See/download the final papers at Taylor & Francis Online (subscription required)
See/download the pre-publication open access versions below.


(Guest Editors: Victoria Stead and Michèle Dominy)

  • Victoria Stead and Michèle Dominy: Moral Horizons of Land and Place
  • Victoria Stead: History as Resource: Moral Reckonings with Place and with the Postwar Past in Oro Province, PNG
  • Patrick Guinness: The Unbounded Space and Moral Transgression: Capitalist Expansion in West New Britain
  • Ute Eickelkamp: Emplacing Christ: An Indigenous Australian Ethics of Placemaking Across Borders
  • Siad Darwish: Balad El-Ziblé (Country of Rubbish): Moral Geographies of Waste in Post-Revolutionary Tunisia
  • Yuka Suzuki: The Good Farmer: Morality, Expertise, and the Depoliticisation of Whiteness in Zimbabwe
  • Michèle D. Dominy: Settler Postcolonial Ecologies and Native Species Regeneration on Banks Peninsula, New Zealand



Guest Editors: Victoria Stead and Michèle Dominy


Victoria Stead and Michèle Dominy

Alfred Deakin Institute, Deakin University
Anthropology, Bard College

Moral Horizons of Land and Place

pages 1-15


A recent ‘moral turn’ in anthropology has cast new light on morality as a subject of ethnographic inquiry, and on the making of moral meaning and judgment. This article, and the special issue it prefaces, contribute to this emergent literature through foregrounding and examining the moral dimensions of land and place. Taking up Didier Fassin’s injunction for a critical moral anthropology—rather than an anthropology of morality—we look to land and place as groundings for moral challenges and practices that are nevertheless not place-bound. A critical moral anthropology of land and place should be directed, we argue, to the interplay of mobility and emplacement, to the dynamics of landscape and ‘dwelling’, and to the multiplicities of expectation and meaning that surround the making and exploitation of resources. In contexts of global and local change, land and place offer productive grounds from which to consider the moral horizons—both spatial and temporal—of our world and our discipline.



Victoria Stead

Alfred Deakin Institute, Deakin University

History as Resource: Moral Reckonings with Place and with the Postwar Past in Oro Province, PNG

pages 16-31


Located in Oro Province, Papua New Guinea, Higaturu Station is a place marked by multiple intersections of violence. Originally established as an Australian colonial headquarters, in 1943 it was the site of execution of 21 local Orokaiva men convicted—by the Australian administration—of treason during the Second World War. Eight years after the executions, the nearby Mount Lamington volcano erupted, killing thousands and devastating Higaturu. Today the place remains uninhabited but laden with memory and meaning, a site of ambivalent moral reckonings both with the colonial past and with the postcolonial present. These moral reckonings in turn intersect with peoples’ experiences of, and hopes for, ‘development’. In Oro Province, history is becoming a resource—not unlike gold, or the oil palm plantations that extend across the landscape—which might attract outsiders, and with them forms of wealth and possibilities for realising the good life. Accordingly, Higaturu landowners work to attract outsiders to the site of the eruption and the hangings. At the same time, however, they worry that the outsiders they attract—including anthropologists—will exploit and profit from their history in the ways that so many outsiders have profited from the Province’s other resources. Commercial considerations inform these hopes and worries, but the mobilisation of history-as-resource also speaks to other concerns, including about the relationships of insiders and outsiders across time, and the proper attributions of guilt, responsibility and entitlement within colonial and postcolonial landscapes of remembrance.



Patrick Guinness

ANU Research School of Humanities and the Arts, School of Archaeology and Anthropology

The Unbounded Space and Moral Transgression: Capitalist Expansion in West New Britain

pages 32-44


Capitalist transformations in West New Britain Province, Papua New Guinea, have focused on setting boundaries on land and social relations as an efficient way to generate productive relations. But for the Maututu around Bialla town where the palm oil industry has been established the perception of productivity rests not on establishing boundaries but on exploring horizons. Recent dramatic changes to the economy and demography of this area have introduced moral conflict into Maututu endeavours to generate wellbeing. Maututu have responded to these conflicts in ways that continue to bring their indigenous morality to bear on the moral strategies pursued by state and capitalist forces.



