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ANTHROS IN EVERYDAY LIFE  
TIMEPASS AND BOREDOM IN MODERN INDIA
ENACHTING SECURITY IN THE FACE OF URBAN TERROR 
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ICA

ICA

INSTITUTE OF CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY 
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CONTENTS

CONTENTS

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COLOFON 

COLOFON 

The ICA (Institute for Cultural Anthropology) is the semi-scientific journal of Itiwana, study association Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology at the Leiden  University. The ICA appears twice a year.

 

Text editors
Marthe Baalbergen, Rémi ten Hoorn, Wouter Keijzer, Xiangjun Sun and Liselot Voordouw 

 

Online magazine media editors
Xiangjun Sun and Liselot Voordouw

 

Offline magazine media editors
Marthe Baalbergen and Rémi ten Hoorn

 

Editor in Chief
Rémi ten Hoorn

 

Authors
Dominique Desjeux, Chris Fuller, Kavi Kanani, Sunčana Laketa, Maaike Oude Veldhuis, Federico Pasetti, Ruth Preser, Markéta Slavková, Anouk Zilverentant Coverphoto Pexels 

 

E-Mail
ica@itiwana.org - info@itiwana.org

 

The editors reserve the right to shorten and edit articles or not to post them. Acquisition of (parts of) articles is only permitted after consultation with the editors

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PREFACE 

PREFACE  

 

 

For me, high school was a structured time. Every day I went to school, followed lessons, went home again, and did my homework. Extra-curricular activities were pre-scheduled and almost never changed. I saw my friends at school and when I had the time, I met up with them afterwards as well. Life as a high schooler might have been restricted, but it was organized.

Then university started, and the routine I had disappeared completely. Schedules changed every week, dinner was sometimes at five and sometimes at eight, sport was something I did when I had the time. My daily life changed completely, but not in a messy way: it rather was a fluctuant adventurous trip and I loved it.

 

A few months later Covid-19 happened, and everyone’s routine changed instantly. I enjoyed the first months and the peace that came without all the social busy social activities I had, but after a while - and without end in sight - I started to long for my normal life again. Now, more than a year later, our lives are still different from what they were.

They are, however, still our daily lives. They are different, and not always fun, but lives have always been fluctuant and there are always unexpected moments. When this happens, we adapt and move on, which is not always easy, but this year I have learned that it is not impossible to adapt again, and again, and again. No, it is not always enjoyable, but 1,5 years ago I would never have realized that I could live my life like this; the dinners without friends, the distance we must keep 24/7 and online learning. We all had to adapt and change the way we saw our everyday lives.

 

We did yoga from our bedrooms, walked miles with our friends, made extensive journals. But not only a pandemic causes changes in life. War has been doing it to people for a very long time already, or terrorism. It changes the way we consume, or the way we see time.

All our lives change, no matter how they are structured. Our life changes and a new everyday life comes into place. It is different, yes, but it is still our everyday life.

Soon, many of us will be vaccinated and our lives will change again, hopefully this time for the better. Enjoy this edition of the ICA!

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RÉMI TEN HOORN

 

Rémi ten Hoorn is a second years student of Cultural Anthropology and the Secretary of the current Itiwana board. Within the ICA committee she is the Editor in Chief. She loves to read and write, play the piano and bake cookies with friends once in a while.

ENACTING SECURITY IN THE FACE OF URBAN TERROR 

ENACTING SECURITY IN THE FACE OF URBAN TERROR 

EXTERNAL ARTICLE 
SUNČANA LAKETA
 
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BOLLARDS IN BRUSSELS

 

SEPTEMBER 2019

 

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It was June 2016 and I was walking through a metro station in Brussels as I spotted two heavily armed soldiers standing on the platform, with the metro commuters passing by quietly and slowly around them. After spending about a week in Brussels, I had noted many sites of military personnel and an array of differently armed vehicles and military equipment in the city's public spaces. The residents of Brussels seemed to be slowly getting used to their presence, with only the occasional tourist taking a snapshot “from the warzone”. It has been three months after the suicide bomb attacks on the Zaventem airport and the Maalbeek metro station in Brussels that killed 35 people and injured many more. I was in Brussels together with my colleague Sara Fregonese trying to understand the felt experience of urban terrorism and the affectivities of different counter-terrorist security measures. We asked ourselves: What does the presence of military bodies and objects do in urban public places.

“Are we going to prevent a bomb attack because there’s military in the metro? No!”, told us then a Brussels federal police officer, involved in the anti-terrorist unit, during an interview. “It’s a political decision, to re-assure the public, to let them know we are doing all we can”, he proceeded to explain to us. The military bodies and objects thus served as a visual reminder of the state presence in those spaces, rather than serving a particular security task. More than that, their visual presence enacted a specific understanding of the meaning of those bomb attacks as an act of war, as well as the meaning of security in the city. If “we are at war”, how then are the residents re-assured of their safety in the midst of the ongoing urban warfare? The camouflaged soldiers on the city streets, as bodies that do not blend in their environment, are examples of what Cindy Katz (2007) calls “banal terrorism”. As such, they are reminders of terror in everyday urban environments that recreate fear and terror, albeit in highly uneven and differentially experienced ways. In recent years, the presence of camouflaged soldiers is receding and slowly giving way to other objects as material reminders of terror, exemplified through the proliferation of the ubiquitous bollard on city streets, a device that serves to prevent cars from ramming into buildings and people. These “everyday, routinized, barely noticed reminders of terror or the threat of an always already presence of terrorism in our midst “(Katz 2007: 350) exemplify the performativities of security in everyday spaces that work to normalize militarism and conflict. Rather than purportedly protecting and defending the city, these performative bodies and spaces are repetitive enactments that constitute and stabilize the very meaning of terror.

 

"[THE MILITARY BODIES AND OBJECTS]' VISUAL PRESENCE ENACTED A SPECIFIC UNDERSTANDING OF THE MEANING OF THOSE BOMB ATTACKS AS AN ACT OF WAR, AS WELL AS THE MEANING OF SECURITY IN THE CITY."

 

However, the state monopoly on “security” is never a stable or coherent entity. Rather, it is constantly contested and negotiated through daily practice and mundane acts that challenge these dominant understandings. Take the example of Marianne, a resident of Paris that me and my colleague Flora Hergon interviewed at the Place de la République in September 2020. For Marianne, “We talk about terrorism all the time, but harassment is something we experience everyday”, as she went on to describe her experiences of street harassment on the square and other public spaces in the city center. As a young Muslim woman wearing a veil, she feels exposed to other people’s gaze in ways that undermine her feelings of safety. “Even today”, she says referring to the mandatory masks in public spaces due to Covid-19 virus, “with all of my clothes [she points to her veil] and my mask, the men keep bothering me”. To strengthen her feelings of safety, Marianne describes how she avoids walking by groups of men on the square and prefers coming to the city center with members of her family, rather than alone. Through these and other embodied socio-spatial practices of security, Marianne enacts a different understanding of the notion of threat in the city. She performatively re-articulates what it means to be safe and from which kind of violences. Moreover, she openly challenges the state discourses on terror, echoing Rachel Pain’s (2014) argument on gender violence as everyday terrorism. 

