All posts filed under: Culture

Leros, Greece: refugees’ daily life on the island, a reportage

Leros, a sleepy island in the Aegean, harbors one of Greece’s five refugee hotspots. The island is famous for its volcanic topography, rationalist architecture, and fascist Italian occupation – and it’s only miles from Turkey. The refugee camp sits on the ocean’s edge- an otherwise picturesque coastline that draws tourists from around Europe during sweeter summer months. The camp opened in March 2016 with the capacity to hold up to 980 residents. Today, the camp is dangerously overcrowded. There are nearly 3,200 refugees on the island, over 1,000 of which are homeless. To protect themselves from bitter temperatures and days of unrelenting rain, they’ve inhabited a sprawl of abandoned buildings surrounding the fenced camp. These dilapidated buildings once operated as a mental asylum, until the asylum was exposed for embezzlement and human rights abuses in 1989. The buildings are still littered with rusty bedframes and faded Greek medical documents. The roof is caving and the floor is covered in broken glass. There is no electricity – nor toilets, showers or garbage bins. The police regularly …

Flower Power in Saudi Arabia

In Saudi Arabia, in the Jizan and Asir southern provinces, along the yemeni border, live the reclusive Flower Men. For centuries, these descendants of the ancient Tihama and Asir tribes love to wear colorful garlands on their head. The Flower Men are keen to retain their tradition of floral decorations, as it is a peaceful way of setting them apart from the rest of the country. Twenty years ago, they were living totally isolated, without electricity or paved roads, and they lived according to traditional tribal law. For the longest time, they were reluctant to have their photos taken or even meet foreigners. The first studies were led only in the 90’s by french photographer Thierry Mauger. Flower Men have a unique privilege in the Kingdom: they are the only tribes in Saudi Arabia who are allowed to grow and consume khat, a stimulant drug. Possession of drugs is punishable by the death penalty in the kingdom. With the increasing pace of economic development within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, things are changing quickly even …

Hybrid cultures and complex worlds: this is the creative reality of our times

In the transnational global world we are inhabiting the manipulation of local politics is reaching such levels that public opinion seems somehow pushed backwards. In contrast, lessons taught by the late Ugo Fabietti, a pioneering italian anthropologist, unfolded how cultures are hybrids, continuously changing and transforming themselves showing that principles of curiousity and mixing are more typical of human behaviour than what we are drawn to believe. Cultures aggregate and recreate meanings that circulate in everyday lives and mediated worlds, defining and redefining themselves in an ever ongoing process. Nothing is fixed, nothing is pure: cultures follow crossbred logics and inviduals elaborate their own ways to adapt to the environment. This is how Fabietti explains “hybrid cultures” and “cross-bred thinking” in his essay “From Tribal toGlobal”(2000): “Hybrid cultures are the new syntheses, the new profiles, the new landscapes that characterize the contemporary world from a socio-cultural perspective. They are the world’s syntheses, profiles, and landscapes that stem from an encounter – a more and more intense encounter of individuals and groups with different stories, memories, …

Sirian refugee story: Dilovan’s walk to Europe

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out true meaning of it is creed”. Dr. Martin Luther King. 28/8/1963 “Me too, Dilovan, I have the dream that one day we can live in peace in my country, Syria, the country that we have lost. Because of a war we do not understand, everyday there are thousands of deaths, no food, no water, no electricity and absolutely no work. I have a bride to take care of and a younger brother. We have Isis on one side, the kurdish army on the other and the sirian state with Bashar Al Assad as the third part, all asking to join in and fight with them. I didn’t like the idea of staying in my city waiting for an Isis raid: it would have been risky especially for my wife, who could have been kidnapped and who knows what else. So, like millions of Syrians who are on my same journey, I decided to try to get to my parents in …

Liaising Mauritania: Creating Bridges across Cultures

Flying in to Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania, Renan Bourdeau looked down at the endless stretches of desert below and wondered how people survived. As a communications company executive who specialised in writing country reports to promote national economies and attract foreign investors, Bourdeau was no stranger to exotic lands. Experienced as he was in working with different cultural approaches to business, he knew nothing of Mauritania, one of Africa’s poorest countries. According to his company’s guide book – a “bible” which contained details of its previous assignments in the region and the insights gained – the country was controlled by the Moors who held office in Nouakchott while their extended families lived a more nomadic way of life in the desert. Social customs to bridge cultural chasms The pace and style of business in the capital was based on Bedouin social courtesies and traditions which Bourdeau was keen to respect. Hospitality was a requirement of a decent Mauritanian and Bourdeau was prepared to indulge in a great deal of tea-drinking during the course of …

Poetry, Art and Diasporic Iranian Women

Defining one’s own identity as a diasporic self in foreign country is a complex issue. But poetry came helpful to Shirin Neshat and Maryam Habibian: they used Iranian poet Forough Farrokhzad to express themselves in a context where they hadn’t grown up. In an interesting article Jasmin Darznik explores the legacy of Forough Farrokhzad (1935–1967) in the Iranian American diaspora. The abstract of her study reads: “At once political and poetic, particular and universal, Farrokhzad’s oeuvre has in recent years become a vital coordinate for a number of contemporary Iranian American women exploring issues of gender, faith, social justice, and human rights across historical and cultural boundaries”. She argues “that the imaginative recovery of Farrokhzad by Iranian immigrant women writers and artists not only complicates the West’s frequently reductive contemporary representations of Middle Eastern women, but marks a bold and evolving interface between modernist Iranian literature and contemporary Iranian immigrant literature”. Thus Darnznik makes an interesting point: migrants to the United States working as artists, use the important literary tradition of their own roots for their work of art. …

Global families and the role of migrant mothers

Italy, like many “advanced” countries, relies on migrant women’s labour to manage modern family lifestyles. The particular phenomenon, yet little studied in the italian immigration scene, is that women’s collaboration in family work, is implemented in ways that engage information technology and has an impact on the organization of the migrant’s original family, and society. In Global Families, Paola Bonizzoni, a researcher at the Department of Social and Political Studies, University of Milan, shows how the weight of the shortage of work, or couple’s problems are often faced with the departure of the woman. Often already a mother, migrant women work in situations that require them to help another’s family life. They experience distress situations due to forced separation from their own children and loved ones. In the transnational migration phenomenon studied by Paola Bonizzoni through the lens of global families, women still seek to maintain active roles in the management of the family of origin, implement complex forms of care; and, balancing suffering with embracing new challenges, still keep a grip on the texture of their …

Red Hornbill Earrings

The meaning of “Beautiful Earrings” for an Ilongot, in the Philippines

  In the hills of Luzon, in the Philippines, when an Ilongot  puts on red hornbill earrings it is the excepltional sign that he has killed a man. Red, bright and dancing from the upper lobes of the ears, the earrings are both body jewelry and a signal understood by everyone. They are seen as “beautiful”. When the anthropologist Renato Rosaldo of Stanford University, tried to further develop the meaning of “beautiful earrings”, the Ilongot looked at him with a kind of pity: “They’re beautiful, they used to answer, nothing more and nothing less.” Being able to wear those red hornbill earrings, is being able to show your masculinity. The beheading of another human being is, in itself, an expression of power, and not being able to wear “beautiful earrings” on visits and invitation is a problem. The meaning of those beautiful earrings is then shut down in a circular way: earrings show one has killed a man and killing a man means one is able to wear earrings on social occasions. The earrings are …