Ute Eickelkamp

School for Social and Political Sciences, The University of Sydney

Emplacing Christ: An Indigenous Australian Ethics of Placemaking Across Borders

pages 45-60

Travelling from my old heimat, Germany, I joined in September 2015 a group of Anangu Pitjantjatjara Bible translators on a two-week long pilgrimage to the Holy Land. This journey offered further probing into Anangu attachments to place that, until then, I had only known through ethnographic research in their desert homelands in northern South Australia. In the present article I explore how and why the Anangu Christians forged links with biblically inscribed places to which they had no ancestral ties. What they did bring is a deep-seated sense of emotional connection with Jesus abiding in heaven, and here the pilgrimage was a chance to anchor this relationship in his land—to emplace Christ. Notable in this process of shifting the presence of Jesus from heaven to earth was the pilgrims’ moral concern to keep separate the emplaced stories of their ancestral lands on one hand, and the grounded narratives of the Christian Scriptures on the other. In Jonathan Mair and Nicholas Evans’ terms, their approach was one of ‘incommensuration’, a strategy to avoid moral conflict by refusing to make comparisons between religious traditions. My article may thus be read as an ethnographic contribution towards the understanding of an Australian Indigenous ethics of placemaking across borders.



Siad Darwish

Department of Anthropology, Rutgers University

Balad El-Ziblé (Country of Rubbish): Moral Geographies of Waste in Post-Revolutionary Tunisia

pages 61-73


Waste sullies, physically and morally, polluting people and places, and defining or altering their position within social and spatial hierarchies. Given this polluting quality and the moral charge of the idiom of pollution, waste and its distribution are indicative of how places are imbued with moral judgment and at the same time waste illustrates how places themselves can become morally polluting. In the context of a waste crisis that followed the Tunisian Revolution of 2011, it is argued here that an attention to waste as material and symbolic category demonstrates the recursive relationship between materials, people, their thoughts and actions, in the moralisation of place. Examining this waste crisis in terms of a Tunisian moral geography of waste, which was established under colonialism and labels certain people and places as clean and dirty, reveals the dynamic and historically-contingent nature of moral spaces and depicts them as sites for socio-spatial struggles that in themselves illuminate the revolution in novel ways. Finally, it is concluded that the polluting quality of waste spilled over the boundaries of Tunisia’s moral geography to morally sully the whole time period and political process of Tunisia’s transition.



Yuka Suzuki

Anthropology, Bard College

The Good Farmer: Morality, Expertise, and the Depoliticisation of Whiteness in Zimbabwe

pages 74-88


In Zimbabwe, land has always been a visible index of racial domination and oppression. Following independence in 1980, the redistribution of white property to black farmers emerged as one of the most contentious battlegrounds for refiguring citizenship and nationhood. This article explores how white farmers in a small community in western Zimbabwe fought to establish claims to belonging as they faced the threat of imminent land reform at the turn of the millennium. Drawing upon Tania Li’s concept of articulation (2000), I suggest that farmers constructed themselves both as moral subjects who cared for the environment, and skilled subjects with the technical know-how to safeguard and maximise the country’s resources. In the absence of claims to indigeneity, farmers attempted to offset their own compromised morality by invoking the language of expertise. By examining this intersection between morality and expertise, I argue that white farmers in Zimbabwe brought together logics typically imagined to be distinct as a strategy to claim moral belonging while obscuring the historical and political factors that threatened to void those same claims.


Michèle D. Dominy

Anthropology, Bard College

Settler Postcolonial Ecologies and Native Species Regeneration on Banks Peninsula, New Zealand

pages 89-106


The 2050 Ecological Vision for Banks Peninsula, New Zealand is ‘to create an environment in which the community values, protects and cares for the biodiversity, landscape and special character of Banks Peninsula’. Its aspirational goals point to the peninsula conservation trust’s vision for success on the moral horizons of land and place. These horizons stretch visually from the volcanic crater ridgelines to the outer coastal bays and the sea beyond. Temporally they span one hundred and seventy-five years of cultural encounters of peoples and biota, and reveal community-based strategies designed to support thriving biodiversity on land that has been used primarily for production. This article draws on event, textual and interview data as well as fieldwork conducted in 2015 during the 175th anniversary of organised European settlement. Settler pasts and presents are negotiated in natural heritage preservation through the restoration of native flora and fauna in natural areas and protected connectivity corridors. A settler postcolonial ecology for these hill country lands is committed to the simultaneous conservation of biological and cultural diversity in which indigenous flora and fauna, landscapes and people, are irreversibly hybridised, and endemic species become constitutive of a postcolonial national identity in Aotearoa New Zealand.



