Ethnicity, Commodity, In/Corporation

Edited by George Paul Meiu, Jean Comaroff and John L. Comaroff
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 07/07/2020
Format: Paperback 3 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-04794-6
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In the economics of everyday life, even ethnicity has become a potential resource to be tapped, generating new sources of profit and power, new ways of being social, and new visions of the future. Throughout Africa, ethnic corporations have been repurposed to do business in mining or tourism; in the USA, Native American groupings have expanded their involvement in gaming, design, and other industries; and all over the world, the commodification of culture has sown itself deeply into the domains of everything from medicine to fashion. Ethnic groups increasingly seek empowerment by formally incorporating themselves, by deploying their sovereign status for material ends, and by copyrighting their cultural practices as intellectual property. Building on ethnographic case studies from Kenya, Nepal, Peru, Russia, and many other countries, this collection poses the question: Does the turn to the incorporation and commodification of ethnicity really herald a new historical moment in the global politics of identity?

Author Bio

George Paul Meiu is the John and Ruth Hazel Associate Professor of the Social Sciences in the Department of Anthropology and the Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. He is author of Ethno-erotic Economies: Sexuality, Money, and Belonging in Kenya.

Jean Comaroff is the Alfred North Whitehead Professor of African and African American Studies and of Anthropology and Oppenheimer Research Fellow in African Studies at Harvard University. She is Honorary Professor of Anthropology at the University of Cape Town. She is coauthor of Theory from the South: Or, How Euro-America is Evolving Toward Africa, The Truth About Crime: Sovereignty, Knowledge, Social Order, and The Politics of Custom: Chiefship, Capital, and the State in Contemporary Africa.

John L. Comaroff is the Hugh K. Foster Professor of African and African American Studies and of Anthropology and Oppenheimer Research Fellow in African Studies at Harvard University. He is Honorary Professor of Anthropology at the University of Cape Town and Affiliated Research Professor at the American Bar Foundation. He is coauthor of Theory from the South: Or, How Euro-America is Evolving Toward Africa, The Truth About Crime: Sovereignty, Knowledge, Social Order, and The Politics of Custom: Chiefship, Capital, and the State in Contemporary Africa.

Reviews

"This book is a vibrant follow-up on the Comaroffs' Ethnicity, Inc. (2009), further unfolding the full riches of the idea of a growing 'incorporation' of ethnicity. It highlights that in the meantime ethnicity's commoditization and the branding of belonging have developed to new heights, but with startlingly variable results. Through a comparison of different trajectories—from the counter-productive celebration of dot-painting by Australian Aborigines, to Samburu beach-boys in Kenya violently defending their status as sexual icons, to ethnicity-as-(apparent)-abundance among Peruvian peasants—this collection manages to chart the uncertainties of identity and the increasingly enigmatic role of culture in a neoliberal world."

 (Peter Geschiere, author of The Perils of Belonging: Autochthony, Citizenship, and Exclusion in Africa and Europ)

"Just over a decade after the publication of Ethnicity, Inc., the heady cocktail of commoditization, culture, and corporation originally modelled there has only further entangled itself in global social processes. This stunning new collection traces myriad extensions and analogs of ethnocommodities within contemporary late capitalism, while courageously exploring the limits of the model in places where the economic logic of ethnic distinction is muddled by pan-regional identities, nation-branding, and economies of violence. As these authors deftly demonstrate, even as the Durkheimian enchantment of the collective can conjure quantifiable brand value, the capacity of the brand itself to enchant is increasingly the dominant mode with which to produce—and consume—collectivity."

 (Sasha Newell, author of The Modernity Bluff: Crime, Consumption, and Citizenshio in Côte d'Ivoire)

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Table of Contents

Editorial Note


Introduction: Ethnicity, Inc., Revisited / George Paul Meiu, Jean Comaroff, and John L. Comaroff


1. On Branding, Belonging, and the Violence of a Phallic Imaginary: The Maasai Warrior in Kenya Tourism. / George Paul Meiu


2. The Scarce and the Sacred: Managing Afterlives and Branding the Derivative in Post-Soviet Buddhism (Inc). / Tatiana Chudakova


3. Ethnicity as Potential: Abundance, Competition, and the Limits of Development in Andean Peru's Colca Valley. / Eric Hirsch


4. Warriors Incorporated: The Militarization of Fijian Identity in the Era of Neoliberal Warfare. / Simon May


5. Story, Brand, or Share? Bafokeng, Inc. and the 2010 FIFA World Cup. / Susan E. Cook


6. The Hunter Hype: Producing 'Local Culture' as Particularity in Mali. / Dorothea E. Schulz


7. The Affective Potentialities and Politics of Ethnicity, Inc. in Restructuring Nepal: Social Science, Sovereignty, and Signification. / Sara Shneiderman


8. Cultural Commodification in Global Contexts: Australian Indigeneity, Inequality, and Militarization in the Twenty-first Century. / Eve Darian-Smith


List of Contributors


Index