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Do No Harm

From Which (Or Whose) Sides Must We Speak?

Narmala Halstead

The issue of harm in certain contexts and settings at some very fraught moments appears overly connected to anthropology: an idea of the discipline is made as the problem in a focus that can overshadow the actions of individuals and or institutional practices. This includes claims for anthropological harm that conflate the actions of particular individuals with the discipline. Alongside the potential harm in blaming anthropology, indiscriminately, a form of public anthropology may be gleaned: a mandate emerges to attend to spaces which presage this furore. The discipline is being ‘re-tasked’ robustly with its own huge remit to avoid damage in the studies of all peoples. This is extended to detrimental spaces that are revealed in academia, structural or evident, for which anthropology must be made to take culpability, particularly so in certain contemporary high-profile incidents.

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Bringing into View

Knowledge Fields and Sociolegal Phenomena

Narmala Halstead

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Exceptions and being human: Before and in times of COVID-19

Narmala Halstead

As a much proclaimed ‘new normal’ accompanying the global pandemic, the suspension of certain rights to protect other rights returns our attention to notions of exceptions outside the law in terms of sovereign power and those hidden within the law, such as structurally embedded violations. The consent for the emergency rights accorded to the state to act for the greater protection and bio-survival of all occurs alongside certain contestations which also, in dramatic instances, include spaces for new protests against structural and physical violence on the person. The murder of George Floyd and the protests which followed signalled points of both convergence and dissonance in relation to the emergency rights of the state and the overlooking of other ‘less visible’ loss of rights.

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Extended Sites of Action

In and Out of Marginality

Narmala Halstead

The forum in this issue, reflecting on the problematics of the relationship between anthropology and law, as a timely focus is also indicative of how these debates revolve around disciplinary and cross-disciplinary issues. That such co-presence of anthropology and law, incorporating research in informal and formal settings, various kinds of collaboration and, in some instances, sceptical views about its value, continues to merit close attention also signals how views of differences animate a well-populated and extended field. The concerns are often articulated around an epistemic divide between anthropology and law, and allow for questioning both within and across disciplinary areas, even as much is made of the richness of an ethnographic approach to law alongside other methods and analyses, as indicated. Lawrence Rosen, in his response to the commentators in the forum, notes ‘our special area of interest is actually a great doorway into many key issues for both disciplines’, as he identifies the spaces where it is incumbent for anthropologists to act to address these cross-disciplinary challenges.

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Victims and agents un‐made. Routinising the extraordinary1

Narmala Halstead

In this article, I examine a range of petty transactions in Guyana which also render the state visible in everyday practices. Various police and other officials intervene in domestic incidents and minor affrays where they are ‘topped up’ by ‘ordinary people’, as payments for them to be less powerful. They rely on a local ideal model of the state which constructs it in opposition to people. Both the particular officials and people use or contest this model in power negotiations. The transactions occur through or alongside violence, variously experienced. Certain officials compete for the role of victims with the people who suffer at their hands, while their victims can make efforts to empower themselves. The resulting mode of victimhood is also about agency. In the alternating roles of victim and agent, people and officials also engage in complicit partnerships. The partnerships relate to another local ideal model about corruption as necessary to make things work. The power negotiations and violence, however, both question this model and that of the state as one of containment and as isolated from society. While sudden brutal violence occurs, it is the trivial violence as part of the everyday which constantly demonstrates victims, agents and the state in a landscape of power relations. The transactions also illustrate an ideal model of the state as extraordinary. In turn, trivial violence routinises these understandings.

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Anthropology through a double lens. Public and personal worlds in human theory by Linger, Daniel Touro

NARMALA HALSTEAD

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Digital and Offline

Partial Fields and Knowledge Producers

Narmala Halstead

Abstract

Partial processes of knowledge making, online and offline, demonstrate modes of experiential newness. Indicative of the ‘shocks’ and joined curations of field encounters, such experiences re-engage anthropological debates as being of the present. The extended field suggests vast change and unlimited spaces to engage participants and ‘invite’ new unrelatable publics. The reflections and encounters disturb an apparent mandate of digital anthropology as a sub-discipline to ‘upturn’ field and knowledge approaches. As these forum articles indicate, this vision of the field is not easily dissociated from continuities with participants as knowledge producers in and out of offline interactions. Notions of exit and entry or participants gaining seemingly unlimited new access to fieldworkers remain connected to performative/curated forms of field relations, while attuned to an ongoing ethnographic present.

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Ethnographic encounters. Positionings within and outside the insider frame*

NARMALA HALSTEAD