Abstracts & Papers
Conference abstracts and papers are posted below.
- Session 1 - Material connections. Transcultural networks of materiality in a comparative perspective.
- Session 2 - Transformations: Religion and Migration
- Session 4 - Imagined Histories
- Session 5 - The Social Life of Connections: Transforming technologies on the African continent
- Session 6 - Asian Expressive Practices in the Context of Migration: Traditions and Modernities
Session 1 - Material connections. Transcultural networks of materiality in a comparative perspective.
Corinne Hofman (Archaeology, Leiden)
'Surfing on the Mediterranean web, ca. 1250 – 700 BC'
Jan Paul Crielaard (Archeology, VU Amsterdam)
In my contribution that deals with the ancient Mediterranean I intend to do three things:
1. I will briefly discuss the recent interest in Mediterranean interconnectivity (‘New Mediterraneanism’) and globalization that has led to the realization that Mediterranean connectedness and unity is not so much a permanent state of being but rather a process characterized by expansion and contraction (hence the term ‘Mediterraneanization’).
2. The period under discussion is a good example of progressive and regressive tendencies in Mediterranean interconnectivity. I will try to give an outline of these processes, and relate them to changes in social organization, mentality, mobility and introduction of new (maritime) technologies.
3. I will discuss some of the material dimensions of these changes in Mediterranean interconnectivity, focussing on objects that have in common that they are related to feasting and banqueting. I will argue that goods and practices could travel widely –and quite independently from people– through a series of interlinked, regional networks. The same classes of goods also allow us to observe how during a later stage of increased connectivity the circulation of goods and the ideas and social practices interconnected with them evoked a range of social and local responses, varying from the adoption and adaptation of this cosmopolitan lifestyle to resistance, rejection and adherence to local cultures.
'Prehistoric networks in East and Southeast Asia: the transmission of jade earrings'
Ilona Bausch (Archaeology, Leiden)
This paper will explore the prehistoric circulation and later transmission of jade earrings from China to most of East and (Insular) South East Asia, assessing the role of these precious objects as agents of ‘connectivity’.
Of course, it will not be suggested that prehistoric Asian networks involved ‘globalization’ in the modern sense of the word. The first true Asian World System, sensu Wallerstein, was the Han Empire (2nd century BCE-2nd century CE). In addition to sustaining trade networks extending to Europe via the Silk Route, it also became the most politically influential unified Asian state, aggressively expanding its borders in Asia. Through the tributary system the Empire instigated irrevocable social and economic changes in peripheral areas, including state formation processes in Korea and Japan. Bronze mirrors were circulated to local chieftains as diplomatic gifts, in exchange for political allegiance to the Han (e.g. Barnes 2007).
However, China has an ancient pedigree as a catalyst influencing developments in other Asian cultures through the introduction of innovations, and one thing already held in common in prehistoric societies of both East Asia and Insular Southeast Asia was a high social value placed on jade, particularly earrings. It will be suggested that the materiality of jade, particularly earrings, played an important role in the formation of long-distance and intercultural interaction in prehistoric Asia.
The practice of producing these precious objects originated in North-eastern China in the 6th Millennium BCE among the farmers of the Xinglongwa culture in Manchuria, where they were used as signifiers of prestige and leader identity. The jade earrings spread over vast distances over time; first the ‘originals’ themselves were circulated, then the practice and technology of local earring production transmitted to distant communities, and finally local varieties emerge everywhere. Many cultural borders were crossed: in East Asia, the practice did not only spread to ‘other’ farming cultures within the region of modern China, but also took hold in forager cultures in Siberia, Korea and Japan in the 5 th Millennium BCE—cultures who had a different economy, social organization and culture. In the case of Southeast Asia, jade earring practices were transmitted from Southern China to Taiwan in the 3rd Millennium BCE, and crossed the Pacific until the 1st millennium CE; brought along by migrating farmers (known as the Austronesians), as part of their cultural package.
