CaMP Anthropology blog recognizes that information about books from some regions circulate more widely than books from other regions. To do our part in rectifying this inequality, we asked Dev Nath Pathak to discuss the analytical interventions his new edited volume offers to our field.
Max Weber was right when he perceived the powerful role of intuitive notions in scientific pursuits. A quest for culture and politics, their interface, and hermeneutic significance, in the chequered cartography called South Asia indeed solicits unbridled intuition. Following this, it could be said that our edited volume, Culture and Politics in South Asia: Performative Communication, published by Routledge (India) is a consequence of conceptual flirting and empirical lusting. It contains several bouts of intuition provoked by the soliloquies of individual scholars as well as conversations among them. And what does it seek to know– what is South Asia, if seen through the prism that collapses the binaries of power and performance, politics and culture, structures and meanings? Indeed the binaries do not exist, and never existed, insofar as it was about what we become though our diverse performances. We become citizens as we participate in the electoral performances, we become ethnos as we participate in festivities in rites of passage, we turn objective as we perform our own empirically sound researches and we are deemed deviant as we enact the Dadaist idea of anything goes. Even though we recognise that the format in which we play our roles entails binaries of good and bad, black and white, oppressor and oppressed, and even bourgeoisie and proletariat- we are performing with the complexity of Bourdieu’s habitus. Our being and doing are too finely intertwined to be viewed in separation. Often one thought that in a controlled performance in a proscenium theatre, the power relation is indubitably clear. Was it so? The relation of the scripted and the scripting always sprang surprises on us. It is just like the relation between structure and agency in theoretical discussions in social sciences, which cannot be mistaken for a linear, zero-sum power game. It is complex and fluid, despite the institutional determinacy and structural clarity most visible. This is very much what Emile Durkheim shows, that the normal and pathological stride together. Continue reading →
Page 99 of my dissertation provides a short glimpse of a key tension which characterizes Israeli Life Coaching as well as other projects of self-realization and therapeutic technologies. In a heading on page 99, I named this tension “from introspection to instruction” to describe coaches’ and trainees’ negotiations with the neoliberal and therapeutic notion of cultivating reflexivity and following the specific instructions of a professional authority. Scholars such as Michel Foucault, Nikolas Rose, James Faubion and others have extensively theorized how healers and experts of the soul exercise their power through the cultivation of their patients’ reflexivity. One of my contributions to this line of exploration is a focus on a local style of speech called dugri (direct speech) that entails a certain notion of caring and reshapes, in specific ways, the ethical dilemma between liberation and domination.
Dugri refers to utterances spoken in a blunt manner, as a form of criticism aimed at one’s interlocutor which symbolizes intimacy, authenticity, care, and courage. In short, dugri speakers speak their minds in a straightforward manner that is sometimes even intentionally aggressive. The logic behind dugri is that only someone who truly cares about their interlocutors will put him/herself at risk by expressing an unpopular critical view (Katriel 1986). Accordingly, this also means that smiling politely and avoiding confrontation is seen as inauthentic and careless.
The prevalence of dugri style of speech among Israeli life coaches, which encompasses making concrete assertions and determining what is right and wrong for a specific trainee, undercuts some global therapeutic notions which favor self-reflection and self-realization over such local professional calculations. In my dissertation I show how Israeli coaches and their trainees negotiate these two discourses – the global and local – as well as these two types of caring, in their effort to balance between focusing on the trainee’s abilities to be reflexive and centering around the coach’s expression of his/her authenticity as well as expert knowledge and power.
Dugri is idiosyncratically Israeli. But could such styles also be found in other cultures? Recently I had a chance to view the new Netflix documentary about the famous American life coach Anthony Robbins titled: “I am not your Guru” (which I highly recommend: https://www.netflix.com/watch/80102204?trackId=14277281&tctx=0%2C0%2C6f297f89-3322-4f91-b3ba-1ec0cb44108c-50113145). Robbins very vividly demonstrates an aggressive type of fearless speech, and I wonder – is it part of what renders coaching so popular in other places around the globe too? Are we witnessing the emergence of a new technology of selfhood which challenges the hegemony of a reflexive, psycho-therapeutic emotional style?
1986 Talking Straight: Dugri Speech in Israeli Sabra Culture: Cambridge University Press.
Tamar Kaneh-Shalit. 2015. Positive Thinking without a Smile: Self and Care in Israeli Life Coaching. Phd dissertation, University of Haifa.
When asked to say something about page 99 and its representation of my dissertation, my fingers and toes were crossed that the page would include an image. My dissertation, “Carmen Miranda: Ripe for Imitation,” is concerned with the Classic Hollywood star’s dress and performance and the significance of the countless Carmen imitations. In all there are 58 images in my dissertation. Given my page count, that meant there was about a 33% chance I’d land on a photo or film still. No such luck. Instead page 99 discusses the extractability of Carmen’s cinematic performance: musically (she was a talented singer accomplished in a Brazilian vocalization akin to American jazz scatting) and in terms of her comic dance and performance style. If ever a dissertation needed audio files, film clips, and still images this one did! The very extractability of sound, moving image, and performance I discuss on page 99 is represented entirely with printed words.
The good news is that university presses (such as Duke, University of California) are beginning to publish open access, digital books. The peer review process is as rigorous as for traditional publications yet the digital book creates opportunities for incorporating sound and film clips, while reducing the cost of publishing the many color still images I need to support the written word of my revised dissertation.
Page 99 reflects the value of my original research while highlighting the constraints I faced and accepted in the dissertation writing process. Accepting the limitations meant completing my degree in a timely fashion. My mentor didn’t quite put it like this but in essence he told me: “You don’t have to wear all your jewels to the prom. It’s ok to don a few baubles and save your turban for the next big occasion.”
Lori Hall-Araujo, “Carmen Miranda: Ripe for Imitation.” Phd. diss, Indiana University, 2013.
By Susan Seizer “In the Western imagination, India conjures up everything from saris and spices to turbans and temples—and the pulsating energy of Bollywood movies. But in America, India’s contributions stretch far beyond these stereotypes. […] Today, one out of … Continue reading →
As the actors move between the two countries and across roles of artist, cultural translator, tourist, consumer, and North African Arab citizen in the United States, precisely what constitutes the “familiar” and the “strange” – and how they are interrelated – will be continuously shifting ground. Continue reading →
*Official Coca-Cola video has been removed By Daniel Suslak en Español (PDF) Last week Coca-Cola released a Christmas-themed television commercial filmed in the Mixe community of Totontepec, in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. This is a place where I … Continue reading →
By Marvin Sterling It’s Thanksgiving Week. “Thanksgiving” is an interesting idea, not just for how it’s understood in America, but in other places as well. It’s interesting as a way to think about what a society recognizes as worth celebrating, … Continue reading →
By Anya Peterson Royce The Peter Pan bus from Penn Station to Danbury, CT, the A-1 Cab Company to the Homestead Inn, New Milford, CT, into an Enterprise rental car and off on 9 miles of narrow, winding roads to … Continue reading →
By Jennifer Meta Robinson On a glorious October Saturday recently, a group of unusual people gathered at our farm. Seven of them were poets, or at least the day’s official designees of the title Poet, and about 93 of them … Continue reading →