Paneler, papers, keynote, zoom links

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Dennis Rodgers: The threefold dangers of ethnography

Fri 23/4, 14:00-15:00:

Dennis Rodgers is Research Professor at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva. His research focuses on issues relating to the dynamics of conflict and violence in cities in Latin America (Nicaragua, Argentina) and South Asia (India). Much of his work involves the longitudinal study of youth gangs in Nicaragua but he also works on the political economy of development, the politics of socio-spatial segregation, participatory governance processes, the historiography of urban theory, and the epistemology of development knowledge. (Language: English.)

Panels, papers, zoom links

I händelse av tekniska problem kommer vi att kommunicera via SANT:s facebook-sida för att hitta lösningar eller skapa och annonsera alternativa länkar.

In case of technical problems we will communicate at SANT’s facebook site to find solutions and create and announce alternative links.  


1. Holding the world together: Caring through and for objects in times of uncertainty

Conveners: Ruy Blanes, Anna Bohlin and Proshant Chakraborty, University of Gothenburg 
Following the 2018 SANT panel on Care and Anthropology, we invite contributions on ethnographies of care, this time in relation to the material world and in contexts of heightened uncertainty and precarity. How do mundane acts of caring for and through objects – whether intimate and private, largescale, and public – hold the world together? What role do such practices play in a pandemic, for instance? How have they been changed, disrupted, or upended because of it?  We care for, but are also cared for by and through, objects ranging from everyday belongings to specialized tools, technologies, and infrastructures. On the one hand, objects become coherent through care: we fix, adjust, maintain, repair or use things, thereby configuring and embedding them into our lives. On the other, functional objects are also instrumental in the provision of care – for instance in the face of danger and disaster – for humans and non-human entities and organisms.

This panel seeks to explore recursive relationships between care and objects, and trace how hierarchies, scales and narratives that surround and govern them – that is, how different bodies, objects, forms of labour and kinds of knowledge are differently valued – are also shaped by the materials themselves. The papers are available here 20/4 at the latest.

1:1. What “newness” does: Household belongings, care and renewal in the era of climate change
Anna Bohlin, University of Gothenburg
The idea that novelty is inherently attractive to consumers is often taken for granted, along with the assumption that the “impulse” to buy the latest is a central driving force in consumerism. Yet, we know little about what newness actually does or means to people in situated social practice. This contribution seeks to unpack the idea of novelty through ethnographically exploring “newness” in the context of belongings in people’s homes. Based on a pilot study in Sweden, it asks: For how long is a household object new? Which items are new the longest? What can new things do that old ones can’t? Exploring objects’ newness as an aspect of thing-power, it investigates how this intersects with care in a context characterised by a heightened sense of environmental crisis and calls for reduced consumption levels. Anthropological studies have shown that shopping, far from an individualist concern, often involve tending for others through gifting or providing for household members. In such accounts, objects are seen as key to maintaining social identities and relations: we express care for ourselves and others through the material world. Yet, with increasing pressure to consume less, how do people reconcile such care for themselves and others with care for the environment and future generations?

1:2. Waste regimes, pollution and repurposing in landscapes of scarcity in Angola
Ruy Llera Blanes, University of Gothenburg
In this paper I would like to offer some ethnographically-based reflections on issues of waste, pollution and material repurposing as they appear in the landscapes of southern Angola, which has been suffering a long cycle of extreme drought, and in a moment in which there is a politicized and moralizing debate regarding environmental practices in the Angolan public sphere. This has created a situation in which the rural herding communities suffering from the drought situation are also frequently accused of environmental ignorance, namely in what concerns the use of plastic and metal – a developmentalist narrative that progressively produces local indigenous life as a ‘wasteland’ (Saethre 2020). At the same time, those communities accuse the Angolan government of lack of care in their handling of the drought and their subsequent urgent needs. In the paper I will discuss this conundrum in terms of the prevailing ‘waste regimes’ (Gille 2007; Martinez 2017) and senses of ‘caring’ and ‘protection’ in what concerns the local natural environment.

1:3. Infrastructural care: provisional notes on a conceptual device
Proshant Chakraborty, University of Gothenburg
This paper is an exploration of “infrastructural care” in Mumbai city’s urban public transport infrastructures, which witness super dense crush loads of commuter bodies as well as banal and spectacular forms of breakdowns daily. In such contexts, I pose the question of how and why care and infrastructures converge when confronted with the imminent threats of breakdown and danger. How do practices of repair and maintenance not only keep infrastructures running, but also generate urban spatiotemporal rhythms? How are dangers posed by breakdown navigated, averted, and overcome? And how, from such a vantage point, can we uncover the ontological nature of danger itself?
My exploration of “infrastructural care” draws together the human and more-than-human, especially the material culture and practices of repair. This raises the recursive question of why and how the very nature of care is itself infrastructural; and that, while infrastructures can and do potentially distribute care for the masses, they are also sites and modes where danger is reproduced and exacerbated. Thus, infrastructural care draws attention to how breakdown and danger are kept at bay, allowing everyday life to unfold, but also questions how infrastructures are susceptible and vulnerable to dangers—especially those posed by neoliberalism and the Anthropocene.

