Skip to main content

Social Anthropology: News


EAS: Edinburgh Anthropology Showcase - The Edinburgh Anthropology Publications E-Newsletter, Issue 1, Sept 2019

New and recent works by Edinburgh Anthropology faculty and graduate students. An email newsletter to showcase new books, journal articles, book chapters, blogs and more by members of Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh INSIDE THIS ISSUE: New works by Jeevan Sharma, Eva Vernooij, Janet Carsten, Jamie Cross and more

Ebola Afterlives

Eva Vernooij - ERC Research Fellow 

Eva published a blog on somatosphere about her fieldwork in Sierra Leone. 

 "Adiatu a young Sierra Leonean laboratory scientist, turns on the light in the high risk room of the molecular unit of the recently renovated laboratory in Sierra Leone’s largest governmental hospital. The sterile, allwhite laboratory space is filled with high-end equipment for the detection of Ebola virus. The biosafety cabinets, -80°C freezers, hotplates and buckets of chlorine that populate the room were brought in by the British government during the refurbishment of the laboratory, completed two years after the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak was declared over. "
For more see: 

Discipline in Sri Lanka, punish in Pakistan: neoliberalism, governance, and housing compared

Asha Abeyasekera, Ammara Maqsood, Iromi Perera, Fizzah Sajjad, Jonathan Spencer

In discussions of urban infrastructure and land, neoliberalism is often presented as a hegemonic economic model with, seemingly, identical outcomes across a range of historical and political circumstances. For instance, in large cities of the Global South, a combination of speculative capitalism, and increased privatisation in the provision of public services, has been blamed for structural dispossession and the pushing out of working-class and vulnerable groups from urban centres.

However, little has been said about how these processes interact with more contextual specificities—longer histories of state provision, existing inequalities, local political dynamics and legislative structures. Through comparative work on urban infrastructure projects in Lahore and Colombo, this article tells a story in which historical differences in state policy on housing and governance have impacted the ways in which dispossession is meted out, experienced and contested. Contributing to calls for studies of ‘actually existing neoliberalism’ (Wacquant 2012), we illustrate the importance of closely examining the relationship between neoliberal policies and dispossession on the ground through a historical perspective.

Full article: Journal of the British Academy, volume 7, supplementary issue 2 (Cities and Infrastructure in the Global South).

Blood Work 

L I F E  A N D  L A B O R A T O R I E S  I N 


New Book from Janet Carsten

What is blood? How can we account for its enormous range of meanings and its extraordinary symbolic power? In Blood Work Janet Carsten traces the multiple meanings of blood as it moves from donors to labs, hospitals, and patients in Penang, Malaysia. She tells the stories of blood donors, their varied motivations, and the paperwork, payment, and other bureaucratic processes involved in blood donation, tracking the interpersonal relations between lab staff and revealing how their work with blood reflects the social, cultural, and political dynamics of modern Malaysia. 
Carsten follows hospital workers into factories and community halls on blood drives and brings readers into the operating theater as a machine circulates a bypass patient's blood. Throughout, she foregrounds blood's symbolic power, uncovering the processes that make the hospital, the blood bank, the lab, and science itself work. In this way, blood becomes a privileged lens for understanding the entanglements of modern life.
Read the introduction here: ials/978-1-4780-0481-3_601.pdf 

Crossing the Border to India

Y O U T H ,  M I G R A T I O N ,  A N D 

M A S C U L I N I T I E S  I N  N E P A L

South Asian edition of Jeevan Sharma's book now published with Bloomsbury 

Given the limited economic opportunities in rural Nepal, the desire of young men of all income and education levels, castes, and ethnicities to migrate has never been higher. Crossing the Border to India presents an ethnography of male labor migration from the western hills of Nepal to cities in India. Jeevan Sharma shows how not only livelihood and gender but also structural violence impact a migrant's perceptions, experiences, and aspirations.
Based on long-term fieldwork, this study captures the actual experiences of those who cross the border. Sharma shows that Nepali migration to India not only allows young men from poorer backgrounds to “save there and eat here” but also offers them a strategy for escaping the more regimented social order of the village. Additionally, migrants may benefit from the opportunities extended by the “open border” between India and Nepal to attain independence and experience a distant world. However, Nepali migrants are regularly subjected to ill-treatment. Thus, while the idea of freedom is an important factor in Nepali men's migration decisions, their actual experience often entails suffering and lack of freedom.

Jonathan Spencer writes afterword for new South Asian Sovereignties volume 

This book brings ethnographies of everyday power and ritual into dialogue with intellectual studies of theology and political theory. It underscores the importance of academic collaboration between scholars of religion, anthropology, and history in uncovering the structures of thinking and action that make politics work. The volume weaves important discussions around sovereignty in modern South Asian history with debates elsewhere on the world map.South Asia’s colonial history – especially India’s twentiethcentury emergence as the world’s largest democracy – has made the subcontinent a critical arena for thinking about how transformations and continuities in conceptions of sovereignty provide a vital frame for tracking shifts in political order. The chapters deal with themes such as sovereignty, kingship, democracy, governance, reason, people, nation, colonialism, rule of law, courts, autonomy, and authority, especially within the context of India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.

Also includes a chapter by former Edinburgh PhD student Aya Ikegame 


Morteza Hashemi - Leverhulme Early Career Fellow

The standard narrative of the emergence, rise and decline of Silicon Valley companies focuses on the evolution of institutions and technological waves, not the mentality of the innovators and entrepreneurs. This article argues that this type of explanation of the rise and decline of the Silicon Valley firms and institutions can hardly be sufficient. The suggestion is that a neoKhaldunian theory could shed light on the issue. This article is an attempt to, first, distinguish between the medieval and modern aspects of Ibn Khaldun’s theory and second, to use the latter to examine Silicon Valley as a social phenomenon. 
The Sociological Review 67, 3


Bhuvi Gupta and Jacob Copeman

Alongside Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose politics he explicitly endorses, Swami Ramdev is frequently depicted as the contemporary face of neo-Hindutva nationalism in India. This essay concerns specific, but interrelated, aspects of the Swami Ramdev ‘phenomenon’ and their particular relation to Hindu nationalism. We bracket the headline-stealing antiIslamic and pro-Modi proclamations in order to focus on the nuances of the relationship between his yoga and a majoritarian Hindutva agenda and examine the specifics of Ramdev’s teachings and campaigns. We suggest that the (Hindu) nationalism of Ramdev and his organisations is formed less of propositional or even affective content but instead is a condition emerging from its particular prescription and practice of yoga; it is a condition of the body. In this way, yoga, as it is reproduced at the site of the individual body, produces the national(ist) activist subject.

Contemporary South Asia 27, 3


Jamie Cross 

What are the ethical commitments of people who design, build, and sell solar photovoltaic technologies to those living in energy poverty across sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia? Over the past decade, in the field of solar photovoltaic energy, the development of solar power, social and moral reform. Tracing these projects across the floor of an international trade fair in Dubai and a social enterprise in India, this essay shows that the pursuit of the solar energy is a reality.
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 25, S1, 2019. Special issue on Energy and Ethics.


Kaveri Qureshi and Ayaz Qureshi

In his inaugural speech to the nation on 19 August 2018, newly elected Prime Minister Imran Khan set out his intention to turn around Pakistan's poor record on human development. Citing a recent report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Prime Minister lamented the fact that Pakistan is one of the top five countries in the world where children die as a result of diarrhoeal diseases spread by contaminated drinking water, one of the countries most hit by maternal mortality, and a country where almost every other child is stunted... 

Full article: Asia Dialogue July 24

Freshers 2013