¡Crisis is coming! Politics versus apocalypse in Santo Domingo

January 4th 2013

Santo Domingo's barrios are dominated by two religions that take fundamentally different approaches to social change. The first approach, espoused by the Jesuits, is to transform the barrios into ideal modern communities through widening streets, demolishing shacks, creating parks and providing services.

The second approach, more the concern of Pentecostal practitioners, subordinates social change to the end of the entire material world through the second coming of Christ. Both of these visions make their mark on the material environment of the barrio.

A living fence: How objects and relationships construct national borders

December 11th 2012

It is five minutes to eight on a hazy Monday morning in the dry season. On the southernmost border of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, hundreds of people wait behind a chain fence for the guards to open the gate.

Tellingly, they are all on the Haitian side, laden down with goods to sell in the bi-national market that is located right on the border, jutting against the Pedernales River dividing the two nations. They chat to each other in Kreyól as they wait.

Women with bundles of clothes tied up in sheets, small automatic transmission motorbikes weighed down with non-perishable foods, money changers and mobile credit vendors, all form part of the crowd. They jostles for space, keen to reassert their claim over their favourite spot in the market.

Poverty and purchasing power in the Caribbean

October 23rd 2012

What do people living in an urban squatter settlement buy? One would assume that the answer to this question is ‘not much’. Yet eight years of research that I have conducted in the Dominican Republic indicates that this assumption is completely incorrect. Consumer behaviour is complex because consumer decisions are not just driven by price. Rather, cultural logic and social value play a major role.

Dominicans recognise themselves as avid, brand-conscious consumers, regardless of their income level. They chastise themselves for their wanton spending – and then head to the shops. What they don’t realise is that they aren't unique in this behaviour. A society’s poorest citizens might not be as likely to buy luxury products as the wealthy, but they often buy the best that they can afford, paying attention to branding and value.

Freshly popped! New popular anthropology website takes humanity to the people

September 19th 2012

Have you ever suspected that there must be more to anthropology than tomb-raiding and cannibalism? There is, and you can now find out about global human diversity in all its facets through a brand-new website, PopAnth: Hot Buttered Humanity.

Anthropological insights can teach us a lot about we are and help us to think through contemporary problems facing humanity. However, beyond a handful of blockbuster films and the Discovery Channel, most anthropological research is published in academic journals, rarely reaching public forums.