1:4. Approaching identity performance through ethno-medicine. Hidden practices of narodna medicina among Bosnian diaspora in the Netherlands
Martina Paric, Maastricht University
The aim of this research is to show that even after living in one place for over two decades there are still subtle (and not so subtle) performances that help maintain a distinct cultural identity among the Bosnian diaspora in the Netherlands. Diaspora identities tend to continuously reproduce new hybrid identifications through their engagement with the host-culture, slowly becoming an identity that can only be described as transcultural or ‘in-between’. However, certain dispositions remain unmoved, they remain part of social structures that can best be defined as ‘identity anchors’. One such anchor can be found in ethnic approaches to health and healing. This research examines the topic of identity maintenance and hybridization by looking at the use of ethno-medical practices called ‘nardona medicina’ in the host-country. Interviews with sixteen participants showed they often return to the homeland in order to attain remedies unavailable in the host-country. These remedies are mostly natural products from the home region, but also include biomedical products such as antibiotics or creams. Often the use of these remedies is not discussed with Dutch healthcare providers. By studying these often ‘hidden’ practices of narodna medicina, I argue that through these practices of healing we can gain a better understanding of culturally rooted ideas surrounding health and identity performance.

1:5. Creating with Traces of Life: Waste, Reuse and Design
Staffan Appelgren, Göteborgs universitet
This paper adopts posthumanist perspectives on waste as traces of life to investigate how the alternative heritage work of redesigners transforms discarded building materials into reuse interior designs. It combines recent research on waste, shifting focus from representational and symbolic aspects to its material and indexical relations to human life, with critical perspectives emphasising heritage as encompassing different and ambiguous ways of engaging with material transformation over time. Anthropological fieldwork involving participant observation was conducted over six months to closely examine the entanglement between redesigners and reuse materials in interior design work. The sensory ethnographic approach reveals how materials are approached as unfolding processes rather than closed objects. Tracing how redesigners capitalise on the ambiguity of traces of life in building materials, the paper shows how uncertainty and risk are inevitable companions when working with reuse. To rehabilitate used things, and reassociate with materials classified as waste or heritage, means following their trajectories of becoming and responding to their signs of life. While involving important benefits, this often leads to the inconvenient and risky mess characteristic of an interconnected and entangled multispecies world.

2. The Fear Among Us: Constructing Dangerous Others

Conveners: Anna Gustafsson & Eva-Maria Hardtmann, Stockholm University
Discussant: Jonathan Krämer, Stockholm University
This panel will consider the ways in which certain groups of people and also individuals are framed as dangerous within public discourse by looking at the forms such framing takes, its strategies, and its effects both on the particular groups of people involved and on society as a whole. The panel is situated within the larger context of our discipline’s engagement with modes of exclusion and inclusion and their intersection with various forms of othering. At the current juncture, notions of danger figure as potent tropes that can be mobilized in narratives and action. Depicting groups of people as dangerous is a powerful means for rationalizing and justifying their exclusion. Interrogating the highly diverse forms these discourses of dangerous others take – including among others race- and class-based discourses, anti-immigrant rhetoric, and the representation of certain social and political movements and their ideologies – this panel seeks to bring together a diverse set of research concerns and open up conversations among scholars whose work otherwise rarely intersects.

2:1. Behind Bars and Beyond
Eva-Maria Hardtmann, Stockholm University
This presentation will look closer at the prison abolition movement, which challenge the common view that “dangerous people” should be put behind bars. In a highly polarized political climate, matters related to violence and security is constantly discussed among politicians, in the media, and in popular culture in Sweden, in the U.S.— and in many other countries across the world. Crime and punishment are high on the political agenda and politicians of all persuasions discuss harsher sentences for those labeled criminals. In the 1960s and 1970s prison abolitionists were active in the Nordic countries, but the movement vanished during the 1980s. Today the movement has its stronghold in the US with transregional networks emerging across the country and released women at the forefront. I will present glimpses from fieldwork in New York, Montgomery (Alabama) and San Francisco. How do these activists challenge the hegemonic discourse about dangerous others? What are their channels of communication and what are their messages, strategies and visions?

2:2. Warning, the older generations are speaking!
Anna Gustafsson, Stockholm University
While youth are pictured as progressive and vanguards of social change in the academic literature and popular debates, older generations are often described as conservative, unproductive and a burden to society. This is re?ected in the phrase ‘OK Boomer’ that spread virally across the globe in 2019. From hashtags to debates between MPs in the New Zealand Parliament, the pejorative retort is being used to dismiss the opinions of the baby boom generation and portray older adults as impoverished and outdated. In this paper, I wish to explore the online use and discussions around ‘OK Boomer’. What does the rapid and widespread use of the ageist phrase say about how older people are perceived today? And why are their voices unwanted in debates about contemporary political, economic, social and environmental concerns?

2:3. Corona Deviants:  (Un)Social Media Narratives of  Dangerous Others
Paula Uimonen, Hussein Masimbi, Stockholm University
This presentation interrogates media representations of dangerous others during the Covid-19 pandemic, focusing on international reporting on Tanzania. Similarly to Sweden, Tanzania received considerable criticism for deviating from WHO’s global directives, but international reporting on the pandemic in the country was also framed by dominant story lines of Africa. Not only did predictions of the pandemic build on well-established storylines of disease, disaster and crisis, but established media were also immune to cultural differences in how the pandemic was handled, and seemingly impervious to the socio-economic consequences of Covid-19 in the margins of the global capitalist system. Drawing on African writers’ and intellectuals’ critique of dominant narratives of Africa, and auto-ethnographic notes on life in Tanzania during the pandemic, this paper discusses global inequalities in news media reporting as well as digital media representations in what could be termed (un)social media narratives.       