The examples presented above point to the usefulness of the concept of performativity for providing different insights onto geopolitics, conflict and the processes of securitization. Performativity is a compelling theoretical and methodological tool for grasping the power of mundane spaces and embodied practices to bring to being, or to constitute, different subjects and objects (Laketa 2020). In my work, I build on the notion of performativity as developed by the philosopher Judith Butler (1990, 1993). Her work has been influential in understanding the processes of identification, in particular the construction of gender identities. She emphasized how our behavior, and ways of walking, talking and feeling, constitute embodied, often unconscious, actions that repeat over time and stabilize the meaning of a certain identity. I first engaged with the notion of performativity in my work in the city of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to understand the geopolitical production of ethnicized spaces and

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

identities in the post-conflict city. There, I developed the notion of “sticky space” (Laketa 2018) in order to grasp the experiential and the affective dimensions of everyday spaces as they are actively and dynamically involved in the production of geopolitical subjects in the city. In my current project, I build on this knowledge on affective dimensions of life in the post-conflict city, and use the notion of the “sticky space”, as a way to connect and make productive links between the cities in post-conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina, and western European cities in the aftermath of terror. The on-going project investigates the “sticky spaces” of Paris and Brussels in the aftermath of the acts of terror during 2015 and 2016, and the ensuing implementation of counter-terror measures in everyday public places. The concept of performativity allows me to grasp different ways of enacting security in the face of urban terror and how these performative spaces and practices constitute subjects and objects of security, danger and threat. In this way, I seek to ground and localize spatial politics in the everyday environment and expose the contingency of geopolitical relations in the city. 

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BRUSSELS METRO

 

JUNE 2016

 

(PHOTO TAKEN BY THE AUTHOR)

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SUNČANA LAKETA

 

Sunčana Laketa is a feminist political and urban geographer, working as an SNF Ambizione Fellow at the University of Neuchâtel. In her work, she attends to affective and emotional geographies of (post)conflict cities. Her current research investigates the urban affective atmospheres of security and terror threat in Paris and Brussels.

WAT THEREFORE DISCOURSE HAS JOINED US TOGETHER: SEXUALITY, PERFORMATIVITY, AND EVERYDAY USE OF PUBLIC SPACES 

WAT THEREFORE DISCOURSE HAS JOINED US TOGETHER: SEXUALITY, PERFORMATIVITY, AND EVERYDAY USE OF PUBLIC SPACES 

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE 
 
EXTERNAL ARICLE 
RUTH PRESER 

Tolerance is the social discourse informed by negative sentiments and perceptions towards minorities – sexual, racial and others. As Wendy Brown (2006) contends: even though tolerance as such is not the problem, it is never innocent of power or normativity, as almost all objects of tolerance are marked as deviant, marginal, or undesirable by virtue of being tolerated. Hence, tolerance serves as a mechanism for regulating aversion towards minorities and minoritarian ways of life; it sets limits for what is to be tolerated and what cannot and indeed, must not be tolerated (Brown, 2006). When it comes to LGBTs as objects of tolerance, they are offered (and expected to embrace) a particular form of assimilation to heteronormative scripts. Consequently, the space for public manifestation of non-normative practices shrinks, and the public sphere is reduced to a narrow zone of domestic privacy and respectability (Duggan, 2002). 

In what follows, I discuss lesbian intimacy and the conditions for being public in the Israeli context. Exploring relationships’ dissolution narratives of Jewish Israeli lesbians, I argue that intimacy is understood, performed and experienced against the backdrop and in response to prevailing discourses of tolerance which regulate the public sphere. The public sphere – as the locus of recognition and the site where witnessing and validation of one’s relationship takes place – continues to inform intimate narratives. This is perhaps particularly true in Israel, where kinship is belonging and the centrality of the normative couple and family in public life is (re)produced daily as the foundation of the social order and as a national asset (Fogiel-Bijaoui & Rutlinger-Reiner, 2013). Israeli familism is cultivated by constant social surveillance, (Lahad, 2012) which turns coupledom into a collective concern. Israeli LGBT politics also features the family (and coupledom) as the category and route for belonging. It identifies civil rights with access to heteronormative family rights, and constitutes claims for equal citizenship based on assimilation to the heteronormative model, arrayed around a state-endorsed heterosexual primacy and prestige (Gross, 2015). The values espoused by this model include endurance, which links authenticity to relationship duration (Weston, 1995)

The breakup stories I collected through in-depth interviews emphasize how belonging is negotiated and worked out once sexual minorities fail to assimilate to heteronormative scripts of life and intimacy. Frequently coded in the interviews as ‘lesbian drama’, it implies the (negative) public effect of being at odd with scripts of coupledom that associate the form of the enduring couple with citizenship, respectability, and inclusion (Wilkinson, 2012). 

So, what does it mean to yearn, as a lesbian, for a happy ending while telling the most vulnerable and least presentable intimate narrative (Love, 2007):

I call it the small pins, which [puncture the] big balloon of acceptance and equal relationship […]. Like when we go to a B&B with all the family, and my dad makes the reservations, and in our room, we get two single beds, because it’s a room for two women […]. Or when my mom feels it’s very important for her to emphasize that [my relationship] is ‘like’ or ‘precisely like’ any other couple. […] Whereas, with a heterosexual couple, when it comes to the development of the relationship, [the milestones are] socially grounded […] and everything pushes towards “being together” and taking vows […] in the presence of a large audience. And then, I think, it is harder to dissolve the relationship. (Tamara)

The literature tends to perceive relationship dissolution among LGBTs as an inevitable outcome of homophobia, discrimination, and the lack of institutional recognition and support (Kurdek, 2005). Hence, separations are considered an unwelcome deviation that would be overcome through the convergence of ritual, institutional and emotional practices, all of which are performed publicly and validated by an audience. However, even when the lesbian couple is celebrated, the validation is entwined with the liberal idea that coupledom makes the sexual Other more human (Olund, 2010): it is concurrently compartmentalized: 

I told my parents about my partner, and my father said: “Congratulations, I’m so happy,” because […] as far as he’s concerned, the fact that something in the way of a partner interests me [was such a relief that] he didn’t care about her gender. […] As this was the ultimate act of normalcy that his [transgender] daughter had performed. Ever. (Hadassah) 

Coming out to her parents about being intimately involved with a woman restores Hadassah’s intelligibility, which has been a cause for worry for her parents. The relief experienced by her father alludes to his failure to tolerate Hadassah’s gender transgression outside coupledom, which functions here as a normalizing life script. While the father’s joy alludes to an explicit performative utterance of coming out, it concurrently negates it, as in ‘I cannot accept you’, or, ‘your acceptance is as provisional as your coupledom’ (Sedgwick, 2003, pp. 67-8). Sedgwick defines such utterances that cannot fulfill a consensus as periperformatives. Periperformatives are speech acts that do not bear the same authority and agency as performative speech acts such as those sanctioned by the state. Whereas performatives invoke consensus  

among the audience (think of J. L. Austin’s marriage ceremony), periperformatives encounter refusals and deflections (think ‘tolerance’). Hence a periperformative exposes the fact that queer agency is not guaranteed, as they do not enjoy the privilege of fulfilling some preexisting convention (Sedgwick, 2003). Thus, by the same gesture that the couple is tolerated, the single transgender is rejected. It is therefore no surprise that announcing oneself as a couple – in public – becomes a mandatory gesture in regimes of tolerance. Scenes of tolerance, which are in fact, scenes of refusal to bear witness, expose the fact that queer agency is not guaranteed. The persistent acts of tolerance and recognition, therefore, serve as a reminder of the violence embedded in regimes of tolerance and of the complex spatiality which is still unarticulated by safety, nurture, or agency (Sedgwick, 2003). 

