Home Field

Communities in Crisis

A New Series from the Editors of Home/Field

“Welcome to the world of the polycrisis,” intones a historian in the pages of the Financial Times1. Pandemic, insurrection, rebellion, climate catastrophes, and financial instability are now the constitutive conditions of Western modernity’s inability to deliver, or even imagine, a good life. Maybe it’s the end of the liberal capitalist global order – the end of the “end of history.” Ethnographers within Marxist, feminist, and anticolonial genealogies, however, take issue with the idea that “polycrisis” is unique to this moment, whether because it exceptionalizes cycles of speculation and collapse, dismisses the subsumption of social life under capitalism, centers North Atlantic hegemons, or frames the violence of liberal capitalism as a world-historical achievement. Instead, critical work in anthropology has insisted on theorizing crisis in relation to communities – communities of meaning, of production, and of survival. 


For this special series titled “Communities in Crisis,” Home/Field asked contributors to consider crisis as a category in their own research, from mass mediated moral panics to the intimate spaces of mutual aid. What kinds of communities are invoked, formed, or obscured by claims of crisis? How is crisis leveraged as a tool of governance or social mobilization? How do ethnographers navigate, document, and contest various iterations of crisis? The result is a series of rich and provocative text and photo essays that engage the affective and temporal dimensions of crisis. Contributions address urgent topics such as the politics of care and hunger, far right education politics, environmental degradation and military bases, the role of mutual aid as a response to austerity politics, environmental racism, climate crisis technology development, and the moral panic over trans healthcare.


Introduction by: Matthew Chrisler, Sarah Molinari, and Sheehan Moore, Communities in Crisis Series Editors

Welcome to the Communities in Crisis Series! This page serves as a hub for CiC; you will be able to access all articles in the series as they are posted below.

Distribution Politics in Eric Adams’s New York

In this vignette, I am centering the gaze of our group, whose labor and ethics of distribution encapsulated the definition of mutual aid as the “collective coordination to meet each other’s needs, usually from the awareness that the systems we have in place are not going to meet them” (Spade 2020, 7). I especially engage with mutual aid groups coming out of the Covid-19 crisis and the values that shape their work. These values lie in the acts of solidarity of supporting protests through the distribution of supplies. They also manifest through non-hierarchical acts of distribution, that is, the refusal of means testing, policing needs or paperwork. Finally, there is a politicization of abundance, mobilized by mutual aid organizations as a response to municipal policies of austerity in the wake of the pandemic.

The crisis in our community is white supremacy

Sarah Robert and Kate Haq examine the afterlives of crisis in Buffalo, their civic home and research field. In the aftermath of the white supremacist shooting of Black Buffalonians at the only grocery store in a Black neighborhood, they ask about another form of white supremacy: the inertia of white liberal ideologies and the enclosure of white supremacist violence within white liberal apathy. Considering their own participation in white civic subjectivities, the photos here document the authors’ beginning with a sense of understanding whiteness within antiracist contexts, and an attempt to move toward a more active stage of autonomously confronting and addressing white supremacy’s many ideological expressions.

Trans Care, Crisis, and Moral Panic

In this piece, Mikey Elster compares “the experiences of trans people and their relatives to the media coverage of trans healthcare to demonstrate the complicity of national media in stoking a moral panic that empowers reactionary political forces. This coverage amounts to promoting what Antonio Gramsci called ‘common sense’ by disseminating numerous anecdotal, non-systematic concerns, questions, and narrative frameworks that taken together imply a need for dramatic restrictions on healthcare.”

Reactionary Reforms

In this piece I consider how far right agitators use so-called “culture war” issues to build an insurgent politics, particularly around the institutions of the family and the public school. While popular renderings of the far right often frame “culture wars” as flashpoints of ideological contestation, I argue that far right political mobilization relies on culture wars to create a collective feeling of crisis around the social reproduction of the white heteronormative settler family.

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