2:4. The toxic other: Reflections from a tour to Chernobyl
Per Ståhlberg, Södertörns högskola
Since the Maidan revolution in the winter of 2013-14, the Ukrainian “other” has obviously been spelled ”Russia”. In Kyiv, the capital city, this fearful enemy seems omnipresent – though rarely detected. The war zone is located some 600 kilometers away, and violent controversies related to the conflict, is surprisingly infrequent. Still, the “the Russians” have a ghostly presence, poisoning almost every subject at hand – from politics and crime to culture and history.  In this presentation I will report from a visit to the site of the Chernobyl disaster, a short trip north of the capital, where “the toxic other” is almost as creepy as the lingering radiation detected by my Geiger meter.

3. In/visible threats to health and body: dangers in contemporary and future societies

Conveners: Kristofer Hansson, Malmö University & Maria Wemrell, Lund University
The contemporary era offers new healthcare opportunities alongside novel health challenges and threats. Climate change, environmental destruction, globalized mobility, emerging infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance present largely unpredictable threats to health and body. The reorganization, privatization and corporatization of healthcare organizations present challenges, as does enduring and widening health disparities and technological innovation actualizing ethical and existential questions. In this landscape, some health risks gain a lot of attention, while others, such as intimate partner violence, remain comparatively invisible. Meanwhile, communication about matters of health and disease, including arguments about risks and dangers which do not necessarily align with information coming from conventional healthcare institutions, is readily available on the internet. How can we conceptualize such (perceived) dangers and threats, how can we anthropologically render them visible, and how do we incorporate them into imaginaries of the future? How do we calculate and manage risks to our health and our body in everyday life? And how are various groupings of people implicated differently in representations of threats?

3:1. The risk of violence and its consequences in an Italian Emergency Room
Mirko Pasquini, Uppsala University
Violence against ER staff regularly makes headlines in Italian newspapers. During my yearlong fieldwork, the ER staff told me numerous stories about times they were shouted at, threatened, kicked or hit by drunk or non-collaborative patients. Violence can be both verbal and physical. It can be very serious, as when an outraged patient threw a fire extinguisher at a nurse, or tried to stab a nurse with a knife.
But even more than its actual occurrence, the potential that violence might erupt made health care workers pay attention to particular gestures and attitudes of patients. Potential violence constituted an event that had to be anticipated and, ideally, prevented by the ER staff. This resulted into improvised techniques that the staff enacts to prevent violence.
Arguably, these same techniques also make violence an everyday potential presence to reckon with in the ER. The paper will discuss those practices through the lenses of anthropology theories of anticipation (Adams et al. 2009), as the making of a potential futures in the present. Devoting extensive attention to the risk of violence, what is created by nurses and doctors in the ER? Which kind of security, risks and care are crafted?

3:2. Neoliberal reforms across healthcare systems: A case study from the North East of England
Fredrik Nyman, Durham University
Neoliberal reforms, like deregulation and privatisation of key national industries, have led to severe changes in healthcare systems around the world. In the United Kingdom, these reforms often emphasise how there are “no rights without responsibilities”—a disposition which is said to reinforce the ideological preference for a free market system rather than (bio)citizenship and rights to health. However, owing to their distinctive healthcare needs and lower socioeconomic status, people with disabilities are especially disadvantaged by such neoliberal reforms as they seldom have the energy (or the confidence) to challenge those in authority or to campaign for improvements in care. One such vulnerable group is people with chronic respiratory diseases who, in neoliberal ways, are further inundated by how respiratory care is increasingly individualised by public health responses that emphasise individual responsibilities over collective or institutional ones. This paper attends to healthcare issues of this nature, and especially those prevalent in the metropolitan borough of South Tyneside; one of England’s most socially deprived communities. The significance in looking at the United Kingdom besets, in particular, in the National Health Service’s (NHS) current struggle to cope with record-high demands when social care services are stretched to the limit.

3:3. “Being our own researchers”: knowledge claims about the risks of using the copper IUD among social media active women in Sweden
Lena Gunnarsson, Örebro University & Maria Wemrell, Lund University
A large amount of information on health-related issues is today distributed via the internet, including in user-directed forums. People seeking to inform themselves can thereby access contradictory information, stemming from health care institutions as well as other actors. Such information can concern claimed adverse effects of established medical interventions. An example is alternative knowledge claims about side effects of the contraceptive copper IUD (intrauterine device), which circulate on the internet, for example on Facebook. This presentation addresses these knowledge claims, based on seven focus groups with 23 members of a Swedish Facebook group (currently with almost 8.000 members) centered on ‘copper toxicity’ as an effect of using a copper IUD. We analyze these knowledge claims in relation to a set of tensions identified in the discursive and institutional contexts in which they are embedded. On the one hand, we relate them to the present surge of and attention to fake news and conspiracy theories spreading not least via social media, and, on the other hand, to a history of women’s health concerns being deprioritized in modern medicine. Further, we discuss the claims in relation to ideals of patient-centered care and self-care or health entrepreneurship in neoliberal society, including the active use of information and communication technologies, and to limits to the desired independence of patients’ construction and communication of health-related knowledge. Finally, we address the tension between the individual, entrepreneurial responsibility nurtured among women embracing alternative knowledge about the copper IUD and the collective mode in which such individual responsibility is enabled and played out.

