Article first published online: 11 NOV 2011
©2011 by the American Anthropological Association
PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review
Volume 34, Issue 2, pages 211–213, November 2011
How to Cite
Conley, J. and Richland, J. (2011), Editors’ Introduction. PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review, 34: 211–213. doi: 10.1111/j.1555-2934.2011.01162.x
- Issue published online: 11 NOV 2011
- Article first published online: 11 NOV 2011
This issue marks another significant transition for PoLAR: Amy Stambach is stepping down as Book Review Editor, to be succeeded by Ilana Gershon. For any scholarly journal, the role of book review editor is vital, onerous, complex, and, usually, unappreciated. The editor must identify significant new books; find, cajole, and sometimes chivvy the reviewers; and then see the essays and reviews through the production process. Since joining PoLAR in 2010 to fill an unexpired term, Amy has done all this with intelligence, efficiency, and grace. Indeed, the highest compliment we can pay her is to say that even in our brief tenure we have come to take her for granted. The book review section is the one thing we haven't had to worry about. The reviews have magically appeared, well selected, impeccably edited, and on time (if not early).
Amy has also brought us a valuable innovation: an online book review supplement. The spring 2011 issue (volume 34, number 1) was accompanied by the first open-access Online Book Review Issue on PoLAR's spillover section (go to http://www.aaanet.org/sections/apla/bookreviews.html). This new feature, which we hope to continue, significantly expands our book review coverage beyond the limits of our current printed page allocation.
As sorry as we are to lose Amy, we are equally delighted that Ilana Gershon has agreed to take on the job. An anthropologist who teaches in the Department of Communication and Culture at Indiana University, Ilana has studied topics as diverse as democratic institutions, multiculturalism, and new media in settings ranging from the United States to Oceania. (See, e.g., her Directions essay in the Spring 2011 edition of PoLAR,“Studying Cultural Pluralism in Courts versus Legislatures,” v. 34, pp. 155–74). Her breadth of scholarly interests, energy, and manifest diplomatic skills made her the ideal candidate for the job, and we were thrilled that she accepted our offer. So thank you, Amy, and welcome, Ilana.
We want to mention one other item of PoLAR business before turning to the contents of this issue. As we wrote in our last Editors’ Introduction, we have been investigating the possibility of moving to an all-electronic format in order to get at least one extra issue per year without increasing costs. As promised, we surveyed the membership of the Association for Political and Legal Anthropology, PoLAR's sponsor. An overwhelming majority of respondents (about 80 percent) favored the electronic option. The most serious concern raised—and it is a serious one, though raised by only a few people—was the need to ensure that an electronic PoLAR would continue to be taken seriously in tenure and promotion decisions. We are persuaded that PoLAR should move to electronic publication in the relatively near future and are now engaged in a process of strategic planning with the PoLAR Editorial Board, APLA, the American Anthropological Association, and Wiley-Blackwell to determine when and how this might be most effectively done. We will update you as the process develops, and we welcome your comments at any time.
That business done, this issue brings together an unusually diverse group of papers that examine a striking range of times, places, and political and legal questions. The first, by Jessica O’Reilly, takes us to a place and time we are confident that PoLAR has never visited before: the continent of Gondwana 125 million years ago. O’Reilly analyzes an Antarctic treaty negotiation in which India made an improbably successful claim to build a research station in an environmental protection area on the basis of the station's location at the ancient junction of the land masses that were to become India and Antarctica. O’Reilly sees in India's successful campaign—which featured creative alliance building and the customizing of arguments to appeal to disparate communities—a striking example of the potential of the often-derided process of international governance.
Next come a pair of articles that deal in distinct but complementary ways with contemporary Lebanese politics, and in particular with the rhetorical role of kinship. In “The Sovereignty of Kin: Political Discourse in Post-Ta’if Lebanon,” Diane Riskedahl looks at the debate over sovereignty in Lebanon—what she calls a contest of “political imaginaries”—surrounding the Syrian military withdrawal in 2005. She argues that a public statement by the Maronite Patriarch challenged entrenched ways of speaking and thinking about the Syria–Lebanon relationship. This enabled, in her account, a new discourse that continued to respect the trope of Arab brotherhood while permitting an escape from the idea of dependency that is implicit in the metaphor of kin. Michelle Obeid's “The ‘Trials and Errors’ of Politics: Municipal Elections at the Lebanese Border” examines a different aspect of the role of kinship in politics during the same time period. She reports on a political ethnography of a Lebanese border town with a history of leftist politics that gave an unexpected victory to an Islamist slate of candidates in the 2004 municipal election. Comparing the 2004 campaign to prior elections, Obeid shows how the traditional idiom of lineage was used to reshape the Lebanese political landscape in a way that ultimately reflects the emergent nature of democracy.
Azra Hromadzic then takes us to a school in the “postconflict” region of Bosnia and Herzogovina for a case study in “consociational democracy,” which she defines as “a political project of passive coexistence and agreement among ethnic elites.” In a highly original, bottom-up critique of top-down peacemaking, Hromadzic demonstrates how the school's students have used the long-standing practice of “bathroom mixing” to resist an official effort to impose ethnic segregation in classrooms and other public spaces. In doing so, she sheds unexpected light on the role of space in governance, the nature of democratization, and the endless creativity of resistance.
The final three articles deal with various dimensions of South American politics. First, Laura Zanotti discusses new models of political partnership in the Brazilian Amazon. The Kayapo effort to preserve their rainforest homeland is the focus of Zanotti's study of networking, old and new. Building on a foundation of old relationships among villages, Kayapo communities continually strive to create new partnerships that respond to contemporary realties in the realms of economics, transportation, communication, and state bureaucracy. In addition to showing the adaptability of timeless political skills to evolving circumstances, the paper also offers intriguing new insights into the nature of indigeneity.
In the aptly titled “The Peril and Promise of Noodles and Beer: Condemnation of Patronage and Hybrid Political Frameworks in ‘Postneoliberal’ Cochambamba, Bolivia,” Miriam Shakow analyzes—at the level of everyday practice—the Morales government's condemnation of patronage, or the buying of political support with the promise of jobs. Like other indigenous leftist governments in Latin America, this one has promised a move away from neoliberalism. As part of this effort, Morales has committed to do away with patronage, which is deeply entrenched in traditional Bolivian politics. Using vivid ethnographic detail, Shakow shows that, for Bolivians negotiating the challenges of daily existence, ideology does not translate simply and directly into practice. Instead, those seeking real-world results at the local level employ strategies that draw on the rhetorical resources of a dizzying mix of ostensibly “pure” ideologies. Like Zanotti, Shakow ends up saying a great deal about the negotiable and thus fluid nature of indigeneity in contemporary Latin America.
Finally, in “Human Rights Law and Military Aid Delivery: A Case Study of the Leahy Law,” Winifred Tate reflects on the effects of an effort to “reform” US relations with foreign militaries. The Leahy Law, enacted in 1997 as a result of a collaboration among elite NGOs, grassroots activists, and Congressional staffers, prohibited US aid to foreign military units credibly accused of human rights abuses. Delving into the case of Colombia, Tate documents a US response that is simultaneously surprising and predictable. Rather than suspending all military aid to a country when no “clean” units were found—the likely intent of the Leahy Law's drafters–US officials urged their Colombian counterparts to create new units of acceptable soldiers. Tate's broader point is to probe the knowledge practices that drive the implementation of policy, in particular the processes by which some forms of violence were exposed while others were selected for erasure.