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Radical Egalitarianism

Local Realities, Global Relations

Felicity Aulino

Publication Year: 2013

In this volume, leading scholars in anthropology, religion, and area studies engage global and local perspectives dialectically to develop a historically grounded, ethnographically driven social science.The book's chapters, drawing on research in East and Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas, are also in conversation with the extensive work of editor and contributor Stanley J. Tambiah: They all investigate some aspect of what Tambiah has called "multiple orientations to the world." The implicit focus throughout is on human cultural differences and the historically constituted nature of the political potentialities (both positive and negative) that stem from these. As a whole, then, the volume promotes an approach to scholarship that actively avoids privileging any one conceptual framework or cultural form at the expense of recognizing another-a style of inquiry that the editors call "radical egalitarianism."Together, these scholars encourage a comparative examination of contemporary societies, provide insights into the historical development of social scientific and sociopolitical categories, and raise vital questions about the possibilities for achieving equality and justice in the presence of competing realities in the global world today. Michael M.J. Fischer's Afterword provides a brilliant exegesis of Tambiah's multifaceted oeuvre, outlining the primary themes that inform his scholarship and, by extension, all the chapters in this book.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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Introduction: EngagingRadical Egalitarianism

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pp. 1-12

This book represents a form of historically grounded, ethnographically driven anthropology that seeks to understand social phenomena by dialogically engaging global and local perspectives. As a whole, it promotes an approach to scholarship that actively avoids privileging any one conceptual framework or cultural form at the expense of recognizing another—a style of engagement that we are calling radical egalitarianism. The papers collected here provide examples ...

Part I Religion, Trade, and Transnational Networks via Thailand

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The Charisma of Saints and the Cultof Relics, Amulets, and Tomb Shrines

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pp. 15-50

As a sequel to my third monograph on Thailand—The Buddhist Saints of the Forest and the Cult of Amulets (Tambiah 1984)—I have begun a comparative study that aspires to span some Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, and Hindu traditions with regard to their characterization of saints and the cults of relics, amulets, and shrine worship associated with them. In this essay I cannot realistically cover all the dimensions...

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Understanding Social Totalities:Stanley Tambiah’s Early Contributionto Sociology of Thai Buddhism

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pp. 51-67

Stanley Tambiah’s legacy to Thai scholarship has been in his elucidation of underlying structures and dialectic within Theravada Buddhism and his explication of a Weberian paradox: namely, the way that social actors make the religion meaningful to their worlds, and, likewise, the way that the Buddhist laity creates meaning in a religion...

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Transnational Buddhism andthe Transformations of LocalPower in Thailand

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pp. 68-79

In his autobiographical introduction to World Conqueror and World Renouncer, Stanley Tambiah reconstructs for his readers the intellectual journey that led him to his path-breaking work on the Thai polity in religious and historical perspective. It is at least in part for this work that we honor him in this collection, and it bears profi table recounting to repeat his words on how he saw himself located as an ...

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A Muslim King and His BuddhistSubjects: Religion, Power, and Identityat the Periphery of the Thai State

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pp. 80-88

In this paper, I explore how Thai villagers living in the Malaysian state of Kelantan creatively fashion cultural meanings for themselves by navigating through the conundrum of being the subject of two rulers—one Buddhist, but living in Thailand across the international border, the other Muslim, and part of the lived experiences of Kelantan’s Thai residents. Seated on the throne in Bangkok is an idealized...

Part II Cosmologies, Ideologies, and Localities

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Economies of Ghosts, Gods, and Goods:The History and Anthropologyof Chinese Temple Networks

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pp. 91-100

Stanley Tambiah’s work in linking history and anthropology for the study of Thailand and Sri Lanka has been a constant inspiration for my own att empts to do something of the same for the study of China. In particular, I have been inspired by Tambiah’s studies of the interrelations of religious, political, and economic anthropology in ways that force us to rethink our old distinctions between tradition and...

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Trade, Religion, and Civic Relationsin the Manangi Long-DistanceTrade Community

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pp. 101-110

It was the work of Stanley J. Tambiah that transformed me from a student of economics into a student of anthropology. At a time when I was feeling a growing dissatisfaction with the fi eld of economics, I enrolled in a social studies seminar on the history of economic thought taught by Steve Marglin, an economist at Harvard. While discussing the topic of economic rationality, we read Tambiah’s “Magic, Science,...

