Individual and Social Adaptations to Human Vulnerability: Volume 38

Cover of Individual and Social Adaptations to Human Vulnerability
Subject:

Table of contents

(13 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xi
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Abstract

This paper explores the emerging articulations between microfinance and livestock production cycles among Mongolian pastoralists in contexts plagued by disaster and commodity market fluctuations. Ethnographic investigations of household production and vulnerability in two rural districts of eastern and western Mongolia demonstrates that both poor and wealthy households have become ensnared in a cashmere-debt cycle but that the bifurcation of livestock asset trajectories between large and small herds has also fostered diverse financial and herd management strategies that further exacerbate existing inequalities.

Abstract

Uncertainty and unpredictability in the lives and livelihoods of informal microentrepreneurs in Quito, Ecuador, increase their vulnerability and make the challenges of life at the social and economic margins of society more difficult to overcome. Through their small informal microenterprises, they work to maintain their everyday survival and sustain their hopes for a better future. Some turn to microfinance to support their microenterprises. Worldwide, microfinance is promoted as a powerful instrument for social and cultural change, creating a narrative of microfinance that contains promises of transformative effects. Over 16 months of research, interviews with 120 informal sector microentrepreneurs revealed these promises and the limitations of microfinance in their lives and the individualization of social problems present within the narrative of microfinance. The strength and flexibility of this narrative of microfinance has been built, interpreted, and reinterpreted in ways that allows it to be applied, and accepted, in various global social and political contexts. Informal microenterprises and microfinance are ways that people cope with economic uncertainty and social instability in Quito. Although people turn to microfinance in an effort to cope with their vulnerability, microfinance can increase their everyday vulnerabilities and place the responsibility for overcoming social problems upon the individuals who suffer them the most. Microfinance, therefore, becomes well-intentioned debt, creating new subjects and selfhoods that shift the social problems of poverty and inequality to individual problems that should be overcome by self-reliance.

Abstract

How do entrepreneurs of the construction business express their vulnerability? Through which narratives? Why and how do they try to cope with the always present risk of their job and with increasingly unstable market conditions which make them more and more vulnerable?

The risk of failing in the construction business is high, especially with the economic, political, and structural conditions that the business is facing, and the weight of the businessmen’s decisions and actions increases. It is only through the passion for their job, by keeping their movements and rhythms of work, and by maintaining good trusted relationships that my informants try to cope with this risk. Through their narratives, they exorcise their fears and show their vulnerability.

Through my informants’ narratives, daily situations and thoughts, I want to challenge stereotypes linked to power and show how despite, or because, of their position of power my informants often feel vulnerable.

Abstract

This article examines how smallholders in Oaxaca, Mexico, experienced and responded to the recent coffee rust disaster, asking whether fair trade coffee producer organizations helped smallholders develop coping mechanisms to offset their vulnerability. It demonstrates how Oaxacan coffee producers were especially vulnerable during the recent rust outbreak due to long-term trends including a decline in governmental support for the sector dating back to the 1990s which resulted in a decline in producer incomes and a concomitant rise in the number of aging and poorly managed coffee plots that were more susceptible to coffee rust. The ongoing price volatility within coffee commodity markets and the continued restructuring of the specialty coffee market also increases the uncertainty producers face when determining how to best respond to the rust disaster. The article details the concrete ways in which fair trade coffee producer organizations help bolster the adaptive capacity of their members, while also noting areas for improvement.

Abstract

Anthropologists who study disasters share the widely acknowledged understanding that the effects of disasters tend to be more severe among economically and socially marginalized communities than others. Moreover, while poverty intensifies the effects of disasters, it also places survivors at the mercy of policies they have little control over because they often tend to be socially and politically marginalized on account of their poverty. Social vulnerability in other words is a determining factor in shaping the vulnerability of populations to catastrophic events. While scholars tend to focus on the catastrophic event itself as the locus of analysis, it has also become amply clear that such studies need to be in conversation with those that explore the long-term trajectories and effects of social inequality. Drawing upon fieldwork conducted in southern India among artisanal fisher communities affected by the tsunami of 2004, this paper argues that the conceptual aims and claims of the vulnerability concept ought to be extended beyond the confines of the disaster (conceptualized as event), to the broader historical sweep of unequal social relations of production, exchange and consumption within which such communities find themselves. Positioned at a disadvantage in relation to powerful players such as the state, multilateral entities and private big capital, such communities nevertheless might also become important loci of possibility, as they bring to bear their own critiques of power, and fashion political strategies that often frustrate and undermine the conceptual frameworks and goals of contemporary capitalist-led development.

Abstract

In rural Malawi, money constantly circulates. As soon as villagers, poor as they are, get some money in hands, it is swiftly spent. Tracking how money – and other valued items like food and soap – are pushed and pulled around through an extremely poor community offers profound insights into women’s everyday survival tactics. Central to these women’s survival is the ability to mobilise support in times of need. Material wealth is found to be both a prerequisite and a threat to this ability. It can best be spent quickly, in particular ways, so as to transform it into potential sources of future support in times of need. Maximizing access to potential future support while minimizing blockage – by always appearing able to reciprocate and not giving others socially acceptable justifications to withhold support – are concerns that to a great extent shape the village women’s everyday decision-making. Understanding the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion that both result from and trigger these survival tactics is important for social scientists and policy-makers as these have far-reaching consequences, including women’s HIV risk-taking, which are difficult to explain from other vantage points.