Not surprisingly, becoming worthy of tolerance and inhabiting the public sphere require the activation of that which validates and authenticates coupledom (and which is chronically lost by recurring breakups), namely, endurance. Endurance is a powerful signifier of respectability, adulthood and normalcy in western societies. However, when it comes to ‘lesbian drama’, it cannot be constituted upon a chronological passage of time and accumulation of months and years. Instead, it is rendered with the passage of utterances: 

We were together for a year, and you know, I could already envision my home, my kids, with their names already decided. […] So I already had a home, children, woman, it's just that it would have taken a few years [for all that to materialize]. One year later, we broke up. (Hadassah)

Reproduction talk and kinship time have a constitutive power: a home, a spouse and children are always already scripted, a libretto for two awaiting to unfold. Future takes but one form – that of the reproductive family, which has the capacity to transform longevity from a property that can be claimed post factum into one that is claimed in advance. It is a ‘root that grows after’, as Helen Cixous (1997) articulates her nonlinear notion of autobiography – a peculiar architecture of minoritarian belonging in which the roots arise in the aftermath. This somewhat unusual construction of root and story pertains to a mode of “being ahead of oneself without having lived what is behind” (Cixous, 1997, p. 34). While the normative sense of endurance (as well as the respectability, publicness and belonging it entails), requires the chronological passage of months and years, here it turns into a property that is claimed and may be gained in advance, as a potentiality. It is a reproductive futurism (Edelman, 2004) where hope becomes an act of affirmation, and temporality - a speech act of pledging. Hence, reproduction is not merely a symbolic capital in a pro-natalist culture (Donath, 2014), but the very category that allows one to hope for and speak as a couple:

With my ex-lover of two and a half years […] I couldn’t see us raising children together, although I knew I wanted children […]. And all of a sudden, with Naama, it works out. I want to think of her as someone I’ll be with, I don’t know till when, but, to live my life with her, all my life. (Anat)

Repro-talk is a metonym for endurance; it has the power to extend the present into a future, and is a measure of a relationship’s quality, distinguishing it from those relationships that could not be extended or instilled with futurity and consequently, with publicness. The notions of stability, endurance and reproduction create a kinship time – a futuristic, fantastic time that authenticates present coupledom. Hence, temporal categories become an imitation of the invocation into marriage, a sort of “with this future, I thee wed”: 

[When my partner told me]: “I want a partner for life, I want a partner with an option for 70 years.” […] I thought, “Wow, I want a partner for 70 years, too” […]. And I remember the moment I kissed her, looked at her and thought: “I'm not attracted to her, but she’s very nice […] and I’m sure that, somewhere in my mind, the fact that she wanted […] a partner for life, [made me consider] being like everyone else […]. And I managed to bring our parents together, […] and I thought: “That’s it, I want the 70 years!” (Galit)

It takes witnesses to forge the 70 year option, which is rendered with the passage of utterances in the presence of others. Being publicly tolerated as a couple, being recognized, accepted, even legally legitimated, invokes the presumption of a consensus between witnesses on the one hand and the object of tolerance on the other (Sedgwick, 2003). And while lesbian relationships may remain unwitnessed and ‘pinned’, the periperformative labor of love and the doing of intimacy in regimes of tolerance, provide a multilayered spatiality of lesbian intimacy. This spatiality allows us to trace that which was supposed to remain unwitnessed, namely, power, transphobia, homophobia and the falsehood of coupledom as a liberal and liberating project.  

RUTH PRESER

Ruth Preser is a faculty member at Tel-Hai Academic College and a scholar in the field of cultural studies, combining feminist and queer theory and empirically informed inquiry. She studies forms of citizenship, the public sphere and politics of belonging in the context of kinship, migration, diasporic cultures and urban environments. She is a co-founder of the Haifa Feminist Institute - Archive, Library and Research Center at Isha L’Isha – a feminist grassroots in Haifa. Her  current research explores statusless women in Israel.

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ANTHROS IN EVERYDAY LIFE 
ANOUK ZILVERENTANT 

ABOUT JOURNALING 

ABOUT JOURNALING 

 
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For as long as I can remember, I have kept a diary or journal of some sort. I was never really consistent with it – I still am not – but writing things down has been a great outlet for thoughts and ideas throughout my life. About a year or two ago, I started journaling more consistently. I was going through a bit of a rough time in my life and talking about my feelings seemed unimaginable, so I turned to pen and paper instead.

"... talking about my feelings seemed unimaginable, so I turned to pen and paper instead"

 

If I am being honest – I do not exactly journal every single day. Sometimes I go through a phase in which I write daily, but there are also times that I only write a couple of times a month. Besides being inconsistent with the frequency, I also do not have a certain structure I follow. Many people use journaling prompts (things like ‘three things you’re grateful for, happy about, etc.’) and that can be an amazing place to start, but I personally enjoy writing without any rules or restrictions. On some days I very plainly write down what I did and how I felt the past week, because I do not have the best memory and writing down things helps immensely. Other times I write almost poetic descriptions of (certain elements of) my days; detailed thoughts on a certain issue; or literally just dump my brain’s content onto the pages – leading to a several pages long and very incoherent stream of consciousness. I write about my friends; nice forest walks; new people I’ve met; what series I am watching; interesting things I discovered; my feelings about societal issues; the music I currently listen to a lot; which phase the moon is in; whatever really. But what usually tends to be central are my own thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

 

That is, I think, for me the main use of my journal. To ‘empty’ my mind: when there is a lot going on in my mind it truly helps to get it out of my brain and onto the paper. Putting my thoughts into coherent sentences rather than keeping them like a whirlwind inside of my head makes them more comprehensible and makes me feel clear-minded. Another reason I enjoy journaling is because it is nice, or at least interesting, to look back on later. Memories of things I might have forgotten about will come back instantly as I read back my old journal entries. Sometimes I add in some memorabilia; things that you connect with certain memories, people or events. Such as train tickets, newspaper articles, receipts, and polaroid pictures. Worldwide events, such as corona, also have a place in my journal – but rather than providing any factual information (I can read that on any news outlet or Wikipedia in a couple of years) I reflect on how it personally affects my life – such as not being able to see friends or go, well, anywhere. A journal is one’s unique, personal collection of memories and thoughts, that’s one of the beautiful things about it. Being able to write something purely for yourself, without having to worry about it being grammatically correct or containing embarrassing stuff that you’d prefer no one else to read. It’s just a piece of mind, materialised.

 

I particularly enjoy writing before I go to sleep because it clears my mind. Sure, the things I have been thinking or worrying about have not completely disappeared, but they have been addressed. Alternately, I enjoy writing in the mornings or at moments of ‘new beginnings’ – like the night of a new moon, or the beginning of a new month or season. There also is a nice connection between journaling and anthropology. During fieldwork, we often write a lot of fieldnotes - during observation, notes on interviews and conversations, sketches of the location, and our own reflection on all of the information and findings. So, quite similar to journaling really! Only instead of doing research, it is our own lives we write about. Already having a habit of doing so can prove useful when doing fieldwork. To me, it felt quite natural to get my notebook out and start writing about the things I saw and heard. 

I particularly enjoy writing before I go to sleep because it clears my mind. Sure, the things I have been thinking or worrying about have not completely disappeared, but they have been addressed. Alternately, I enjoy writing in the mornings or at moments of ‘new beginnings’ – like the night of a new moon, or the beginning of a new month or season. There also is a nice connection between journaling and anthropology. During fieldwork, we often write a lot of fieldnotes - during observation, notes on interviews and conversations, sketches of the location, and our own reflection on all of the information and findings. So, quite similar to journaling really! Only instead of doing research, it is our own lives we write about. Already having a habit of doing so can prove useful when doing fieldwork. To me, it felt quite natural to get my notebook out and start writing about the things I saw and heard.

"A journal is one’s unique, personal collection of memories and thoughts, " that’s one of the beautiful things about it."

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ANOUK ZILVERENTANT

 

Hi! My name is Anouk. I am currently in my fourth year of studying Cultural Anthropology – meaning I’m almost done with my bachelor! I’ve been in various Itiwana committees over the years. I am addicted to coffee and in my free time I enjoy writing, drawing, and looking at funny pictures of cats

THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF YOGA 

THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF YOGA East vs. West 

 
ANTHROS IN EVERYDAY LIFE 
KAVI KANANI 

“In the Western world, the stereotypical view of Yoga is that either you need to be flexible, a spiritual hippie or above the age of 40 to do it”

 

Yoga, founded in the Himalaya’s 5,000 years ago, is defined as the union between the body and the mind. This idea of union has spread from the East to the West. Is there a difference in the practice between the East and the West, or has its core value been translated precisely?