See/download the final papers at Taylor & Francis Online (subscription required)
See/download the pre-publication open access versions below.


  • Piergiorgio Di Giminiani and Marcelo González Gálvez: Who Owns the Water? The Relation as Unfinished Objectivation in the Mapuche Lived World
  • Laur Kiik: Wild-ing the Ethnography of Conservation: Writing Nature’s Value and Agency In
  • Jan Patrick Heiss: A Hausa Man Makes a Decision: A Contribution to the Anthropological Perspective on Decision-Making
  • Sandra Pannell: Framing the Loss of Solace: Issues and Challenges in Researching Indigenous Compensation Claims
  • Celine Travesi: Knowing and Being Known. Approaching Australian Indigenous Tourism through Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Politics of Knowing 



Piergiorgio Di Giminiani and Marcelo González Gálvez

Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

Who Owns the Water? The Relation as Unfinished Objectivation in the Mapuche Lived World

pages 199-216

Anthropological approaches to relations have customarily relied on ethnographic accounts of relations empirically observed through fieldwork, overlooking, in general, the ways in which the very notion of relation is locally conceptualised and put into practice. In this article, we provide a general characterization of how relations are theorised and practiced in indigenous southern Chile. We propose the expression ‘unfinished objectivation’ to refer to an ideal type of relationship in the Mapuche lived world, which corresponds neither to a subject-object dichotomy nor to a totally intersubjective model. Unfinished objectivation presupposes a type of relation in which those entities that are connected are submitted to the force of one another, but only to the unstable and contingent point before which they lose their irreducible autonomy and agency. To explore the model of unfinished objectivation we focus on the human-water relationship, which illustrates the tension between the need for objectivation, as well as recognition of the subjectivity of beings involved in the relationship. Nowhere is this tension clearer than in conflicts over water rights and ownership status, which have arisen from the commodification of water resources in neoliberal Chile.



Laur Kiik

Oxford University, UK; Tallinn University, Estonia

Wild-ing the Ethnography of Conservation: Writing Nature’s Value and Agency In

pages 217-235

When reading ethnographic literature on nature conservation, one may wonder: where has nature gone? Social anthropologists have written nuanced ethnographies of how the environmental projects of governments and transnational NGOs encounter, dispossess, clash culturally with, and try to govern native people across the world. Yet, these diverse ethnographies often say little about what motivates those encounters firstly: local and global nature, especially wildlife, plants, and the planet’s ecological crisis. Thus, this paper seeks ways how ethnographic writing on conservation practice could better reflect that the planet’s many self-willed, struggling, and valued non-humans, too, enter conservation’s encounters. To find paths toward such a “wild-ing” of ethnography, the paper locates and reviews disparate materials from across the social-anthropological literature on biodiversity conservation. The review is structured through three questions: How does and could the ethnography of conservation represent nature’s value? How can it show that animals, plants, and other nature make and meet worlds? How can it incorporate natural-science data about non-human worlds and ecological crisis? Altogether, we understand nature conservation clearer through the interdisciplinary and more-than-human ethnography of world-making encounters. Such wilder ethnography may also better connect people’s suffering and nature’s vanishing – as problems both for anthropology and conservation science.



Jan Patrick Heiss

Department of Social Anthropology and Empirical Cultural Studies, University of Zurich

A Hausa Man Makes a Decision: A Contribution to the Anthropological Perspective on Decision-Making

pages 236-254

In anthropology, decision-making has mainly been studied from two perspectives: rationalist and ethnographic. These approaches lack a theoretical basis which would integrate their findings in a coherent manner. Taking inspiration from Tugendhat and Berthoz, this article argues that a way out of this impasse is to conceptualise decision-making as an action. At the same time, this conceptualisation allows us to establish a continuum of decision-making processes from simple through complex to fundamental, and to understand these processes as malleable across milieux, societies and cultures. This article also goes beyond this by discussing the decision-making process that led a Hausa villager from Niger to decide not to migrate. This discussion shows that the anthropological literature has largely overlooked a type of decision that could be called a ‘maturing decision’. It also sheds light on the role of emotions in decision-making and on the constitutive role of emic ideas about decision-making in these processes.



