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Department of Social Anthropology


Antagonistic connections: siblingship-in-breakdown and the limits of obligation with Corinna Howland

Building on a case study of fractious relations among the Charka Ramos half-siblings following the sudden death of their father, this paper considers kinship-in-breakdown. Using life histories gleaned from family members and close observation of their present-day interactions, I trace sibling connections and disconnections through a series of three ruptures over time and in space: domestic “exploitation” in childhood, their father’s poisoning, and disputes over land following his death. My aim is to consider what aspects of relations endure through protracted and entrenched antagonism, provoking a (re)consideration of obligation, duty, and what I call the siblings’ categorical fidelity to kinship relations at their limits.


‘Falling down’ in order to ‘uplift divine sparks’: Ethical negotiations among orthodox Jewish-Israeli vipassanā meditators with Ori Mautner

As they found no single setting entirely satisfactory, many orthodox Jewish-Israeli meditators conceded to practise Buddhist-derived insight (vipassanā) meditation in multiple locales, including ones that were far from conforming to orthodox Jewish dictates. In this talk, I analyse the ethically laden choices and compromises that this entailed. Usually, such dilemmas revolved around trying to pursue, simultaneously, three values that often came into conflict: (1) arriving at spiritual flourishing; (2) upholding an orthodox Jewish lifestyle; (3) operating in an atmosphere that promoted correct theological views. I then examine the two main strategies that orthodox Jewish meditators employed for dealing with these tensions. First, ‘value accumulation’ involved pursuing the three values in an aggregate fashion, with each setting enabling a substantial fulfilment of only one or two of these values. Second, ‘value compensation’ concerned actively promoting one value at the expense of one or two others that were insufficiently realized in a particular locale. ‘Uplifting the divine sparks’ found in the Buddha’s Dharma, then, often involved temporarily ‘falling down’ (nefila) in terms of one’s Jewish commitments.

Friday, 6 March, 2020 - 16:15 to 18:00
Event location: 
Edmund Leach Seminar Room, Dept of Social Anthropology, Free School Lane