It will be suggested that, despite differences in local economic and cultural practices, the communication necessary for exchange relations was enabled through the existence of certain shared cultural values. To what extent this exchange led to an actual ‘acculturalization’ will be assessed for two different cases, the Jomon foragers of Japan and the migrating Austronesian farmers in Insular Southeast Asia. What can changes in the archaeological contexts of the jade ornaments tell us about the duration and intensity of the ‘connectivity’ with the mainland “mother-culture”, and the implications for the formation of local identities?
'Forms and Elements of Religiosity in Dutch Muslim Women's Groups'
Nathal M. Desssing (Leiden Institute for Religious Studies, Leiden)
This paper studies intersections of heritage and migration by looking at interplay between the individual, religious authority, and the social in Dutch Muslim women's groups. Muslim women organize in many ways. The groups vary in reach from women’s groups that find their basis in a local mosque, to local initiatives attracting a somewhat wider variety of women living in a particular city, to national network organizations of and for Muslim women. I will argue that the realization of the pious self is important for many women in these groups. Women actively seek religious knowledge and ways of realizing Islamic virtues. Second, I will argue that most women seek knowledge through authoritative discourses and are hesitant about using their own reasoning in deciding what is appropriate Islamic behaviour. However, because of the growing diversity of voices claiming knowledge and authority, the role of the individual in assessing these authority claims has become more important. Third, belonging should be defined in terms of sharing religious experiences and the desire to meet like-minded people. Associational life for these women should not be defined in terms of membership of an institution with authoritative functionaries and viewpoints. This paper thus shows how a fragmented Islamic heritage is performed and becomes visible in the Dutch context. This research project forms part of a NWO-funded research programme entitled "Individualization, Fragmentation of Authority, and New Organizational Forms amongs Muslims in Europe".and is based on fieldwork.
'Changes in the understanding of Shame and Sin among Assyrians/Syriacs in Europe'
Naures Atto (Leiden Institute for Religious Studies, Leiden)
In my paper I want to discuss how Assyrians/Syriacs who emigrated in the last four decades in great numbers from the Middle East to Europe, have changed their understanding of shame and sin in their new context of living. I shall discuss how younger generations but also older generations in relation to the new context of living have been using the concept of shame more than in the past where they used the concept of sin. I explain the transformation of their religious and moral values in relation to the emigration from a rural society in which religion played a central role to a modern Western society where the role of religion has become far less central.
Dorrit van Dalen (School of Middle Eastern Studies, Leiden)
I will be looking at global interactions, not by means of migration, but by means of books, narratives and ideas. In the 17th century, islam and tobacco were more or less simultaneously introduced to remote areas in central sudanic Africa. Notions from the global ‘library’ of islam were put in opposition to the foreign commodity in a way that was specific for the region, and helped to create a muslim identity for new converts. An important author from the region was so imbued with an idea that had been construed of tobacco in his local environment, that he did not shy from telling renowned muslim scholars in the Middle East that they were erring from Gods path.
'Neo-ottomanism in politics and cultural production in contemporary Turkey'
Begüm Özden Firat (Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, Istanbul)
A couple of years ago giant Ottoman miniatures painted on tiles found their way to the walls of metro and tram stops in Istanbul. In 2010, during the national election campaigns, colossal banners carrying the portraits of the prime minister Tayyip Erdogan and Fatih the Conqueror appeared in certain neighborhoods in Istanbul. Around the same time, the prime minister announced what he calls the crazy idea, "canalistanbul", a new urban transformation project, by referring it to the dream of the Ottomans to be realized by the current government. In the meantime "the Ottoman imaginary" emerged in different levels of cultural production, from Orhan Pamuk's My Name is Red to the movie titled Waiting for the Heaven directed by Dervis Zaim, to video works of feminist contemporary artist Canan, all of which deal with the aesthetics of the Ottoman miniatures. This neo-ottoman imaginary ultimately found its way to popular cultural production from TV series to the fashion industry. This presentation will focus on the political and cultural reconstructions of the Ottoman heritage and the ways in which it is mobilized as a socio-political force shaping a new formation of collective imaginary in line with neoliberal conservative governance.
