Is Greece On The Road To Recovery, Or Will It Remain Trapped By Debt? An Interview With Economist Costas Lapavitsas

Professor Costas Lapavitsas BSc Photo: SOAS University of London

In early 2010, Greece became technically bankrupt as it was shut out from borrowing in the international credit markets because of skyrocketing deficits and huge public debt levels. Since then, the country has been under bailout programs created by the European Union (EU), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in order to keep it inside the eurozone. However, the bailout programs have been accompanied by brutal austerity measures that have had a catastrophic effect on Greek economy and society. Yet the current pseudo-leftist Syriza government — which has been enforcing the EU neoliberal agenda since coming to power in 2015, with greater dedication than any other Greek government since the outbreak of the crisis — declares today’s economic situation a “success story.” However, not everyone is buying the official story.

Costas Lapavitsas is a Marxist economist at the University of London. Since the outbreak of the eurozone crisis in 2010, he argued consistently in favor of Greek default and exit from the eurozone as the key to a left-wing strategy to confront the crisis. He produced much analytical work and his arguments had considerable influence within the left, but also more widely across Greek society. For several years, his name became widely associated with these policies and had influence within Syriza, even though its leadership was completely opposed to this strategy. In January 2015 he accepted an invitation by Syriza to join its electoral ticket as an independent, and was elected to the Hellenic Parliament with a great majority in his electoral region of Imathia.

Lapavitsas served as a member of parliament for seven months and was one of the leading voices in the country in favor of a radical course of action that would bring a political rupture with the lenders. The Syriza leadership, and especially the circle of Alexis Tsipras, tried systematically to marginalize him, keeping him away from positions of authority. When the Syriza leadership surrendered to the lenders in August, 2015, Lapavitsas left the party, together with more than 30 others. They were the true left of Syriza and tried to create an alternative left-wing party called Popular Unity. Unfortunately, their efforts have not been successful, partly because of their own organizational weaknesses, and partly because a disillusionment with the left prevailed in Greek society after the surrender of Syriza.

Is Greece on the road to economic recovery? In this interview, Lapavitsas suggests it is simply ludicrous on the part of a former left party to speak of a neoliberal success story for a country mired in poverty and debt.

C.J. Polychroniou: We have been told that after eight years of harsh bailout programs that devastated economic activity and produced immense pain and suffering for the great majority of citizens, Greece is about to turn the corner, as recovery is now well under way and investor confidence is staging a huge comeback. This is, of course, the official version of the current condition of the Greek economy, so I am interested in your own reading of the state of economic affairs in Greece.

Costas Lapavitsas: The bailouts have indeed brought a kind of stability to the Greek economy, as the fiscal deficit and the current account deficit have been eliminated. This stability has been achieved in an extraordinarily clumsy and brutal way. In brief, domestic aggregate demand was crushed — both investment and consumption. Productive capacity was lost on a grand scale as industrial output fell by more than 30 percent and unemployment rocketed. The country was made dramatically poorer and weaker.
This body blow to the economy was not accompanied by any significant structural change, despite the endless talk about “reforms.” Greece continues to have a disproportionately large service sector that is uncompetitive, a very weak industrial sector with a high propensity to import, and a weak agrarian sector with low productivity. The country also has negative net savings, very weak investment, poor productivity, a heavily concentrated banking system laden with non-performing equity reaching 45 percent of the aggregate balance sheet and very limited spending on innovation. I could go on and on. Many of these weaknesses became worse through the stabilization program.

There is no evidence at all that the country has “turned the corner.” Practically all the macroeconomic data show an economy lodged in stagnation: GDP growth for 2017 will be barely above 1 percent. Investment is not rising with any vigor. Consumption is falling. Exports have risen a little, but imports have risen even more. Incomes are stagnant. Income inequality has greatly increased. There are strong indications that corruption and illegal economic activity have increased, and the rich now brazenly flaunt their wealth. Greece will continue down this path for the foreseeable future.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos are also alleging that Greece will no longer be under EU supervision when it exits the current bailout program. Is there any truth to this?

