Democracy and Ethnography: Constructing Identities in Multicultural Liberal States

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These ethnographic essays by scholars in anthropology, law, political science, folklore, public administration, medicine, and linguistics show contemporary connections between liberal democracy and ethnography. Each perspective explores a modern democratic site—courts, classrooms, legislatures, the media, academic professions, and bureaucratic routines. Together, they expose a contradiction—that official constructions of identity treat “differences” as both natural characteristics of individuals and the collective basis of interest groups. This contradiction hampers liberal states’ efforts to acknowledge and accommodate the cultural diversity of citizens. They also show that official categories do not monopolize the available terms of understanding and identification, given the richness and flexibility of people’s self-identifications outside official spheres. This recognition implies an ethnographic project at the heart of democratic change.

The book develops two national case studies, the United States and Spain. Both countries have been invoked as models of multiculturalism, but their constitutional discourse and politics take very different approaches to issues of identity. Similarly, ethnographic disciplines have been involved in the officialization of difference in both countries, in different ways. Taken together, these differences and their common roots in the twinned histories of modern liberal democracy and the social sciences, provide ethnographic, reflexive, and comparative themes as well as broader theoretical and practical implications.
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About the author

Carol J. Greenhouse is Professor of Anthropology at Indiana University at Bloomington. She is the author of Praying for Justice: Faith, Hope and Community in an American Town and A Moment’s Notice: Time Politics Across Cultures, and coauthor (with Barbara Yngvesson and David Engel) of Law and Community in Three American Towns.

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Publisher
SUNY Press
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Pages
305
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ISBN
9781438404783
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Language
English
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Genres
Social Science / Anthropology / General
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This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Since 2008, the global economic crisis has exposed and deepened the tensions between austerity and social security—not just as competing paradigms of recovery but also as fundamentally different visions of governmental and personal responsibility. In this sense, the core premise of neoliberalism—the dominant approach to government around the world since the 1980s—may by now have reached a certain political limit. Based on the premise that markets are more efficient than government, neoliberal reforms were pushed by powerful national and transnational organizations as conditions of investment, lending, and trade, often in the name of freedom. In the same spirit, governments increasingly turned to the private sector for what were formerly state functions. While it has become a commonplace to observe that neoliberalism refashioned citizenship around consumption, the essays in this volume demonstrate the incompleteness of that image—as the social limits of neoliberalism are inherent in its very practice.

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Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2011

Between 1990 and 1996, the U.S. Congress passed market-based reforms in the areas of civil rights, welfare, and immigration in a series of major legislative initiatives. These were announced as curbs on excessive rights and as correctives to a culture of dependency among the urban poor—stock images of racial and cultural minorities that circulated well beyond Congress. But those images did not circulate unchallenged, even after congressional opposition failed. In The Paradox of Relevance, Carol J. Greenhouse provides a political and literary history of the anthropology of U.S. cities in the 1990s, where—below the radar—New Deal liberalism, with its iconic bond between society and security, continued to thrive.

The Paradox of Relevance opens in the midst of anthropology's so-called postmodern crisis and the appeal to relevance as a basis for reconciliation and renewal. The search for relevance leads outward to the major federal legislation of the 1990s and the galvanic political tensions between rights- and market-based reforms. Anthropologists' efforts to inform those debates through "relevant" ethnography were highly patterned, revealing the imprint of political tensions in shaping their works' central questions and themes, as well as their organization, narrative techniques, and descriptive practices. In that sense, federal discourse dominates the works' demonstrations of ethnography's relevance; however, the authors simultaneously resist that dominance through innovations in their own literariness—in particular, drawing on diasporic fiction and sociolegal studies where these articulate more agentive meanings of identity and difference. The paradox of relevance emerges with the realization that in the context of the times, affirming the relevance of ethnography as value-neutral science required the textual practices of advocacy and art.
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Near the end of the last Ice Age 12,800 years ago, a giant comet that had entered the solar system from deep space thousands of years earlier, broke into multiple fragments. Some of these struck the Earth causing a global cataclysm on a scale unseen since the extinction of the dinosaurs. At least eight of the fragments hit the North American ice cap, while further fragments hit the northern European ice cap. The impacts, from comet fragments a mile wide approaching at more than 60,000 miles an hour, generated huge amounts of heat which instantly liquidized millions of square kilometers of ice, destabilizing the Earth's crust and causing the global Deluge that is remembered in myths all around the world. A second series of impacts, equally devastating, causing further cataclysmic flooding, occurred 11,600 years ago, the exact date that Plato gives for the destruction and submergence of Atlantis.