Sandra Pannell

School of Social Sciences, University of Western Australia and College of Arts, Society & Education, James Cook University

Framing the Loss of Solace: Issues and Challenges in Researching Indigenous Compensation Claims

pages 255-274

The 2016 judgment in the ‘Timber Creek’ compensation case (Griffiths v Northern Territory of Australia (no. 3) (2016) FCA 900) signals an end to an era of extinguishment-related injustice and inequality, representing, as it does, the first litigated Federal Court award of compensation for the loss or impairment of rights and interests, under the 1993 Native Title Act. In this paper I explore some of the methodological challenges and conceptual issues confronting anthropologists involved in researching compensation claims. In drawing upon my experience in researching two such claims, I discuss how the issues of gender, resource development, environmental transformation, the Stolen Generation, and the history of Indigenous-European relations in remote and rural Australia impact upon investigations into the loss or diminution of traditional attachments to land. In conceptualising this loss of connection, I discuss material relating to the ‘anthropology of emotions’, and I point to some of the obstacles encountered when talking about emotions cross-culturally. In conclusion, I explore research undertaken into the social and psychological impacts of ecosystem distress, loss of place, and environmental change, and I posit the value of Glenn Albrecht’s concept of ‘solastalgia’ (Albrecht 2005) in framing research into the loss of solace, and in expanding upon the legal notion of this loss as ‘inconvenience’ and ‘injured feelings’.



Céline Travési

Aix-Marseille University, EHESS, CNRS - CREDO UMR 7308

Knowing and Being Known. Approaching Australian Indigenous Tourism through Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Politics of Knowing

pages 275-292

Based on ethnographic research conducted with Bardi and Jawi people, an Indigenous group from the Northwestern Kimberley region of Western Australia, the aim of this paper is to approach the complexities related to Indigenous tourism in Australia through the politics of knowing and not-knowing as embodied by Indigenous tour guides and non-Indigenous tourists. It examines the notion of knowing (or not knowing) and its usages by Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in the context of their tourist encounter. ‘Knowing’ represents an important aspect through which Aboriginal people and their non-Indigenous guests negotiate their interactions. In particular, the paper shows how Indigenous and non-Indigenous expectations from tourism lead actors to adopt divergent positions and to assert renewed claims in relation to knowledge or knowing, casting new light on issues of self-representation and empowerment in the domain of Indigenous tourism.




  • Neriko Musha Doerr and Hannah Davis Taïe (eds). The Romance of Crossing Borders: Studying and Volunteering Abroad (Verid Amit)
  • Laura Gilliam and Eva Gullo. Children of the Welfare State: Civilising Practices in Schools, Childcare and Families (Kathryn Anderson-Levitt)
  • Fabian Frenzel. Slumming It: The Tourist Valorization of Urban Poverty (Jim Butcher)
  • Héctor Domínguez Ruvalcaba. Translating the Queer: Body Politics and Transnational Conversations (David William Foster)
  • Colin Samson and Carlos Gigoux. Indigenous Peoples and Colonialism: Global Perspectives (Alberto Gomes)
  • Marie Nathalie LeBlanc and Louis Audet Gosselin (eds). Faith and Charity: Religion and Humanitarian Assistance in West Africa (Amy Stambach and Tyler Hook)
  • Maj Nygaard-Christensen and Angie Bexley, eds. Fieldwork in Timor-Leste: Understanding Social Change through Practice (Monty King)
  • Megha Amrith. Caring for Strangers: Filipino Medical Workers in Asia (Charmaine Lim)
  • Monika Swasti Winarnita. Dancing the Feminine: Gender and Identity Performances by Indonesian Migrant Women (Alessandra Lopez Y Royo)
  • Susan Wright and Cris Shore. Death of the Public University? Uncertain Futures for Higher Education in the Knowledge Economy (Lara McKenzie)
  • Eve Vincent. ‘Against Native title’: Conflict and Creativity in Outback Australia .(Barry Morris)
  • Perri 6 and Paul Richards. Mary Douglas: Understanding Social Thought and Conflict (John Morton)
  • Jenny Gray. Zoo Ethics: The Challenges of Compassionate Conservation (Lyle Munro)
  • Darren Jorgensen and Ian McLean (eds). Indigenous Archives: The Making and Unmaking of Aboriginal Art (Vanessa Russ)
  • Julian C. H. Lee and Marco Ferrarese (eds). Punks, Monks and Politics: Authenticity in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia .(Margaret Sarkissian)
  • Raymond Corbey . Of Jars and Gongs.Two Keys to Ot Danum Dayak Cosmology (Anne Schiller)
  • Timothy Neale. Wild Articulations: Environmentalism and Indigeneity in Northern Australia  (Veronica Strang)
  • Katie Glaskin. Crosscurrents: Law and Society in a Native Title Claim to Land and Sea (Petronella Vaarzon-Morel)


See/download the final papers at Taylor & Francis Online (subscription required)
See/download the pre-publication open access versions below.


