This paper examines debates that occur in the course of Muslim women's rights advocacy in Java, Indonesia, to provide critical ethnographic insights into the ways that gender issues and notions of family are implicated in political consciousness about nationhood, religious identity, boundaries, and governance. Javanese Muslim women's rights activists focus on the historical contextualization of religious doctrine to argue against what they see as misguided interpretations of Islam that threaten to control women. This paper examines these efforts through a close reading of the discursive shifts and arguments that take place in the context of programs designed to promote women's rights in Islamic education in Java. It argues that the challenge for women's rights activists and intellectuals is to locate the ways that moderate or normative social and religious values can combine during times of change or crisis to reinforce a moral hierarchy of gender relations and an "idea of woman" in an attempt to control such change. The paper demonstrates that in Java, a moral hierarchy of gender relations, mimetically extended from family to nation, dovetails with religious interpretations to resolve anxieties about social change and security through the control of women.
Oak Ridge, Tennessee was born as a planned and secret community established during World War II to contribute to the development of the first atomic bomb. Sacrificing their own civil liberties toward the goals of democracy and freedom, residents lived behind guarded fences and learned not to discuss their work with family, neighbors or co-workers. Their clandestine work became public following the bombing of Hiroshima, but the environmental legacies of weapons production increased and remained secret throughout the Cold War. In this paper, I discuss the cultural and environmental legacy of Oak Ridge and then draw on ethnographic interviews with residents, former workers, and participation in public hearings to show how the culture of secrecy has shaped the community of today, while efforts to confront the environmental legacy of the city continues to both unite and divide the community. I conclude that the history of secrecy has limited organized efforts to confront the ongoing environmental problems facing the community, while individuals act independently to investigate past and potential exposures. Paradoxically, however, the history of secrecy contributed to the development of a proud community with a commitment to environmental stewardship, democratic principles, and concern for peace and stability that many outsiders have failed to recognize in condemning the community as a showcase of military toxic waste.
As elements of the political landscape, place-names can express not only the ideological themes of the state but also the political atmosphere and processes by which nation-states make their impression on the landscape. This essay, based on fieldwork conducted in Sarawak, Malaysia, in 1999 and 2000, addresses the nature of place-names in Sarawak and focuses on how certain communities react to the place-names of their villages and townships in their everyday lives, that is, how place-names are derived, who speaks them, how they are used, and in what context. An exploration into subjects' reactions to place-names can be read not only as the antithesis to state impressions on the national landscape over time but also, to a varying extent, as traces of the original baptismal event in the present circumstances. In short, place-names are active, context-generating as well as context-reflecting.
In this article I examine high-stakes mahjong in Taiwan as a ritual mode of male agency fraught with political significance. I show how men divine fate by conjuring estranged game forces, while disavowing the "abeyance of agency" by deploying strategy and style to control fate's fickle flip-side—luck. Through "combat" with luck, men reanimate an officially orchestrated male totality, or martial imaginary, that reproduces idealized masculine values and patterns of citizenship. By further situating mahjong within a socially and politically encompassing play-ritual framework, I argue that mahjong mimesis generalizes a pathos of "sympathetic agonism" that blurs gender boundaries and that preserves a space for a plural democratic agôn.
Rural women's active support for the decade-long Maoist insurrection in Nepal has captured the attention of academics, military strategists, and the development industry. This essay considers two theories that have been proposed to account for this phenomenon. The "failed development" hypothesis suggests that popular discontent with the government is the result of uneven, incomplete, or poorly executed development efforts and recommends more and better aid as the route to peace. In contrast, the "conscientization" model proposes that, at least in some cases, women's politicization may be the unexpected result of successful development programs that aimed to "empower" women by raising their consciousness of gender and class-based oppression. Drawing on the testimonies of women who participated in such programs in Gorkha district—a Maoist stronghold where women are reported to have been especially active—I argue that both of these explanations reflect assumptions about social subjectivity that are critically out of synch with the realities of rural Nepal. Gorkhali women's support for the rebels embodies a powerful critique of neoliberal democracy and the Nepal state, but one that is based on morally-grounded ideas about social personhood in which self-realization is bound up in mutual obligation and entails personal sacrifice—not the culturally-disembedded valorizations of autonomy, agency, and choice that most models presume. Theorists of subaltern political consciousness—and of the relations between development and violence—must engage with the gendered moral economies of the people they aim to empower if they ultimately hope to promote sustainable peace.
In this article, drawing on my fieldwork in the Farmáni workshop in western Iran, I focus on the socially and ideologically informed body techniques of crafting the sacred lute-type tanbur. I show that the superiority of Farmáni tanburs transcends the family's pure Weberian "traditional authority" within the Ahl-e Haqq of Gurán; rather, this superiority is established upon Farmáni's informed body techniques that enable construction of unblemished tanburs, as the Ahl-e Haqq understand them. In order to provide insight into the Farmáni's embodied knowledge tradition, Barth's anthropology of knowledge framework, Marcel Mauss's concept of "body techniques" and Charles Hirschkind's notion of "perceptual capacities" are employed. Engaging the dialectical of the modern demands for more voluminous sound and the Farmáni's technical modification crafting the instrument, I contemplate the question of tradition in terms of "continuities of disciplined sensibility."