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Special Forum: Environmental and Social Justice? The Ethics of the Anthropological Gaze


Albert Schrauwers

Department of Anthropology, York University, Toronto, Canada

Houses of Worship in central Sulawesi: Precedence, Hierarchy & Class in the Development of House Ideology

pages 333-354

The social and cultural complexity of the central portion of the island of Sulawesi was well documented by missionary ethnographers at the end of the nineteenth century. Drawing on this extensive corpus of historical material, I sketch out a comparative framework for the analysis of the development of House ideology there. The six coastal kingdoms that encompassed the highlands of central Sulawesi were politically organised in Houses, a kinship strategy first proposed by Claude Lévi-Strauss. Here, I examine the factors that encouraged (or discouraged) the transformation of highland temples associated with headhunting (lobo) into the majestic Houses of aristocrats like the Tongkonan still seen in Tana Toraja. This comparative analysis points to the different political tensions created by the distinct systems of precedence, hierarchy and class in the dualistic Founders’ Cult found across the island as the source of this transformation.


Robert Wessing

The Hague, Netherlands

When the Tutelary Spirit Objected: Conflict and Possession among the Using of East Java, Indonesia

pages 355-375

This article discusses a case of possession in East Java that took place in the context of an important customary ritual, the seblang dance. In the course of this ritual, villagers meet their obligations to the spirits of fertility that allowed them to use the land on which their village and fields are located. Considerable stress was caused by a potential dancer who, perhaps for religious reasons, declined to dance although she had been specifically chosen by the spirits. This was an unheard of situation, and was feared to put the welfare of the community at risk. Further stress was caused by perceived interference by government officials whose rejection of an alternate dancer for aesthetic reasons caused the village’s tutelary spirit to become angry, jeopardising the presentation of the ritual and thereby the welfare of the community. After two and a half hours of negotiation, during which narratives reflecting both tradition and the current situation were constructed and reconstructed, the village head resolved the immediate problem by appealing to the spirit’s civic position, though leaving the door open for further problems in the future.


Katherine S. Fine-Dare

Fort Lewis College, Durango Colorado

Hidden Histories of Indigeneity in Urban Andean Ecuador: Transubstantiation, Ceremony, and Intention in Quito

pages 376-396

Students of the South American Andes have long noted the extraordinary force of objects to traverse cosmic and psychic distances, fill (or empty) the living with power that is often exhibited through public dance, and serve as ‘transactors’ in senses socioeconomic, psychic, cosmic, and geographical. In this article, I examine substances and actions involved in a modified version of Holy Communion that took place in June of 2012 in a working-class neighbourhood located at the outskirts of Quito, Ecuador, to celebrate the nativity of St. John the Baptist. I argue that this act was specifically designed to expand the celebration of the Eucharist in a way that allowed a type of transubstantiation whereby the relatives and friends of former hacienda peons were able to transform their physical bodies into something some believed had long been hidden from them – their right to live in the city as persons of their own making, ones who could legitimately adopt the identity and corresponding histories, territories, and political rights of indigenous persons.


Beatriz Santamarina and Oriol Beltran

Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Universitat de València, València, Spain 
Department of Social Anthropology, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.


Heritage and Knowledge: Apparatus, Logic and Strategies in the Formation of Heritage

pages 397-414

Heritage as a category reflects diverse political positions. All heritagisation processes imply the creation of hierarchies, selection, ranking, and categorisation of what is worthy or unworthy of being heritage, and all heritage creation involves certain disciplinary processes that confer legitimacy. As a modern invention, heritage was built on two closely related cornerstones: the distinction between nature and culture and the difference between normalised knowledge and marginal knowledge. As a result, refining processes were applied which became strategies to legitimise political domination. In this paper the constituent process of heritage creation and its links to normative knowledge are analysed, illustrating the various relationships between types of knowledge in the heritagisation process with the case of the Albufera Natural Park in Spain. A particular focus is placed on the processes that affect territories and natural resources, modifying the material conditions of the local population. Beyond giving rise to a mere acceptance of imposed expert knowledge, the analysed dynamics reveal the responsiveness of the local actors, as they make use of this knowledge in the context of a counter-hegemonic discourse.


Involving Anthropology

Special Forum: Environmental and Social Justice? The Ethics of the Anthropological Gaze



Helen Kopnina

Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology, Universiteit Leiden

Nobody Likes Dichotomies (but sometimes you need them)

pages 415-429

Environmental anthropologists attempt to accommodate social justice while seeking to reconcile more-than-human relations and responsibilities towards their habitats. This article acknowledges areas of tension between local livelihoods and international conservation efforts, between indigenous peoples and wildlife, between traditional lifeways and development, and finally between different types of ethical assumptions that underlie anthropological advocacy. A number of dichotomies that are inherent in these tensions are discussed. With regard to the ecocentric/anthropocentric dichotomy, I argue that while human and environmental interests are sometimes intertwined, ecocentrism is necessary if non-humans are to be protected outside of utilitarian interests. With regard to the ‘neoliberal conservation/local communities’ dichotomy, I argue that blaming conservation for the violation of social justice depoliticises the issue of ecological injustice. Through a critical discussion of these dichotomies, this article examines the role of environmental anthropology in addressing today’s pressing environmental issues, particularly the loss of biodiversity, with respect to the ‘conservation’ of communities and that of protected areas.


Veronica Strang

Anthropology, University of Durham

Comment: Dichotomies: Yes We Need Them, But Not as Much as We Think

pages 430-434

Thomas Reuter

Asia Institute, University of Melbourne

Comment: Nature and the Self: Liberal Individualism is the Problem, not the Solution

pages 434-438


Paige West

Anthropology, Barnard College and Columbia University

Comment: An Anthropology for ‘The Assemblage of the Now’

pages 438-445


Helen Kopnina

Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology, Universiteit Leiden

Rejoinder: Nobody likes Dichotomies (But Sometimes we Need Them)

pages 445-449



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