More Thoughts on Resistance and Refusal: A Conversation with Sherry Ortner

In 1995, Sherry Ortner published an essay in CSSH that continues to attract readers today. “Resistance and the Problem of Ethnographic Refusal” (37/1: 173-193), explored a trend, emergent at the time, in which resistance-oriented scholars were abandoning fine-grained accounts of local, subaltern worlds for critical analysis of external, impinging powers: the empire, the state, the…

Volume 59, #3 // July 2017

Thing theories, object-human recursion, and materiality already seem familiar and domesticated. All to the good, as it’s often not until the fickle winds of theoretical fashion shift that the most serious work can begin. We are still just scratching the surface in discerning and understanding the agencies or other capacities of things, and their limits—whether theorizing them, understanding their implications from different disciplinary perspectives, or documenting their configurations in the world. Many of this issue’s essays undertake the reckoning of things and the challenges they pose of value, risk, calculation, and commensurability. None of the essays are predictable, none follow well-worn paths.

July 2017

CSSH would like to extend belated but nonetheless heartfelt congratulations to Jessica M. Marglin (CSSH 59-4, “Written and Oral in Islamic Law: Documentary Evidence and Non-Muslims in Moroccan Shari‘a Courts“)  for winning the Baron Book prize for 2016 for her book, Across Legal Lines: Jews and Muslims in Modern Morocco (Yale University Press). Congratulations to Tarak…

May 2017

Congratulations are in order for Michael Low for winning a second prize for his CSSH article “Ottoman Infrastructures of the Saudi Hydro-State: The Technopolitics of Pilgrimage and Potable Water in the Hijaz” (CSSH 57-4, 2015). This one is the international prize awarded biannually by Comité International des Études Pré-Ottomanes et Ottomanes (CIEPO) for the best article by an early-career scholar in Ottoman and/or Pre-Ottoman Studies. Read more.

April 2017

Matthew J. Wolf-Meyer (CSSH 53-1, 2011, “The Nature of Sleep“) has just published The Slumbering Masses: Sleep, Medicine, and Modern American Life (University of Minnesota Press, 2016). Read more.

Land and Labor Regimes

Tania Li and R. Alan Covey in conversation about land and labor regimes in Indonesia and Peru. In each case, there are elaborate social worlds that must be neutralized, manipulated, or destroyed before they can produce workers. In 16th century Peru, people are turned into peasants by Spanish taxation and land tenure policies. In colonial and contemporary Southeast Asia, plantation labor becomes more or less free as local subsistence systems, global markets, and modes of state investment change.

Reflections of a Novice Spelunker in the Archives

In her CSSH essay, “Determining Emotions and the Burden of Proof in Investigative Commissions to Palestine,” Lori Allen explores the long history of investigative commissions to Palestine. In her reflections below, she talks about how she conducted her research and the special challenges she faced as an ethnographer in the archives.

Volume 59, #2 // April 2017

In her essay, “The Price of Un/Freedom,” Tania Murray Li shows how contemporary oil palm plantation labor in Indonesia paradoxically reproduces, often under the rubric of market “freedom,” key features of Dutch colonial labor regimes. Labor regimes are the assemblages that set the conditions of work. They include materials, spaces, schedules, tools, food, conditions of social reproduction, and the rules of reward and punishment. Labor regimes establish the axes of freedom and “unfreedom,” which Li works out in careful ethnographic and historical detail from 1725 to the present. Too much freedom leaves labor overly mobile, and unprotected in terms of the conditions of social reproduction; too little freedom leaves stunted lives of indentured or contract labor, forms resembling slavery.