In August 2018, when the third bailout program is due to end, Greece will have to meet its borrowing needs in the open markets. The sums are substantial. Merely to roll over principal in 2019, the country will need more than 12 billion euros. Conditions in the open markets are, at present, loose, and money is extremely cheap, but Greece remains a very special case. For this reason, the government is planning to accumulate a cushion of more than 15 billion euros to act as guarantee for foreign lenders.

This is a piece of extraordinary folly for a country that is desperately short of investment — keeping close to 10 percent of its GDP as a stock of dead money. Even so, international lenders will have to be further reassured that austerity will not be relaxed and that Greece would have access to official sources of support, if need be. This means that Greece would require implicit or explicit support by EU lenders before it goes to the markets, which of course, implies extra monitoring of Greece, beyond that of other indebted EU countries. Greece will remain effectively in a neocolonial status.

Where do things stand with regard to the debt? And do you see any willingness on the part of EU authorities to proceed with a debt write-off any time soon?

As incredible as it might sound, debt is currently rising again, both in absolute and relative terms. Thus, the general government debt was 312 billion euros in 2015 (177 percent of GDP) and 315 billion euros in 2016 (181 percent of GDP), but in 2017, it headed toward 330 billion euros (perhaps 187 percent of GDP). The reason is that the country is borrowing to create the incredible cushion that the government and the lenders want it to have by the end of this year. There is no doubt, of course, that Greek debt is unsustainable, and the situation is not improving at all. The country will certainly require debt relief.

However, a large part of the debt, perhaps three-quarters, is not tradable, since it is in the hands of official lenders in the EU. I do not think that there is any prospect of a deep debt write-off because that would affect official lenders, who would then have to confront their own electorates. If there is to be any relief, it will probably take the form of extension of the maturity of the debt and low interest rates. To receive these marginal improvements, the country will have to apply austerity, deregulation and privatization policies as far as the eye can see. Greece is basically trapped by the debt.

How do you explain the political and ideological turnaround of Alexis Tsipras and of Syriza in general?

There are many levels on which one could approach this question, but in some respects, the answer is quite simple. Tsipras and his immediate circle were people who never had serious ideological commitments of any kind. They were primarily interested in power and never intended to change things structurally, not to mention putting the country on a socialist path. They played a political and electoral game very successfully, and in several respects, continue so to do.

During the first months in government, they were under the false impression that they could force the EU to make concessions — a folly that was made worse by the incoherent arguments of Yanis Varoufakis, then the minister of finance. Inevitably, they lost every single battle with the lenders, even the minor skirmishes. When they eventually realized the nature of reality, they surrendered completely to the lenders and embraced the bailout programs to remain in power. The Syriza government of the last two years is the most obedient government Greece has had since the start of its crisis, which plays old-style politics domestically and follows a thoroughly conservative foreign policy. It is a disgrace, a real blot on the face of the Greek and the international left.

In the early years of the crisis, you advocated Greece’s withdrawal from the euro. Does it make any sense for the country to leave the eurozone now?

In 2010, Greece basically had two options. One was to comply with the demands of the bailout programs imposed by the EU lenders. The other was to follow an independent path by defaulting on the debt and exiting the eurozone. This would have been a difficult path to take, but it would have offered a real prospect of economic regeneration and deep social transformation in favor of working people. The ruling bloc of the country, sensing the risks that the second path implied for its rule, became fully committed to the bailouts and never wavered. The bailouts have gradually created a new reality in the country that is clear for all to see: a weak and stagnating economy with a harsh and more class-ridden society.

Exiting the eurozone is no longer a step of immediate and direct urgency for Greece — the disaster has already happened. The country now needs a broad program of economic transformation that can put it on a growth path while changing the balance of power in favor of labor and against capital. It also needs to recapture its sovereignty. Needless to say, these things are not feasible within the eurozone. This is how exit should be now posited, in my view.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

 

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Reshaping Remembrance ~ Critical Essays On Afrikaans Places Of Memory

Albert Grundlingh & Siegfried Huigen (Eds.) – Reshaping Remembrance. Critical Essays on Afrikaans Places of Memory – Rozenberg Publishers 2011 – Savusa Series 3 – ISBN 978 90 3610 230 8 – Editing: Sabine Plantevin.

