Anthropologists have long acknowledged that ownership is a far more complex phenomenon than it seems at first. What on the surface appears to be a relationship between you and an object is actually a relationship between you, the object and everyone else. To borrow David Graeber’s example: “when one buys a car one is not really purchasing the right to use it so much as the right to prevent others from using it”.
perhaps the most perplexing item she had kept from her time was the empty casing of an artillery shell from World War Two. She told me that many of the ladies would find these shells (sometimes still live) and would commission a local Papua New Guinean man to convert them into modest flower vases.
That Syria has “a lot of sand” is meant to stand in for its lack of value. As a place that is sandy, it is not worth US lives; good enough for less valued Syrians and Russians but not good enough for Americans ... But it also got me thinking about a more fundamental question. Why is it that we, in the Anglo-American world, devalue ‘sand’?
The documentaries about Adam Goodes capture and abbreviate an array of events on and off the ground that might make recognising and responding to racism seem straightforward. The release of the films and the ensuing national reflection they appeared to invoke might also give the impression that this chapter in our story is now closed, but I think this is far from true.