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Review of Disappoinment by Wright

This is Fiona Wright's review of my book Disappointment: Toward a Critical Hermeneutics of Worldbuilding
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  Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at Ethnos  Journal of Anthropology ISSN: 0014-1844 (Print) 1469-588X (Online) Journal homepage: Disappointment: toward a critical hermeneutics of worldbuilding Fiona Wright To cite this article:  Fiona Wright (2019) Disappointment: toward a critical hermeneutics of worldbuilding, Ethnos, 84:4, 741-743, DOI: 10.1080/00141844.2019.1638809 To link to this article: Published online: 08 Jul 2019.Submit your article to this journal Article views: 18View related articles View Crossmark data  Casper Bruun Jensen Department of Management, Leicester University, UK © 2019 Casper Bruun Jensen Disappointment: toward a critical hermeneutics of worldbuilding , by JarrettZigon, New York, Fordham University Press, 2017, 208 pp., $30.00, ISBN:9780823278244 If disappointment is the overwhelming mood of our troubled political present, thesearch for an alternative politics surely lies in radically re-imagined futures and thesocial movements that aim to bring them about. This, at least, is what a reader of much contemporary political anthropology may come to conclude. Jarrett Zigontakes us in a di ff  erent direction in  Disappointment: Toward a Critical Hermeneuticsof Worldbuilding  , proposing instead that modalities of a less violent form of collectiveexistence are already with us, though repeatedly erased and eliminated by institutionaland political forms that reproduce the status quo. Political struggle may be conceived asan agonistic process of   ‘ becoming otherwise ’ , Zigon asserts, broadly following ElizabethPovinelli ’ s use of the notion, but also as one of the key concepts he takes from phenom-enological philosophy. The latter can help to furnish a theoretical toolkit for anthropol-ogy, he argues, in order to develop a methodology and the analytical language throughwhich already existing radical potentialities can be articulated and therefore strength-ened. In this way ethnographers can help to build worlds and not only to critically deconstruct them. Disappointment   builds a case for its  ‘ critical hermeneutics ’ –  a way of analysing butalso of bringing to the surface otherwise tacit, fragile forms of being   –  in two sections.The  fi rst two chapters narrate the history and present of human rights and the liberalnation-state as the powerful e ff  ects of an ontological tradition grounded in a particularly humanist and individualist metaphysics. Tracing this back to medieval Christian ethicaland legal debates, Zigon proposes that concepts of individual sovereignty and rights of ownership have been translated into a political-moral model of the rights-bearing subject. He tracks how this has developed alongside a colonising nation-state ’ s liberalcapitalist system that folds even radical emerging political projects into its institutionaland ontological forms, citing similar arguments made by other anthropologists, politicaltheorists, and historians. Zigon adds to these critiques, of both human rights andregimes of liberal citizenship, an account of how the two are linked through a humanistnotion of the subject projected onto political systems writ large. Equally, he analyseshow the  ‘ fantasy of progress ’  (56) written into the temporality of human rightsresults in the disappointment with which their subjects have become all too familiar. ETHNOS 741  The second half of the book o ff  ers an alternative political vision based on Zigon ’ sresearch with anti-drug war  ‘ agonists ’ . This, despite the fact that much of his interlocu-tors ’ languageiscentredaroundthe ‘ rights-dignity-responsibilitytriad ’ (28)thatisacon-ceptual cornerstone of the liberal politics theauthor denounces. While initiatives such asharm reduction projects and campaigns against stop-and-frisk policies are oftenexpressedinthelanguageofrightsandindividualiseddignity,Zigontracesintheseactivi-ties ethical demands for more bearable worlds and actual attempts to build and inhabitthoseworldsthatarebasedonrelationalattunementratherthananindividualising  ‘ poli-ticsoftheapriori ’ (3).Theauthorconsidersthesepracticespartofacreative,experimen-tal politics which he names and aims to bolster through terms such as  ‘ worldbuilding  ’ , ‘ dwelling  ’ , ‘ attunement ’ ,and ‘ fi delity  ’ ,languageexplicitlydrawnfromthephenomenolo-gical tradition. This analytical vocabulary informs the method proposed by Zigon,through which ethnographers may discover and articulate –‘ disclose ’  (26) – ethical andpolitical possibilities that our interlocutors have not conceived as such.Zigon ’ s approach will likely   fi nd critics in the