified the smell? Members of the public, like the ones you quote (link is assumed but not obvious)?
Reminds me of an article in Cabinet about scratch n smell cards distributed to certain publics or maybe soldiers, to help them identify gas leaks (although cannot find reference annoyingly).
This answers some of my question above.
Answers some of my question above.
Right, now I understand your use of the passive in paragraph 4!
This is a really great essay, which I loved reading. Beautifully crafted in its storytelling. Apologies for the comments below that were answered as I read further. I see now the slow reveal that unpacks assumptions. I have little to comment in regards to changes. I am intrigued by the last paragraph and what it raises – how thinking in cases differs from other kinds of thinking in regards to “allowing voices”, and what it means for the “possibility of participation”, and what the new styles of interlocution might be – but I guess there isn’t really the space to delve more into this here.
what are stomach tubes?
When mentioning that they are, “keeping patients alive to fit our own circumstances”, it makes you wonder how the patients themselves see this as despite the fact that their mental capcity is deteriorating they must have some thoughts on what is happening to them. Indeed it would perhaps be useful to hear more of peoples’ opinions in general upon this rather than a more factual account in future. The context of their thoughts may help to understand what exactly is meant by this “case by case” basis and what they consider a case for the feeding tubes.
We think this is a really interesting point and promotes important discussion on the ethics of care and specifically around the logic of care and logic choice.
The use of imagery allows for an increased empathy among readers. It gives you a break from reading the text and draws you in.
However, the reference takes over the attention of the photo, especially as the description is long but still not explained in much depth. Perhaps a hyperlink would work better.
There could have been more elaboration of the conversation that took place to get more context. The experiences of the two men making the decision for their mothers could have had more details about the individual cases.
Really like the use of conversation to help format the blog post.
I’m noticing that the focus has shifted from fetal anomalies (the tumor in Chai’s fetus) to infertility and stillbirth. I wonder if this is worth noting, especially since these differences align with differently sexed reproductive bodies (at least here in the essay). I can see that the next paragraph partly addresses this, but I’m just wondering if infertility and fetal anomalies should be conflated (and I’m truly wondering; not necessarily saying they shouldn’t).
I love what this paragraph does; opening up “the environment” to multiple and overlapping definitions and stakeholders.
Is there anything uniquely/particularly “Chinese” about this present-future trajectory? I don’t have any kind of answer or inkling, but since so much climate science is “sold” via the bodies and lives of future generations, I am wondering if there is more to say about how it looks and sounds here.
It’s hard for me to not see gender at work here. Chai Jing’s story may indeed have been about her particular fetus, but it was also the story of a mother (vs. a potential father). Since many of us know only the broad strokes of China’s reproductive policies, could you provide a bit of context about if and how fathers might be more valued than mothers? Or if and why this is not the case?
I really like your use of inspiration. I think it works really well and would love to read more about it. I’m imagining that it plays a role in the larger book — could you give us a little bit more here?
The themes of this article resonate, in a strange way perhaps, with theories of risk and risk perception. Thinking of Ulrich Beck’s work, as well as more recent writings on “risk experience” such as Chloe Ahmann’s short piece in MAQ’s Sensorial Engagements in a Toxic World collection, “The Incinerator Does Not Exist”. (http://medanthroquarterly.org/2017/03/29/the-incinerator-does-not-exist-sensory-engagement-with-toxic-potentials/) So much happens through and around the non-event, the non-existing…
Can’t help but wonder what role gender might play in this “case” – in Kelly’s experience of it, in her retelling to the anthropologist, and in the anthropological analysis of this “non-event”.
It is interesting, as you say, how training strives to turn messiness into certainty but “partial ways of knowing and doing” are still what manages to define who lives and potentially dies. Perhaps it is only this lack of uniformity that makes her regard this series of (non-)events as “the craziest story”.
In other words, would this still be Kelly’s “best story” had the driver of the “rule-breaking” vehicle been shot? Was it the threat to her life and her luck that made this case stand out, or the messiness – the lack of adherence to the rubrics and rules – which leads her to interpret the story as crazy?
This is a really important question–what makes this stand out?
Especially given current conversations in the U.S. and elsewhere about police brutality. I am struck here, as I am in other situations, by the way that context is both written out and so important. For Kelly, it seems it was the context of possibilities that called for Kelly’s fear, something she also seems to see as an objective reading through the ‘rules’ of escalation that are themselves so one-sided.
[We call it a polygraph. It resembles a lie detector—not because it reports a singular truth or discerns untruths, but because it marks vital processes simultaneously at different points in a social body. ]
This is brilliant – the image, the translation of bodies into marks on a page. This is work that seems to go beyond the kind of casual collaboration that most ethnographers at least try. Would you go so far as to call it a new ethnographic genre? Is there a case to call for more and more of this sort of polygaphy?
