|22 May 2023
|12:00 - 14:00
- Chandreyee Goswami (Social Anthropology, Edinburgh)
- Rachael Lindsay (Social Anthropology, Cambridge)
- Jonas Zorn (Institute of Philosophy and Political Science, Technical University Dortmund)
The all-pervading and messy friendships in Northeast India: An ethnography of women making, unmaking, and maintaining university friendships.
My study looks at university friendships in Northeast India. I focus on the same and cross-gender friendships of women students at Gauhati University in Assam. I examine how a friend is understood in the local context, the term(s) used for a friend, and what it may imply about the relationship. Based on this enquiry, I look at how women students from different ethnicities, gender ideas and aspirations form, maintain, negotiate and discontinue their friendships in an ethnically divided and militarised region. By unpacking intimacy, sentiment, solidarity, utility, and memories as they emerged in the university, I seek to illuminate the idioms and practices of friendship and how it becomes integral to student’s biographies widely and women in particular, constantly shaping and affecting their personhood – who they are and what they have become.
Drawing upon ethnographic fieldwork in Athens, Greece, from last September until the present, I consider the dynamics of friendship and betrayal among a group of young men who have crossed illegalised borders from Pakistan and Afghanistan to Greece. By tracing one instance of a perceived betrayal of friendship in depth, I consider the way entanglements of friendship and kinship are strategically drawn upon to regulate behaviour and what experiences of betrayal, cynicism and suspicion can tell us about friendship in this setting and beyond.
Our way of speaking about friendships bears a striking resemblance to the language of economics. We talk about investing into them and profiting from them. This is a symptom of a neoliberalisation of personal relationships. I want to offer a critique of this tendency. I will argue that it constitutes a problematic case of injustice, specifically of hermeneutical injustice: If we are restricted to thinking about friendships in economic terms, this significantly limits our ways of understanding our relationships with others. I further want to show that it is a result of a specific form of oppression – hermeneutical marginalisation: our way of conceptualising personal relationships is dominated by a discourse imposed upon society by neoliberal ideologues in a self-proclaimed ‘war of ideas’. If we want to be able to make plausible our need for acceptance, commitment and trust, I argue, it is in our best interest to resist this dynamic.