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VIDEO DOI: https://doi.org/10.48448/b25h-yr27

technical paper

AAA Annual Meeting 2021

November 18, 2021

Baltimore, United States

Not Women's Work: Gendered Labor, Political Subjectivity and Motherhood





This two-part panel examines complex and contingent forms of political efficacy enacted by marginalized groups and individuals and investigates the theoretical frameworks within which such activities may be effectively analyzed. What we might call articulations of authority, autonomy, or sovereignty can take many forms, from behaviors James Scott once called “weapons of the weak” to the “spirit of resistance” that Jean Comaroff found on the margins of the South African state. Anthropology’s preoccupation with resistance began in the 1970s as an interdependent foil to its keen interest in power and domination, which arose alongside the global consolidation of neoliberalism as a policy and ideology of accumulation for the few through dispossession of the many. Anthropologists were in good company at this moment, as the influence of Foucault, Marxist frameworks, and postcolonial theory grew across the social sciences in the shadow of neoliberalism, bringing new, dark social realities into focus. Feminist scholars in particular examined gendered negotiations of power as a factor of public and private spheres, divisions of labor and complex cultural histories (for example, Rosaldo and Lamphere 1974). A proliferation of compelling ethnographic accounts of counter-hegemonic practices and the dawn of activist anthropology lightened the burden of what Sherry Ortner (2016) would later label the “dark” turn, as anthropologists focused increasingly on questions of inequity, injustice and neo-colonial subjugation. By the 1990s, backlash grew against overuse of “resistance”; Saba Mahmood and Lila Abu-Lughod among others pointed to the historical contingency of the desire for individual freedom that popular and scholarly discourses of the global north might misguidedly universalize. Nonetheless, anthropology’s interest in oppositional articulations of power endures, whether labeled ethnographic refusal, abolitionist anthropology, or the horizon of radical humanism (Simpson 2014; Jobson 2019; Shange 2020). Here we unite diverse perspectives to consider the tactics employed by structurally subjugated persons to (re)orient themselves within and/or against broader, hegemonic political and economic institutions. We also, however, question the liberal notion of the universal, coherent, and stable human subject. Our goal is to highlight the complex ways persons and groups who are subordinated in some contexts exert authority and negotiate circumstances in others. With papers from around the world on topics ranging from art, laughter and healing to resettlement, caste inequity, rural marginalization and reproductive rights and technologies, we interrogate the way anthropologists depict “resistance” with unfavorable odds by thinking beyond individual subjectivity and linear temporality, bringing multiple accretions of power and intersecting affective circulations into the conversation.


Transcript English (automatic)

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Reorienting resistance: critique and contemporary art in the United Arab Emirates
technical paper

Reorienting resistance: critique and contemporary art in the United Arab Emirates

AAA Annual Meeting 2021

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