I think you are getting close to saying this – to making the call for polygraphic anthro – but you stick close to your self as case study. Too close?
[o listen to how our interlocutors knitted threads together or dropped stitches. ]
Another lovely image evoking a sense of the body, of home, of narrative, and the imperfection of the whole damn thing. Leads really well into the case of Jackie
This reminds me a bit of Dan Linger’s article in Ethos a few years ago “What does it mean to be someone else”. Linger makes a strong case for presenting many longer narratives with minimal interference, a resistance to an anthropology of “a single truth” as you put it so well.
[assembling evidence through multi-sighted investigation at several locations in the social body]
Again, this line makes me wonder if you’d go so far as to call on more ethnographers to do the same – to go from merely multi-sited to a richer multi-sighted kind of knowledge production? A wonderful challenge to conventional approaches and relevant to all of us working on relatedness and care!
[My fieldwork frequently circled back to the ways in which forms of knowledge making during the sexual assault trial normalized the absence of injury by deploying a scaffolding for interpreting the findings of a pelvic examination, reinscribing a gendered understanding of the “vagina.” ]
I believe that the point about “reinscribing a gendered understanding of the vagina” is very important to the entire argument and should therefore be made in a separate and clear sentence. For me the argument is not sufficiently clear.
In my view the singular experience of a particular victim-witness unavoidably can only be made relevant for any kind of discourse by being translated into a form that is recognizable by the other participants of the discourse. And this translation into a form that already exists and is legible by those who are familiar with the relevant ‘web of belief’ necessarily loses the singularity. Already the translation of the singular experience into language implicates some of this loss.
So I wonder what horizon of another possibility the description entails?
I wonder if the role of the nurse is being described as something that should not be as it is and wonder even more so how else it then should be. If there is no normative intention in this description, I wonder what the point of the argument is.
A case-study in law, in my view, is there to demonstrate a general point by taking a particular case. While it is clear from the description what the particular case is (proving that there was sexual assault), it is not so clear to me what the general point is meant to be. Is it about the mechanism by which the singular experience is being prevented from entering the court room? And how this is achieved among other mechanism by the drawings the schematize the body and avoid visceral reactions?
I appreciate that I have not perhaps spelled out exactly, the implications of the legal case. In this piece, I want to think about the material practices through which the absence of evidence is given presence. In a sense, how do we build a case when our evidence is the absence of evidence.
You are correct that there is no normative intention. I am curious whether you think there should be. I don’t see this as a particularly interesting anthropological priority. I have a sense of the shifting labor of the nurse as being conscripted into various projects as it travels from site to site, projects ranging from clinical care to criminal justice investigation. I want to make these processes visible, and to question the taken-for-granted in how we purport to interpret and make sense of sexual violence in the juridical frame.
This piece is so well constructed and effectively argued I have little to say about its specific components or overall argument, so I will just indulge in the thoughts it raised for me, which perhaps just restates in slightly different form what is in the text.
Most, maybe all, knowledge, even the ‘firm rules and statistically salient regularities’ start out as cases, or collections of cases. But some knowledge stays in the case form, and it is the tacitness of it that makes it so. Its lesson is that when we build a knowledge edifice, such as of medical knowledge, we end up hiding things. A case, as explained here, makes those parts of knowledge hidden by the codified edifice visible. So I think the ‘case of a case’ tells us something about the nature of knowledge as well as practices of knowing.
It seems to me the case only makes its lesson clear when it is put in relation to another case, or to the statistical regularities or rules of practice, otherwise it is just a story. As the author puts it here, it is a warning for people who rely on book learning, a kind of cautionary-tale-in-reverse, and so is perhaps not much use to others. It makes me wonder under what conditions a case will exhaust its usefulness, not just in the sense that it ‘doesn’t hold’ in a different context, but because the knowledge edifice itself has changed. Perhaps when it becomes a rule itself (‘always inject dirty turpentine into the uninfected leg’), rather than the lessons that underpin it.
I think this paragraph could do with a small amount of expansion for those not familiar with some of the language such as ‘mono-naturalist’ and ‘natures’, perhaps very brief examples of what these are or a few more words to make the examples clearer.
But this conclusion is a generalization from this case. But it also shows what the problem is with unchecked cases, all the more so when they come as just so stories. What if the patient would have died because of the intervention, which could also have happened? what if he remembered the substance wrongly or what if it were poisoned with some substance in the paint? Would the next sentence then still be there? Or would the lesson be: stick to your textbooks, because they contain hundreds of years of research. As a doctor, do not be daring, as your mistakes may have deadly consequences?
If we grant that the patient could have died because of the intervention, we can then ask what the case of a case is here differently: Each case may be unique, but precisely because we do not know how it relates to the universe of other, similar and different cases, we cannot infer from what happened in one case any general rule about practices.
