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Contingent Statehood

Clientelism and Civic Engagement as Relational Modalities in Contemporary Bosnia and Herzegovina

Larissa Vetters

This article analyzes clientelism and civic engagement as two relational modalities adopted by the residents of Mostar to obtain state-funded housing assistance in the face of rapid political transformation, economic insecurity, and post-conflict reconstruction. Couched in historical and contemporary discourses of deservingness and harking back to spatial imaginaries that evolved during the socialist era, both modalities converge in the notion of raseljeni, a post-war administrative category denoting an internally displaced person. Despite their apparent differences, the ultimate goal of both modalities is to establish sustainable channels of communication and productive relations with state authorities. Such relational modalities not only facilitate citizens' access to public resources, but also lend continuity and coherence to a fragmented state apparatus. In the process, they give rise to distinct political subjectivities and notions of political community.

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Administrative guidelines as a source of immigration law?

Ethnographic perspectives on law at work and in the making

Larissa Vetters

This article makes a conceptual and methodological argument for ethnographically studying a certain type of paperwork in immigration bureaucracies, namely internal administrative guidelines. Much ethnographic research has focused on case files, application forms, identity documents and judicial decisions attempting to shed light on bureaucrats’ discretionary power and migrants’ strategies of navigating immigration laws. This article shifts attention from bureaucrats’ discretionary practices to their efforts to standardise and codify their own practices. The administrative guidelines of the Foreigners’ Registration Office of Berlin and the visa guidelines of the Federal Foreign Office of Germany are examined as legal documents that are produced in a web of textually grounded legal meanings, as well as in a meshwork of social and political relations and in turn reconfigure both social relations and legal meanings. Contextualised in such a way, these administrative guidelines shed light not only on ‘immigration law at work’ but also on ‘immigration law in the making’.

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Introduction to Stategraphy

Toward a Relational Anthropology of the State

Tatjana Thelen, Larissa Vetters and Keebet von Benda-Beckmann

In the introduction to this special issue, we discuss recent trends in anthropological research on and in theorizing the state. We show how these have given rise to an analytical gap between state images, on the one hand, and practices, on the other. Based on this analysis, we propose a relational approach that we call 'stategraphy' as a way to tie together state practices and representations. This ethnographically grounded approach focuses on relational modalities, boundary work, and forms of embeddedness of actors as constitutive factors. These avenues of analyses enable a nuanced understanding and comparative investigation of change and continuity as well as of mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion.