Norsk antropologisk forenings årskonferanse 2009



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Mäklarens återkomst (9)

Arrangør: Johan Lindquist, Socialantropologiska institutionen, SU ( )

Under 1950 och 60-talet skrev Eric Wolf och Clifford Geertz klassiska artiklar om “cultural brokers” som i hög grad var försök att förstå spänningen mellan kulturella och politiska system, och mer generellt att förstå förändringar i och mellan dessa system. Femtio år senare används dock “mäklaren” (broker) sällan som en empirisk utgångspunkt inom antropologin. I denna arbetsgrupp undersöker vi dels varför mäklaren försvann från den antropologiska debatten och dels hur vi idag kan använda mäklaren, eller mäklarsystem (brokerage systems), som en empirisk utgångspunkt för att förstå nutida globaliseringsprocesser. Mycket tyder på att globaliseringens “gränslöshet,” inte minst i relationen mellan nord och syd, idag kräver alltfler typer av mäklare. Från detta perspektiv kan man hävda att många typer av mäklare befinner sig i en strategisk spänningspunkt mellan olika globaliseringsprocesser, vilket därmed erbjuder en utmärkt empirisk utgångspunktpunkt för att hantera analytiska problem kring maktens metamorfoser. Exempel på sfärer där mäklare har blivit allt viktigare under senare år finner man i olika former av transnationell migration—både arbetsmigration och högre utbildning—eller inom biståndsindustrin, där lokala NGOs oftast fungerar som en länk mellan givare och lokalsamhällen. Arbetsgruppen söker efter ett brett spektrum av empiriska fall som kan avändas för att diskutera etnografiska och teoretiska frågeställningar kring mäklare och mäklarsystem, och hur dessa kan användas för att hantera frågor kring makt.

Geertz, Clifford. 1960. “The Javanese Kijaji: The Changing Role of a Cultural Broker,” Comparative Studies in Society and History, 2(2): 228-249.
Wolf, Eric. 1956. ”Aspects of Group Relations in a Complex Society," American Anthropologist, 88(6): 1065-1078.

Program søndag 09.15-12.15

Johan Lindquist: Introduction: The Return of the Broker
Kenneth Nielsen: The Political Broker and Popular Politics in India
Per Ståhlberg: ’Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing’: Indian Coaching Schools as a Focus of Contemporary Debates on Business Ethics
Lill M. Vramo: Frictions and Flows: Considering Cultural Brokers within Transnational Fields of Mobility?
Philip Malmgren: Los Jarochos Verdes: Environmentality and Brokerage in Contemporary Mexico
Oliver Thalén: The Power Behind the Performance

Kenneth Nielsen
The Political Broker and Popular Politics in India
The political broker was a conspicuous figure in village studies coming of India in the 1950s and 1960s. Here successful brokers could be seen as building linkages between “their” village and more distant political power centres elsewhere. Successful brokers brought the concerns and grievances of villagers to the attention of distant authorities, and translated bureaucratic demands into vernacular idioms. Political brokers thus operated as cultural brokers or interlocutors by enabling communication between two languages of politics that relied on idioms otherwise not immediately comprehensible to the other. With the decline of village studies, the “strange death of political anthropology” (Spencer 2007), and the concomitant disappearance of most of anthropology’s traditional politico-analytical vocabulary in the late 1970s, the political broker disappeared from the scene. However, in Indian studies he has made a comeback in recent years, mainly due to Partha Chatterjee’s influential writings on Indian modernity and popular politics. In this paper I examine the career of the political broker in the Indian context. I do so by reviewing a number of historical and anthropological studies that highlight the political broker’s many different avatars. Inspired by Chatterjee’s writings I then provide examples from my own fieldwork in rural West Bengal that bring out the continued salience of political brokerage in contemporary popular politics.

Per Ståhlberg
’Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing’: Indian Coaching Schools as a Focus of Contemporary Debates on Business Ethics
The recent vision of India as a rising superpower builds to a large extent on the expectation of a continued growth in the ICT-industry. This belief has opened up a number of commercial possibilities in India. One of the more intriguing is found within the arena of education. For any young Indian who wants to be part of "the new India," a good technical education is considered a secure option. The most prestigious engineering institutes—the Indian Institutes of Technology—are admitting students based on their performance in a national examination test called IIT-JEE. Every year hundreds of thousands of young men and women compete for very limited number of seats. This has created a mushrooming business of private "coaching institutes" that explicitly sell the dream of a prosperous future by teaching 15 and 16 year olds how to succeed in the crucial test. The public critique against this business is massive. The Indian Government, as well as many intellectual commentators accuse these institutes of profiting on unrealistic hopes and contributing to a severe pressure on young people who devote years of serious study to learn the tricks of cracking the test. In this paper I
will look at how some of these institutes are reacting to this critique, defending their "product" as well as legitimating their role in Indian society. The ethnographic material is collected from two cities that have evolved as centers for IIT-JEE-coaching: Hyderabad in
South India and Kota in the north.