In any society in the throes of transition, there is a particularly acute need to reflect upon aspects of the past that used to represent firm beacons enlighting the way ahead. This inevitably involves a broader re-appraisal of the processes which contributed to the formation of a specific historical memory in the first place.
Reshaping Remembrance includes a number of critical essays on dimensions of collective Afrikaans historical memory in South Africa. In the light of radical changes in the country, scholars from various disciplines reflect on the dynamics of historical consciousness symbolically present in various areas: the ‘volksmoeder’ image, historical events and monuments, language and music, rugby and architecture.
This work hopes to resound with a well-established intellectual tradition in Europe dealing with ‘places of memory’ or ‘lieux de mémoire’.

Contents
1. Siegfried Huigen & Albert Grundlingh – Koos Kombuis and Collective Memory
2. Elsabé Brink – The ‘Volksmoeder’ – A Figurine as Figurehead
3. Gerrit Olivier – The Location
4. Hein Willemse – A Coloured Expert’s Coloured
5. Kees van der Waal – Bantu: From Abantu to Ubuntu
6. Ena Jansen – Thandi, Katrina, Meisie, Maria, ou-Johanna, Christina, ou-Lina,Jane and Cecilia
7. Albert Grundlingh – Rugby
8. Marlene van Niekerk – The Eating Afrikaner: Notes for a Concise Typology
9. Lizette Grobler – The Windpump
10. Hans Fransen – Glorious Gables
11. Lou-Marié Kruger – Memories of Heroines: Bitter Cups and Sourdough
12. Lize van Robbroeck – The Voortrekker in Search of New Horizons
13. Christine Antonissen – English
14. Siegfried Huigen – Language Monuments
15. Rufus Gouws – The Woordeboek van die Afrikaanse Taal
16. Luc Renders – And the Greatest is … N.P.van Wyk Louw
17. Albert Grundlingh – Why have a Ghost as a Leader? The ‘De la Rey’ Phenomenon and the Re-Invention of Memories, 2006-2007
18. Stephanus Muller – Boeremusiek
19. Stephanus Muller – Die Stem
20. Annie Klopper – ‘In ferocious anger I bit the hand that controls’: The Rise of Afrikaans Punk Rock Music

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Where Global Contradictions Are Sharpest ~ Research Stories From The Kalahari ~ Contents

The ‘Bushmen’ or ‘San’ of the Kalahari could well be called an iconographic people. Partly as a result of this, over the years abundant social research has been carried out among the San. Keyan Tomaselli and his research team from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa form part of that tradition; however, in this book Tomaselli is also able to reflect critically, and not without a touch of irony, on the way the San have been represented over the years. Hardly ever has there been a researcher who so uncompromisingly and aptly illustrates the many ethical contradictions in doing fieldwork among the San, and at the same time manages to reconstruct and represent the actual fieldwork experience and the San people so vividly that you almost taste the dust of the Kalahari and smell the raucous world that is depicted.

Note on the Author
Keyan G. Tomaselli is Professor in Culture, Communication and Media Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban. He is a Fellow of the University and serves on the advisory board of !Kwa ttu – The San Cultural and Educational Centre. He is Old World book review editor of Visual Anthropology, and has published on visual anthropology in this and other publications such as Appropriating images: The semiotics of visual representation (Intervention Press, 1999). Other journals in which Tomaselli has published include: Visual Studies, Cultural Studies, Journal of Film and Video, Research in African Literatures, etc. He is published in translation in Italian, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and Arabic, amongst others. Tomaselli is editor-in-chief of Critical Arts: A Journal of South-North Cultural and Media Studies.

Contents
Acknowledgements, Acronyms, A Note on Pronunciation
Starting Off – Different people, different communities – Specifically, what are we doing?
Chapter 1. Negotiating Research with First Peoples
Chapter 2. Reverse Cultural Studies: Field Methods, Power Relations and 4X4s … 
Chapter 3. ‘Dit is die Here se Asem’: The Wind, its Messages, and Issues of Autoethnographic Methodology in the Kalahari
Chapter 4. ‘Op die Grond’: Writing in the San/d, Surviving Crime 
Chapter 5. Psychospiritual Ecoscience: The Ju/’hoansi and Cultural Tourism
Chapter 6. Textualising the San ‘Past’: Dancing With Development
Chapter 7. Stories to Tell, Stories to Sell: Hidden transcripts, negotiating texts
References

