Suomen Antropologi Volume 35, 1/2010
Suomen Antropologi: Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society Volume 35(1) 2010: 3-4
This issue of Suomen Antropologi: Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society showcases the work of a number of young local scholars, demonstrating the broad range of ethnographic areas and research subjects which are capturing the interest of the latest generation of Finnish-based anthropologists. With the aim of balancing perspectives between work ‘at home’ and abroad, we begin with an article by Edward Dutton, a British scholar living and working in Finland, entitled, “Here the Status Symbols Clash: Social status and status expression in Finnish homes”. In it he presents ethnographic research he has conducted in the northern Finnish cities of Oulu and Kokkola. Through examination of the material artefacts which Finns from different social backgrounds choose to decorate the more public rooms of their houses, Dutton draws some conclusions about the evolution of identifiers of Finnish social status over time. The body of publications by Finnish anthropologists working on home ground is not very substantial—though perceptibly on the increase (e.g. in migration, medical anthropology, memory studies)—and it is to be hoped that Dutton’s contribution sparks discussion and further research along similar lines.
This is followed by two articles which address interaction between state initiatives and community-level activity from different perspectives. In her article, “Animating the Unseen: Landscape discourses as mnemonics among Kolguyev Nenets”, Karina Lukin (University of Helsinki) explores local discourses on Kolguyev Island (Barents Sea) concerning a sacred hill whose idols were destroyed in the Soviet years. Framed as recollection, Lukin analyses the stories both as valued speech and as part of everyday resistance to imposed transformations of the Nenets traditional way of life. This is followed by discussion of a combined logging and agricultural project in the remote Pomio district of Papua New Guinea in an article titled, “Strengthening the State: Logging and neoliberal politics in East New Britain, Papua New Guinea”, by Tuomas Tammisto (University of Helsinki). In it, Tammisto argues that private development projects such as the one he examines create ‘legible environments’ for state expansion, but unforeseen local responses to the changes may be as significant in strengthening the state as the provision of infrastructure in previously inaccessible areas.
The two reports which follow—by Heidi Härkönen (University of Helsinki) and Mari Korpela (University of Tampere)—discuss research conducted in Cuba and India respectively. In “Gender, Kinship and Lifecycle Rituals in Cuba”, Härkönen continues the theme of the effects of state initiatives at local levels by exploring the relationship between matrifocal gender and kinship structure, and revolutionary Cuban governance; her ethnographic data is drawn from her participation in major Havanian lifecycle rituals such as Catholic baptism, girls’ quince parties, weddings and funerals. Korpela’s paper, “Westerners in Search of a Better Life in India”, is a revised version of her dissertation defence (Lektio), performed at the University of Tampere on December 4th 2009, in which she presents her research on communality among peripatetic Western residents in Varanasi in a framework of lifestyle migration.
The Forum section—“Anthropology of oil and the resource curse”—concludes this issue with a discussion of the substantial social, economic and cultural transformations instigated by oil production in an increasing number of new African oil states. Andrea Behrends and Nikolaus Schareika kick off the debate by looking at existing studies of the phenomenon, asking how social and cultural anthropology might contribute to analysis of this important conjuncture in world history. Gisa Weszkalnys’ subsequent contribution critically examines the notion of ‘the resource curse’. As the term is commonly used among economists, this underlines that the presence of large natural resources such as oil, rather than resulting in general economic development in the producing country, may lead to the decline of certain sectors of the national economy and internal struggle for access to resource revenues—a curse rather than a blessing. Dinah Rajak continues the debate by suggesting that anthropology’s contribution to problematising the ‘resource curse’ should lie as much ‘in illuminating the powerful agency within the forces of extraction’ as in dealing with the experience of those who become subject to it. Tim Di Muzio’s final contribution offers the opinion that the real ‘resource curse’ is a ‘pattern of capitalist, high energy intensive social reproduction premised upon cheap and dirty fossil fuels’ which might offer the most appropriate target for anthropological intervention.
May I personally conclude this brief introduction by reminding readers of the Finnish Anthropological Conference 2010 (May 11th–12th), this year being held in Helsinki. The programme and further details may be found on the Society’s home page: http://www.antropologinenseura.fi/en/home/
Here the Status Symbols Clash: Social status and status expression in Finnish homes
Suomen Antropologi: Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society Volume 35(1) 2010: 5-22
This article aims to make an original contribution to the discussion of the dynamics of social status expression in Finland. Drawing upon fieldwork in Oulu and Kokkola, it will examine how a sample of Finnish people express and play for social status through the objects with which they decorate their homes. It suggests that Finnish social stratification may be undergoing a shift away from correlation with formal education towards identification with broader consumption patterns, especially amongst the young. However, it will also highlight social status-based differences in terms of both forms of expression and touch on how these reflect the evolution of Finnish social stratification and culture more broadly.