3:4. Chips, Codes and the Future City: Toxic Digital Addiction as the New Cartography of Danger
Swaminathan Ramanathan, Uppsala University, Campus Gotland & Ashish Mehra, Tallinn Technological University, Estonia. Paper available here.
Built urban environments is increasingly intersected by smart sensors, algorithms, software applications and big data solutions, meshed and presented together as a series of mediatized interfaces. These environments are becoming what technology professionals call as ‘data rich self-learning ecosystems’. They predict that such ecosystems will ‘become like your iPhones that can do everything at a tap’. In short, everyone is a data mine producing and consuming data in large quantities. A hidden but significant byproduct of this new data economy is digital addiction that is neither recognised nor characterized well enough for people to understand and take help. Based on primary research and interviews in Bangalore, this paper analyses this addiction in three ways. The first is through narratives of software engineers and IT professionals who checked themselves into discreet ‘dead zone’ de-addiction clinics after being diagnosed with clinical depression. The second is through the stories of ‘digital parenthood’ practiced by several families to prevent their children ‘from falling into the danger of digital addiction’. The third is through urban place makers who are conceptualising ‘digi-blind ecosystems’ for a return to an ‘older and slower way of life’. Using these three pathways, the paper makes a case for a new cartography of urban danger that is also an innovative daily language and vocabulary of ‘sense and meaning’ for navigating a future city.

3:5. 19th century Cholera Epidemics in Sweden seen from a popular perspective
Anders Gustavsson, University of Oslo
My focus is on the many cholera epidemics which hit Sweden from 1834 until 1873. I have studied how cholera epidemics affected the countryside. Popular practices and ideas in difficult crisis situations are the subject. How did the population percieve the cholera and how was the disease treated on the local level?
The different epidemics share a common feature: the disease has been spread by shipping across the oceans and then along in-land waterways and the shores of larger lakes. A cholera epidemic outbreak immediately raised questions regarding barriers against the immediate neighbourhood. Smoking with juniper or tar was used as a protection against cholera infection. This points to the opinion that the cholera contagion was airborne, namely a miasmatic view. In towns, the disease hit the socially weak areas where poverty, bad hygiene, and overcrowding reigned. This tendency was apparent in the countryside as well. Since the cholera hit local communities suddenly and many died within a short time, strong fears appeared. There are informants who had survived cholera and left tales of shattering memories. In many cases, the themes in legends about cholera had roots going back to the Black Death in the 14th century.

3:6. To narrate danger – antibiotics and resistant bacteria’s
Kristofer Hansson, Malmö University
In the article “To worry about antibiotic resistance” (in Swedish ”Att oroa sig för antibiotikaresistens” in Socialmedicinsk tidskrift, 2019) I analyses questionnaire responses and how people narrate their worry about antibiotic resistance. When bacteria’s growing resistance to our most common antibiotics, there is also a threat growing that is related to both health and body. This could be seen as one of our dangers in contemporary and future societies. It is a danger to both individual health and global public health. In the questionnaires there are stories and culture conceptions of how this danger is framed, something I analyze in the article. In the paper for the SANT-conference I will develop this perspective further and look closer to how people more specific are writing about danger in relation to their own bodies and their experiences of health. How can we make the stories visible using theories from medical anthropology? Can thus story’s say something about how people manage risk and health in relation to their bodies? And are there different representations among the stories for these threats? Are there something in this stories that can help us develop health-theories in medical anthropology?

4. Deadly ritual violence: past and present

Convener: Kaj Århem, Uppsala University
The proposed panel aims to bring together ethnographic cases and/or interpretations of ritual violence from different times and regions of the world. By ritual violence is here tentatively meant religiously or ontologically motivated violence. Well-known but insufficiently understood and little theorized examples are headhunting, human sacrifice, so-called ritual murders and warfare cannibalism. These and other related forms of ritual violence have historically occurred on almost every continent, some of them notoriously widespread in one or another region and during particular periods.

The presentations provide, or synthetize, ethnographic data on any of these (or related) topics that might provide a basis for a comparative and theoretical discussion, with a view to make sense of these seemingly incomprehensible forms of violence. The papers are available here.