© Keyan G. Tomaselli, 2005
Cover photograph: Frederik J Lange (Jnr). Taken between Witdraai and Welkom, Northern Cape, June 2005.
Coverdesign: Ingrid Bouws, Amsterdam
Editing: Saskia Stehouwer

Published by Rozenberg Publishers, Amsterdam, 2005, ISBN 90 5170 481 X

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我的故事 ~ 在澳华人的文化身份认同研究 ~ 故事

My Story前言

Fan Hong & Liang Fen  凡红 梁芬
Feng Jicai ~  冯骥才
Dennis Haskell  ~  丹尼斯·哈斯克尔
Jan Ryan ~  简·瑞安

故事

1. 有时候换一片土壤,也许可以开出不一样的花
2. 森林背后的国家
3. 小事做起,积沙成塔
4. 地地道道的中国人
5. 三字成婚
6. 落叶生根
7. 回报祖国
8. 从中国娃到澳洲大学教授
9. 到底谁是外国人
10. 一个人的党

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Storm en armoede in Nederland

De boom in de tuin kreunt en buigt onder de storm die over de stad raast.
De Volkskrant heeft twee pagina’s ingeruimd voor de langdurige armoede waar een steeds grotere groep Nederlanders de dag mee door moet zien te komen.
Het kabinet Rutte worstelt met de vraag of die Groningers een schadevergoeding moeten krijgen. En wanneer.
Volgens het Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau lezen tieners steeds minder een boek.

Om te bepalen welke huishoudens arm zijn, hanteert het CBS de zogeheten lage-inkomensgrens. Die grens is afgeleid van het bijstandsniveau voor een alleenstaande in 1979, toen de bijstand uitgedrukt in koopkracht het hoogst was.
De grens wordt jaarlijks aangepast aan de inflatie. In 2016 was de lage-inkomensgrens 1030 euro voor een alleenstaande, 1370 euro voor een alleenstaande ouder met één kind en 1940 euro voor een koppel met twee kinderen.

De NS meldt dat er geen treinen rijden tussen Alphen aan de Rijn en Gouda vanwege een aanrijding met een trampoline.
Vooral de kleine, particuliere beleggers zijn schuldig aan het opdrijven van de prijzen op de Amsterdamse woningmarkt, aldus Business Insider.

Als je op Ikki’s eiland in de bijstand (onderstand) belandt, krijg je als alleenstaande $ 152,- (Euro 124.213) per twee weken.
Heb je recht op AOW (AOV) krijg je zomaar $ 593,- (Euro 484.596) per maand uitgekeerd.

Nu is er ook nog een deel van het centrum van Almere afgezet. En is een harde Brexit een strop voor bedrijven. Denkt KPGM.
Zit ik hier wat te broeden op de vraag waarom een inwoner van Nederland die door historisch toeval op Ikki’s eiland is geboren, geen recht op een volwaardig bestaan heeft. Ondanks al die rekensommen van CBS, Nibud en de overheid.
Gelukkig is de president van de V.S. kerngezond.

Voor meer over Ikki’s eiland ~ Bonaire: http://ikkiseiland.com/

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Merijn Oudenampsen ~ The Conservative Embrace Of Progressive Values. On The Intellectual Origins Of The Swing To The Right In Dutch Politics

To talk of ideology in the Netherlands is to court controversy. The Dutch are not exceptional in that sense. Ideology is known internationally to have a bad reputation. After all, the word first came into common use when it was employed by Napoleon as a swearword. But the Dutch distaste for ideology seems to have taken on particularly sharp features. The country lacks a prominent tradition of political theory and political ideology research and often perceives itself as having achieved the end of ideology. Taking recourse to Mannheim’s sociology of ideas, I have attempted to contest that image and fill a small part of the lacuna of Dutch ideology studies. The book started out with an attempt to formulate – in broad strokes – an explanation for the peculiarly apolitical atmosphere in Dutch intellectual life.

