Social movements are arising in unexpected places, producing effects not normally associated with our traditional understandings of either politics or movements. No longer, and perhaps never, solely the highly visible, modernist expressions of resistance to the state, movements are not only enacting politics through protest and cultural contestation, but are generating diverse knowledges. From heated debates over the meaning of Italy's alter-globalization movement; to careful direct-action strategizing in Chicago's cooperative bookstores; to conferences on Native American environmental justice issues, contemporary movements are important sites of knowledge creation, reformulation and diffusion. We call these "knowledge-practices." Building on interdisciplinary approaches to the study of social movements, we argue that when we recognize movements as processes through which knowledge is generated, modified and mobilized, we gain important insights into the politics of contemporary movements. This recognition also has important methodological implications. It requires that we shift the mode of engagement in our research, blurring established social scientific boundaries and promoting a more relational-symmetrical approach.
This article explores how the knowledge practices of some academic-intellectuals are shifting in such a way as to signal a radical departure from the "traditional" role that academic-intellectuals have had in Latin America. This re-direction is part of a much larger process, namely, the gradual rejection of the modern project by increasingly larger sectors of the Latin American population, and their ongoing efforts to bring about "worlds and knowledges otherwise." In effect, some of the social movements and patterns of mobilization that have become highly visible in Latin America at the turn of the 21st century are probing the modern project—including established knowledge practices of academic-intellectuals—according to expectations, logics and standards other than the ones that have dominated for the last two centuries or more. In particular, the article suggests how these avenues, once opened by social movements, local intellectuals and other sites of knowledge production regarding the intellectual-political project in Latin America, have productively contaminated the dominant regime of power/knowledge (the "lettered city") that has been in place since colonial times. A focus on three cases where this contamination is currently taking place points to possible directions in which a reconfiguration of the dominant regime of power/knowledge might proceed. These developments include the relative equalization of diverse knowledge practices through the proliferation of sites of encounter between them, but also a disposition to allow for the contamination of academic-intellectuals' knowledge practices by the insurrectional movements' non-modern knowledge practices.
Collective identity entered the social movements literature as an early recognition of the importance of meaning-making in shaping movement participants and influencing movement actions In this article, we go against the more usual practice of treating movements as unified actors, and instead, take a decentered, dialogic approach that recognizes the difficulties and contentiousness of producing movement identities amidst multiple discourses and practices. We illustrate this framework with three ethnographic cases from Canada, Scotland and Nepal, which highlight collective identity and meaning-making through place-based, contingent cultural processes. The cases use the concepts of figured worlds, alter-versions of identity, and cultural artifacts to show how collective identity develops dialogically in practice both within and outside of movements.
This essay argues that grounded utopian movements (GUMs) have generally been overlooked in recent cross-disciplinary theorizations of social movements, and seeks to rectify the neglect. GUMs, unlike other social movements, do not seek recognition either from capitalist institutions or modern nation-states, but are instead grounded in visions of alternative "ideal places" (utopias), and set out to establish alternative ways of living which their members find more just and satisfying than at present. We discuss the Ghost Dance of the Great Plains, the Rastafari movement of the Caribbean, and the long-durée Maya movement as grounded utopian movements of the periphery, to illustrate major aspects of theoretical, epistemological, and methodological approaches to the study of GUMs. We conclude with a brief treatment of the global justice movement as a contemporary GUM.
The examination of boundary processes is a central issue in the study of ethnicity but this approach often favors external, socio-political boundaries that stem from historical forces at the expense of indigenous accounts about cultural differences. In this paper, I propose that Teenek symbolic spatial organization enables us to examine ethnicity as simultaneously a set of social relations and a structure of meaning. The analysis stresses the significance and contents of the dialogical relationships between external social boundaries and internal, symbolic ones. Analyzing the interrelation of both types of boundaries reveals how historical forces have shaped the cultural idiom in which Teenek people metaphorically apprehend their social interethnic configuration.
This article explores how moral perceptions of HIV/AIDS-related illness and death in rural Tanzania are related to social and cultural practices of disease interpretation, patient caring and burial in the context of rural-urban migration and HIV/AIDS. Drawing on anthropological discussions of the relationship between death, social reproduction, and HIV/AIDS I argue that moral discourses and practices surrounding the epidemic in Northwest Tanzania are intimately intertwined with local notions of order and disorder. Furthermore, they are tied to individual and collective concerns about the implications that the high numbers of premature deaths among young men and women are perceived to have on the continuity of whole families and communities. Focusing on the case studies of several young HIV-infected women and men who finally died from the consequences of AIDS I show that the infected persons themselves, as well as their relatives, draw on a wide range of—sometimes mutually contradictory—strategies in dealing with the disease in cultural, religious, or moral terms (including the reference to witchcraft or the violation of ritual prescriptions). In conclusion, I argue that the various strategies and practices surrounding HIV/AIDS-related illnesses and deaths have become an integral part of the negotiation of kinship relations in rural Tanzania, as well as of the moral state of "modern" society in general.
Women's involvement in drug trafficking in recent years has expanded dramatically. Yet there are few studies of female drug smugglers, the causes of female involvement in smuggling, and the impact of smuggling on women's lives specifically. In this article, I provide in-depth ethnographic interviews and observations of a broad spectrum of female drug smugglers on the U.S.-Mexico border. Moving beyond stereotypes, I examine how drug trafficking affects women's relationships with men and their position in society.
Economic and cultural factors strongly shape women's involvement in drug smuggling and the effects of smuggling on their lives, but these factors and effects vary significantly, depending on women's social class position and place within drug organizations. High-level female drug smugglers may be attracted to the power and mystique of drug trafficking and may achieve a relative independence from male dominance. Middle-level women in smuggling organizations obtain less freedom vis-à-vis men but may manipulate gender stereotypes to their advantage in the smuggling world. Low-level mules also perform (or subvert) traditional gender roles as a smuggling strategy, but receive less economic benefit and less power, though in some cases some independence from male domestic control. A fourth category of women do not smuggle drugs but are negatively impacted by the male smugglers with whom they are associated.
I argue that drug smuggling frequently leads to female victimization, especially at the lowest and middle levels of drug trafficking organizations. However, it is also, in the case of high-level and some low-level and middle-level smugglers, a vehicle for female empowerment.