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Nadia Breda

Can anthroposophists be considered environmentalists? Based on the author’s recent ethnographic research, this article seeks to delineate the profile of the anthroposophical environmentalist, a figure belonging to a particular form of environmentalism. In the last two centuries, anthroposophy (founded by Rudolf Steiner, 1861-1925) has elaborated a universalistic narrative named “spiritual science.” Today, through a “salvific approach” and a “karstic life,” anthroposophy informs different, blended, environmental practices intertwined with ecological and social issues that include spirituality, anti-modernism, human-nonhuman relationships and alternative sciences. Consequently, the ecological movements inspired by anthroposophy have a wide and increasing diffusion globally and this, in turn, stimulates anthropology to produce appropriate ethnographic knowledge of this form of environmentalism.

Greg Beckett

The humanitarian is often seen as the great moral figure of our time. In this article, I explore how the idea of the humanitarian, as a global public figure, is related to broader ideas of liberalism, agency, ethics, and care. I draw on ethnographic examples from Haiti to first paint a portrait of the humanitarian as a person concerned with certain ideas of care, suffering, and salvation. I then offer a more general theoretical account of the figure of the humanitarian and suggest that this figure is tied to a larger story about liberal responses to cruelty and suffering. In the end, I suggest that the figure of the humanitarian tells us much about the normalization of emergency around the world and about what I call the banality of care.

Raymond Apthorpe and John Borton

The international humanitarian sector has long been criticized for relying on standardized responses that make little, if any, adjustment to social and cultural differences between different disaster contexts and disaster-affected populations. Responding to such criticisms, the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit set an ambitious target for “localizing” international humanitarian funding flows so that a quarter would be provided by local and national responders. But what precisely “local” might mean was little theorized, and what humanitarian agencies themselves could learn to improve their own aid-effectiveness from the disaster-affected populations’ own responses to severe stress was not prioritized. This article identifies some of the challenges the new funding regime needs to address for it to have the best chances of meeting its stated objectives, and it explores what role anthropology could play in researching such issues in an action-investigation frame. It concludes with some reflections about effective public anthropology in that conducive frame.

Are John Knudsen

Since the mid-1980s, generations of displaced people have sought refuge in the ramshackle buildings that were once the Gaza-Ramallah Hospital, a multi-story hospital complex built by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (plo). Damaged during the civil war, today the buildings blend in with the run-down Sabra-Shatila neighbourhood in Beirut’s “misery belt.” This paper charts the buildings’ history and main characters: the lodgers, landlords, and gatekeepers who respectively lease, rent, and control the dilapidated buildings’ dark corridors, cramped flats, and garbage-strewn stairways. The multi-story buildings are examples of emergency urbanism whereby displaced people seek refuge in cities, and their story can be read as a vertical migration history of people escaping conflict, displacement, and destitution. Examining the buildings as archives of spatial and political histories provides a genealogy of displacement and emplacement that can inform the study of emergency urbanism and point to solutions in cities for refugees lacking access to affordable housing.

Kee Howe Yong

Pictures of women eking out a living at open-air markets in conflict zones are often used worldwide to elicit sympathy and outrage. Their chilies, synecdoche here for the commodities they sell at the open-air markets, constitutes another stereotypical image of these women living on the margins of the economy. However, what remains missing in most analyses is the focus on the lives and livelihoods of these women who bear the hardships of maintaining family life in precarious circumstances. This article focuses on the effects of the latest insurgency in Thailand’s far south on a group of women food vendors (mak pasar) as they engage with the difficulty of reality. It also touches on their cynical subjectivities towards how the government has been handling the conflict and their ambivalence towards the insurgency.


A Political Anthropology Approach

Irfan Ahmad

This essay critically reviews Jan-Werner Müller’s What is Populism and its application in the Indian debate to show the efficacy and limits of his exposition. It focuses on three points: elision of subjectivity of those who are targets of populism, neglect of religion as a key factor in populist mobilizations, and the near desertion of International Relations in accounting for populism. These points are discussed by drawing, inter alia, on contemporary Indian populism, especially related to pluralism, a concept that Müller insightfully foregrounds as central to populism. It is hoped that a political-anthropological approach to populism will enrich its theoretical understanding beyond disciplinary and spatial grooves.