The relative absence of ideological thought in the Netherlands, I have argued, can be traced back to the historical dominance of one particular form of ideological thought: an organicist doctrine that considers Dutch society as a differentiated, historically grown, organic whole. It considers the state and the media as the passive reflection of societal developments, with elites serving as conduits. Organicism is a sceptical, relativist ideology that stresses harmony and historical continuity. Shared by the twentieth-century elites of the different currents in the Netherlands, this ideology has been depicted as the metaphorical roof uniting the different pillars. It has filtered through Dutch intellectual history in complex forms, to emerge in more contemporary manifestations such as Lijphart’s pluralist theory of accommodation.

The thesis of this book is that this has resulted in a lingering tendency in the literature to downplay conflict, rupture and ideology in Dutch history. And instead to favour more harmonious portrayals of Dutch society developing gradually and continuously as a unity, as an organic whole. When it comes to the Fortuyn revolt, a similar inclination has resulted in depoliticized interpretations of the revolt as the exclusive imprint of secular trends that Dutch politics and media simply needed to reflect. Hans Daalder, the doyen of Dutch political science, argued that there is a political incentive to depoliticize matters in the Dutch political system. In the context of the close relationship between politics and social science in the Netherlands, this has given rise to a paradoxical reality: the more politically involved social science becomes, the more depoliticized it needs to become. Ironically, this means that a more autonomous social science will need to repoliticize its account of Dutch political transformation to some degree. That is what this study has sought to do.

See: https://pure.uvt.nl/Oudenampsen_Conservative.pdf

 

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TED@ BCG Paris ~ Neha Narula ~ The Future Of Money

What happens when the way we buy, sell and pay for things changes, perhaps even removing the need for banks or currency exchange bureaus? That’s the radical promise of a world powered by cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. We’re not there yet, but in this sparky talk, digital currency researcher Neha Narula describes the collective fiction of money — and paints a picture of a very different looking future.

Neha Narula is director of research at the Digital Currency Initiative, a part of the MIT Media Lab where she teaches courses and leads cryptocurrency and blockchain research. While completing her PhD in computer science at MIT, she built fast, scalable databases and secure software systems, and she spoke about these topics at dozens of industry and research conferences.

In a previous life, Narula helped relaunch the news aggregator Digg and was a senior software engineer at Google. There, she designed Blobstore, a system for storing and serving petabytes of immutable data, and worked on Native Client, a system for running native code securely through a browser.

Go to: https://www.ted.com/neha_narula_the_future_of_money

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University College London ~ IIPP Debates An Economics Reformation

Neoclassical economics has become an unquestioned belief, dominating decision-making from money and savings to migration and sovereignty. This seminar challenged this view, proposing a reformation.

To celebrate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, a group of free-thinking Economists and students challenged the current dogma in economics and investigated the shaky foundations of the neoclassical faith. The session challenged assumptions about the nature of the economy, the creation of money, the behaviour of markets, the origins of growth, and the causes of crises.

IIPP hosted this lively debate that proposed a new ’95 Theses of the Economics Reformation’, and nailed its demands to the door of the economics establishment to mark the beginning of a new economics reformation.

See: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/public-purpose/news/2017/dec/iipp-debates-economics-reformation

See also: Larry Elliott ~ Heretics welcome! Economics needs a new Reformation ~ The Guardian

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For Him Art, Research, Creation And Politics Were The Same Thing – In Memory Of Paul Boccara

Paul Boccara 1932 -2017

Face à l’ énorme complexité des ces questions, il es urgent d’y aller, au risque d’essuyer les plâtres, des se tromper ; car il y a une béance formidable, et un appel!

Paul Boccara ended with these words the ‘Nine Lessons of Systemic Anthroponomy’. They can be seen as legacy of a great thinker. He was born in Tunis in 1932 – he finally left us on November 26 th 2017. Although he became entirely French in his attitudes, this Mediterranean origin shaped his way of thinking in a peculiar way. I remember one of our meetings in Ivry, where he lived; we went for lunch and there was no hesitation in choosing a seat. “I’m from
Tunisia – I need light,” and so we settled right next to the window. This urge to light was guiding his life, in a metaphorical sense: it was the strive for enlightenment. This was about a very bright light, illuminating the entire socio-historical space and at the same time it was the spotlight, which made it possible to take a close look at details.
Paul Boccara was educated as economist and mastered the tiresome depths of the bourgeois profession as well as the peaks of political economics. The latter was never a flattened shortcut for complex socio-historical constellations. It was only through knowledge of complex relationalities possible to achieve a truly creative application – a Marxist approach in the best possible sense. His profound thinking was also characterised by the fact that he studied in addition to economics also history and anthropology.