(Guest Editors: Simone Dennis and Yasmine Musharbash)

  • Simone Dennis and Yasmine Musharbash: Anthropology and Smoke
  • Yasmine Musharbash: Yulyurdu: Smoke in the Desert
  • Gillian G. Tan: Differentiating Smoke: Smoke as duwa and Smoke from bsang on the Tibetan Plateau
  • Bryonny Goodwin-Hawkins: Monstrous Spectres: Chimneys and Their Smoke in Industrial Britain
  • Dena Sharrock: Smoky Boundaries, Permeable Selves: Exploring the Self in Relationship with the Amazonian Jungle Tobacco, Mapacho
  • Julia Brown: Smoking and Vaping While Being Pharmaceutically Treated for Schizophrenia
  • Simone Dennis: Touching Anthropology of Smoke, Violence and Institutions
  • Georgia Curran: On the Poetic Imagery of Smoke in Warlpiri



Guest Editors: Simone Dennis and Yasmine Musharbash

Simone Dennis and Yasmine Musharbash

College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University
Department of Anthropology, The University of Sydney

Anthropology and Smoke

pages 107-115

In this introductory paper, we contemplate both a variety of anthropological approaches to smoke and how analyses of smoke—as object, material, phenomenon, practice, or political fact—might contribute to anthropological knowledge. We consider these questions in and through the themes cross-cutting this collection, including: the sensuous aspects of smoke (especially in the olfactory, visual and haptic relations it occasions, entails and denies); the politics of smoke (in particular regard to climate change, public health, and Indigenous knowledge); smoke’s temporal dimensions (from the human mastery of fire via industrial chimneys to vaping e-cigarettes); and its ritual functions (encapsulating transition par excellence, curing ills, placating spirits, and marking time). We conclude by pondering smoke’s inherent capacity to escape the bounds we might set for it, including the imposition of highly politicised spatial, temporal, and intellectual constraints.



Yasmine Musharbash

Department of Anthropology, The University of Sydney

Yulyurdu: Smoke in the Desert

pages 116-125

I begin this paper with a nod to ‘the beginning’ by linking smoke to fire, and fire to humankind. Bound up in this deep history of smoke and humanity is a dichotomy cleaving humans from animals and the west from the rest. Taking smoke at Yuendumu, a Warlpiri community in central Australia as my subject, I aim to destabilise some of the certainties entrenched in this dichotomy.
Smoke, of course, is nigh impossible to pin down, literally as well as conceptually. So rather than trying to immobilise it, I follow in smoke’s own fashion and waft across different kinds of fires and different kinds of analytical approaches. Ethnographically, I draw a narrative picture of the different ways in which smoke at Yuendumu permeates everyday life by considering the smoke of breakfast fires, signalling fires, cooking fires during storms, caring-for-country fires, and the scent of cold smoke on blankets, clothes and bodies. Analytically, I move from smoke and how it relates to embodied Warlpiri ways of being in the world, to smoke and childhood socialisation, including baby smoking rituals. From there I shift to the smoke of caring-for-country fires, and on to smoke, memory, odourphilia and odourphobia. I conclude by pondering the potential of a smoke-like approach.



Gillian G. Tan

School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Deakin University

Differentiating Smoke: Smoke as duwa and Smoke from bsang on the Tibetan Plateau

pages 126-136

On the Tibetan plateau, smoke, either as by-product of heat-generating activities or intentionally produced, is ubiquitous. Wafts of smoke rising from the central flaps of black yak-hair tents in pastoral communities are mirrored by yak-dung smoke rising out of chimneys in stone houses of agricultural areas. Observers of summer horse races and other community events might note the presence of thick plumes of smoke emerging from pyres of dried branches, often placed within or near a cairn of stones and prayer flags or latse (T. la rdzas).  To a casual observer, the ever-present smoke might seem homogenous but, for Tibetans, smoke is expressive of multiple contexts and meanings. In this article, I attend to different kinds of smoke as they are articulated in the literature and experienced by nomadic pastoralists in eastern Tibet. Smoke as duwa (T. du ba, dud pa) from everyday activities including yak-dung burning and cigarette smoking and smoke from bsang (T. bsang)—a ritual complex of fumigation and purification—reveal that Tibetan perspectives distinguish kinds of smoke. Understanding where smoke comes from and the contexts of which it is part are crucial when attempting to delineate a conceptual and terminological category such as smoke. Tibetan phenomenological categories broadly prioritise vernacular ways of knowing and classifying, which presents a corrective to a dominant classification of smoke that could be used as rationale to resettle nomadic pastoralists and transform their way of life.