anthropological community. It feelscounterintuitive to propose a methodology in which ethnographers  fi ll in the detailof a predetermined analytical vocabulary, especially one so  fi rmly grounded in a par-ticular European philosophical tradition. However, this critique would miss the signi fi -cant opportunity a ff  orded by Zigon ’ s proposal for an  ‘ anthropology of potentiality  ’  (19).For in the notion of ethnography as  ‘ disclosure ’ , this book o ff  ers the discipline a way toretain the deconstructive approach that is indispensable for those interested in politicalcritique, while simultaneously engaging in forms of collaboration with research partici-pants and interlocutors. Zigon ’ s notion of   ‘ disclosure ’  envisions an anthropology thatbuilds on and with practices of living otherwise, and does not reproduce the limiting terms and institutional engagements through which these practices must so often benegotiated and articulated.Nonetheless, certain political and intellectual traditions that share some concerns withZigon ’ s project are unfortunately excluded from his theoretical schema. In the rejection of all that tends to be described under the notion of   ‘ identity politics ’ , for example, a poten-tial engagement with existing instances of worldbuilding is missed. Certain strands of queer, feminist, and anti-racist politics come to mind as instances of relational attune-ment and the construction of   ‘ parallel worlds ’  (145) that do not necessarily reproducereformist, rights-based politics as Zigon suggests (queer  ‘ chosen families ’  and women ’ sconsciousness-raising groups are two possible examples).This criticism notwithstanding,  Disappointment   o ff  ers an srcinal and provocativepath for the anthropology of politics, as well as for any anthropologist concernedwith doing politically engaged scholarship. As well as for scholars, the book providesa challenge for graduate and advanced undergraduate students of political anthropol-ogy. It addresses similar questions to those raised in decolonial approaches and in acti- vist anthropology, but with its theoretical framing and distinct ethnographic approachsuggests that existing political vocabularies may mask, as well as reveal, sources of soli-darity and liberation. Zigon ’ s proposal for a phenomenological anthropology of poten-tiality is, above all, a methodology for uncovering, supporting, and celebrating them. 742 BOOK REVIEWS  Funding This work is supported by European Research Council [grant number 683033]. Fiona Wright Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK © 2019 Fiona Wright A village goes mobile: telephony, mediation, and social change in RuralIndia,  by Sirpa Tenhunen, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2018, 200 pp., US$39.95 (paperback), ISBN 978-0-19-063028-7, US$99.00 (hardback), ISBN 978-0-19-063027-0 What happens when a village goes mobile? What changes, and what stays the same?These questions animate Sirpa Tenhunen ’ s  A Village Goes Mobile . The book o ff  ers anuanced and detailed account of the incremental changes brought about by the intro-duction of mobile phone technology to Janta, a village in rural West Bengal in easternIndia.Tenhunen ’ s starting point is that mobile phone use is a multidimensional processwith diverse impacts. As the empirical chapters demonstrate, these impacts are notonly diverse but often downright contradictory. Tenhunen shows that phones makethings happen in a multitude of social domains in ways that are simultaneously unpre-dictable and yet decidedly non-random. This is the result of the ways in which localpractices and local meanings  –  and not least historically constituted power relations –  shape the take-up and use of mobile phones, even as the material a ff  ordances of the new technology is incorporated into the aspirational life-projects of individualsand communities.The book is divided into eight chapters. Chapter one introduces the overarching theme of the book while chapter two presents the theoretical framework. Chapterthree moves on to analyse why mobile phones became so popular in Janta within thespan of less than a decade. While part of the answer can be found in the politicaleconomy of neoliberal restructuring in India after 1991, that also a ff  ected the telecom-munications sector, Tenhunen importantly draws our attention to how mobile phonesare eminently suited to local needs and aspirations: they are popular because they arecheap, because they allow you to contact relatives and friends quickly and with shortnotice, and because they allow you to choose when and where to talk.Chapter four moves on to examine how mobile phones are used in the localeconomy. While phones have made life  ‘ more convenient ’  and in important respects ETHNOS 743
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