Animating the Unseen: Landscape discourses as mnemonics among Kolguyev Nenets
Suomen Antropologi: Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society Volume 35(1) 2010: 23-42
Changes, such as the social, cultural and economic transformations of the Soviet and post-Soviet eras, evoke a need to remember and remind. Recollecting can be expressed in multiple ways, among which discourses connected with physical artefacts are a universal form, though contents and meanings vary considerably. This article examines Kolguyev Nenets memories of, and discourses about, a hill named Seĭkorkha: a sacred place whose idols were destroyed in the Soviet years. Providing a backdrop to this Nenets discourse is an artistic project which aimed to protect the Kolguyev Nenets and their island. The recollections are seen both as valued speech and as a part of everyday resistance to imposed transformations. This case study, based on field work and archival materials, shows how a community that has lived through vast changes has built continuity and stability through constantly changing discourse about a place that has been undergoing modifications for centuries.
Strengthening the State: Logging and neoliberal politics in East New Britain, Papua New Guinea
Suomen Antropologi: Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society Volume 35(1) 2010: 43-59
In this paper I will examine how logging in Papua New Guinea affects the relationship between the state and the local communities on whose lands logging operations take place. The point of departure of my argument is the Ili-Wawas Integrated Project, a combined logging and agricultural project which seeks to bring economic development to the remote Pomio district of East New Britain Province by connecting existing logging roads to the limited national road network around the provincial capital. Developing the national road network and creating standardized or—to use James Scott’s concept—legible environments can be seen as an integral part of state-making and strengthening the role of the state. In addition to the environment, the state also needs to make social life legible in forms of maps, censuses and laws. As I will argue in my paper, the Ili-Wawas, and other similar projects, may indeed strengthen the role of the state not only by creating the infrastructure and legibility needed by the state, but also in unintended and accidental ways. The side effects of logging and road building include, among others, fear of crime and land disputes. It is these that create among the locals a perceived need for state institutions, which may be as significant in advancing the role of the state as is the creation of infrastructure and legibility.
Gender, Kinship and Lifecycle Rituals in Cuba
Suomen Antropologi: Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society Volume 35(1) 2010: 60-73
This report discusses the efforts of state powers to inflict large-scale societal transformations on local gender and kinship by exploring the relationship between matrifocal gender and kinship structure and the socialist state in Cuba. Cuban gender and kinship relations are approached not only by examining the kinds of daily social interactions that took place amongst ‘lower-class’ Havanian informants, but also via the types of lifecycle rituals celebrated in Cuba: Catholic baptism, girls’ quince-party, weddings and funerals. The report indicates an intriguing contrast between the, in-practice, very mother-centred gender and kinship relations, and the revolutionary state symbology manifesting an idea of a metaphoric patriliny.
Westerners in Search of a Better Life in India
Suomen Antropologi: Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society Volume 35(1) 2010: 74-82
This report introduces research examining Westerners who spend long periods of time in the city of Varanasi in northern India year after year. Here they claim to have found a more meaningful and interesting life than in their homelands. The study discusses the phenomenon within the framework of lifestyle migration arguing that it is important to pay attention to transnational lifestyles that are not elitist but nevertheless based on Western privilege. In addition, the study examines communality among the Westerners arguing that they form a tight, yet fluid, community in Varanasi. The Westerners lead highly mobile lives, yet the community is very significant for them in a particular place and at a particular time.
FORUM: Anthropology of Oil and the Resource Curse
Suomen Antropologi: Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society Volume 35(1) 2010: 83-97
Andrea Behrends and Nikolaus Shareika: Significations of oil in Africa: What (more) can anthropologists contribute to the study of oil? (83)
Gisa Weszkalnys: Re-Conceiving the Resource Curse and the Role of Anthropology (87)
Dinah Rajak: Ethnographies of Extraction: Anthropology, corporate social responsibility and the resource curse (91)
Tim Di Muzio: The Real Resource Curse and the Imperialism of Development (94)
BOOK REVIEWS AND CRITICAL ESSAYS
Suomen Antropologi: Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society Volume 35(1) 2010: 98-106
Mélanie van der Hoorn. Indispensable Eyesores: An Anthropology of Undesired Buildings
Manuel R. Agosin, David E. Bloom, Georges Chapelier and Jagdish Saigal (eds). Solving the Riddle of Globalization and Development
Smekal, Peter. The Threatened Paradise: Tourism on a Greek island
Ole Rud Nielsen
Honkasalo, Marja-Liisa. Reikä sydämessä: sairaus pohjoiskarjalaisessa maisemassa
Janne Juhana Rantala