Bryonny Goodwin-Hawkins

Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University

Monstrous Spectres: Chimneys and Their Smoke in Industrial Britain

pages 137-145

What does a chimney mean? As Britain industrialised, chimneys and smoke grew out of technological change and expanding manufacturing. Yet, as I demonstrate here, the substances of brick and particulates had – and have - more than material meaning. This article offers a brief ethnography of industrial chimneys and their smoke in Britain, from the nineteenth century to the smokeless, postindustrial present. Taking as my concern how chimneys and smoke have been ‘written’ into socio-spatial symbolism, I show their polarisation between triumphant spectacle and savage monstrosity. I then reflect on their current, spectral, presence.



Dena Sharrock

School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Newcastle

Smoky Boundaries, Permeable Selves: Exploring the Self in Relationship with the Amazonian Jungle Tobacco, Mapacho

pages 146-157

As more Westerners travel to the Amazon Jungle to seek healing through the increasingly popular plant medicine, ayahuasca, they are exposed to an environment pervaded by the use of tobacco smoke. Mapacho is the name of the potent jungle tobacco that is central to the shamanic practices of Amazonian plant medicine healing, regarded locally not as a pathogen but rather as a potent ally: a spirit that can be co-opted as a purifier, healer, protector and teacher. In order to render these functions available to patients, Mapacho must be smoked, its efficacy, along with that of the shaman, activated through the absorption of each into the other. By means of this relationship, Mapacho smoke pervades culturally-recognised boundaries of the Western Self, simultaneously permeating both the internal and external realms that constitute the healing environment. In this paper, I explore the relationship between Mapacho, Peruvian Shipibo shamans, and Western patients, suggesting that the boundaries that are often conceived by Westerners to distinguish each from the other may well be as smoky as the medicine practices they engage in.



Julia Brown

Department of Anthropology, Australian National University

‘Doing Things Little by Little’: Smoking and Vaping While Being Pharmaceutically Treated for Schizophrenia

pages 158-170

This paper explores the experiences of smoking and ‘vaping’ while being pharmaceutically treated for schizophrenia, as well as what the experiences of breathing smoke and vapour in and out can reveal about health ‘care’, toward the self and others. Drawing on ethnographic data collected over 2015-2016 in Australia and the UK, and particularly on patient experiences in the UK where electronic cigarettes had become an endorsed Nicotine Replacement Therapy, I argue that inhaling nicotine via e-cigarettes can, like tobacco cigarettes, be experienced in terms of temporal opportunities for self-reclamation and experiences of health. When patients opted to vape instead of smoke, their sense of self-reclamation allowed for shifted attention toward the movement and materiality of exhalations, and toward how second-hand vapour (compared to smoke) is socially received. Experiences of vaping were, however, contingent on the clinical endorsement of e-cigarettes, and were inconsistent inside and outside of clinical spaces. Further consideration should be given to vaping as a harm minimisation tool in Western societies dealing with widening disparities in health. Ultimately, clozapine-treated schizophrenia patients continue to smoke or vape for reasons that speak to the desire to make ‘time’; to find connections to life rather than focusing on death.


Simone Dennis

College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University

Analysing Smokefree: Notes on Senses, Smoke and Violence

pages 171-182

Throughout my fifteen-years-long exploration of tobacco smoking in Australia, I have analysed the practice and the legislation pertaining to it using sensory tools. Ten years distant from the beginning of my engagement with smoking, I can appreciate that a striking feature of the sensory analyses I have made is what they reveal of violence. Included here is (not only) the violence done to the smoker’s own body – by the biotechnology of cigarettes themselves, and by the state; the violence she does to nonsmoking others with her dangerous exhalations; and a kind of violence conducted against a critical anthropology by, precisely, a veraciously interventionist form of medical anthropology. In what follows I reveal some of these violences. In this paper, I use key examples that have featured in my published work before to make the related points that (a) sensory analyses are good for thinking about and revealing powerful relations and (b) that it really matters what kind of sensory analysis we do; some kinds, I suggest, might actually work to shore up the powerful conditions under which a topic, an issue or a problem has emerged. Others might lay those conditions bare and make plain their violent operations.