Christer Norström
Brokers, Documents and Development Aid: A Collaboration between NGOs in Sweden and India
This paper will discuss the roll of brokers and brokerage in development aid, using a case from Tamil Nadu and the collaboration between Indian and Swedish NGOs. It will look upon two aspects of vital importance for establishing and fulfilling these projects. First, that within these networks it is not only necessary with brokerage at the arena where the project is supposed to be implemented, but also within the country from where the support is supposed to come from. This is to say that brokerage is actually the focal point of creating these projects. Second, that the key instrument for doing this on both sides is the production of certain documents, in this case, on the Swedish side the project application and on the Indian side the yearly reports. An interesting point is that these documents play very different roles depending on where in the aid-development network they are used, opening up, among other things, an understanding of the complex interaction of power and ideas of control for fulfilling the aims of the different partners in this process.

Lill M. Vramo
Frictions and Flows: Considering Cultural Brokers within Transnational Fields of Mobility?

Who or what mediates and bridges the gaps when migrants participate in transnational cultural, geographical and socio-economic contexts? How is hierarchy and power expressed in the flows and exchanges between people and places? Migration is complex and usually involves many movements between origins and destinations, bound together by a complex series of linkages. Immigrants are often understood to be transmigrants when they develop and maintain multiple relations—familial, economic, social, organizational, religious, and politic—across national borders. One ethnographic approach to considering this transnational field is to carry out multi-sited fieldwork following various flows and networks. In this paper I explore how the term ‘culture broker’ or ‘cultural broker’ can add a critical dimension to multi-sited studies. The term broker used here is synonymous with middleman, intermediary, agent, or, more generally, an interpreter, messenger, or commissioner in which the reward is not necessarily financial. In this paper I explore how we, as anthropologists, can understand interactions between diasporas and “home countries” by using the concept of the broker with anthropological theories of economics and consumption.

Philip Malmgren
Los Jarochos Verdes: Environmentality and Brokerage in Contemporary Mexico
Contemporary concerns about environmental issues have been accompanied by a rapid growth and proliferation of environmental organisations, institutions and treaties working at multiple scales, in varying contexts and with different socio-political consequences. Environmental politics has thus become enmeshed in an immense global institutional apparatus unfolding at all social levels. This paper explores a certain aspect of global environmental institutionalization and governance in a Mexican context. It argues that Mexican environmental politics builds on new forms of brokerage by a set of ambiguous actors situated within and in between states, civil society, and the university. The aim of this paper is to describe and begin to conceptualize these forms of brokerage. In order to do so I make analytical use of the concept environmentality, which is a concept building on Foucauldian notions of governmentality. I suggest that current forms of environmental governance shapes a certain kind of environmentalism and brokerage that reproduces older patron-client relations. Arguably, this is also a sign of the ongoing metamorphosis of power in a Mexico, discursively marked as a country in democratic transition.

Oliver Thalén
The Power Behind the Performance

Charterhouse Productions is a thriving Ghanaian production house that produces a number of popular game shows, reality-TV shows, and major entertainment events. The company’s success can be understood through the new market arena it has developed by offering advertisement space in their program. In this context, Charterhouse acts as a broker between multinational corporations—including MTN telecommunications, Coca-Cola, Guinness Breweries, Western Union, and Barclays Bank—and their intended market in Ghana. In this paper I use Charterhouse as a starting point for addressing current practices within an emerging ”showbiz” industry. The argument I develop deals with the effects of neoliberal reform in Ghana and the position of Charterhouse within a transnational economy. I will focus on one particular issue that has to do with the reform of values and ethics in relation to the distribution of wealth and power emanating from the showbiz industry. This is an issue that becomes contingent in the relationship between the sponsor’s branding practices and the audience’s consumption practices, which is mediated by Charterhouse’s brokering practices.


Updated 21 April, 2009

Norsk antropologisk forening