 

In the Western world, the stereotypical view of Yoga is that either you need to be flexible, a spiritual hippie or above the age of 40 to do it. It has now also become a trend as Instagrammer’s and YouTuber’s fill up their feeds with Yoga flows in their matching lycra Yoga sets, posting stories of them drifting incense around their rooms.

 

But what is Yoga really about? Has the Western perspective washed out the true meaning of Yoga, and like with many things, pushed an aesthetic standard onto it?

 

Travelling to the birthplace of Yoga, Rishikesh, I was able to see how Yoga is so much more than the physical postures (in Sanskrit – the asanas). In the East, Yoga is a lifestyle. It involves following certain disciplines (the yamas and niymamas – essentially a philosophy to life that you should abide by), such as drinking no alcohol and not hoarding, eating in a certain way (many Yogis follow an Ayuverdic diet, where you eat according to your dosha – this means you exclude certain foods because they could create imbalance, which will further affect your personality and physique), as well as participating in rigorous cleanses involving fasting, intentionally puking and cleansing your butt hole. This is the norm for devoted Yogi’s – it’s not weird or unnatural, it’s just a part of Yoga. Adding to that, the asana’s each have different physical and spiritual benefits, which is often skipped over in a Yoga class in the West. Yes, some poses are done deliberately to make you fart (they are literally called ‘wind releasing pose’). In the West, farting accidentally in a Yoga class is not necessarily encouraged – even if the intention of the pose is to release wind. What you wear in a class in the East is not so much about how flattering your sports bra/pants are, but how practical your outfit is. In the East, where it’s hotter, you’re most likely going to sweat, whether you’re doing a Yin class (super slow and restorative) or Ashtanga (a sequenced, fast-paced class). Plus, you need to consider the different social norms. While it’s more accepted and encouraged to wear whatever you like in the West, in the East wearing less isn’t so normal. In India I felt stared at more than usual if I was wearing shorts or a lower cut top. Even if it is 40 degrees, you do have to be a bit more mindful of what you wear. I find this funny since Yoga is a practice that encourages no judgment, but originating from India contradicts this because in Indian culture you must wear more cautiously cut clothes, ‘out of respect for everyone else’ (as I have been told many times by my family members).

 

But what is Yoga really about? Has the Western perspective washed out the true meaning of Yoga, and like with many things, pushed an aesthetic standard onto it?

 

Yoga is a devotional, dedicational lifestyle in the East. It gives you space to live life slower, and as my teachers in India taught me, gives you less internal troubles (you’re so devoted to looking after yourself). While the practice does encourage mindfulness  to some extent in the West, it’s mainly used to exercise and to stretch the body. The philosophical and spiritual values are less significant in the West and rarely spoken of in a class. ‘Spiritual’ doesn’t always provoke the best reaction in the West.

 

For me personally, coming back from the East to the West this time last year, I tried to practice Yoga in the same ‘Eastern’ way. This proved a challenge living my student life and the desire for still having friends and family to fit in with. Eating with my eyes closed, chewing 30 times and waking up to clean my nostrils and my ass every morning realistically doesn’t work. Sometimes I want a beer. But I do try to be mindful in most things that I do – I speak kindly, I try to (most of the time) eat fresh, homemade, nutritional food (but unlike the yogic way garlic and onions are pivotal in my cooking) and I still practice Yoga with my eyes closed and do it because my mind and body yearns for it, alike to how some people need coffee.

 

Though the same bodily movements are being made around the world, Yoga has a different meaning for everyone. Those who practice it will know that it is an individual experience, so while you may be practicing ‘Yoga’ as a sport in a studio in the West, it’s what you make of it, as is everything in life. You always have the option to experience Yoga in another way, wherever you are in the world. East or West, to some extent Yoga always unites the body and the mind – even if that’s just you realizing that the posture is difficult.

"Yoga has a different meaning for everyone"
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KAVI KANANI

 

Kavi Kanani is a Hatha Yoga Teacher and student of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology at the University of Leiden. She has been teaching yoga for a year, and is a student of yoga herself for 7 years. Her intention of teaching yoga is to provide anyone and everyone with a safe space to connect with themselves and feel their best.

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WALKING AS MEDITATION 

WALKING AS MEDITATION 

 
ANTHROS IN EVERYDAY LIFE 
MAAIKE OUDE VELDHUIS 

Ever since the pandemic started, people began to rediscover their own areas by doing leisure activities like walking. Parks and beaches were crowded with people and some nature areas even had to be closed down. The pandemic gave us the opportunity to appreciate the value of nature again. For example: I think everyone has seen the footage of fish reappearing in the canals of Venice and the sky clearing in smog areas. The lockdown allowed us to slow down and take a good look around. I think walking provides the perfect opportunity to experience your surroundings in a different way than you would when driving your car or riding a bike.

 

My walking journey started like everyone else’s when I took my first steps to explore the world. When I discovered I could also run, I was unstoppable (according to my mother). My upbringing involved a lot of walking. Every weekend we went to the local forest to go for a walk. Later on, I was so done with walking I quit for a while. I felt odd during this period, as if I was not connected to myself in some sort of sense.

 

So there I went again, walking along with the rhythm of life. When I felt happy, I’d walk and run through the small paths deep inside the forest. When I was feeling sad, just one small bird could brighten my day. Walking in nature opens my senses: I smell the flowers, I see different shades of green and all kinds of birds. I like to look up to the sky once in a while when walking, to see the treetops waving in the wind or the clouds passing by.

 

When visiting a new country or city, walking is a fun way to explore areas. You tend to notice more details when walking, rather than just quickly passing by in a vehicle. You feel the wind on your skin and the sun on your face. You can easily visit a place without having to find a parking spot or other hassles. I visited Rome a couple years ago and we walked through the whole city. I noticed all the beautiful buildings; smelled the strong scent of jasmine; and after a while felt the rhythm of the city.

 

I recently moved to Leiden, coming from a small town in the west of the Netherlands. The city was very overwhelming to me at first, but walking allows me to explore my neighborhood in a tranquil way. Everyday I go for a walk and slightly change my route, so I can map out the area in my head and get a sense of place. Walking has great health benefits. It boosts your immune system, gets your blood flowing and clears your mind. Just a short walk of 20 minutes can already give you a great boost. To make walking more fun and engaging, you can walk with some friends. If you are competitive, you can download the app ‘’Ommetje’’ to track how much you walk. There is a ranking and you can also make your own team. Each time you complete a walk, you get to know a fun fact about the benefits of walking for your brain.

 

Walking is something meditative for me. The repetitive sound of your feet hitting the ground, doing only one thing, which is moving forward. During the day, my brain is too active to sit down and meditate in a quiet space. Walking therefore allows me to reach stillness whilst being outdoors. So next time you are feeling a bit down, consider going for a walk. Invite other people to join you and maybe even start your own walking group. See you there!

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MAAIKE OUDE VELDHUIS

 

Maaike is a first years student of CADS and secretary of the survival committee. She enjoys long walks in nature and exploring new areas. She also likes to cook meals from scratch (risotto is a personal favorite) and being creative with paper.

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IN THE PICTURE
Milan, Italy  

In the city’s periphery, where urban buildings start fading away and the shy elements of the countryside start coming out, this bus stop used to be an important hub for students and adults. It is the only bus stop in the neighborhood, hence one of the few ways of leaving it. My partner often mentions how full and chaotic this spot used to be in the mornings, with all the kids leaving for school. Everyone in the neighborhood could hear the chatter during those weekdays. Now, this spot turned into a very quiet and contemplative place, so quiet that I felt the need to capture it in a picture. I haven’t yet experienced first hand its frenetic nature, it’s just an intimate and reflexive place in my eyes. I remember many times in the last year in which I was the only passenger on the bus and the only one waiting for it at the bus stop. It was just me, the driver, and empty streets all around us.