Georgia Curran

Sydney Conservatorium of Music, University of Music

On the Poetic Imagery of Smoke in Warlpiri Songs

pages 183-196

Smoke, an ever-present source of comfort in day-to-day Warlpiri lives, is also a powerful ritual symbol and theme in the poetic language of Warlpiri songs. Rather than signalling these soothing qualities, in this more formalised sung context, smoke symbolically alludes to tension, uncertainty and unknown liminal states of transition. Here, I analyse examples from Warlpiri song texts to argue that, rather than being a semantic paradox, the cultural symbolism surrounding smoke has a functional poetic purpose in that it flags circumstances of discomfort or unknown states within the Dreaming narratives upon which Warlpiri songs are centred. To illustrate this point, I analyse song imagery in which smoke and other visually similar phenomena are focal.


See/download the final papers at Taylor & Francis Online (subscription required)
See/download the pre-publication open access versions below.


(Guest Editor: Giovanni da Col)

  • Giovanni Da Col: Spirits of Uncertainty: Eventologies of Nature on China’s Frontiers
  • Stéphane Gros: Nature De-naturalised: Modes of Relation with the Environment among the Drung of Northwest Yunnan (China)
  • Magnus Fiskesjö: People First: The Wa World of Spirits and Other Enemies
  • Koen Wellens: Resilient Cosmologies: Water Deities and Divine Agency in Post-Mao China
  • Charles F. McKhann: Crimes Against Nature: Kincest, Cosmology, and Conservation in Southwest China
  • Admet Yuet Chau: Human Organs in Oil Tank Trucks: An Extractology



Guest Editor: Giovanni da Col

Giovanni Da Col

SOAS, University of London

Spirits of Uncertainty: Eventologies of Nature on China’s Frontiers

pages 307-320

Studies of the environmental spirit world have been pursuing two main lines of inquiry: (1) that indigenous claims on ecological thought, including beliefs in chthonic spirits and mountain deities, are the outcome of a global process of abstraction and the commoditisation of nature which acts as technology of governmentality for the production of discursive formations through which neoliberal environmental subjectivities can emerge and (2) that the pitfalls of the nature/culture dualism can be avoided by giving priority to nonhuman subjectivities and positing sociologies of nature as subordinate to ontologies of the self-other divide or action-orienting cosmologies of local ‘nature’. The contributors of this collection engage with the spirit worlds and other invisible agents that constitute the everyday landscape of a number of ethnic groups in western China. While declining to engage with the notion of animism or subscribing to totalising ‘cosmologies’, the authors prefer to extract the eventfulness of haphazard and radically uncertain interactions with spirits or wondrous signs apt to be transformed into marvels and rumours. The ethnographies presented in this collection reveal an eventology of spirit worlds and landscape on China’s borderlands, an inquiry that – unlike history – does not study ‘events’ as such but the relation between what is deemed to be an event, a surprise, or a manifestation of wonder and what is deemed to be the innate, natural, ordinary, everyday life.networks.


Stéphane Gros

Center for Himalayan Studies, CNRS, France

Nature De-naturalised: Modes of Relation with the Environment among the Drung of Northwest Yunnan (China)

pages 321-339

This article is about the ways the Drung (Dulong), a minority inhabiting a remote mountainous valley of Northwest Yunnan province (China), view the ‘natural world’ as part of a cosmological order in which human society is integrated. The article explores the principles of differentiation that preside over the modes of relation between the diverse components of this world, by paying close attention to subsistence activities. Until recently, the Drung people practised swidden agriculture, and hunting and collecting remained important secondary sources of food. These activities imply specific relationships with natural forces, deities and spirits, which constitute a socio-cultural means of accessing natural resources and obtaining prosperity, or ‘good fortune’. Four mutually non-exclusive modalities of transaction with these entities are identified, which capture the variability of peoples’ attitudes toward natural resources and ideas of social reproduction. Recent socio-economic reforms that have brought traditional cultivation to an end, threatening Drung people’s livelihood and culture, seem to influence the dominance of a certain modality of economic transaction.


