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Open access

Aane Wala Hai

Waiting for the Arrival of the State

Syantani Chatterjee


The Bharatiya Janata Party won the 2014 parliamentary elections in India, popularising the slogan ‘Achhe din aane wale hai’ (‘Good days are coming’). Even as the good days remained elusive, in 2019, the party won the popular vote again, with an additional promise of culling out putative ‘infiltrators’ from India by announcing ‘NRC aane wala hai’ (‘NRC is coming’). Drawing on ethnographic research carried out between 2016 and 2019 in a largely Muslim working-class neighbourhood next to one of Asia's largest garbage dumps in Mumbai, this article attempts to grasp the force of the state through its affective deferral by examining this aane wala hai form of governance – the forever-deferred, the always-arriving, the ready-to-strike – that is predicated upon weaponising deferral into a tactic of governance.

Open access

Accountabilities in the NHS

Coercion, Finance and Responsibility

Piyush Pushkar


This article is based on ethnographic fieldwork carried out with managers, politicians and political activists in the English public healthcare system. Rather than a dominance of financial accountability, I found a mish-mash of accountabilities, in which the duty to ‘balance the books’ was a key driver but one that relied on other forms of coercion. Campaigners mobilised the concept of political accountability against cuts and privatisation. While bureaucrats were often sympathetic to activists’ point of view, they felt constrained by ‘the reality’ of limited funds. Their conceptualisations of what was possible were enclosed. Debate regarding those limits was foreclosed. I sketch these limits on bureaucrats’ ethical imagination, theorising them as ideological closure. But at times, managers did imagine alternative possibilities. Mostly, they kept quiet regarding alternatives due to a fear of losing their jobs. Thus, corporate accountability – to one's employer – enforced service retrenchment in the name of financial accountability.

Open access

Nikita Simpson

Michiel Baas. Muscular India: Masculinity, mobility & the new middle class. New Delhi: Context, 2020.

Alice Tilche. Adivasi art and activism: Curation in a nationalist age. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2022.

Sanderien Verstappen. New lives in Anand: Building a Muslim hub in Western India. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2022.

Open access


Thoughts on Governance, Punctuation and Authoritarian Populism

Maria José de Abreu


Inspired by key concerns of this collective project, this afterword article highlights two main aspects in the discussion of governance through suspension. The first aspect is how geographically widespread the rhetoric of ‘indeterminacy’ (as the fuel of the temporal medium of suspension) has become, soliciting analyses of differentiation across cultures and time. The second aspect relates to the politics of punctuated time in light of changes happening in our current culture of temporality. These two aspects integrate my interest in rethinking the classic concept of the (sovereign) decision conceived as separation from towards that of incision as cut through, particularly in light of rising expressions of authoritarian populism, globally, across regimes.

Open access

The anthropology of infrastructure

The boom and the bubble?

Natalia Buier


This article engages with the constitution of the anthropology of infrastructure as an autonomous subdiscipline. Rather than laboring in the service of demarcating a new field of study, anthropologists, I argue, should strive for a critical deconstruction of the contemporary infrastructural moment. In the first part of the article, I engage with the arguments in favor of infrastructure as an analytical lens by focusing on their treatment of relationality and materiality. I pinpoint the limitations of these approaches and argue that their epistemological and theoretical assumptions blunt the critical potential of anthropological studies of infrastructure. The second part of the article looks at theoretical alliances that favor connecting the anthropological study of infrastructure with a critical analysis of the production of nature and the built environment.

Open access

Rebecca Carlson and Erol Saglam

Adriana Petryna, Horizon Work: At the Edges of Knowledge in an Age of Runaway Climate Change, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, pp. 224, 2022

Sertaç Sehlikoglu, Working Out Desire: Women, Sport, and Self-Making in Istanbul, Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, pp. 339, 2021

Open access

Discreet Diplomacy

Practices of Secrecy in Transnational Think Tanks

Christina Garsten and Adrienne Sörbom


This article aims to expand both the analytical gaze of diplomacy studies and anthropological interests in the field of transnational think tanks, advocacy and policy advice. Drawing on ethnographic data from three such organisations, it investigates secrecy practices, focussing on how such practices amount to discreet diplomatic efforts. In a variety of ways, secrecy is utilised as a resource in foreign relations and diplomacy; it is a means to leverage status and influence. Although outwardly striving for transparency, think tanks use secrecy practices in their effort to establish themselves as actors of consequence in foreign relations and diplomatic circles. The practices of secrecy are part and parcel of the power games such organisations play, in which all participants learn and master what to discuss and what to keep silent about. These practices, however, pose a clear challenge to matters of accountability and transparency.

Open access

Doing Barzakh, Making Boza

Betwixt and Between Migration and Immigration in Tangier

A. George Bajalia


As growing numbers of migrants wait in Morocco to continue their journeys northwards, the social consequences of this time spent ‘en route’ should be further considered. This time spent waiting fosters new claims to belonging and political identity as would-be migrants to Europe become immigrants to Morocco. This article recounts ethnographically how forms of community emerge amongst im/migrants in Tangier through forms of shared difference and labours. In these borderlands, immigrants use terms such as ‘making boza’ and ‘crossing al-barzakh’ to describe the temporal stance of waiting. In Islam, al-barzakh refers to the firmament separating life and death. This article brings these concepts into discussion with anthropological conceptualisations of liminality to query how forms of being-in-common emerge alongside promises of inclusion and threats of exclusion.

Open access

Enlisted in struggle

Being Marxist in a time of protracted crisis

Ahmed Kanna


In this article, I analyze Marxist activists’ narratives of becoming Marxist and their practices in activist spaces. Drawing on Jeffrey Juris and Alex Khansnabish's notion of “militant ethnography” and on Jodi Dean's recuperation of the political party form of organizing, I ethnographically describe activists’ motivations to become Marxist and examine two events—a pro-Bernie political meeting and an anti-Trump rally—in which activists intervened with the Marxist idea of “uniting working-class struggles” in democratic spaces. I argue that the socialist party form of organization addresses two related dilemmas that anti-capitalist activists face in the context of systemic economic and political crises in the United States: how to develop class consciousness and how to engage in the seemingly impossible, personally risky endeavor of radically challenging capitalism.

Open access

Fantasy constitutions

Forest land and forced dispossession

Anand Vaidya


In his final speech as chair of the assembly that drafted India's Constitution, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar described a contradiction between the formal equality that the Constitution guaranteed and the country's socioeconomic inequality. This article follows two interpretive traditions of India's Constitution: the first, developed by the Supreme Court in challenging land reform legislation, is the doctrine of “basic structure” which holds that the Constitution has an intrinsic, unamendable form. The second, in a low-caste forest rights movement in Uttar Pradesh, holds that, because of Ambedkar's role in its drafting, the true Constitution grants lower castes both socioeconomic equality and sovereignty. Each tradition, I argue, posits a fantasy constitution that resolves Ambedkar's contradiction, claiming to represent a founding constituent order to enact entirely different political visions.