FEDERICO PASETTI

 

Federico Pasetti is a first year student of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology. He is interested in development policies and multimodality. He really likes movies, photography, and carbonara..

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EXTERNAL ARICLE 
MARKÉTA SLAVKOVÁ
 

FOOD INSECURITY OF AN EVERYDAY LIFE IN THE BOSNIAN WAR (1992-1995)

FOOD INSECURITY OF AN EVERYDAY LIFE IN THE BOSNIAN WAR (1992-1995)

Introduction: The anthropology of food in postwar Srebrenica

This essay explores the everyday life struggles of people caught in the Bosnian War between 1992- 1995, which broke out during the disintegration of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY). I focus namely on the municipality of Srebrenica, contemporary Bosnia and Herzegovina, where I carried out the majority of my ethnographic research in the Balkans. Additionally, I compare the events in Srebrenica with specific situations in Sarajevo to arrive to more general suggestions regarding food insecurity in the Bosnian War.

 

I moved to Srebrenica in 2013 to carry out ethnographic research for my PhD thesis. Many locals were puzzled by my decision. I explained that I was there to research food as a sociocultural anthropologist. They would laugh and commonly say: ‘What food? Can’t you see that there is none’? (also Slavková 2017: 16). I usually uttered that people have to eat to stay alive and that the lack of something speaks of many other things... (Ibid.). These everyday encounters pointed my research focus to the questions of hunger and the roles and meanings, which food attains in the armed conflict.

 

Early into my ethnographic fieldwork, I realised that this was a relevant research issue because food is a crucial resource both in armed conflict and peacetime. Ellen Messer pointed out that securing food continues to be some of the most important concerns for all human societies (Messer 1984) because food (along with vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients) enables life and assures survival (see Counihan 1999; Farquhar 2006; Lupton 1996; Slavková 2017, 2019a, 2019b, 2020). Yet, food is hardly only a biological necessity. Food is also a sensual matter. On one hand, it mediates satisfaction and pleasure, on the other hand, its lack can cause suffering and pain. Most importantly, it is deeply infused with social meaning. Several scholars pointed out that the importance of food in terms of survival is further reflected in the human social systems and organisation (Mintz and Du Bois 2002, Farquhar 2006; also Slavková 2017, 2019a, 2019b, 2020).

 

Distinct foods signify (and actively help to create and sustain) the social hierarchies and inequalities. Pierre Bourdieu has shown this in his well-known work La Distinction (1996, 8th edition)1. Sydney Mintz

(1995) has further suggested that the most important aspect that determines what one is going to eat in specific conditions, is the aspect of power. Jen Webb (2010) fittingly wrote that food is neither neutral nor ordinary, it is (or can become) a “site for struggle” and a “site for the working out of relations of power”. Thus, on one hand, food helps to define who we are but on the other hand, it divides us (Ibid.). Last but not least, in specific contexts, food can also become the “weapon of war” (Collinson and Macbeth 2014), which I will now illustrate by focusing namely on a case study of the former UN ‘Safe Area’ Srebrenica2 in the Bosnian War in the 1990s.

 

Food as a weapon of war during the Siege of Srebrenica

 

I have already described the war events, which took place in the cities of Srebrenica, Sarajevo and the area of Podrinje, in greater detail in my previous work (Slavková 2017, 2019a, 2019b, 2020). Here, I offer the summary of some of the most important findings. In the particular case of Podrinje3, military operations were carried out first by the JNA (Jugoslavenska narodna armija/Yugoslav National Army) (Halilovich 2015) and then mostly by the VRS (Vojska Republike Srpske / Bosnian Serb Army) (Honig – Both 1997) but also by various paramilitary groups (Duijzings 2002: 102; also see Slavková 2019a, 310-311).

 

The persecution was aimed against all non-Serb inhabitants (namely the population of the Muslim origin) (see Halilovich 2015, Slavková 2017, 2019a, 2019b, 2020). These events resulted in the act of genocide, when approximately between July 11 and 19, 1995 the Bosnian-Serb Army and other forces executed about 7,000 and 8,000 civilians or prisoners of the war (ICTY, Facts about Srebrenica ). The key difference between a massacre and a genocide is that genocide is defined as an intentional and systematic attempt to destroy targeted group of people and this process is characterised by particular phases and an “internal logic” (see Zwaan, 2003, for detailed summary see Slavková 2019a 310-311).

 

Several Srebrenica survivors sarcastically remarked that during the last war the town was neither an enclave nor 

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the 'Safe Area'; to them, it more resembled one big concentration camp (Interview Muhamed 2019, Suljagić 2005). As the ethnic cleansing proceeded around 40,000 of persons from adjoining areas of Podrinje sought refuge in the enclave (see Halilovich, 2015: 38). The number of the town’s inhabitants rose more than four times during the war.4 Military strategies included ethnic cleansing, besiegement and confiscation of humanitarian aid, which resulted in the collapse of local infrastructure and mass starvation (also Slavková 2017, 2019a, 2019b, 2020). Needless to say, the severely affected town’s inhabitants needed to change their everyday consumption strategies in order to survive.

In an armed conflict, obtaining and consuming sufficient quantities of safe and nutritious food (the food security) generally becomes one of the most serious issues (Collingham 2012, Redžić 2010). Industrial production is generally disturbed in war (especially in the zones of combat). The omnipresent snipers as well as falling grenades, prevented at large the possibilities of growing and collecting food (Slavková 2019a, 2019b). Also as food becomes unavailable, its price sky-rockets, which makes the most basic food items inaccessible for the “ordinary” people. Majority of the affected inhabitants in the Bosnian War were attempting to solve this problem at least partially by self-provisioning and collecting wilds foods in the surrounding (Redžić 2010; Redžić, Baru danović, Pilipović 2010; Slavková 2019a, 2019b).

This is a frequent strategy of dealing with food scarcity in various societies (Huss-Ashmore, Johnston 1997: 83). Sulejman Redžić et al. showed that collecting wild foods significantly increased the individual chances of survival (Redžić 2010; Redžić, Barudanović, Pilipović 2010), which was also confirmed by several of my interlocutors (Slavková 2017, 2019a, 2019b). The most commonly collected wild plants included dandelions (Taraxacum officinale), nettle (Urtica dioica), coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) but many other plant species and fungi were consumed (Redžić 2010; Redžić, Barudanović, Pilipović 2010; Slavková 2019a, 2019b). Even plants or small animals normally regarded as non-edible were used to fill hungry stomachs; for example hazelnut tree catkins or slugs (see Slavková 2019a, 2019b).

 

Numerous deliberate accounts of blocking humanitarian aid convoys by the VRS (Bosnian Serb Army) had been recorded (Honig and Both 1997: 153–154; Interview Tim 2014, Interview Lars 2019). Two of my interlocutors Lars and Tim (pseudonyms), who worked for the UN Dutch peace-keeping forces in Srebrenica suggested that the Bosnian Serb Army were making sure that there was only a bare minimum of supplies reaching the enclave (Interview Tim 2014, Interview Lars 2019).

 

To conclude, the main causes of the starvation in Srebrenica were (also summarised in Slavková 2020): 1) Sieges as a military strategy – the population trapped in the enclave did not have access to farmland. 2) Cutting off the external supplies – in the case of Srebrenica in the 1990s war, the material crises and hunger were not caused only by the systemic crises but at large extent by the military strategy of intentional food confiscation by the VRS (Bosnian Serb Army). 3) Intentional crop destruction – crop was destroyed by shelling, explosions or else and farmland was turned into minefields.

