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Angolan Refugees and Their Divination Baskets
The divination baskets of south Central Africa are woven for a specific purpose. The baskets, known as lipele, contain sixty or so small articles, from seeds, claws, and minuscule horns to wooden carvings. Each article has its own name and symbolic meaning, and collectively they are known as jipelo. For the Luvale and related peoples, the lipele is more than a container of souvenirs; it is a tool, a source of crucial information from the ancestral past and advice for the future.
In Along an African Border, anthropologist Sónia Silva examines how Angolan refugees living in Zambia use these divination baskets to cope with daily life in a new land. Silva documents the special processes involved in weaving the baskets and transforming them into oracles. She speaks with diviners who make their living interpreting lipele messages and with their knowledge-seeking clients. To the Luvale, these baskets are capable of thinking, hearing, judging, and responding. They communicate by means of jipelo articles drawn in configurations, interact with persons and other objects, punish wrongdoers, assist people in need, and, much like humans, go through a life course that is marked with an initiation ceremony and a special burial. The lipele functions in a state between object and person. Notably absent from lipele divination is any discussion or representation in the form of symbolic objects of the violence in Angola or the Luvale's relocation struggles—instead, the consultation focuses on age-old personal issues of illness, reproduction, and death. As Silva demonstrates in this sophisticated and richly illustrated ethnography, lipele help people maintain their links to kin and tradition in a world of transience and uncertainty.
Antiblackness and the Critique of Multiracialism
Despite being heralded as the answer to racial conflict in the post–civil rights United States, the principal political effect of multiracialism is neither a challenge to the ideology of white supremacy nor a defiance of sexual racism. More accurately, Jared Sexton argues in Amalgamation Schemes, multiculturalism displaces both by evoking long-standing tenets of antiblackness and prescriptions for normative sexuality.
In this timely and penetrating analysis, Sexton pursues a critique of contemporary multiracialism, from the splintered political initiatives of the multiracial movement to the academic field of multiracial studies, to the melodramatic media declarations about “the browning of America.” He contests the rationales of colorblindness and multiracial exceptionalism and the promotion of a repackaged family values platform in order to demonstrate that the true target of multiracialism is the singularity of blackness as a social identity, a political organizing principle, and an object of desire. From this vantage, Sexton interrogates the trivialization of sexual violence under chattel slavery and the convoluted relationship between racial and sexual politics in the new multiracial consciousness.
An original and challenging intervention, Amalgamation Schemes posits that multiracialism stems from the conservative and reactionary forces determined to undo the gains of the modern civil rights movement and dismantle radical black and feminist politics.
Jared Sexton is assistant professor of African American studies and film and media studies at the University of California, Irvine.
Childhood, Tourism, and Social Change in Banaras, India
Jenny Huberman provides an ethnographic study of encounters between western tourists and the children who work as unlicensed peddlers and guides along the riverfront city of Banaras, India. She examines how and why these children elicit such powerful reactions from western tourists and locals in their community as well as how the children themselves experience their work and render it meaningful. Ambivalent Encounters brings together scholarship on the anthropology of childhood, tourism, consumption, and exchange to ask why children emerge as objects of the international tourist gaze; what role they play in representing socio-economic change; how children are valued and devalued; why they elicit anxieties, fantasies, and debates; and what these tourist encounters teach us more generally about the nature of human interaction. It examines the role of gender in mediating experiences of social change—girls are praised by locals for participating constructively in the informal tourist economy while boys are accused of deviant behavior. Huberman is interested equally in the children’s and adults’ perspectives; her own experiences as a western visitor and researcher provide an intriguing entry into her interpretations.
In American Anthropology and Company, linguist and sociologist Stephen O. Murray explores the connections between anthropology, linguistics, sociology, psychology, and history, in broad-ranging essays on the history of anthropology and allied disciplines. On subjects ranging from Native American linguistics to the pitfalls of American, Latin American, and East Asian fieldwork, among other topics, American Anthropology and Company presents the views of a historian of anthropology interested in the theoretical and institutional connections between disciplines that have always been in conversation with anthropology. Recurring characters include Edward Sapir, Alfred Kroeber, Robert Redfield, W. I. and Dorothy Thomas, and William Ogburn.
While histories of anthropology rarely cross disciplinary boundaries, Murray moves in essay after essay toward an examination of the institutions, theories, and social networks of scholars as never before, maintaining a healthy skepticism toward anthropologists’ views of their own methods and theories.
"A major, unique, and useful contribution to the understanding of regional ethnography in general and of Micronesia in particular. Kudos." --The Contemporary Pacific, Fall 2000 "Unique. For no other part of the world has the anthropological endeavour been so resolutely, comprehensively and even self-critically compiled, in qualitative and quantitative terms." --Australian Journal of Anthropology 12 (2001)"Clearly a significant contribution to the history of our discipline." --George W. Stocking, Jr., University of Chicago "The best compendium of its type I have ever encountered. That it is also beautifully produced helps; but mostly it's the conceptual framework and the high quality of each of the chapters and even many tidbits at the end." --Melford E. Spiro, University of California, San Diego "Despite the diversity of contributions, reflecting the perspectives of various subdisciplines of cultural anthropology, a number of recurring issues and themes emerge. These include a questioning of the notion of 'Micronesia', the tension between the postwar era of government-funded applied anthropology and the more recent period of pure research, and the degree to which American anthropological involvement in Micronesia influenced the US administration, Micronesia and Micronesians, and the wider discipline." --Journal of the Polynesian Society, September 2000 "I'm not an anthropologist ... [but] I was utterly fascinated by the historical background, thorough literature review and often painful self-reflection." --Pacific Affairs, Spring 2001
Arabs and Islam in the Nineteenth Century Imaginary
American Arabesque examines representations of Arabs, Islam and the Near East in nineteenth-century American culture, arguing that these representations play a significant role in the development of American national identity over the century, revealing largely unexplored exchanges between these two cultural traditions that will alter how we understand them today.
Moving from the period of America’s engagement in the Barbary Wars through the Holy Land travel mania in the years of Jacksonian expansion and into the writings of romantics such as Edgar Allen Poe, the book argues that not only were Arabs and Muslims prominently featured in nineteenth-century literature, but that the differences writers established between figures such as Moors, Bedouins, Turks and Orientals provide proof of the transnational scope of domestic racial politics. Drawing on both English and Arabic language sources, Berman contends that the fluidity and instability of the term Arab as it appears in captivity narratives, travel narratives, imaginative literature, and ethnic literature simultaneously instantiate and undermine definitions of the American nation and American citizenship.