Borderland Beliefs

Vladimir Hamed-Troyansky and Mathijs Pelkmans discuss questions of sincerity, rumor, and religious hierarchy at the frontiers of Muslim-Christian conversion in late imperial Russia and contemporary Kyrgyzstan.

Understanding “Cultural Understanding”: Julie Gibbings and Jacob Tropp follow the concept from coffee plantations to Indian reservations, counterinsurgency campaigns, and the careers of international development experts

In our Spring 2020 issue, Julie Gibbings and Jacob Tropp guide us through several telling cases of cultural, or intercultural, understanding. Our editors saw “expediency” as a theme that unites the essays, but there are many others. Tropp and Gibbings tell us more.

Registers of Indigeneity

The Indigenous exists at multiple levels: in the historical embedding of a people with a given landsite and ecosystem most obviously, but also in language, politics, religion, and a lived experience of separateness from settler-states and their progeny. Still, Indigenous peoples’ survival depends in key respects on settler-states and their diverse codes and degrees of recognition. Essays by Uditi Sen and Krista Maxwell each explore registers of recognition that, though applied to dispossess indigenous peoples’ of autonomy, were presented as liberal or humanitarian interventions: the construct of “empty land,” or terra nullius, in Sen’s contribution; and the construct of the Indigenous “child-victim,” in Maxwell’s.

Persons, Things, Person-Things

Mischa Suter and Ceyda Karamursel in Conversation: Maintaining a clear ontological demarcation between persons and things is arduous work, as Latour and others remind us. It requires classification work, purification work, boundary work, language work, social work, and more. Even so, certain historical contexts and situations have rendered the clear line fuzzy, and persons and things remained thoroughly entangled.