Anthropology on vacation: mass tourism, consumerism and Sufism in Central Turkey

Maja Lovrenović Somewhere between Göreme and Nevşeher, the towns in the Cappadocia province of Central Turkey, in an underground restaurant carved into the famed regional volcanic sediments, a tightly seated crowd of tourists was awaiting for performers to appear on the stage area in the middle of a huge circular cave-like space. We had all been shuttled there in tourist buses, to enjoy raki, meze and the “whirling dervishes”. We had been told beforehand that the dance performance is not the actual trance-reaching Mevlevi ritual of sema, but in the same note nevertheless kindly asked not to take pictures until the lights are turned on at the end of the act. The dancers might get distracted by the camera flashes, it had been explained to us, as they need to concentrate on the whirling movement “just as the real dervishes used to do”.

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Anthropology alumnus founds NGO for unrecognized refugee women from Burma

Ursula Cats in Thailand

By Ursula Cats When I started my fieldwork as a Master’s student last year, I had many ideals and I mainly wanted to represent the women I was researching as “agents of change”. What I actually experienced was different. As I wrote in an e-mail to my supervisor Ellen Bal towards the end of my fieldwork: “I can clearly see the restrictions these young women have. I can see that they are active agents, but their impossibilities are also becoming painfully obvious.”

I have always had the motivation to support people who have fewer opportunities than I do. To gain more knowledge on developmental work, I decided to enroll in the Master’s program in anthropology in September 2009. It was not complicated to find a focus for my fieldwork: the women who had fled from Burma to Thailand. The anthropological theories I used, however, did not correspond directly with what I actually saw and experienced. Eventually I was able to gain a perspective based on the stories of the women themselves, which I used in my thesis to shed light on the situation of unrecognized refugee women from Burma. 

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62 virgins to the rescue?

In this final post in the context of Peace Week 2010 and the International Day of Peace, Gea Wijers shows how Cambodia mobilizes a curious ‘invented tradition’ in a long-running conflict with Thailand around an ancient temple.

Cambodia must be the only country on this planet to proudly portray a ruin on its national flag. The stylized image of mythical Angkor Watt  (a Cambodian temple complex) in its hay-day says all that needs to be said about the Cambodian government. Its tendency to opportunistically cling on to a romantic national past that may never have existed. Its tendency to defend this past, despite its invention by colonial foreigners and against claims by neighbouring states. And, last but not least, its tendency to legitimize the resulting defensive policies by simply inventing more traditions. The case of Preah Vihear may serve as an illustrative example. Lees verder

No ‘Peace Day’ in Kashmir’s ‘Year of Killing Youth’

In the context of Peace Week 2010 we present a number of posts on such subjects as war, conflict and oppression. Today, on the International Day of Peace, Thomas van der Molen discusses the conflict in Kashmir. The photos are by Dilnaz Boga.

Policemen sitting against a wall covered with freedom slogans

‘We hate peace!’, a young Kashmiri dissident exclaimed during my fieldwork in the summer of 2008. He was referring to what anthropologist Cynthia Mahmood observes to be a tendency for repressive authorities in Kashmir and elsewhere to practice ‘pacification’ as part of their state security agenda. In line with both the informants in my fieldwork, and Mahmood, I favor the language of rights and justice, rather than that of peace and security. The UN General Assembly, on the other hand, presents today’s ‘International Day of Peace’, or ‘Peace Day’, as an opportunity to mark ‘our personal and planetary progress toward peace’. Yet, the relevance of ‘Peace Day’ – and indeed the concept of ‘peace’ itself – to the inhabitants of the Valley of Kashmir is doubtful, as the Government of India perpetuates its policy of ‘pacification’. Lees verder

De Berlijn Blogs: ‘die Ewigen Lampe’

In het kader van Vredesweek 2010 (18-26 september) plaatsen we deze week een aantal berichten over thema’s als oorlog, onderdrukking en conflict vanuit verschillende perspectieven en verschillende plekken op de wereld. Vandaag een bijdrage van Mirjam Dorgelo in de serie de Berlijn Blogs over haar bezoek aan de vroegere Stasi-gevangenis.

De eerste vijf weken antropologisch veldwerk onderzoek liggen alweer achter me. Mijn ‘verleden’ groeit met elke dag die verstrijkt. Misschien klinkt dat wat weemoedig, of zo je wilt nostalgisch. Maar wanneer je elke dag bezig bent met ‘het verleden’ van voormalige DDR-burgers merk je snel genoeg dat ‘het verleden’ eigenlijk een vreemde constructie is. Het is een tijdsa anduiding, iets is ‘geweest’ en nu niet meer daar. Althans, dat is wat vaak gezegd wordt. Niets is echter minder waar. Alhoewel het verleden iets ongrijpbaars is, zijn er veel verschillende manieren waarop mensen hier in Berlijn proberen om het verleden  op een bepaalde manier vast te houden of bewaren. Lees verder

Ramadan in Rabat

Ramadan in Rabat (foto door Lenie Brouwer)

Lenie Brouwer, docent antropologie aan de VU, verblijft tot 6 november in Rabat waar zij aan  het Nederlands Instituut Marokko college geeft aan studenten die de minor Marokko studies volgen. Vandaag, een week na het einde van de ramdan, doet zij verslag van haar observaties tijdens de vastenmaand.

Door Lenie Brouwer Ramadan is de heilige maand van de moslims, het is een tijd van bezinning, tijdens welke het geloof centraal staat. Maar volgens sommigen lijkt het wel een feestmaand, zo lees ik in het Marokkaanse tijdschrift Actuel. Elke avond is het feest op de boulevard Corniche in Casablanca, dat tot de ochtendgloren schijnt door te gaan.   Lees verder

Multicultural Competencies: A New VU Publication

VU University (photo by Andrew Black)

By Pál Nyíri I have received a nicely designed and expensively printed booklet in the mail. It contains a synopsis written by Nicolien Zuijdgeest. This is based on a much more extensive research report by Lucy Kortram and published by the VU’s Onderwijscentrum, entitled Multiculturele competenties. Since “diversity is our business” — to borrow a chapter title from Ulf Hannerz’s latest book – I think we in the departments of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Communication, Organisation and Management, and History should take time to read this report and comment on it. I hope this post will elicit responses from colleagues who work in this particular field. Lees verder