The events and sites of a national holiday (17 May in Bergen, Norway) are the grounds from which to draw out meanings of nationalism and tradition, and analyze ideologies of egalitarianism and individualism in a social democratic welfare state. My project has two aims: to open up and deconstruct aspects of the material and symbolic life of the city, and to engage an examination of patterns of local and national community life in relation to shifting evaluations of localism and nationalism within the a changing state formation. Bergen can be thought of as a case study of social order and control, with women, children, and reverence for home life, highlighted in the town’s celebrations. The symbolism of the day discovers community and state in a difficult relation between domestic communities and nationalist ideology in the maintenance of governmentality, a relation mediated by the city itself.
Participation and Spectacle
Tatjana Thelen, Andre Thiemann and Duška Roth
In this article, we analyze processes of kinning within state-initiated programs of elder care in Serbia in order to explore how images of the state as an entity are cast as distinct from the domain of the family. We present data from the fieldwork we conducted in two settlements, in northern and central Serbia respectively. Contrary to the findings of many anthropological studies of the state, state actors in these cases surpass the expectations of citizens. Nevertheless, within complex processes of kinning between state-paid care workers and their clients, dominant images of an absent state as well as state-kinship boundaries are (re)produced. Placing this boundary work within the evolving relations at the center of the analysis underlines the merits of rethinking the interconnections between kinship and the state with a relational focus.
Mimetic Governmentality, Colonialism, and the State
Patrice Ladwig and Ricardo Roque
Engaging critically with literature on mimesis, colonialism, and the state in anthropology and history, this introduction argues for an approach to mimesis and imitation as constitutive of the state and its forms of rule and governmentality in the context of late European colonialism. It explores how the colonial state attempted to administer, control, and integrate its indigenous subjects through mimetic policies of governance, while examining how indigenous polities adopted imitative practices in order to establish reciprocal ties with, or to resist the presence of, the colonial state. In introducing this special issue, three main themes will be addressed: mimesis as a strategic policy of colonial government, as an object of colonial regulation, and, finally, as a creative indigenous appropriation of external forms of state power.
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.
Arthur P.J. Mol
This paper aims to understand and illustrate how and to what extent the increasing role and importance of information, informational processes, and information technologies have changed the environmental policies and politics of state institutions. More specifically, how have states tried to find answers to the dilemmas resulting from a growing centrality of informational processes in environmental governance? As such, the paper sets out the contours of what can be labeled informational governance on the environment.
Official permissiveness and prohibition in India
This article examines the Indian state’s engagement with deportable foreign migrants. It draws on an ethnography of officials’ responses in Mumbai to noncitizens from Bangladesh and countries in Africa. The conceptual focus is on the “sanctioning state”: official powers that alternately permit or prohibit migrants’ presence. At one level, the Indian state sanctions, or prohibits, unauthorized migration. Simultaneously, via authorities’ discretionary power, the state can sanction, or permit, foreigners’ presence. To address why state actors simultaneously sanction migrants’ enduring presence, and also sanction their intermittent removal, this article delves into the Indian state’s historical evolution and everyday functioning. The domains of bureaucratic practice, discretionary authority, and differentiated citizenship are framed by antecedent logics. This historical survey undergirds an ethnographic study of the state in migrant-saturated neighborhoods in Mumbai. Based on interviews and observations with officials and migrants, this article elucidates the rationales, capacities, and strategies that comprise the “sanctioning state.”
Exploring China’s State Report
Halme-Tuomisaari and Miia
As states become parties to international human rights treaties, they undertake the obligation to provide periodic state reports to UN human rights treaty bodies. Officially, state reports are paramount vehicles of factual information of a given state’s human rights situation. Unofficially their status may be contested and their data reduced to state propaganda. This article examines this transformation through the submission of China’s first state report to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The article shows how human rights documents of diverse genres join together in a continual ceremony of dialogue. It connects minute details of treaty body proceedings to more general developments in the international human rights field, and argues that beneath the veneer of diplomatic conduct accompanying human rights dialogue lays an intense struggle for representation and legitimacy. It further discusses how this struggle reflects the recent rise of Kantian theories of international law. These theories seek to re-evaluate the foundational concept of international law, namely ‘sovereign equality’, and, thus continue the mission civilisatrice that has characterized elements of international collaboration for centuries.
Joanna L. Mosser
Scholars identify the classical and neoliberal commitment to consumption, production, and self-directing individualism as a cultural barrier to ecological thinking and action. The state's complicity in the production of market-based norms and practices hostile to ecological thinking is widely acknowledged. Some solutions, in turn, advocate the liberating force of critical pedagogies that cultivate alternative conceptions of the individual, place, production, consumption, and environment. Missing in this literature is a consideration of the implications of state-based instructional methods for the pursuit of such critical, liberating pedagogies. This article revisits the sovereign territorial state as a modern form of political authority and explores the implications of the state's project of self-authoring standardization and consolidation for the development of ecological thinking and action. The epistemology and ontology of the modern state is rooted in a praxis of subject-hood that dismisses, and constructs as dangerous, the anarchic, self-authoring tendencies of the everyday. Recovering the everyday as a site of authorship, agency, and choice is a first step to creating individuals who take seriously the demands of ecological thinking and action.
A view from inside India's ethnographic state
Venturing into an ethnography of government anthropologists themselves, this article interrogates the bureaucratic inner workings and actual agents of today's “ethnographic state." By engaging with the civil servants who verify India's Scheduled Tribes, I explore the politics of “tribal“ recognition from the inside out. This perspective lends timely insight into the logistical, political, and epistemological difficulties integral to the functioning-and current crisis-of India's affirmative action system. Weighing the demands of “tribal“ recognition through those that arguably know them best-government anthropologists themselves- this study examines the human dimension (and dilemmas) of the Indian state and its affirmative action system for Scheduled Tribes.
Contraband at the Romania-Serbia border during the Yugoslavian embargoes
This article analyzes actions of the Romanian state officials and the Romania-Serbia border region people during the embargoes imposed on Yugoslavia in the 1990s. It shows that the embargo-related contraband trade with its diverse layers and actors is an excellent window for studying state formations. Getting involved in both big contraband and the criminalization of smugglers, different state factions developed specific logics of privatization, transnationalization, and interstitial relations. These developments were connected to both the fantasies of accumulation in the context of embargo and Romanian European Union accession. The article also suggests how to understand continuities between the embargorelated and present state formations. Looking at the interplays among border posts, state officials, and the EU, it shows that the border posts are increasingly dislocated from the state and that they seem to become interstitial parts of a post-state field of power.