 

Epilogue: Coffee, activist art and a sacrifice for the dead

 

By underlining these specific moments and events in the 1990s Bosnian War, I aim to illustrate the extent of suffering caused by the mass starvation, which was intentionally inflicted. Using the example of the former UN 'Safe' Area Srebrenica, I attempted to show that starvation can serve as an alternative to firearms while drawing on Paul Collinson's and Helen Macbeth’s (2014) argument that any intentional restriction of food by either of the sides of conflict can be defined as a 'weapon of war’. Moreover, Andreas Maier (2011) suggested that the denial of the access to food should be perceived as some of the mechanism of dehumanisation and techniques of torture (see Andreas Maier 2011: 103). For this reason, I had concluded that the mass starvation in Srebrenica during the Bosnian War (1992-1995) should be accounted as an integral part of the process of genocide (Slavková, 2019a, 2019b, 2020).

 

I will close these thoughts on food, starvation and genocide in the Bosnian War in the postwar presence with few remarks on how food is used to commemorate the genocide victims. Što te nema (Why Are You Not Here?) is a travelling art exhibition by a Bosnian-American artist Aida Šehović, during which coffee is symbolically used to commemorate those, who went missing in the Srebrenica genocide. Thousands of Bosnian-style coffee cups (fildžani) are placed on the ground and filled with black coffee as a symbolic offering for the souls of the dead. By continuing to fill the fildžani with coffee for the Srebrenica genocide victims as part of the activist art performance, Aida Šehović (along with many others) makes sure that, the events of 1995, won’t be easily forgotten.

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Mgr. Markéta Slavková, Ph.D. (*1984) specialises in the discipline of sociocultural anthropology with a focus on topics of anthropology of food and war as well as nationalism, transnationalism and identity. In her doctoral studies she profiled herself namely in the problematics of anthropology of food in the former Yugoslavia and carried out long-term ethnographic fieldwork in Srebrenica, BiH. Between 2016 and 2018, Slavková worked as a researcher and lecturer at the Comenius University in Bratislava. Additionally, she has worked as an external lecturer at her alma mater Charles University. Most recently, Slavková had been employed as a postdoc researcher at the Institute of Ethnology of the Czech Academy of Sciences.

MARKÉTA SLAVKOVÁ

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TIMEPASS AND BOREDOM IN MODERN INDIA 

TIMEPASS AND BOREDOM IN MODERN INDIA 

 
EXTERNAL ARICLE 
CHRIS FULLER 

A lot of timepass is a preferably enjoyable way of using up relatively short periods of time, so chatting to friends, playing games, watching television or going to the cinema would all be examples of ‘doing timepass’. The word generally carries the connotation that the activity, even if harmless, is neither serious nor productive. It is merely intended to kill time and ward off potential boredom, so that, for instance, ‘timepass’ films or TV programmes are just silly or mindless entertainment.1 It can mean different things, though: ‘timepass’ enjoyment at a religious festival, for example, may be seen as regrettable or undesirable.2 Sometimes, too, the word can be used for both immoral relationships: Mumbai students distinguish ‘timepass’ male-female relationships, which are short-term and intended for sexual gratification, and are thus considered rather immoral, and platonic ‘bhai-behen [brother-sister]’ relationships or ‘true-love’ ones that imply longterm commitment, are considered the opposite.3 The little evidence that exists suggests that timepass as an identifiable activity, as well as frequent usage of the word, is most widespread among urban youth, who spend time in all the usual ways – cinema-going, chatting to friends, etc. – but also through the distinctively urban activity of ‘hanging out’. For middle-class young men and women with money to spend, India’s major cities now offer plenty of modern cafés and other sites, such as shopping malls, in which to hang out in both single-sex and mixed groups. But all over urban India, in smaller towns as well as big cities, there is also a lot of hanging out by groups of young men – though not young women – who are not well-off and have masses of time to kill because they are unemployed. Young men of this kind are the principal subjects of Craig Jeffrey’s book Timepass.4

 

Boredom is experienced in relation to modern clock time. Time drags because it seems to pass much more slowly than the clock or calendar says it should. The ‘traditional’ time of pre-modern India is different, however, and Nita Kumar, who worked among artisans in Banaras in the 1980s, has captured it as well as anyone. Banaras people, she says, are notorious for their unpunctuality and never care about waiting. But that is not because time has no importance for these people.

It is rather that time is too important; it cannot be sacrificed for this or that purpose arbitrarily; it has to be lived to the full, every bit of it … There is no hurry, no sense of time slipping or flying by, or rushing by like a stream: there is no such thing as “time”. It is not an external that controls you. It is inside you in that it is a way of feeling. The way you feel, what you are moved to do, is what time it is.’5 At first glance, the Banaras artisans’ outings and recreations look like old-fashioned forms of timepass. But they are not; not only is timepass about time dragging, rather than flying by, but more crucially it is about time as pointless, external and controlling – which is exactly the opposite of the traditional sense described by Kumar.

 

Jeffrey carried out research in Meerut, a provincial city not far from Delhi, and his book focuses on educated, unemployed young men and rich farmers from the Jat caste, which is locally dominant. Much of Jeffrey’s argument is about caste, class and politics and he makes a significant contribution to South Asian political anthropology. Since timepass as such occupies only chapter 3, my discussion does not consider the book as a whole. Jeffrey mainly worked with male students in two of Meerut’s university colleges in 2004-5. He describes the colleges without being judgemental, but no reader could fail to see that they represent an educational disaster. In the Meerut colleges (which are far from unique), politics, mismanagement and corruption are endemic. Thus, to cite just two examples, in 2004-5, students campaigned for the right to cheat in examinations, arguing that cheating was so widespread that it was unfair to punish anyone for indulging in it. But even this absurdity paled before the action of a college registrar in 2006, who saved some money to pocket by subcontracting the grading of postgraduate dissertations to students at other institutions – not only to undergraduates, which was common practice in the region, but even to schoolchildren.

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CHRIS FULLER

 

Professor Chris Fuller specialises in India. His first fieldwork (1971- 2) was in Kerala in southwest India among the Nayars and the Syrian Christians, and his work particularly focused on kinship among the Nayars, famous for their matriliny. Fuller has also researched and written extensively on popular Hinduism and Hindu nationalism, the caste system, the anthropology of the state and other topics. His current research is on the history of the anthropology of India.

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Young men enrol in large numbers in these dysfunctional colleges to acquire the degrees needed to apply for salaried jobs, mainly in the government and public sector. Young women, on the other hand, are usually sent to college to improve their marriage prospects, not to try to qualify for employment, but Jeffrey was mostly unable to work with them. Unfortunately for graduates, the number of jobs is dwarfed by the number of applicants – sometimes several thousand apply for a lowly government post – and success is almost unattainable anyway without having the right political connections and paying large bribes. As a result, the vast majority of graduates cannot get jobs. A minority return to their family farms, which they regard as demeaning, but many enrol for another degree in the hope that it will improve their employment prospects. Some stay on for years, acquiring several BA and MA degrees and even a PhD, and then, still unemployed, they continue to live in a college hostel, spending their time completing job application forms, doing a bit of part-time work, engaging in student politics, and hanging out on and around the campus with other young men in the same predicament. All these activities, as well as much of the pointless studying they may do, are forms of timepass.

 

Many male students, says Jeffrey, see themselves as ‘surrounded by an expanse of featureless time’ (p. 76) which somehow has to be killed with distractions. They are chronically bored in their unfulfilling educational environment, but also feel left behind in provincial Meerut, where signs of India’s new global modernity are sadly absent. Almost all students look for ways of killing time, but those who had failed to get middle-class jobs and remained in higher education for long periods talked most often, usually forlornly, about timepass.

