American Ethnologist

Ethnography After Globalism: Migration And Emplacement In Malawi

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Abstract

Sites and places present analytical problems to ethnographers who acknowledge the reality of global flows but doubt their I iberatory potential. In this article, I suggest that ethnographers move beyond the rhetoric and organizing assumptions of globalism not simply by discarding the local–global distinction but also by interrogating the analytical tendency to disconnect culture from place. Such a tendency appears to contribute to the resilience of constructivism in ethnographic analysis. A perspective of emplacement builds on insights into global flows while providing a focus on embodied and situated presence. I develop this perspective with the aid of ethnography on conflicts between migrants and original inhabitants in an impoverished area of Malawi's capital. The occult powers of a secret society partly account for migrants' emplacement, challenging migrants' globalist imagination that draws on the liberal rhetoric of economic and political reform and on spiritual protection afforded by world religions. The perspective of emplacement reaches beyond globalism by showing how all phenomena in global circulations are at once both particular and capable of spreading widely as elements of the globalist imagination, [ethnography, globalism, migration, emplacement, embodiment, the occult, African urbanism]

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