I also wonder why the case here is a story, a story told by a grandfather to his grandchild? Isn’t there a difference for an ethnographer, and in particular for an ANT-multiplicities ethnographer between a story of a grandparent and an ethnographic case? Isn’t the messyness of ethnographic cases something entirely different from a story as this one? This story has a classical dramatic arch, a protagonist-hero who encounters a crisis of life and death and emerges through bold decision making as hero? It sounds like the opposite of the cases you usually focus on, which for good reasons come without drama, heroes and life and death decisions that are decided the right way?
See my comment above. I think this is the main lesson here, but then I am not sure why the lesson above could be: “don’t just depend on your textbooks…” Isn’t what you write here running against that lesson? What in the turpentine story allows us to check how far that lesson travels? As indicated above, I think there is a problem here, because it is not an ethnographic case but more something like a parable. The way the story is made up makes it on the surface too easy to travel, while at the same time does not contain enough detail to indicate where it does not travel.
You can make the points below precisely because these are not parables, but cases about which you know in detail what some of their specificities are that limit their transportability and moreover, you know something about the other cases of comparison (for example cancer).
Or to reverse the point: What would be the point of comparison for the turpentine story?
To summarize, I think there is an unexplored tension in the text: It is about what is a case, and I think there are two very different cases you rely on: parables and ethnographic cases. You then ask how we can travel from one case to another, but I think this is constrained very much by the kind of case we deal with.
I think there is something there about the way you treat cases as theoretical cases, or what Walton (“Making the theoretical case” in the Becker/Ragin collection) calls an analytical case as opposed to a substantive case.
A parable lends itself very well to creating analytical cases, precisely because it gets rid of many of the complexities of ethnographical cases. I am not worried about doing so, but I am a bit puzzled that you do not note the gulf between the analytical cases and ethnographical cases. Rather than pretending they are the same, I would suggest you could explore in far more detail what the differences are between the two.
Thanks for the wonderful material!
Not sure how to engage with the chapter – I haven’t seen your film and I haven’t been to the Danube delta (although I’d love to visit!), so I don’t quite feel competent to comment. But perhaps this is my point. The way the chapter is currently structured makes it pretty difficult for an academic reader to relate to the material, other than saying ‘it’s wonderful’.
I don’t know how much restructuring is possible before the second version of the book is published, but here are a couple of questions that might help to make the argument clearer throughout the text and the audiovisual material.
What do you mean by post-representational anthropology? Is what you’re doing really post-representational? Or are you problematising the notion of representation by making its conditions more visible?
Some of the clips evoke or resemble classical documentaries, while others almost poke fun of the genre. I really enjoyed the little visual jokes, but was also wondering what phenomena classical documentaries make visible and audible, and what phenomena appear – or appear differently – when you mess with the genre?
In the chapter you interweave texts and clips from your film. I suppose you want to avoid using the clips as illustrations of a textual argument, which is completely understandable. But what do these clips do, then? And how do they relate to each other? Are we, uninitiated readers, expected to learn from them something about the Danube delta? Or your film? Or certain puzzles and challenges in (visual) anthropology?
One possible way of restructuring the chapter would be to say the ethnographic film (or documentary) is becoming an established method in anthropology. While this might be a good thing, it’s also important to see that as a method it is strongly implicated in the making of the reality it’s supposed to represent. If this is the case, the task is not to move beyond representation, but to draw attention to the performativity of the ethnographic film as a method. In your film, and in this chapter, you’re highlighting a couple of interesting aspects of this performativity, which has important consequences not only for the method but also for your object of research, namely life in the Danube Delta.
Hope this is helpful…
I like the idea of post-representational anthropology, however, the way it is phrased here suggests that debates about representation in anthropology (representational anthropology?) failed to address the problematic notion of ‘truth’, whereas I think that was very much what these debates did discuss.
I wondered: what is the relevance of stressing that the film was worked on before the writing?
the first sentence of paragraph 5 is intriguing, but I would like to learn more as to what ‘implication’, ‘visual resonance’ and ‘identification’ mean. The next sentence suggests a contrast between him and text that I find questionable: the meaning of a text also necessarily involves the imagination of the reader. The last sentence of this paragraph seems to address an altogether different issue …
first sentence of paragraph 7 a bit too vague …. not sure what ‘other fieldwork decisions refers to
“I happened upon it” (paragraph 8) sounds odd
The video-clips are very beautiful and work well in interaction with the text, although I would like to read some reflection about how the author conceives this relationship. I was struck by the fact that the text explicitly refers to the clips (saying what they are, and do), but the clips do not speak back to the text (saying what a text is and does, for instance); or do they, implicitly, as they take me out of the text, and make me wish I could stay in the delta?
2nd May 2018 at 12:50 am
See in context
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