4:1. Headhunting among To Pamona, central Sulawesi (Indonesia) – the symbolic reproduction of the social order
Bengt Jacobsson, Göteborgs universitet
Religion not only constructs symbolic forms that are human-like, but also directly involves the physical bodies of living and dead human beings as key symbolic material. This contribution explores the way the human head was the key regulator in the symbolic universe of the To Pamona in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. Headhunting expeditions occurred quite frequently before the advent of Dutch colonial presence from 1906 onwards. In addition to indigenous motives for headhunting, these rituals, I maintain, constituted formative episodes in the reproduction of the social order. It will be argued that the ritual practice of headhunting emanates from the systemic logic and contradictions of the social order; notably from the marriage system. It is a primary mechanism for maintaining the social and productive orders via the expressive order where it constitutes a key element for conversions of life and life force between production and social continuity. It was therefore necessary that headhunting ought to be conducted perpetually. The corpus of data analysed in this contribution is provided by the Dutch missionaries-cumethnographers Nicolaus Adriani´s and Albert Christian Kruyt´s extensive monograph De Bareé sprekende Toradjas van Midden-Celebes (1950-1952). As regards headhunting within the Indonesian archipelago it is one of the most comprehensive.

4:2 Ontological predation in the uplands of Central Vietnam

Kaj Århem, Uppsala University
This paper explores the little-known historical practice among the Katu known in ethnographic literature as “blood hunting”. This practice involved the raiding of distant villages inhabited by strangers and enemies to draw blood from one or several victims. The blood was then ritually offered to the guardian spirit of the raiders’ village to ensure the fertility of the land and increase the vitality of its inhabitants.
Using Viveiros de Castro’s notion of ontological predation, the paper attempts to make sense of this violent practice by relating it to the widespread institution of headhunting in pre-modern Southeast Asia. It is proposed that the Southeast Asian forms of ontological predation were all concerned with capturing vitality from social “others” and incorporating it into the social “self”, thereby empowering and revitalizing the raiders’ village polity. The paper argues that contemporary Katu ritual life – notably hunting and harvest rituals as well as marriage and mortuary customs – form part of the same deep-rooted cosmological-ontological complex that, in the past, motivated the violent practice of blood hunting.

4:3. Ritual killings in contemporary Côte d’Ivoire: Anthropological perspectives on occult-related violence in the context of elections
Syna Ouattara, University of Gothenburg 
This paper explores the political and ontological dimensions of ritual killings (crimes rituels) in the context of recent elections in Côte d’Ivoire. In sub-Saharan Africa, many countries are today facing a rise in so-called “occult-related violence” where children are prime victims. In Côte d’Ivoire, this type of occult-related violence seems to increase in number during electoral periods. In 2015, the year of the last presidential election, more than 24 children were kidnapped and killed across the country within a period of two months before the elections. Most of the bodies of the victims were mutilated and several body parts missing. Ivorian authorities deployed around 1,500 police, soldiers and gendarmes as part of an operation aimed at stopping these killings and identifying the culprits. In 2018, the year of municipal and regional elections, national and international media outlets reported that more than 40 children had disappeared in the country in less than two months. The paper describes and analyses this disconcerting phenomenon in Côte d’Ivoire. Drawing on anthropological fieldwork in Abidjan (2018, 2019 and 2020), the paper argues that the killings are politically and, ultimately, ontologically motived.

4:4. The dangers of occult modernity: real and imagined witchcraft-related violence in East Africa
Nikolas Århem, Uppsala University
As modernity expands in an increasingly urbanized and globalized Africa, occult practices and imaginaries thrive – including witchcraft accusations and ensuing violence. Recent decades have seen a rise in the numbers of so-called ritual killings (or “muti-murders”) of children across sub-Saharan Africa. This paper explores this unfolding human tragedy in East Africa (particularly in Tanzania, Uganda and Mozambique) where ritual killings target both albino- and non-albino children. The main driver of these murders appears to be the desire for power and wealth among the elite – an elite usually professing one or another form of Charismatic Christianity, often mixed with traditional beliefs and practices. Meanwhile, in these same countries, persecutions of alleged “witches” – sometimes leading to violent mob killings of the accused individuals – are also widespread. Although authorities are trying to tackle both phenomena, it is clear that the incidence of these criminal activities have risen sharply after independence. Is there a link between these two phenomena – the very real “muti-murders” of children and the persecution and violence against imaginary “witches”? And how do we explain their rise in particular zones in the urban peripheries, and among certain groups of people and not in others?

5: Violence

Conveners: Sebastién Tutenges & Anna Hedlund, Lund University
This panel explores the theme of violence. Whereas most existing research on violence uses quantitative methods to measure the prevalence and causes of violence, the focus on this panel is on how perpetrators, victims, and other involved individuals experience and make sense of their violent encounters and circumstances. Violence is and always will be a central part of human existence, especially for people living at the margins of society. The panel will feature novel research on the role of violence among the urban poor and it illuminates the way individuals, social groups, and the authorities seek to reduce the suffering that violence produces.

5:1. Stories of backlash in interviews with survivors of intimate partner violence in Sweden
Maria Wemrell, Lund University
While Sweden is positioned as one of the most gender equal countries in the world, survey-reported rates of intimate partner violence against women (IPVAW) are here among the highest in the EU. This apparently contradictory co-existence of high levels of gender equality and of IPVAW rates in Sweden and other Nordic countries, which has been termed the Nordic Paradox, has hitherto not been adequately resolved. One hypothetical explanation lies in dynamics of backlash against relative gender equality. The concept of backlash here denotes resistance from individuals in a position of relative privilege to changes in the status quo resulting in their lost or threatened power. In this study, based on thematic narrative analysis of interviews with 23 women exposed to IPVAW in Sweden, dynamics of backlash were indeed noted. Violence was thus described as being triggered by the woman’s existing or claimed resources, agency, breaks with traditional gender norms or resistance to violence, as well as by the man’s feeing of subordination. Such references were made in narratives which aligned quite well with the concept and theme of backlash overall, and in others that described more complex interpersonal power dynamics. This presentation discusses these stories of backlash, and briefly locates them in relation to other signs of backlash against gender equality in contemporary Sweden.

