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VIOLENCE AND REPRESENTATION IN NEOLIBERAL ‘SEMI-PERIPHERIES’: NEGOTIATING FAMILIARITY AND STRANGENESS . Panel organized for the 2015 AAA Annual Meeting in Denver. Co-organized with Salvatore Giusto. Discussant: prof. Veena Das.
In anthropological debates, violence is generally addressed in relation to specific traumatic eve... more In anthropological debates, violence is generally addressed in relation to specific traumatic events or ‘troubled areas’, or/and in its structural and symbolic dimensions. Within these debates, trauma and suffering are the main "filters" through which violence is defined, described, and theoretically interpreted. If these works and frameworks are certainly paramount for addressing violence in the contemporary world, in this panel we want to focus on other, perhaps less studied, aspects of violence, which could complement the aforementioned approaches. Specifically, we intend to focus on the relationships between violence and representation. We consider the latter, in fact, as an increasingly important aspect for understanding what Scheper-Hughes and Bourgois named as the "productive" and "reproductive" dimensions of violence; and especially, we argue, within neoliberal "semi-peripheries". Following its etymology, we employ the term "representation" in its general semiotic acceptation (e.g. something that stands for something else). At the same time, we understand it as an ethnographic category, which might comprise (without being limited to) the uses of mediascapes, language, performances, stereotypes (understood, with Herzfeld, as "practical essentialisms"), bureaucracies, ethical practices, and other socially regimented means of cultural (re)production. Since we see, with Keane, the nature of representation as including both "action and objectification" and "depiction and delegation", we aim at enquiring the violence of representations in tandem with the roles of representations of violence in contemporary neoliberal "semi-peripheries". We understand the latter as both cultural and geopolitical loci of regimented fluidity within the global neoliberal stage. Here, the transition of identities, ideologies, and imaginaries into glocally disciplining forms of fast-capitalism (Holmes) engenders, among both the "subaltern" and the "hegemonic", cultural middle-grounds where global trends and local practices deeply intertwine. Within these sceneries, we intend to investigate the role of representations with a particular focus on their relationships with violence. By the same token, we also aim to claim their importance in negotiating "historical presence" (De Martino) among neoliberal subjects co-sharing social arenas that are, perhaps not by chance, culturally "represented" worldwide as the local components of a global mainstream. Moving from a pertinent series of globally collected ethnographic case studies, the contributors to this panel will present the relationships between violence and representation as "contested fields", in which social actors and groups negotiate their positions vis-à-vis dominant and subaltern repertoires of meanings and practices. In so doing, they would de facto redefine in context any relationships between hegemony and counter-hegemony, compliance and resistance, ‘familiarity’ and ‘strangeness’.