'Illegitimate Love, Dissident Desire, or the Troubles of Interculturality'
Liesbeth Minnaard (Literary Studies, Leiden)
My paper discusses two works of Dutch fin-de-siècle literature in which a Chinese figure features prominently as the exotic object of desire. Lodewijk Van Deyssel’s naturalist novel Blank en geel (White and Yellow) (1894) tells the story of the intercultural love-affair between a young Dutch bourgeois woman and a Chinese merchant at the International Colonial Trade Exhibition in Amsterdam in 1883. Jacob Israël de Haan’s “nervous” narration “Het monster van China” (The monster of China) represents a more phantasmatic, homosexual liaison between a Dutch parvenu and the malformed Chinese object of his desire, a dwarf-like monster. In my paper I will analyse these two instances of cultural (and sexual) transgression in order to demonstrate how, in both works of literature, the disturbing figure of the Chinese prompts the (re-)negotiation – reactionary and emancipatory – of bourgeois boundaries of behaviour.
Liesbeth Minnaard is Assistant Professor in Literary Studies at Leiden University. She specialises in interculturality in literature and in cultural effects of migration and globalisation. Her publications include New Germans, New Dutch. Literary Interventions (Amsterdam University Press, 2008) and several articles on German and Dutch literature of migration. Currently she is co-editing a volume on Literature and Multiculturality in Scandinavia and the Low Countries (forthcoming 2011).
'Devouring boundaries between Self and Other; Cannibalism as identity construction in Latin American literature'
Nanne Timmer (Latin American Languages and Cultures, Leiden)
In my paper I will discuss Latin American thoughts on identity constructions in intercultural and global interactions. I will discuss the place of cannibalism in contemporary Latin American and Caribbean art putting the Mexican book Friendly Cannibals (1996), by Guillermo Gómez Peña in dialogue with the early twentieth century Brazilian´s Cannibal Manifesto (by Oswald de Andrade). The main focus here is to analyze what place the abject other has in the construction of a national identity. How did the claim of this outrageous geneaology serve as a cultural or political critique, and what is the exact social or political function of its present-day evocations? How should we theorize this identification, or appropriation, desire, or polemic rage?
Jan-Bart Gewald (African Studies Centre/Leiden)
In October 1956 a young British police officer investigating a murder and near beheading in the Barotseland Protectorate (present-day Western Province, Zambia) was informed by a Capuchin monk that two women had been murdered, “with a suspicion of witchcraft attached”. In the ensuing government clamp down an astounding 1.212 people were formally charged and convicted of contravening the Witchcraft legislation of Northern Rhodesia, and no less than nine young men were sentenced to death. During the government clampdown hundreds of material artefacts, ranging from human skulls to fly whisks, were confiscated and used as evidence during court proceedings. A part of these material remains has come to be stored in the depots of Rhodes Livingstone Museum in Livingstone, Zambia. Fifty years on people in Western Zambia still recall the immensity of the government clampdown, and historians engaged in researching the archival record of these events in the museum in Livingstone are confronted with armed soldiers investigating rumours of witchcraft being carried out by white men in the tower of the museum in the present.
First reported in 1906, Kaliloze guns have been used to rid society in western Zambia of witches for much of the 20th Century, and probably for a lot longer before then. Not surprisingly these magical guns, which are preferably made out of the thigh bones of human beings, attracted the horrified attention of British colonial administrators, and continue to fascinate and frighten people in Zambia in the present.
The paper to be presented is part of an ongoing study which seeks to chart and contextualise the history of the Kaliloze witch-gun through the course of the Twentieth Century. By focussing on the material stored in the Livingstone museum, the paper discusses how academics might adequately write a history of the Kaliloze gun through making use of these materials.
Jesper Bjarnesen (Uppsala University)
This paper considers the effects of the Ivorian identity crisis from the point of view of families returning from Côte d'Ivoire to their country of origin in Burkina Faso and argues that “returning home” was experienced in relation to conflicting notions of belonging on both sides of the border. The paper discusses the meanings of "return" and "home" in cases where families have settled outside their community of origin and portrays individual migration histories on the backdrop of a broader political and historical contextualisation of the migratory patterns that have linked the two countries since at least the early colonial era.