5:2. Violence and the struggle to persevere
Henrik Vigh, University of Copenhagen
This paper looks at violence as a preemptive bearing. Building on ethnographic material from Bissau and Belfast it investigates the way that perpetration and aggression may be anchored not in a will to dominate but in a desire not to be dominated. The ethnographic material thus moves us from a focus on libido dominandi to conatus essendi. The paper argues that the latter – designating the struggle to persevere – provides a more fruitful anthropologic point of departure in the study of violence. It allows us to analytically engage in a manner that humanizes rather than demonizes. While this may make it difficult to grasp the world in Manichean terms, and paint the world in black and white, it provides a key to understanding the dynamics of long-term conflict and more entrenched situations of violence. 

5:3. Police intimidation: A study of violence in potentia
David Sausdal, Lund University
Ethnographically, police violence is most-often studied as either a matter of crude force or as an expression of (il)legitimate power – as an interactional brutality or as a structurally given but sometimes misused monopoly. While such studies have yielded many valuable insights into the nature of police violence and its consequences, they have nevertheless tended to overlook a particularly predominant aspect of said violence. Namely, as this paper unfolds, they have failed to thoroughly explore the many “tactics of intimidation” frequently employed by officers around the world. Empirically, ethnographers may surely have noticed how police frequently intimidate suspects and other parts of the public. Yet, little if no in-depth analytical attention has been paid to this otherwise pervasive phenomenon. Using a recent study of Danish as well as Spanish police, this paper seeks to fill out this research gap. It does so, describing and discussing the many ways in which Danish and Spanish officers use intimidation as a means to make people submit to their will – or, put differently, by literally “making people timid”. Intimidation, the paper concludes, may thus be seen as “violence in potentia” – an effective yet understudied form of violence perhaps both in and beyond the world of policing.

5:4. ”Stop Shooting” Focused deterrence and crime prevention strategies in Malmö, Sweden
Anna Hedlund, Lund University
Gun violence is an increased concern in Sweden. How are political authorities and the police dealing with violence prevention efforts in practice? What violence reduction strategies do they employ and what impacts do such interventions have on people and communities who are targets for such efforts? Building on theories on crime prevention and policing, this presentation will focus on the issue of gun violence in Malmö and the prevention methods employed. In Malmö, the police, social service and law enforcement agencies are currently implementing an American model (Group Violence Intervention) to reduce crime and gang related shootings. What kind of social and cultural challenges does Malmö face in terms of how to implement an effective program that can prevent gun violence? Based on ethnographic fieldwork among policy and decision makers in Malmö, interviews with key-persons who work with violence prevention in practice, as well as, individuals who partake in violence reduction programs, the aim with the project is to investigate the actual consequences of such strategies.

5:5. The ‘Hardship’ and Harm of Ordinary Crises: Gendered Lives in Vietnam’s Industrial Zones
Helle Rydström, Lund University
This paper examines the ways in which women, who are employed in Vietnam’s heavy industry, cope with and mitigate crises at the workplace and more broadly in social life. Drawing on ethnographic data collected in the industrial zones of northern Vietnam, the paper highlights how women, who are working on the floor, deal with crises entanglements as an underlying condition of the ordinary. The ‘hardship’ (vat va) of everyday crises and the modalities, intensities, and temporalities by which these are composed, differ due to gender, age, and class specific precariousness, as do the symbolic, structural, and direct violence they encroach upon women and their families. The paper considers the social resilience with which women navigate a landscape of crises to manage emotional, physical, and material distress. A crisis perspective, the paper argues, provides an analytical vantage point for exploring the intricate ways in which crises entanglements rupture daily life and, in doing so, inflict various kinds of harm.

5:6. Emotional Trials in Terrorism Research: Running Risks when Accessing Salafi-jihadi Foreign Fighter Returnees and their Social Milieu
Henriette Frees Esholdt, Lund University, & Kathrine Elmose Jørgensen, University of Copenhagen
Islamist radicalization and terrorism studies, besides lacking in methodological transparency, have long suffered from immense access problems. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in Sweden and Denmark – two countries with significant populations of Salafi-jihadi Western “foreign fighter” returnees – this article addresses challenges in gaining initial access to a field described as emotionally demanding, hard-to-reach and high-risk. Addressing emotional trials that arise when encountering risk of physical danger, emotional stressors and ethical issues, the article demonstrates how emotions evolving in the research process shape and influence decisions made in the field, e.g. whether to continue or give up attempting to gain access. Thus, it provides the methodological transparency that is so crucial to unraveling and understanding the methodological obstacles of accessing Salafi-jihadist environments.