 

A common form of timepass is hanging out in small groups with other young men, for example, at the tea shops on the edge of the college campuses. There they trade stories, gossip, argue about sports, films and the news, drink tea and smoke cigarettes, enact mock fights and get into real ones, lounge around watching the world go by, crack jokes, leer at young women and sexually harass them. Most female students naturally try to avoid these male groups and justifiably complain that timepass is ruining the colleges; young women do not indulge in activities classified as timepass because, it is assumed, women never have idle time to kill. Like similar forms of sociality among young men elsewhere in the world, timepass in Meerut also ‘offered young men a feeling of fun, social worth and lower-middle-class masculine distinction’, and sometimes hanging out even provided useful information and contacts, while also tending ‘to reproduce gendered forms of power’ (p. 101).6 Timepass, in other words, functions socially to form a distinctive, class-based, male youth culture in Meerut. Yet the negative aspects of timepass are overwhelming: a chronic feeling of loss caused by educational disappointment and persistent joblessness, which in turn delays young men’s marriages, and a strong sense of indefinite waiting in unstructured time that means that many men ‘had come to imagine themselves occupying a semi-permanent condition of limbo’ (p. 177). Timepass for them is not a short-term activity to deal with a tedious patch; rather, it is both a response to and an expression of an interminable boredom dominating their subjective experience and shaping their very being. Among young men in Bangalore hoping to find work in the booming information technology sector, timepass is similar, though somewhat less chronic7. Comparable, too, is the situation in Bhilai where the school-educated sons of workers in the steel plant regularly wait for years hoping to get a job. Some of them study for degrees but ‘the vast majority have time on their hands’. Time is killed by playing card games or the local numbers racket, for example, but these young men also drink a lot and some become involved in crime or violence.8 Almost certainly, these forms of timepass and boredom are prevalent among millions of educated, unemployed young men throughout India. Educated unemployment has long existed in India, but it has been worsening significantly since the 1970s; it is a new problem for the families of many young men trapped by unemployment, because their fathers or grandfathers typically looked after family farms or worked as peasant agriculturalists or labourers, and did not aspire to white-collar or factory employment that they could not secure.

 

"Many recreational forms of timepass are enjoyable and many are harmless, but others – like those described by Jeffrey – are expressions of a soul-destroying boredom now afflicting millions of educated, unemployed young men in India today."

This conclusion is admittedly more speculative than certain. The limited material on timepass, both as activity and discourse, does point to it being a quite recent, urban response to boredom, which was presumably perceived as growing; timepass, as Rajagopal says, is ‘a refuge from and a measure of boredom’.9 Thus the emergence of timepass can be read as a kind of proxy for the expansion and intensification of boredom, which is probably now occurring throughout India. Many recreational forms of timepass are enjoyable and many are harmless, but others – like those described by Jeffrey – are expressions of a soul-destroying boredom now afflicting millions of educated, unemployed young men in India today.

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EVERYDAY POLITICS 

EVERYDAY POLITICS 

 
EDITOR'S COLUMN 
WOUTER KEIJZER 

We’ve chosen new representatives, and the country will be governed by a new dynamic of political parties. This balance is something we’re obliged to learn to accept and to live with. At least we did our democratic duties, and the democratic process is done for the next few years. Although not often explicit to this extent, this is the core of the message concerning general elections. Yet people are deeply political, internally and on a broader scale, I believe.

 

Let’s take the concept of sonder. It means the realisation that a person walking past you lives a life that’s just as vivid and complex as your own. Political sonder, then, means a sudden understanding of the complexity of a stranger’s political reality. Everyone in the supermarket, taking a stroll or racing on their bike has their own political world. Full of views on what they believe to be good and right; whom they believe to be worthy of existence, or of an equal quality of life; what their solutions to issues would be; which political groups they emotionally oppose; whether they’re positioning themselves starkly in the political playing field, or whether they try to avoid potential conflict, and so on.

Usually when speaking of political orientation, it seems to be mostly about values. Prioritising one thing above another. However, there are almost always different  ontologies identifiable. In other words, each person has their own understanding of what exists in the world: system(at)ic racism, the poverty trap, an immigration ‘problem’, a pandemic or a ‘hoax’, specific genocides, suffering due to certain circumstances such as poverty, and so on. And those ontologies include potentialities, which are very important, as they strongly influence how the ontology is acted upon. If someone believes there’s certain suffering caused by society, yet doesn’t believe there’s a potential world in which it’s solved, they won’t act upon it.

 

Thus people walking by on the street can differ both in the understanding of what there is in the world, and what the corresponding values are.

 

But not only are people's political realities more complicated than the act of voting ‘left' or ‘right' (or centre), or ‘progressive’ or ‘conservative’, or ‘libertarian' or ‘authoritarian’ during an election; us social beings are also deeply political actors. Not because we consciously identify ourselves as such, but because of our positions in society. Our actions influence the lives of others, firstly, but they also respond to existing norms, rules or laws. Each action is a choice. In their own way, crossing the street with a red light while there’s no traffic around is political; dressing ‘unusual’, in whichever way, is political; reflecting on certain policies is political. The same is true of shaping your own political-world image, choosing where you buy, what you buy, how much you buy, where you work, how much you work, how you relate yourself to your boss, or to your ‘landlord' (odd word, by the way). Doing what your heart desires is political, ridding yourself of society’s stigmas or taboos is political, cleansing your psyche of the internalised, result-driven voice in your head who doesn’t care the slightest about your actual well-being, is political.

 

Everyone is political, every day. Our impacts surpass our periodical option to vote. We are free to embody what we want the world to be like, or to abide by all rules yet question them in our heads, or to refrain ourselves from any conscious political thought. But at least we have the freedom. And since we influence the world around us anyway, why not consciously guide our impact?

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"EVERYONE IS POLITICAL, EVERY DAY"

WOUTER KEIJZER

 

Hello :) I’m Wouter Keijzer, a fourth-year anthropology student here in Leiden, and in the stage of finishing the study. I like music, sounding smart and food. Last year I was Iti’s education officer, which was a load of fun!

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CONSUMPTION IS NOT ONLY ABOUT MARKETING, BUT ALSO ABOUT SOCIETIES 
CONSUMPTION IS NOT ONLY ABOUT MARKETING, BUT ALSO ABOUT SOCIETIES 
EXTERNAL ARICLE 
DOMINIQUE DESJEUX 
 

PARIS MAY 10, 2021 When we talk about consumption, it is often linked with marketing, buying, advertisement, or commercials. However, from an anthropological point of view, the meaning of consumption is much broader than buying goods in a supermarket. It is a comprehensive social phenomenon. It is an analyzer of the functioning of each country in a global world. That means, for example, when there was a change in the consumption in China, which seems extremely far from Europe, it had a strong consequence mainly on the food and goods consumption of the European lower class. In other words the social class with a weak purchasing power. The most important change of the 21st century: the increase of the Chinese middle class of consumers and therefore the globalization of consumption. Between 1980 and 2010, the Chinese society was transformed by the same changes as that of Europe between 1945 and 1975, and the US at first in the twenties and then after 1945. In other words, the development of mass consumption indicates the increase of a huge global and Chinese middle class from 3 billion of consumers in 2010 to 5 billion in 2050. In 2050, the Asian middle class will represent 65% of the world. It was 25% in 2010. When a new middle class is emerging, it changes its way of consuming food and goods. For example; eating more meat, beef in many countries and pork in China. Therefore, when the Chinese middle class took off around 2000, they ate more pork. And given that the global soybean prices rocketed. Soybean is needed to feed swine. It comes from Brazil and the US. The consequence is that the pork prices rocketed too. Therefore, these prices are weighted both on the European producers of swine and the purchasing power of the lower middle class which eats pork. Eating is an under-constrained consumption. The lower the incomes of families; the higher the percentage of food consumption is. Given that we understand how the increase of the Chinese and Asian middle-class weight on the buying power of the European lower class. The coal energetic revolution of the eighteen century explains the consumption and ecological problem of the 21st century. From the beginning of the agricultural revolution, about 6,000 years ago, to the mid-eighteenth century, all the goods were produced based on biological energy (human, animal, wind, water, fire, and sun energies) what Robert B. marks calls “the Biological Old Regime” [Footnoters:1]. However, between the 16th and the 18th century, the population of the world increased a lot. The main demographic issue was in the UK, which means the English government had to find new solutions to feed and dress its population: using more coal, getting the better on the seas to control the international trade, and getting cotton thanks to the colonial conquests. At the same time, China was producing 20% of the global GDP until the beginning of the nineteenth century. It had enough rivers and rice to feed its population and cotton to clothe it, which means they were still able to use the biological energies.2 Thanks to the new uses of coal energy the UK and then the western European countries were able to launch the industrial revolution, which gave them the new powerful weapons. These allowed them to control a broad part of the world at the expense of the former empires in Asia and the Middle East. Coal and then the industrial energy, oil, and nuclear energies, were the solutions chosen to solve the demographic issue and given that to capture most of the global wealth in the wake of all the former empires for thousands of years. Europe entered the second energetical regime. From 1750 to 2000, consumption became the central analyzer of the power relationships among nations which means the competition for access to the raw materials, energy, and the proteins like the soybean. In other words, for 250 years, there has been a strong link between consumption and wars. If the consumption of fossil energy and raw material is not slowed enough, then the risk of war becomes more threatening. The new digitalization regime of energy: a discrepancy among nations, social classes, and daily life.

