Editor's Note


After some debates and struggles The American Anthropological Associaiton decided in 2004 not to hold the Annual Meetings at the San Francisco Hilton Hotel in solidarity with the striking hotel workers. Four years later, once more in the San Francisco Hilton, the SUNTA Interlocutor session organized by Deborah Pellow revisits this strike and explains some of the broader context and dynamics involved. As the SUNTA Interlocutor, David Bacon, a labor activist and photographer, provides a sharp overview of how the strike unfolded, developed and very importantly how it was not only locally and nationally, but also globally situated. Accompanied by some of his impressive photographs, Bacon's essay captures some of the tense moments of the San Francisco hotel worker strike and struggles of 2004. Sharryn Kasmir and Gerrie Casey in their responses to David Bacon illustrate just how important David Bacon's work is, and how closely it relates to anthropological concerns and projects. Kasmir and Casey insist that Bacon's work can be used to great advantage in teaching, as his vibrant images convey political struggles and sentiments as experienced by “real” people.

In a similar vein, Biao Xiang, the winner of the 2008 Anthony Leeds Prize examines in his prize acknowledgment essay processes of globalized labor. Why, is it, he asks, that Indian IT workers are so much cheaper to hire and subsequently so much easier to fire? Xiang traces global networks and links to illustrate, what he in his book “Body Shopping”: An Indian International Labor System in the Information Technology Industry calls body shopping, a system by which workers can at almost no notice be shipped around the world (and right back home, should they no longer be needed). What does this quick moving of IT workers around the globe mean for these individuals, their families and communities? And, very importantly, Xiang asks how do these individuals and groups fare in a global economic marked by uncertainty, and to make matters worse, at present also by serious crisis?

This issue also includes five independent articles. Adriana Premat takes a look at Havana's urban agriculture and how individual producers negotiate their compromises, plots and produce in a complex context of dire necessity, Cuban government policies and recognition, and the increasing presence of non-governmental organizations. Faedah Totah examines the renovation of Suq Al-Hamidiyya in Damascus. Originally constructed as a modernist Ottoman market, the complex was recently reworked to return to its origins, but as Totah argues, also very much to construct a globalized tourist site. In the process Syrian official visions of the market clashed with those of the merchants who wanted what they thought of as attractive commercial spaces instead of repolished Ottoman glamour. David Turkon discusses how concepts of class work in Lesotho. He argues that class is a multi-layered concept in Lesotho that is not only based on work/income but in complex ways draws in cultural elements and plays on the rural-urban divide. Christa Amouroux, the winner of the SUNTA Graduate Student Prize 2007, analyzes recent transformations in the Christiania quarter of Copenhagen. She argues that the Danish government in an attempt to create a more attractive and globally marketable spatiality in Christiana employs spatial, rhetorical and violent means to achieve its end. Chris Tan examines how in 2003 one remark by the Singaporean Prime Minister sparked debates among the city's population about the position of gay and lesbian citizens. Tan argues that the remark to employ openly gay and lesbian civil servants was less aimed at an actual improvement of local gay and lesbian communities, but was a way for the Prime Minister to illustrate Singapore's nature as a cosmopolitan globalized city, open to everybody, in particular a highly mobile globalized “creative class.”