5:7. Stories of violence
Frauke Tom H Mennes, University of Copenhagen
In recent years, crime in politics seems to be on the rise. Late capitalism has forged closer links between politics, (criminal) economies and violence in different places around the world, as shown by ethnographers seeking to explore the vibrant nature of these shady networks. However, most of this research has taken the urban as its point of departure. This paper turns its focus to the rural to understand how a small village community deals with the aftermath of violence. Based on extended fieldwork in South India, it aims to show how narratives on the past violence are strategically employed to (re)produce peace. Violence took place in two waves between three groups that continue to share the social space of the village, yet the three groups rarely cast blame onto one another. Indeed, the narratives continuously displace agency and blame as explanatory of past violence, instead constructing the violence as originating outside of the village; ‘violence happened to us’ instead of ‘because of us’. While villagers freely give details about who killed who, they suggest that these acts of violence were not, as such, a choice. This way, I suggest, the village acts as a ‘moral community’ that performs a shared interpretation of the violence, but through that also of the village’s nature; constructing violence as ‘external’ allows villagers to safeguard the idea that the village community is in fact inherently good and predisposed to ‘prashantam’ (harmony) instead of conflict. Through an ethnographic exploration of these discursive performances, this paper aims to contribute to the ways in which memories of violence are practiced and become politics of storytelling in small rural communities.

5:8. Elementary forms of violence: An ethnographic study among Muslim street youths in Oslo
Sébastien Tutenges, Lund University
Violence is central to social life, especially for people at the margins of urban societies. There is a vast pool of quantitative research on the prevalence, causes and consequences of urban violence, but relatively little ethnographic evidence on how this violence is experienced and made sense of by the people living with it. This paper is based on a recent ethnographic study in Oslo among Muslim street youths who are involved in various illegal activities such as drug dealing, smuggling, and robbery. The aim is to shed light on the most common forms of violence in this marginalized group. Focus is on how street youths experience, legitimize, and delegitimize the different forms of violence that they consider most central to their lives. The paper highlights the following elementary forms of violence: respect-based violence; business violence; drunken violence; family violence; and extremist violence. These forms are considered to be different not only in degree, but also in kind. Importantly, whereas violence that has to do with respect, business and drinking tends to be widely tolerated, family violence and extremist violence is almost unanimously condemned. These findings call for renewed consideration of violence and the way violence is dealt with by the authorities.

6. Ethnographic approaches to endangerment

Convener: Chakad Ojani, University of Manchester. Discussant: B.G. Karlsson, Stockholm University.
In times of environmental devastation, species and ecosystems are increasingly finding themselves at the edge of extinction (van Dooren 2014). Dominant politico-economic systems prove feeble: the promise of renewable energy transition risks reproducing toxic kinds of more-than-human relatedness (Howe 2019), and biodiversity conservation sometimes propels its own undoing (Kockelman 2016). Anthropological responses take different shapes. While some set out to speculatively amplify non-capitalist alternatives at the margins (Watts 2019), others insist on the importance of political ecology (Hornborg 2017).
The papers of this panel take stock in these issues as they manifest around notions of endangerment. A central trope in environmental politics, endangerment speaks of forms of life that threaten to vanish in the near future. It structures images of place, specificity, value, and temporality, thereby designating certain practices as ecologically irresponsible (Choy 2011). With its long-standing interest in the local, ethnography is especially well-positioned to explore the implications of endangerment. Suggested topics include but are not limited to:

  • How people come to know certain things as endangered
  • The relation between species endangerment and cultural specificity
  • Endangerment as political trope
  • The condition of being (seen as) endangered
  • Temporalities of endangerment
  • Endangerment and nostalgia

6:1. Exposed Roots of Endangered Landscapes: Hydropower, Erosion, and Contested Environmentalism in Rural Northern Sweden
Flora Mary Bartlett, Stockholm University & Goldsmiths, University of London
This paper explores the tensions across different scales of endangered futures and environmentalism through a close examination of the local experience of hydropower in Arjeplog, rural Northern Sweden / Swedish Sápmi, using a visual ethnographic approach. Based on 13 months of ethnographic fieldwork 2017-18 I discuss how locals in Arjeplog demonstrated a locally-oriented environmentalism entangled in the devastating impacts of hydropower on culturally significant glacial land formations used extensively by the local community. The statesupported hydropower dams have endangered local species and these glacial landscapes themselves through erosion, leaving pine roots exposed and the land precarious. Locals experience the erosion as a continuation of the state’s interference in the north in a long history of resource extraction, while on the national scale the state utilises the practice as integral towards Sweden’s ‘green’ future and a response to the global threat of climate change. Using images produced with and by collaborators in the field, I explore how endangerment is experienced in the landscape and reflect on how we can think anthropologically about endangerment and environmentalism when contested across different scales.