Abstract

This article examinees how vulnerability operates within the intimate economy in Hong Kong’s prominent entertainment district of Wanchai. Best known in its portrayal of The World of Suzie Wong, Wanchai’s historicity is anchored in a legacy of colonialism, orientalist imagination, and Western militarization. Presently, the area continues to cater to Western expatriate men, foreign travellers and the US Navy. An influx of Southeast Asian migrant domestic workers to Hong Kong in recent decades has led to the rise of new intimate relationships fostered in the bar district. While Wanchai is renowned as a red-light district celebrating white Western masculinity, a complex portrait emerged after a year of ethnographic fieldwork observing the intimate exchanges between Western expatriate men and Southeast Asian migrant domestic workers, as two groups who are positioned on opposite ends of the city’s socioeconomic spectrum. Contrary to recurrent portrayals of female victimhood in commercialized sex industries, this article illustrates how other experiences of vulnerability, particularly those of the Western male expatriate partner, also deserve critical attention. By exploring the decommercialized transactions within Wanchai’s intimate economy, this piece demonstrates how the intimate relations forged between Western expatriates and Southeast Asian migrants can help negotiate longstanding gendered relations of power and shared senses of structural precarity.

Abstract

In this paper, I foreground the concept of economic sovereignty in order to clarify strategies that undergird the practices of, and hindrances to, political sovereignty. I argue that current critical discourses on sovereignty can be significantly furthered with careful examination of the framework of economic strategies that support, and are often driving forces of, these political actions. To illustrate the importance of these complex strategies, I focus on the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ (EBCI) casino and small-business markets during the volatile years of the Great Recession. This discussion begins by investigating continued Native Nation economic precarity in the context of economic actions taken by US governments specifically with regard to gaming regulation. I then explain the strategic methods by which Native Nations have addressed and mitigated some of these incursions, thereby highlighting how such strategies disrupt the settler–colonial narrative of the agency-less indigenous state. These strategies are enacted at both government and individual levels through (1) the economic development experiences of Native Nations in relation to their distinctive hybrid political–economic governmental structures, such as the EBCI’s charter of incorporation that also serves as its national constitution, and (2) the strength of the EBCI small-business market in supporting these efforts. In arguing for this framework of economic strategies, this study contributes to understandings of global indigenous communities’ current strengths and vulnerabilities by thoroughly disentangling models of economic sovereignty from economic power, demonstrating how discussions of political economy must engage with issues of economic sovereignty.

Abstract

In this article, I analyze constructions of and responses to vulnerability in the US government and a now-prominent evangelical aid organization, World Vision, during the 1950s and 1960s in Korea and Vietnam. World Vision was founded as the “development discourse,” Cold War rhetoric, and the neo-evangelical movement were all rising to prominence in the United States. World Vision’s early understandings of vulnerability resonated with Cold War and modernization theory rhetoric in certain ways; however, its approaches to remake vulnerable Asians were often distinct. World Vision evangelical Christians looked to private voluntary organizations and individual conversions in a free society to remake individuals and nations, notions not so different from neoliberal development approaches today. US foreign aid approaches were rooted in nation-building for centralized, planned government institutions and economies to modernize “traditional” people. This article examines the complex relationships between missionaries, evangelists, US foreign aid experts and the military in American constructions of vulnerable traditional Asians and interventions to modernize and Christianize them. In examining roots of faith-based development models through the case of World Vision and notions of vulnerability, historical threads and lineages emerge for understanding the relationship of religion and the state in modernizing projects, and faith-based and neoliberal development models.

Abstract

Possible reasons for using kites to kill gazelles are comprehensively reviewed in this article. Even though they are now well inventoried and documented, desert kites are still not well understood, as exemplified by the recurrent controversies about their function and dating. According to the dominant view, kites were hunting structures used to drive and to mass kill large herds of wild ungulates, particularly gazelles. Although kites were intensively used during the Early Bronze Age, some of them could have been built and used before that. Beyond these issues, the cultural and socioeconomic aspects of the kites phenomenon are even less understood, and therefore, we focus on changing reasons for the long-lasting use of kites as hunting devices. We contend that the reasons why they were used during the period of utilization for hunting gazelles changed, in most cases, in response to socioeconomic development. It is hypothesized, for example, that, as a result of urban development, kites may have been increasingly (but not exclusively) used to kill gazelles to trade their products with urban communities and farmers, even though they had other uses as well which are also considered. The main hypothesis presented in this article enables diverse opinions about the types of uses and reasons for utilizing desert kites to be reconciled, including in particular varied reasons given in the literature about why they were used for killing gazelles.

Index

Pages 249-255
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Cover of Individual and Social Adaptations to Human Vulnerability
DOI
10.1108/S0190-1281201838
Publication date
2018-12-14
Book series
Research in Economic Anthropology
Editor
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78769-175-9
eISBN
978-1-78769-175-9
Book series ISSN
0190-1281