How do we make sense of the horrific things people do to one another? And how do we reconcile that those who do these horrific things are often, in many ways, actually wonderful people?
For many of us our first passion for anthropology came from an introductory class that led us to understand and appreciate that the lives and the worldviews of people around the globe differ radically from what in our upbringing we took for granted. We learned to celebrate human cultural diversity. Advancing in our profession, however, we are increasingly drawn to understanding how, through multiple schisms, humans exercise power over one another in ways that can be quite awful. As ethnographers, our first field experiences can similarly be revelatory, an immersive process where we learn and accept a radically different life and way of thinking. Later we realize that our “adopted” culture’s worldviews are no less contingent than those of our own, a realization that can turn our anthropological imagination towards a more misanthropic one. Rather than avoiding judgments because all cultures are equally valid, perhaps we should judge each and every one of them–nobody comes out looking good?
One opportunity was offered by the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, participant in a movement among French universities that offer refugees a path back into higher education. In this context, Savelsberg lectured and discussed with a group of Sudanese, Syrian and Palestinian refugee-students. His lecture evoked much interest and intense discussions. Students primarily wanted to know what actions could put an end to the continuing and newly intensifying mass atrocities in Darfur. Why does the West not intervene with military force? Why does it not arm rebel groups who fight the Sudanese government? Why have peace negotiations not succeeded? Why have indictments by the International Criminal Court (ICC) not resulted in arrests? While not all answers could satisfy all members of the group, students took some comfort from the observation that UN and ICC interventions had advanced an international perception of the mass atrocities as a form of criminal violence. They shared the author’s hope that this trend will, in the long run, further delegitimize mass atrocities and challenge those political and military actors who bear responsibility. American institutions of higher education might, it seems, learn from French universities and their initiatives, which stand in sharp contrast to closed doors rhetoric (and policy) and to the rise of right-wing populist movements that enhance exclusion and risk advancing political-religious radicalization and criminalization.
More recently, Savelsberg spoke to Citizens for Global Solutions in Minneapolis, MN and, in Washington, DC, at the 2016 Women and Genocide conference, organized by the Darfur Women Action Group (DAWG), with support from the Global Women’s Institute, George Washington University, and the Genocide Prevention Program, George Mason University School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. His lecture followed reports in which women from Rwanda, Darfur, Burma, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Northern Nigeria spoke to their experiences in the context of mass atrocities. Like in Paris, careful scholarly analysis of the effects of new international institutions encounter impatience among those who are directly affected. Some scholars reinforce that impatience also at the DAWG event, as they focus on the weaknesses of new institutions. Savelsberg instead highlighted the historical novelty of international criminal justice, and alternative transitional justice institutions, urging patience in the exploration of the degree to which – paraphrasing Justice Robert Jackson – reason and some degree of the rule of law may eventually supplement the pure use of power in international relations. The experiment began only in the 20th century. It is a novelty in human history, initial malfunctions are expected and no reasons for dismissal. Representing Mass Violence documents how it may advance cultural change and promote hope.
We’re pleased to announce that Sanyu Mojola’s book, Love, Money, and HIV: Becoming a Modern African Woman in the Age of AIDS, is the winner of the 2015 American Sociological Association Sex and Gender Section Distinguished Book Award.
The Distinguished Book Award recognizes books that are “on the cutting edge of sociological inquiry” within their contributions to the field of sex and gender studies. Love, Money, and HIV elucidates and complicates questions of love and sexuality in the lives of modern women living in developing countries, seen through the lens of the sub-Saharan AIDS epidemic. Engaging as well as compassionate, Sanyu Mojola’s work sheds new light on gender, sexuality, and health in Africa.
This award will be officially presented at ASA’s annual meeting, which will be held in Chicago, Illinois this August.
Andersson, following conclusions from his work studying West African migration, theorizes that illegal migration from Africa to Europe has become an industry, creating a number of risks for migrants and fueling the business of smuggling.