6:2. Approaching ocean hazards: knowledge production on ocean change and pollution
Sven Bergmann, Leibniz Institute for Maritime History
Studying the threats to ecosystems is of particular concern in marine science research projects. Knowledge production in this field is characterized by a high degree of indeterminacy and unpredictability of scientific findings. The phenomena studied are often slow-moving changes and disasters that are difficult to measure and calculate.
I will focus in my presentation on two examples that are part of a collaborative research practice in an EU project (“North Sea Wrecks”) and on the other hand part of both ethnographic and curatorial practice: (1) the potential environmental hazards from World War munitions in the North Sea and (2) the changes caused by the transport and introduction of marine species in other regions through marine technologies such as ballast water.
While the first case is about the complicated toxicological evidence that corroding munition shells release TNT and other substances that could become a hazard to marine species as well as for food safety, the second example deals with the dynamics of changes in biodiversity that, while also occurring without human intervention, have been vastly amplified by technologies such as shipping.
The question of whether there is a threat here (and for whom?) and what kind of threat it is, nevertheless remains complicated: It turns out that ambivalence and/or complexity in emerging naturecultures are difficult cooperation partners for the political mode of dealing with these marine problems, for which new types of care should first be found – beyond alarmism and preservation paradigms.

6:3. Endangered species, endangered city: The politics of fog oasis conservation in Lima, Peru
Chakad Ojani, University of Manchester
Lima is characterised by a hyper-arid landscape with very little rain. Yet, temperature inversions generate ground-touching clouds that are continuously pushed inland by trade winds. Too small to precipitate, the tiny water droplets are instead distributed as fog drip by the seemingly barren vegetation. During winter months, these processes yield a radical environmental transformation whereby the city’s hilly peripheries become saturated with lush greenery. As it happens, some of these areas have long served as an arena for the city’s history of informal urbanization. Limeñan conservationists have therefore begun to understand urban squatters as ecosystem threats. Hosting endemic species that are perceived as symbols of Limeñan identity, the endangerment of urban fog oases is experienced by some as a threat to the city itself. In this paper, I discuss how fog oasis conservation in Lima intersects with the politics of cultural survival. By drawing a parallel between the way squatters are colloquially spoken of as invaders (invasores), on the one hand, and conservationists’ concerns with (non)invasive species, on the other hand, I explore how conservation in Lima becomes enmeshed with more long-running efforts to reconstruct class and racialised hierarchies in a rapidly changing social landscape.

7. Theorizing conspiracy theories: do anthropologists have ANYTHING interesting to say about conspiracy theories these days? (Roundtable)

Annika Rabo, Stockholm University, Steve Sampson, Lund University, Ela Drazkiewicz, Maynooth University, Tova Höjdestrand, Lund University
Academic and media interest in conspiracy theories and their effect on society has exploded in the past year, notably with those contesting Trump’s defeat, the rise of QAnon and the controversies over Covid-19 policies and vaccines. Media and academic commentators from social psychology, political sociology and philosophy have offered sweeping analyses of conspiracy theories, conspiracy producers, conspiratorial groups, conspiracy consumers, conspiracy victims and of the overall conspiracists spirit now pervading public life. Conspiracy, and discussion about conspiracy, about what this all means, is everywhere. This discussion poses both an opportunity and a challenge for anthropologists. The opportunity is that we anthropologists can offer a scientific corrective to some of the more stereotypical explanations of what conspiracy beliefs are, who believes them and how they spread. But this is also the challenge. The challenge is to develop some kind of unique anthropological approach that make us rise above the often dilettante, light-weight explanations that place conspiracists into groups of either lonely outsiders or political truth-tellers. This panel, composed of four anthropologists each with their own approach to the conspiratorial universe, offers a forum for discussing these opportunities and challenges. Does anthropology have anything unique to say about the wave of conspiracism now overwhelming us? Can we escape our own anthropology echo chamber? Can we say something so that people will listen to us? The panel will begin with four brief presentations by the convenors and then open up for discussion.

8. Interaktiv paneldebatt: När kunskap blir farlig

Maria Arnelid, Johanna Dahlin, Jenny Gleisner, Corinna Kruse, Karin Skill, Linköpings universitet
Den här interaktiva paneldebatten bjuder in till en fri diskussion om kunskapens eventuella farlighet.
Vi utgår från situationer i våra olika empiriska fält – AI i vården, immaterialrätt, mödravård, kriminalteknik, miljöaktivism – i olika delar av världen – Sverige, Sovjetunionen, Argentina – för att identifiera skärningspunkter när kunskap blir farlig på olika sätt. När vårdens förkroppsligade kunskap översätts och kvantifieras för att kunna genomföras av en robot, är det viktigt att även okvantifierbara värden följer med. I Sovjetunionen sågs den tekniska intelligentsian som både ovärderlig och hotfull, och deras förkroppsligade kunskap skulle både tas till vara och begränsas. För barnmorskor betyder de blivande föräldrarnas informationssökande från olika källor om att skapa tillit till vården trots att kunskapen som vården förmedlar ibland är oförenlig med den som de blivande föräldrarna har hämtat från andra håll. Kunskap om kriminalteknik måste förmedlas inom rättsväsendet och till allmänheten, men ska inte kunna användas av kriminella för att begå ”bättre” brott. Inom miljörättviserörelsen i Argentina blev den vetenskapliga kunskapen om hur besprutningsmedel påverkar levande varelser farlig när en molekylärbiolog publicerade resultat i en dagstidning.

Frågorna vi vill diskutera utifrån korta presentationer av våra empiriska exempel är: På vilket sätt blir den farlig? För vem eller vad blir den farlig? Finns det rätt och fel kunskap och rätt och fel händer för den? När är kunskap ett problem eller en lösning? Vad kan vi dra för slutsatser om kunskapens relation till fara? kunskapens relation till fara?