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Paradoxes of hierarchy and authority in the squatters movement in Amsterdam

This book is an ethnographic study of the internal dynamics of a subcultural community that defines itself as a social movement. While the majority of scholarly studies on this movement focus on its official face, on its front stage, this book concerns itself with the ideological and practical paradoxes at work within the micro-social dynamics of the backstage, an area that has so far been neglected in social movement studies. The central question is how hierarchy and authority function in a social movement subculture that disavows such concepts. The squatters’ movement, which defines itself primarily as anti-hierarchical and anti-authoritarian, is profoundly structured by the unresolved and perpetual contradiction between both public disavowal and simultaneous maintenance of hierarchy and authority within the movement. This study analyzes how this contradiction is then reproduced in different micro-social interactions, examining the methods by which people negotiate minute details of their daily lives as squatter activists in the face of a funhouse mirror of ideological expectations reflecting values from within the squatter community, that, in turn, often refract mainstream, middle class norms.

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Entanglements and ambiguities

discipline was implicitly founded on broad disjunctions between Western societies grounded in history and reason, on the one hand, and non-Western cultures held in place by myth and ritual, on the other. 2 Such premises came to underlie particular protocols of salvage anthropology, also shoring up formative dispositions of the ethnographic enterprise. These procedures and orientations have been

in Subjects of modernity
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The autonomous life?

. This book is an ethnographic study of the internal dynamics of a subcultural community that defines itself as a social movement. While the majority of scholarly studies on this movement focus on its official face, on its front stage, I am concerned with a series of ideological and practical paradoxes at work within the micro-social dynamics of the backstage, an area that has so far been neglected in social movement studies. The central question, which I explore from a variety of angles, is how hierarchy and

in The autonomous life?
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Identities and incitements

important distinctions recognized in earlier scholarship. Rather, recent ethnographies and histories have revealed that the conflicting interests and the contending visions of empire of differentially located interests and actors several times drove a single colonial project. At the same time, distinct colonial projects could draw upon each other’s models and metaphors, while imbuing them with varied and contrary

in Subjects of modernity
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Ontologies of connection, reconstruction of memory

talents of Polynesian and Micronesian mariners maintained contact between islands and within separate societies. With common Austronesian linguistic roots, communication between and amongst Polynesians and Micronesians generally presented few barriers. Regular and organised visits between islands supported exchanges, as well as communication. Exchange and ritual events, such as the Kula, were simultaneously economic, spiritual, strategic and societal. As represented in Malinowski’s ethnography and Mauss’s reviews in The Gift, the Kula and like rituals incarnated

in Debating civilisations
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An introduction

margins. They have variously questioned thereby the unchallenged efficacy accorded to authoritative agendas of empire, nation, modernity, and globalization. Indeed, such scholarship has drawn upon historical, ethnographic, and literary materials to trace the interplay between the construction and institutionalization of emergent articulations of time and space, entailing key conjunctions of racial and sexual boundaries

in Subjects of modernity
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Time and space

pasts of Indian nationalism were often central to such endeavors, on offer equally were other convergences of significance. Especially important were imaginative readings of historical materials: from conventional archival records, including reports of colonial administrators, to earlier ethnographies as sources of history; and from previously maligned vernacular registers of history to diverse subaltern expressions of the past

in Subjects of modernity

of an ethnographically informed perspective, his analysis tends to be abstract and often myopic. In this chapter, I consider a number of questions around why social movement subcultures often serve as a form of youth culture. A number of activists construct their involvements in social movements as a liminal, youthful stage in their lives before they transitioning to a so-called adult lifestyle which requires long-term commitment and responsibility, such as dedication to a career and/or a family. For

in The autonomous life?

culturally central requires deeper ethnographic understandings of centrality and marginality, since the terms mutually define each other. In the context of a social movement organization, understanding the impact of participants’ backgrounds on the activities of the movement allows one to examine the invisible logic of why and how more culturally central people, who possess a number of resources needed by a movement, accumulate capital and become authority figures. What Bourdieu classifies as the invisible logic of

in The autonomous life?
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Antinomies and enticements

to wide-ranging histories/ethnographies, they provide valuable lessons provided we are willing to learn imaginatively and critically. 53 To begin with, we are reminded that the very meanings of modernity, delineations of democracy, and purposes of pluralism cannot be separated from inherently different formations of social subjects in inescapably heterogeneous worlds, shaped by the past and emergent in the present. It is in

in Subjects of modernity