13th EASA Biennal Conference : “The Future of the Anthropology and Anthropologists of the Contemporary Middle East and Central Eurasia” (P076) — Université de Talline (Etsonie), 31/07-03/08/2014

13th EASA Biennial Conference
Collaboration, Intimacy & Revolution – innovation and continuity in an interconnected world
Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Estonian Institute of Humanities,
Tallinn University, Estonia

31st July – 3rd August, 2014

The Anthropology of the Middle East and Central Eurasia Network’s Panel (P076)
The Future of the Anthropology and Anthropologists of the Contemporary Middle East and Central Eurasia

03 August 2014, 09:00 am

Panel Convenors
Prof. W. Beeman (Department of Anthropology, University of Minnesota, USA)
Dr. P. Khosronejad (Department of Social Anthropology, University of St- Andrews, Scotland)

On the Eastern Periphery of the Muslim World: Fieldwork in Xinjiang, Northwest China
Ildiko Beller-Hann (University of Copenhagen, Denmark)

Situated in the far north-western corner of China, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region has been attracting increasing scholarly attention internationally ever since the region became accessible for researchers in the early 1980s. Like the rest of China, this vast area has been targeted by a variety of “reform” policies and is presently undergoing rapid transformation. The Uyghur, a 10 million strong Turkic-speaking Muslim minority who constitute the dominant indigenous group in Xinjiang, have been included in the Chinese polity for centuries but continue to retain very close cultural affinities with the Turkic-speaking Muslims of Central Asia. Their persistent resistance to Beijing’s aggressive integrating and homogenizing policies (comparable to that of the Tibetans) renders social science research very sensitive. In spite of the difficulties (which will be documented in the paper) research on and in Xinjiang is pursued today with more vigour than ever; some speak about an emerging “Xinjiang Studies”, comparable to “Modern Tibetan Studies”. Only by focusing on less sensitive topics such as kinship and social support can anthropologists gain access to the field and attempt to evade political constraints on research, which are unlikely to diminish in the foreseeable future.

Iranian Merchants’ Business Strategies between Iran and Hamburg: a Historical Ethnography
Sonja Moghaddari (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Switzerland)

The city of Hamburg hosts several important Iran-related commercial institutions, such as the European-Iranian bank of commerce. Not only the close economic relations between Germany and Iran account for this fact, but also the longstanding commercial activities of Iranian merchants whose migration to Hamburg dates back to the late 19th century. This paper is concerned with the transnational business strategies through which Iranian migrants have been able to establish and maintain an important position in international trade with Iran. In particular, it aims to point out how migrants adapt their strategies of capital accumulation and keep up transnational business activities between Hamburg and Iran through changing political and economic conditions. Based on archival research and oral history alongside classical ethnography, the study provides an example of early transnational entrepreneurship and elite migration, critically engaging with the debate on transnational migration.
Four case studies highlight the role of capital created from family relations and ethnicity in migrants’ transnational business strategies within different historical contexts from the 1930s until today: a trading company’s changing board composition, a merchants association’s fundraising efforts for the construction of a mosque, a trader’s shifting political loyalties, and a union of Iranian businessmen’s lobbying activities. The paper concludes that the social and economical success of Iranian business migrants in Hamburg is not only due to flexible business strategies and transnational capital resources, but also to the interplay of their strategies with local socio-economic dispositions and to a continuous bilateral legal and institutional framework.

On the Outskirts of Dubai: Bedouin Villagers in a Rapidly Changing World
Anne Kathrine Larsen (Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway)

While The UAE has not experienced the violent clashes present other places in the Middle East, the country is still affected by the impact of global forces rapidly transforming the society. This has among others resulted in a huge immigrant population as well as an increasing number of tourists. The indigenous population faces great challenges when preparing themselves for the future, which is hard to predict due to economic fluctuations and the great social and cultural transformation of their country. While anthropology has a long history of studying underdog groups in society, this paper will focus on the elite minority population of Dubai, and more specifically on the Bedouin population living in a desert village outside Dubai City. In order to understand people’s ideas of well-being, it is necessary to map their views of the future and their role and position in the development of the country. This creates certain challenges for an anthropological study. In order to see how the villagers interpret and react to the changes taking place in their environment, fieldwork has been conducted off and on for a period of 14 years. This enables the anthropologist to follow people over time, to listen to their aspirations and options when planning for the future, and to see which choices are actually being made. The paper will especially focus on younger women, and their attempt to create a personal career by balancing and challenging the different demands on them as modern women in a rapidly changing environment.