The analysis thereby reflects upon an important aspect of the intense mobility between Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire in the context of the past decade’s political instability. The basic premise of the analysis is that everyday mobility practices are central to an understanding of contemporary African social life – even in situations of armed conflict and forced displacement. This approach is inspired by recent anthropological studies of armed conflict that insist on an ethnographic investigation of the social and cultural dynamics and consequences of violence, rather than taking the disruptive and extraordinary character of such circumstances for granted, as the premise for, rather than the object of social analysis.
'Shifting Boundaries of Self-Expression in the Poetry of Young Afghan Refugees'
Zuzanna Olszewska (St. John’s College, Oxford Univerisity)
This paper addresses questions of subjectivity and self-expression in the poetry of young Afghan refugees in Iran. For these second-generation immigrants who have grown up under the ‘Islamic modern’ ideology of the Islamic Republic and who are also active members of refugee literary circles, emerging poetic genres provide a way of exploring and carving out a subjectivity that differs in many respects from that of their parents’ generation and pre-migration Afghan communities. Consequently, they often choose to push the boundaries of conventional morality and propriety and, in so doing, challenge the dichotomy of the true, guarded ‘inner self’ (baten) and deceptive ‘outer self’ (zaher) that has historically shaped the possibilities of self-expression in the Persian language. They also question and redefine both the model of the politically engaged intellectual that has prevailed in the region for at least a century, and their own marginal place in Iranian society.
This paper is based on twelve months of ethnographic fieldwork with Afghan poets in Iran spread between 2005 and 2007, one follow-up visit in 2010, and ongoing internet-based contacts with them and analysis of their use of online social media.
'The Performance of Ritual Identity among Gurungs in Europe'
Sondra Hausner (Oxford University)
The performance of communal identity is a time-honoured way of representing a group to itself, and to others. Establishing the contours of any particular community – that is, demonstrating who belongs and who does not – is in part accomplished through public participation in communal events where to see and be seen is the mark of affiliation. This pattern is perhaps nowhere more apparent than in a diaspora setting, where newly arrived residents need and want to stick together, and where they may be particularly concerned to transmit ostensibly long-held cultural values to the next generation.
Which kinds of identity emerge in which settings, however, and what determines the preeminent category? Among Nepali Gurungs in Britain, two different kinds of religious identification have bifurcated an otherwise solid ethnic identity: some Gurungs actively participate in Vajrayana or Tibetan-style Buddhist ritual practice to affirm their religious identity as non-Hindu while others actively solicit the ritual teachings of Gurung Bon religion, which in turn rejects Buddhism. Among Nepali Gurungs in Belgium, however, where ethnic rather than religious affiliation remains the primary category of identity, this split among diaspora brethren in a nearby country is the cause of consternation. While the demonstration of unified ethnic identity remains strong in Belgium, religious or ritual practice appears to have diminished as a communal or cultural priority.
Performance should not be taken merely as the public presentation of identity category, however, in opposition to personal ritual practice. Religious category and religious practice overlap in multiple and complex ways. This paper will parse the performance of identity among Gurungs in Europe to see if we might develop a template of performance as ritual practice conducted by (i) an individual practitioner for soteriological purposes; (ii) an individual or a collective for the sake of assimilation into a new setting, for example; and (iii) as a public self-representation of the definition of the group.
'Patwari sung poetry: Kashmiris and music in Britain'
Thomas Hodgson (University of Oxford)
In this paper, I explore the performance and reception Patwari music – a traditional form of sung poetry from the Patwar region of northern Punjab – among British Kashmiris living in Bradford. I focus ethnographically on a series of all-male concerts held in the north of England that are regularly attended by significant numbers of British Kashmiris. This experience of Patwari music involves exhibiting very public displays of patronage, whereby complex interactions between audience, performers and music take place. It is argued that these acts, or performances, of patronage reveal discursive senses of identity and belonging that are at once highly local and complexly transnational. More broadly, then, the paper seeks to contribute to wider debates about migrant and post-migrant culture in the UK by paying close attention to how British Kashmiris themselves experience and understand living in a multicultural society.