“We’ve seen more and more over the past two decades how a larger and larger range of sectors have become involved, in one way or another, in managing migration into Europe by land and sea and in border controls at Europe’s external borders in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. And we also see how . . . it’s counterproductive in generating evermore risks for migrants and feeding also stronger smuggling business as border controls get strengthened.”
“I think first of all, we need to start de-escalating the rhetoric. Of course this is a crisis right now in the Mediterranean in terms of the numbers of people dying. But at the same time, we can manage this. We shouldn’t forget here that many parts of Europe are aging very rapidly and we’ll need labor migrants in coming years. So we should really – also for our own sake – try to tap into migration as an opportunity rather than seeing it simply as a threat. And part of that involves re-establishing some form of legal pathways into the continent. . . .
We need to leave an alternative to the smuggling business. We need to start undercutting the smuggling business or otherwise it’s just going to keep getting strong and stronger.
African Influence on Mexican Cuisine
by Marilyn Tausend
I have been traveling throughout Mexico exploring the incredibly multi-cultured cuisine of its people for the last three decades. It was, though, only since researching the history of the African presence in Mexico for my newest cookbook, La Cocina Mexicana: Many Cultures, One Cuisine, did I realize that during the many years I’ve been coming to the tree-shrouded small village of La Antigua in Veracruz, that I had often stood right in front of Mexico’s first slave market, now the site of the local school. During the seventy-five years or so after Cortés moved his small contingent of Spanish troops and other followers south in 1525 from Quiahuiztlan to this safer harbor, thousands of Africans were put on the block to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. I since have visited many places in Veracruz where these slaves were relocated, some still retaining African names such as the nearby popular resort of Mocambo which means “sorrow” in the Congo dialect.
Some African slaves also accompanied their Spanish owners during the exploration of New Spain with apparently the first African to set foot in these new lands being on Columbus’s second expedition. Twenty years later, the first black slaves in Mexico arrived with Hernan Cortés from the West Indies.
Owning slaves was a part of the Spanish way of life during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, especially after Portugal began major slave trading between Africa and Europe. These black slaves were baptized as Christians with many becoming household servants and learning Spanish, and if they came to Mexico with their Spanish owners, fought alongside them as well as carried their supplies.
But after the conquest, disaster came with the introduction of small pox and other Old World diseases to Veracruz killing thousands, especially the native population and this decimation spread throughout the country.
This catastrophic reduction of the essential source of manual labor threatened the growing commercial interests of the Spanish, so it was only logical for them to turn to an already familiar source of supply—Africa. Although the exact number is not substantiated, the result was the transporting of black slaves brought directly from Africa without being Christianized.
Few Mexicans today seem aware of this African history of their country, as by the nineteenth century these former slaves had been basically absorbed into the fabric of this country’s population. One of the best known, Vincente Guerrero of mixed African descent, became the second president of the Mexican Republic, even having a state named after him.
However, on the Costa Chica in southern Guerrero, and adjacent Oaxaca, this African presence became very apparent to me especially when I visited the isolated coastal village of El Ciruelo and spent some time with Antonieta Avila Salina and her family. This self-sufficient black family raises their own corn, vegetables and herbs, and they fish in the nearby lagoon for their daily food and to sell at the nearby market.
Although the seafood dishes that I shared with them had few of the ingredients brought from Africa to Mexico, the rice, plantains, and coffee Antonienta uses daily, the tamarind and jamaica for aguas frescas, the sesame seeds used in her festive pipianes, as well as watermelons and yams that are family favorites, all came originally from the land of her ancestors. And just as important is the early forced labor—backs of the men and hands of the women—played in supplying the foods needed by the expanding population of this newly conquered country.
Below is a set of photos of Antonienta Availa Salnias and her family, who live in El Ciruelo in Costa Chica, Oaxaca (page 13). Click to enlarge. All photos courtesy of Ignacio Urquiza, www.estudiourquiza.com