The evidence revealed in this book shows beyond reasonable doubt that an advanced civilization that flourished during the Ice Age was destroyed in the global cataclysms between 12,800 and 11,600 years ago. But there were survivors - known to later cultures by names such as 'the Sages', 'the Magicians', 'the Shining Ones', and 'the Mystery Teachers of Heaven'. They travelled the world in their great ships doing all in their power to keep the spark of civilization burning. They settled at key locations - Gobekli Tepe in Turkey, Baalbek in the Lebanon, Giza in Egypt, ancient Sumer, Mexico, Peru and across the Pacific where a huge pyramid has recently been discovered in Indonesia. Everywhere they went these 'Magicians of the Gods' brought with them the memory of a time when mankind had fallen out of harmony with the universe and paid a heavy price. A memory and a warning to the future...

For the comet that wrought such destruction between 12,800 and 11,600 years may not be done with us yet. Astronomers believe that a 20-mile wide 'dark' fragment of the original giant comet remains hidden within its debris stream and threatens the Earth. An astronomical message encoded at Gobekli Tepe, and in the Sphinx and the pyramids of Egypt,warns that the 'Great Return' will occur in our time...

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Ethnographies of Neoliberalism collects original ethnographic case studies of the effects of neoliberal reform on the conditions of social participation, such as new understandings of community, family, and gender roles, the commodification of learning, new forms of protest against corporate power, and the restructuring of local political institutions. Carol J. Greenhouse has brought together scholars in anthropology, communications, education, English, music, political science, religion, and sociology to focus on the emergent conditions of political agency under neoliberal regimes. This is the first volume to address the effects of neoliberal reform on people's self-understandings as social and political actors. The essayists consider both the positive and negative unintended results of neoliberal reform, and the theoretical contradictions within neoliberalism, as illuminated by circumstances on the ground in Africa, Europe, South America, Japan, Russia, and the United States. With an emphasis on the value of ethnographic methods for understanding neoliberalism's effects around the world in our own times, Ethnographies of Neoliberalism uncovers how people realize for themselves the limits of the market and act accordingly from their own understandings of partnership and solidarity.

Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2011

Between 1990 and 1996, the U.S. Congress passed market-based reforms in the areas of civil rights, welfare, and immigration in a series of major legislative initiatives. These were announced as curbs on excessive rights and as correctives to a culture of dependency among the urban poor—stock images of racial and cultural minorities that circulated well beyond Congress. But those images did not circulate unchallenged, even after congressional opposition failed. In The Paradox of Relevance, Carol J. Greenhouse provides a political and literary history of the anthropology of U.S. cities in the 1990s, where—below the radar—New Deal liberalism, with its iconic bond between society and security, continued to thrive.

The Paradox of Relevance opens in the midst of anthropology's so-called postmodern crisis and the appeal to relevance as a basis for reconciliation and renewal. The search for relevance leads outward to the major federal legislation of the 1990s and the galvanic political tensions between rights- and market-based reforms. Anthropologists' efforts to inform those debates through "relevant" ethnography were highly patterned, revealing the imprint of political tensions in shaping their works' central questions and themes, as well as their organization, narrative techniques, and descriptive practices. In that sense, federal discourse dominates the works' demonstrations of ethnography's relevance; however, the authors simultaneously resist that dominance through innovations in their own literariness—in particular, drawing on diasporic fiction and sociolegal studies where these articulate more agentive meanings of identity and difference. The paradox of relevance emerges with the realization that in the context of the times, affirming the relevance of ethnography as value-neutral science required the textual practices of advocacy and art.
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Ethnography in Unstable Places will interest students and specialists in social anthropology, sociology, political science, international relations, and cultural studies.

Contributors. Eve Darian-Smith, Howard J. De Nike, Elizabeth Faier, James M. Freeman, Robert T. Gordon, Carol J. Greenhouse, Nguyen Dinh Huu, Carroll McC. Lewin, Elizabeth Mertz, Philip C. Parnell, Nancy Ries, Judy Rosenthal, Kay B. Warren, Stacia E. Zabusky

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