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Cosmologies of Welfare:Two Conceptions of Social Assistancein Contemporary South Africa

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pp. 111-118

Many anthropologists today seem unsure of what their discipline is about, or how it is to be distinguished from other forms of social and cultural analysis. I myself feel no such anxiety, since it seems obvious to me that anthropology’s distinctiveness and value lie neither in a unique subject matt er nor a trademark methodology, but rather in an intellectual tradition. I feel so confident about this, I think, because...

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“A Recurrence of Structures”in Collapsing Nigeria

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pp. 119-136

According to a leading school of anthropological thought, Lévi- Strauss (1945) deployed Jakobsonian structuralism to split the “atom of kinship”—an emic node of “arbitrary” mental representations organizing small human groups. Then Leach (1954) adapted this idea to analyze four centuries of “structural variability” among part-time kingdoms in Burma’s Kachin Hills, and Tambiah (1976) further expanded ...

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People and Ideas Travel Together: Tambiah’s Approach to Ritual and Cosmology in Brazil

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pp. 137-145

The first time I read Tambiah’s work was in 1973, in a masters seminar on symbolism held by Peter Silverwood-Cope at the Universidade de Brasília. At that time, Tambiah’s article “The Magical Power of Words” (1968b) had recently been published in the journal Man, and “Form and Meaning of Magical Acts” (1973), still in manuscript form while the seminar met, would be available in print later that year. When the ...

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Paradoxes of Order in ThaiCommunity Politics

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pp. 146-158

Oscillation between hierarchical and egalitarian models is a feature of the political life of the Shan of Burma, as Edmund Leach (1954) famously argued. But it is also of more general signifi cance; indeed, it characterizes the uncertainty of anthropologists themselves as they try to put Southeast Asian societies into one or the other box. In the Thai context, older anthropological notions of “loose structure” (see ...

Part III Violence, Political Conflict, and Humanitarian Intervention

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Structural Work: How Microhistories Become Macrohistories and Vice Versa

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pp. 161-190

Early in 1841, the irascible British Consul in Honolulu, Richard Charlton, fi red off one of his habitual lett ers of complaint to the Governor of O’ahu. “Sir,” he wrote, “I have the honor to inform you that some person or persons are building a wall near the end of the bowling alley belonging to Mrs. Mary Dowsett , thereby injuring her property and violating the treaty between Great Britain and the Sandwich...

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Perspectives on the Politics ofPeace in Aceh, Indonesia

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pp. 191-208

Stanley Tambiah laments in Leveling Crowds: Ethnonationalist Confl icts and Collective Violence in Southeast Asia (1996), “something has gone awry in center-periphery relations throughout the world.” Identifying widespread ethnic confl icts as characteristically “amongst enemies intimately known,” noting “the internationalization of the technology of destruction” and “ethnonationalism,” Tambiah evokes ...

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A Tale of Two Affects: Humanitarianism and Professionalism in Red Cross Aid Work

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pp. 209-219

This brief essay represents a fragment of a research project on the ethics and politics of humanitarian practices in the International Committ ee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and a related national-level organization, the Finnish Red Cross (FRC). I have worked mostly with Finnish medical professionals—nurses and doctors—who have gone on international ICRC and FRC missions, and, to a lesser extent, with...

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At the Base of Local and Transnational Conflicts: The Political Uses of Inferiorization

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pp. 220-232

Magisterial theoretical contributions, always based on solid and exhaustive historical and ethnographic data, are what fi rst come to our mind when we think of Stanley Jeyaraja Tambiah. But I am now keenly aware that his work, as most evident in his Leveling Crowds (1996), has also been rooted in his passionate concern with injustice...

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Afterword. Galactic Polities,Radical Egalitarianism,and the Practice of Anthropology: Tambiah on Logical Paradoxes, Social Contradictions, and Cultural Oscillations

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pp. 233-258

From the teardrop-shaped island, there once came a group of extraordinarily talented social anthropologists; they brought with them perspectives, questions, and empirical fi eldwork that helped reshape the discipline, its calling, and its composition.1 They traversed the temporal and social seas from Ceylon/Sri Lanka’s position as the educated jewel and model democratic state of the British Commonwealth...


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pp. 259-288


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pp. 289-326


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pp. 327-330

E-ISBN-13: 9780823246199
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823241897
Print-ISBN-10: 0823241890

Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2013