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
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.”
Living in Peace and Conflict in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh
Nasir Uddin and Eva Gerharz
Reconsidering the trend in anthropology to conceptualize the multifaceted nature of the state and to focus on the local social dynamics beneath the institutional framework of the state, we argue that “state” is not a single governing entity but rather a multilayered body of practices at various levels of the society. We configure “state” as constructed, imagined, and negotiated by people in their everyday life in four dimensions: zones of limited statehood depicted as “peripheries,” “local state” by which the center governs locales, “public discourse” that represents dominant notions of “stateness,” and ambivalent positioning of political elites who represents state in the margin. This argument is substantiated with the reference to the case of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, a southeastern part of Bangladesh.
Rethinking Topographies of Power Through Transnational Connectivity in Ecuador and Beyond
This article uses a lawsuit against Chevron as a means to examine the complex, compromised, and incomplete practices that form what can be described as Empire/Multitude and state/civil society. The class-action suit, filed on behalf of 30,000 Ecuadorian citizens, encapsulates processes of globalization and their attendant consequences. I argue that the binaries Empire/Multitude and state/civil society assume a physiology of coherence and topography of power that obscure their deeply transnational nature. Systematically exploring the networks of connectivity that produce and transform these dyads allows for a refiguring of indigenous peoples within the political realm. Rather than outside or below, subaltern subjects (indigenous and non-indigenous alike) are co-existing political embodiments that can shape the sphere of authority and legitimacy that make up the state and the practices of Empire.
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.
In 2003, after more than 10 years of policy debate and public controversy, the South African minister of education announced a new policy for religion and education that distinguished between religious interests, which are best served by religious communities, and educational objectives for teaching and learning about religion, religions, and religious diversity that should be served by the curriculum of public schools. This article locates South Africa's new policy for religion and education in relation to attempts to redefine the role of the state in the transition from apartheid to democracy. The policy emerged within a new constitutional framework, which ensured freedom for religious expression and freedom from religious discrimination, but also within the context of state initiatives to affirm cultural diversity and mobilize unifying resources for social transformation. Accordingly, this article examines South Africa's policy for religion and public education as an index for understanding post-apartheid efforts in redefining the state as a constitutional, cultural, and transformative state.
In sociological literature, the most commonly accepted meaning of 'the state' is based on a spatial definition that describes it as an entity exercising sovereignty within a bounded territory. However, the state is also made present in time, and state forms have a profound impact on the temporalities of social events and interaction, for instance, through rhythms and schedules. Consequently, this article discusses how the state in Manus Province, Papua New Guinea, can be understood with reference to temporality as much as to spatiality and materiality. Here, the state is seen as being personified in its politicians, who are in control of its resources. In this understanding, the state is both facilitated and limited by the presence, attention, and duration of the politicians, who are obliged to recognize personal relationships through which kin or acquaintances can challenge bureaucratic control of space and of time.
The Role of Maya Intellectuals and Civil Society Discourse
Marta Elena Casaús Arzú
Guatemala's 1996 Peace Accords (particularly the Agreement on Identity and Rights of Indigenous Peoples) and the participation of certain Maya intellectuals in recent governments open new possibilities for indigenous peoples to see themselves as a nation and to provide that nation with ethnic-cultural content. However, the vision of the country's elite does not correspond to that of most Maya intellectuals. Some emphasize ethnic-cultural aspects and forms of ethnic autonomy while others have a more wide-ranging and pluralistic vision based on a more national and intercultural perspective. The process of providing the government with new and legitimate bases and the nation with cultural content merits study. This article examines this process based on interviews with Maya intellectuals and ladino leaders as well as the content of public speeches and essays.
Poverty and policy in the south of Laos
Anthropological understandings of development have often discussed development projects in terms of an extension of the state. Using the example of a participatory poverty reduction project in Laos, this article outlines how development schemes also have the potential to define areas of exception from state services. This project was understood by project officers as an example of a successful “participatory” project. Lao recipients, however, interpreted it in terms of the non-provision of state services, and thus as further evidence of governmental corruption and deceit. These residents—far from resisting the notion of development, or the extension of the state—emphasized largesse and provisioning as the hallmarks of a successful project and a legitimate state. Their forms of “everyday resistance” to the project focused on narratives demanding more incorporation with the state.
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.