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The Many Faces of the 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.