Three outstanding works have to be mentioned:
The Études sur le capitalisme monopoliste d’ État, sa crise et son issue [Éditions sociales, 1973] were probably part of the compulsory reading of the left at that time. Boccara’s work was ground-breaking, but at the same time it was part of a wider discourse concerned with the changing role of the state. This has to be understood against the historical background: on the one hand, at least throughout Europe, the ‘special conditions’ of the post WWII period came to an end and the West had to settle down with a consolidating East-West relationship.
What existed as a socialist state and their coalition could not be met by capital alone – if the state would not have existed already, it would have been invented at that time to complement and consolidate the hegemonic claims of the monopoly capital. In fact, such a re-invention of the string state took place in the sense of a close, organic interweaving of economy and state.
The Théories sur les crises, la suraccumulation et la dévalorisation du capital [Delga, 2013/2015] are nearly a late work. Hardly perceived, unfortunately not translated so far, the two volumes show the misery of the economy and of economics. It is noteworthy that the current crisis is analysed in a very fundamental way as a fundamentally structural crisis. Boccara’s oevre goes beyond other works, because it makes use of the very basics of economic theory: accumulation, theory of value, production and consumption, the long waves and the differentiated consideration of predator, casino and profit of capitalist economy are analysed in principle and assessed in connection with the techno-economic processes [‘information technologies of new type’].
Neuf Leçons sur l’ anthroponomie systémique [Delga, 2017], the last book, which is the assets we inherit – and the appeal, an urgent call obliging us to concrete and detailed analysis. Importantly Boccara emphasises the role of anthroponomy – these questions occupied him intensively in recent years. This is refreshingly different from many ‘identity and value discussions’ also in the left.
Strengthening the left can barely rely on hoping for insight into the necessity of a different way of life – questions of faith and pure good will and related hopes should be left to religion. Boccara, on the other hand, puts forward a clear analysis of the interplay between politics and economy and society. And it is not an appeal for such a way of life, but rather an appeal to a culture of debate. Read more

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Journal Of Anthropological Films

Film cameras, video and sound recorders have for decades been used by anthropologists as research tools, for collecting data, for documentation, for advocacy, for representing a case or a group of people, for disseminating empirical insights and for communicating research findings. For the first time in the history of Visual Anthropology anthropological film can now be published on par with written articles, assessed by peers, and inscribed in international credential systems of academic publication as the Nordic Anthropological Film Association (NAFA) has launched this first edition of Journal of Anthropological Films (JAF)

Go to: http://boap.uib.no/index.php/jaf/index

Editorial

The Nordic Anthropological Film Association (NAFA) has launched the Journal of Anthropological Films (JAF)

Film cameras, video and sound recorders have for decades been used by anthropologists as research tools, for collecting data, for documentation, for advocacy, for representing a case or a group of people, for disseminating empirical insights and for communicating research findings. For the first time in the history of Visual Anthropology anthropological film can now be published on par with written articles, assessed by peers, and inscribed in international credential systems of academic publication as the Nordic Anthropological Film Association (NAFA) has launched this first edition of Journal of Anthropological Films (JAF) published by Bergen Open Access Publishing (BOAP).

JAF publishes films that combine documentation with a narrative and aesthetic convention of cinema to communicate an anthropological understanding of a given cultural and social reality. JAF publishes films that stand alone as a complete scientific publication based on research that explore the relationship between “contemporary anthropological understandings of the world, visual and sensory perception, art and aesthetics, and the ways in which aural and visual media may be used to develop and represent those understandings” to borrow words from Paul Henley (in Flores, American Anthropologist, Vol 111, No.1, 2009:95). While most films will stand for themselves, only accompanied by an abstract, supplementary text will be accepted when it adds productively to the anthropological analysis and in case the peer-reviewers will ask for it. Read more

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