Recovering a Search for Truth: Revolution, Moral Delusion, and Anthropologist as Constructive Critic
Aaron Eldridge (University of Oxford, UK)

Witnessing the rapid shifts in societies of the Middle East have led to a call for a better understanding of social change, conflict, and political participation. I propose that this may be accomplished through a recovery of truth as a valid and central concept in our analysis of society. I argue that analyses which take as their premise the deconstruction of certain discursive ‘regimes of truth’, while refusing to further compare such discourses to ‘the reality of things’, fundamentally fall short of the breadth and explanatory power anthropology is capable of as a discipline. In addition, I re-evaluate the ways in which anthropologists might conduct themselves as moral agents, as well as how we as members of the scientific community produce knowledge and engage in public discourse. In terms of the role of the anthropologists, this paper argues that active engagement and constructive criticism of the world in which we study is an intellectual obligation. As such, a better understanding of the explanatory necessity of our own value judgements, in addition to the value judgments of the people we study, as they relate to the truth, both implicates our behaviour as anthropologists and leads to a greater understanding of the motivations of people.

Woman in Modern Georgia: Family Breadwinner or Housewife? How has the Place of Woman in Georgian Society Changed after the Collapse of the USSR?
Natallia Paulovich (Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland)

Traditionally women in Georgia were involved in bringing up children and caring for families while men were breadwinners and performed only supportive role in bringing up children and keeping domestic economy. Now many women actually are breadwinners. Such position of contemporary Georgian women is largely depend on the current socio-economic situation in the country caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union, the wars in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the civil war during this period. It is the women who begin to earn money for all of their families while men wasn’t able to deal with the “post-war syndrome” and lose a job. These problems of early 90s joined a factor of high unemployment in the country what again resulted mainly on men. In such circumstances women are working hard to support their families outside of home but also putting a lot of energy in caring for the members of the family at home put their career and taking care for other members at the center of identity claiming that these two spheres allow them to express themselves. That allow me to talk about these women as possessing agency. Activities of women (in the home and outside it) are becoming a key point of cultural production and social reproduction which allow these women to move between the household and the public sphere. I came to this statements through fieldwork in Ozurgeti, Georgia, using as a research methods participant observations and in-depth interviews.

The Anthropology of the Middle East and its Refugees
Leonardo Schiocchet (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Austria)

In a recent article at JRAI, Joel Robbins addressed the pivotal shift from an anthropology of the savage to one of the “suffering subject”. The current accent on political, religious, ethnic, and gender minorities reflects the contemporary world’s ubiquitous political expression of civic contestation. Didier Fassin notes that as its subject shifts from “the other” to “the public”, anthropology itself becomes more public. Subaltern studies have long pointed toward the postcolonial nature of the world today. Inspired by these analyses, I suggest that, far and wide, minority struggles today reflect unique processes of settling ethnic, religious, political, and economic disputes, as subjects struggle between national citizenship and post-national political representation.
The Middle East has been a prominent arena for such civic struggles, as evidenced, for instance, by the Green Revolution in Iran, the so-called Arab Spring, the 2011 Turkish elections, and the war in Syria. For anthropologists, questions of governance, belonging, and policies emerged as central in these cases, thereby reinforcing anthropology’s growing public role. In these examples, relations between human rights and national belonging are at the core of the debate. My paper suggest that refugeeness is a point of inflection for contemporary anthropology, especially in the Middle East, given both its blaring empirical reality and its liminality – between a practical existence bound to the whims of particular nation states (and so-called post-national “apolitical” agencies) and universal claims of humanity. This discussion is informed by my ethnography on Palestinian refugees in the Middle East, Latin America, and Europe (2005-2014).

Citer ce billet
Chargé de diffusion scientifique (2014, 27 juin). 13th EASA Biennal Conference : “The Future of the Anthropology and Anthropologists of the Contemporary Middle East and Central Eurasia” (P076) — Université de Talline (Etsonie), 31/07-03/08/2014. IISMM. Consulté le 20 juin 2024, à l’adresse https://doi.org/10.58079/pye9

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