Formative sociology and ethico-political imaginaries: opening up transnational responses to Palestine–Israel
Topics: Main Topic: Other, Ethnography, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Universities / Higher Education, Dialogue, Conflict, Conflict Resolution
Abstract: Recent contributors to this journal have sought to radicalise sociology by exploring how the discipline might expand political imaginaries and take up non-reductionist notions of everyday ethics. In a related move, sociologists are exploring the performative potential of sociological practices and sensibilities, while anthropologists are reframing the relationship of ethnography to theory. This article contributes to these projects by focusing on an acute case in which an expanded political imaginary is urgently needed; the tensions between political solidarity and ethical violence in transnational communications around Palestine–Israel. Drawing on an ethnographic study of conflicting activist groups in Britain, I highlight a profound ethical problem: that claims for justice appear to entail a violent refusal to acknowledge ‘the other’. The article examines how the dualistic logics structuring sociological imaginaries have occluded and reproduced this impasse, and focuses on an attempt by activists to create non-violent modes of solidarity. Articulating a role for ethnography in opening up this alternative, I show how responsive and creative sociological methods can bring new languages, imaginaries and political formations into being.
Topics: Main Topic: Identity and Community, Jewish Community, Elderly Care, Care and Welfare, Jewish Organisations, Economy, Ethnography, Memory, Comparisons with other communities
Abstract: This article is concerned with what happens to precarious community buildings in times of austerity. It responds to a landscape of capitalist realism, in which instrumental, economic forms of value are mobilised to justify the closure of ordinary buildings whose survival is not identified as a political priority. The study focuses on two London cases of a library and an elderly day centre under threat of closure, and traces how grammars of austerity rendered these buildings substitutable. Considering how abstract sociological conceptions of value/s can struggle to break into the embedded common sense of austerity, the authors explore how ethnographic practices of collaboration and attentiveness can help amplify alternative expressions of the meanings of these buildings for their communities. Enacting a form of ethnographic witnessing, which learns from Wittgenstein, the authors highlight the creative, vernacular registers and gestures of library users and day centre members, and show how these were anchored in the buildings themselves. In this way, the article supplements noisier, more hyperbolic accounts of the violence of austerity by amplifying quotidian responses, which express how ordinary buildings and the forms of life they sustain, matter.