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Pollution also became the most unexpected effect of the use of fossil energies which is the result of consumption. The bigger the middle class, the bigger the consumption, and therefore the emission of carbonic gas which is important for global warming. Nowadays the consumer middle class is increasing everywhere in the world which means an increase in oil and electricity energy. Global warming is threatening all societies. It is mandatory to discover a new regime of energy, mainly electric energy because of the digitalization of daily life, mobility, and consumption. There is a strong link between consumption, energy, and sustainable development. Consumption is at the heart of a strategic discrepancy between nations that have been involved in mass consumption for 50 or 100 years and they are trying to slow their consumption of fossil energy and the ones which are entering the mass consumption society. Inside each society, the upper-middle-class tries to slow down its consumption while the lower-middle-class asks for more income to get a better consumption. Thanks to the Covid-19 lockdown, we discovered the weight of the energetic constraints which should be applied if we want to slow down the emission of carbonic gas by 5%, as in 2020. The governments must confine a lot of people and stop most of the means of mobility, which is exceedingly difficult to accept. The consequence is that the consumption of mobility is at stake in the future. The generalization of the digitalization of society during the lockdown is the second lesson that can be drawn. The home is becoming a new “domestic hub”, mainly for the upper-middle-class, where it is possible to do everything as in the former rural societies: Working (remote work, cooking), trading (e-trade to buy and sell), consuming and playing (video games and networks). It is now possible to understand that without en ergy there are no human activities and mainly speaking no consumption. We depend upon electric energy. On average there are 100 electric objects in a home in France. But fossil energy is a source of pollution which means that it is needed to decrease the consumption of fossil energy which is mainly provided by the GAFA (western countries) and BATX (China). Consumption is not only a question of pleasure but also individual desire, and also a question of collective and political actions.

 

Conclusion

This short history of the links between electric energy and consumption explains how consumption is a comprehensive and global phenomenon that integrated at once the material culture what means economy, raw materials, energy, money, markets, infrastructure, and the home’s equipment; the social dimensions, in other words, the social, gender, generational and cultural differentiation as well as the political and power relationship among social actors; eventually the imaginary and symbolic dimension of life. It is now understood that consumption is both an important part of daily life and a conflictual social phenomenon that can drive us to war if we do not find a new path to decrease our consumption of fossil energy, raw material, and protein for animals.1

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DOMINIQUE DESJEUX

 

Dominique Desjeux is an anthropologist, professor emeritus at the University of Paris, Sorbonne Humanities, and researcher at the CEPED research center (University of Paris and IRD). He worked on French industrial policy between 1969 and 1971 and for 8 years in sub-Saharan Africa on kinship, sorcery and land tenure. For the past 50 years, he has been working at the interface of the academic, NGO and business worlds on organization, innovation, consumption and decision-making in companies, businesses and families for many large companies all over the world. Today, he leads a network of 80 socio-anthropologists in companies.

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MEET THE TEAM 

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Thank you for reading the second and final ICA edition of of this academic year. As our everyday lives have changed extremely over the past 1,5 years, we think that the theme 'Anthropology in Everyday Life' is something everyone can relate to in some way. We hope that this magazine brings you as much joy as we had while making it.

 

We thank all our authors for their wonderful articles and we as the ICA-committee could not be prouder of the content this magazine entails. The magazine can be read both online and offline (go to page 6 for the QR-code), so make sure to check out the online magazine if you are interested in an exclusive article or to see how the online version came out.

 

In case you have ay questions concerning the articles, authors, or copyright, do not hesitate to contact us through email, Instagram or via Study Association Itiwana.

 

We look forward to editions created by next year's ICA-committee!

 

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Footnotes:

 

THE FOOD INSECURITY OF AN EVERYDAY LIFE IN THE BOSNIAN WAR

1First published 1979 and translated to English in 1984. Bourdieu, P. (1996) Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Eighth 
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2I intentionally write the appellation ‘safe area’ in quotation marks to emphasise that these areas were certainly not ‘safe’ under the UN protection.

3Podrinje is a region, which nowadays spreads across two states (contemporary Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia). The area copies the 
basin (valley) of river Drina. Podrinje is located in the North and Eastern BiH.

4Census of Population from 1991 the municipality (opština) of Srebrenica lists 36,666 inhabitants (Census of Population 1991, 1993: 97). However, this is the entire municipality, the town of Srebrenica is estimated to have little bit bellow 10 000 inhabitants, the exact numbers are not 
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TIMEPASS AND BOREDOM IN MODERN INDIA 

1Rajagopal, Politics, p. 134; Srinivas, ‘Active viewing’, p. 328.
2Kaur, Performative politics, p. 109.
3Abraham, ‘Bhai-behen’, pp. 345-6.
4Craig Jeffrey, Timepass: youth, class, and the politics of waiting in India (Stanford University Press, 2010).
5Nita Kumar, The artisans of Banaras: popular culture and identity, 1880-1986 (Princeton University Press, 1988), pp. 96-7

6Jeffrey cites several studies on young men; two interesting comparisons are Daniel Mains, 'Neoliberal times; progress, boredom, and shame 
among young men in urban Ethiopia', American Ethnologist, vol. 34 (2007), pp. 659-73; Samuli Schielke. 'Boredom and despair in rural Egypt, ' 
Contemporary Islam, vol. 2 (2008), pp. 251-70.
7Nicholas Nisbett, 'Friendship, consumption, morality: practising identity, negotiating hierachy in middle-class Bangalore', Journal of the 
Royal Anthropological Institute, vol. 13 (2007), pp 939-43. 
8Jonathan Parry, 'Changing childhoods in industrial Chhattisgarh, in Radhika Chopra and Patricia Jeffery, eds Educational regimes in contemporary India (Sage, 2005, pp. 294-6). 
9Ibid., p. 135, emphasis added.

CONSUMPTION IS NOT ONLY ABOUT MARKETING, BUT ALSO ABOUT SOCIETIES 

1Robert B. Marks (2007) the origins of the modern world. A global and ecological narrative from the fifteen to the twenty-first century, Rowman & Littefield publishers.
2Pomeranz Kenneth (2000), The Great Divergence

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Respondents
Van Dijk, Lars (pseudonym) (approx. in the mid40s)
2019 Former Dutchbat III soldier in Srebrenica. 
Oral testimony. Audio recording held by the author. 


Jansen, Tim (pseudonym) (approx. in the mid-40s)
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Media 
Markéta Slavková
Sunčana Laketa
Pexels
Pixabay
Unsplash

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