Magnus Fiskesjö

Cornell University

People First: The Wa World of Spirits and Other Enemies

pages 340-364

The Wa spirit world implies a certain rootedness. Knowledge of the location and propensities of spirits is necessary to engage their capricious menace through divination diagnostics and sacrificial remedies. Even as outsiders have attempted to introduce modern medicine, spirit neighbours and enemies continue to figure prominently in Wa health, disease and death. I outline how these practices for managing the menaces of the spirit world survived the demise of the political autonomy of the Wa in the 1950s and 1960s, when the ancient Wa lands were divided and annexed by the nation-states of China and Burma. Finally, I discuss the disastrous consequences of recent forced displacements of large numbers of people, which caused many unnecessary deaths by disrupted the victim’s established ways of dealing with disease as anchored in the local landscape.


Koen Wellens

University of Oslo

Resilient Cosmologies: Water Deities and Divine Agency in Post-Mao China

pages 365-381

This article explores ritual practices among the Premi people in Southwest China at the beginning of the new millennium. Living in the periphery of Tibetan, Han Chinese and other Tibeto-Burman ethnic groups, Premi villagers have continued to keep an understanding of how the world works that is markedly different from their neighbours. The all-encompassing economic development of China is posing new challenges to the intangible entities in Premi cosmology. In its management of forests, waterways or birth control, the Chinese state is increasingly interfering with Premi ways of dealing with their surroundings. The chapter proposes to focus on the way one category of intangible entities of Premi cosmology, the lwéjabu or water deities, are seen as acting towards these challenges, rather than on the underlying ontological changes. An event where a member of a neighbouring ethnic group becomes an unwitting participant in a Premi medium séance makes the case for approaching extra-human forms of agency by beginning with the ‘work’ or ‘effect’ of the divine entities.


Charles F. McKhann

Department of Anthropology, Whitman College, Walla Walla

Crimes Against Nature: Kincest, Cosmology, and Conservation in Southwest China

pages 382-401

The post-Mao era (1976–present) has seen a number of great changes in China. Two of these – the revival of religion and the emergence of a nascent, but powerful environmental movement – have come together in a unique way in the revitalisation of dongba religion among the Naxi nationality (pop. 300,000) of northwest Yunnan and southwest Sichuan provinces. This paper examines the relations between indigenous Naxi and outside tourists (mainly Han from other parts of China) through multiple lenses, including traditional Naxi cosmologies and theories of kinship and hospitality, as well as contemporary ideas concerning tourism development and environmental protection. The aim is to show that: (1) Naxi theories of alterity occur at multiple levels simultaneously – gods/demons vs. humans, kin vs. non-kin, native vs. stranger, host vs. guest, etc. – but that a unified logic underlies the relations, transactions, and interpenetration of these groups and (2) this logic is a productive force in its own right, that is, capable of harnessing new situations to it, even as it itself evolves as novel meanings are engendered in the process of intentional action. In all of this, one figure stands out: the dongba, a traditional shaman-priest viewed as a kind of mediator or facilitator in interactions and exchanges involving a wide range of human and non-human subjects.


Admet Yuet Chau

Department of East Asian Studies, University of Cambridge

Human Organs in Oil Tank Trucks: An Extractology

pages 402-421

Since the 1980s the northern part of Shaanbei (northern Shaanxi Province) and neighbouring areas of Inner Mongolia have been experiencing a huge economic boom, thanks to the discovery and successful extraction of coal, oil, and natural gas. While conducting fieldwork on the revival of popular religion in this region in the mid- and late 1990s, I came across various stories relating to suspicions of human organs being transported in large oil tank trucks going out of Shaanbei. Could there have been a link between what is invisible that lies underneath the surface of the earth (coal and oil) and those that lie within human bodies but then allegedly taken out and transported in oil tank trucks (human organs)? This article proposes an ‘extractological’ approach that brings together yet diverges from the methodological and theoretical concerns in anthropological studies on extractive industries and the commercialisation of human organ transplants. In analysing the image of ‘human organs in oil tank trucks’ in juxtaposition with various other pertinent extractological scenarios, an analytical tack emerges, crucially drawing upon Carlo Severi’s work on images and pictography, that goes beyond (or by-passes?) the anti-extraction politics of indignation and points towards an anthropology of conceptual interfacing and articulation (through investigating various kinds of ‘conceptual clutches’).