This issue of AME focuses on the critical political anthropology of the Middle East. Studies of tribes and states have been on the agenda of political anthropology of the Middle East for decades, and in this issue we have various articles related to this topic. What is particularly informing in this issue are the brilliant articles concerned with informal politics going beyond statistical and formal studies, showing how power works through access to resources, and particularly the reproduction of political systems and hierarchies, and finally how modern legal systems within certain political structures are exercised in everyday life. Other fields of anthropology such as the anthropology of children and the anthropology of law may also benefit from this issue.
Critical Political Anthropology of the Middle East
La formation du structuralisme de Claude Lévi-Strauss
Lévi-Strauss considered that the birth of structuralism was mainly caused by his chance encounter with Roman Jakobson: the experience of war and exile had nothing to do with it. This article contends the opposite. It analyzes, from a sociological perspective, the articles Lévi-Strauss produced in New York in the 1940s. Focusing on political and cultural anthropology through the prism of primitive societies, these texts express in sociological terms Lévi-Strauss's self-representation, his hopes and strategies. He regards war as a moment in a cycle of reciprocal exchanges between groups. He sees power as the product of an ability to serve as an intermediary between groups and group members, and anthropological knowledge as the product of the social distance to groups necessary to compare their cultural models. Levi-Strauss's theories in exile are in affinity with his social position of a broker and intermediary between distant social groups among the French émigrés and between them and the Americans. Between the lines, all these formative texts show the efforts of Lévi-Strauss's consciousness to reverse the negative signs of his condition of exile. They played a role in the birth of structuralism even as they represent Lévi-Strauss's first auto-analysis (before Tristes Tropiques).
Martyrdom and Memorials in Post-Civil War Lebanon
Are John Knudsen
This article furthers the study of post–civil war memorialisation in Lebanon by analysing the trajectory of the late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri from statesman to martyr. This transformative process offers a window into the symbolism of Lebanese statehood, and demonstrates how the politicisation of confessional martyrs is used to decry injustice and stake out claims to the state. There is no tradition for prosecuting and punishing political murders in Lebanon, causing victims to be pronounced martyrs. Impunity is therefore the major reason why martyrs and memorialising are so widespread. To this end, the article offers a semiotic reading of Hariri’s posthumous transformation from political patron to patron saint, and is a contribution towards the importance of martyr symbolism for understanding the purported weakness of Lebanese statehood.
Seeds—Grown, governed, and contested, or the ontic in political anthropology
Seeds are simultaneously a meaningful part of the daily life of many people involved in agriculture and instruments for national and international policy making. This thematic section explores the sensorial connections between people and plants, the relationships of power that impact and frame them, and the reflections and contestations that they are a part of. In the midst of Western societies and among scientists and farmers, different ontologies and different perceptions of being and coevolving with others in the world coexist, as we will show by looking at human-seed relationships. Local and global legacies create powerful differences between seeds, while various forms of international governance simultaneously push seeds toward homogenization and agriculture toward industrialization while claiming to preserve diversity. Intellectual property rights over seeds and seed regulations have become powerful tools of multinational seed corporations for appropriating large parts of farmers' incomes and controlling the food chain, while it is the sensorial and emotional connections between humans and plants that provide the drive to resist them.
Political-Anthropological Concerns on Corporate Social Responsibility
K. Ravi Raman
By critiquing corporate social responsibility (CSR) as discourse and practice, it is argued in this article that CSR conceals its own invention and intentions. CSR is found to be problematic as it is yet another legitimating discursive domain that serves only the colonization process of corporate, oligarchic power structures. The present article attempts to traverse the complex maze that currently constitutes the theory and practice of CSR through a juxtaposition of the expressed acceptance of CSR by one of the world's biggest oligarchic-corporate structures, the US-based Coca-Cola Company, and the lived experience of village communities that have borne the ill-effects of its operations in India.
Our Goals and Achievements
Polin was established in 1986 as a yearbook to provide a resource for the growing number of scholars who seek authoritative historical and cultural material on Polish Jewry. It has attempted to encourage research on an interdisciplinary basis and has sought contributions from many disciplines – history, sociology, politics, anthropology, linguistics, literature and folklore – and from a wide variety of viewpoints.
Valuing Stuart Hall
This article explores the significance of the work of Stuart Hall for social and political anthropology. It identifies the concern with concrete conjunctural analysis, the continuing attention to the problem of hegemony, and the centrality of a politics of articulation in theory and practice as core features of Hall's work. The article also touches on his complex relationship with theory and theorizing while grounding his work in a series of political and ethical commitments within and beyond the university.
Christine McCourt, Nicola Frost and Kakoly Pandé
Managing Island Life: Social, Economic and Political Dimensions of Formality and Informality in ‘Island’ Communities. Edited by Jonathan Skinner and Mils Hills. Dundee: University of Abertay Dundee Press, 2006, 261pp, £12.99 (available from UAD Alumni Office). ISBN 1-899796-14-2.
Power, Community and the State: The Political Anthropology of Organisation in Mexico. By Monique Nuijten. London: Pluto Press, 2003, 240pp, £17.99, paperback. ISBN 9780745319469.
The Roma Café: Human Rights and the Plight of the Romani People. By Istvàn Pogàny. London: Pluto Press, 2004, 216pp, £14.00, paperback. ISBN 9780745320519
Agamben in the Light of Putin
This article revisits Agamben's concept of 'state of exception'. It argues that the postmodern state of exception is exercised not through the suspension of law, as Agamben suggests and as was the case with modern sovereignty, but through the counterfeiting of legality. The counterfeiting of law, which corrupts its meaning, is part of the broader 'corruption of sign' in the postmodern political-cultural economy. The article first details an extended case of counterfeiting of legality in the practices of business raiding, commonly termed reiderstvo, in Russia. It then describes and analyzes the main features of what I call the 'corrupt state of exception' in Russia. The article concludes with a few remarks on the paradigmatic nature of the state of exception in Russia and its consequences for legal and political anthropology.
Social, Political, and Shamanic Power in Siberia
Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer
An analysis of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) in the Russian Federation reveals a variety of village and urban reactions to crises of faith and power. The significance for group identity and instances of synergistic group belief are discussed. The transition that has seen amorphous underground shamanic practice lead to the institutionalization of shamanic cosmology is reflected in the recent opening of a temple in the Republic's capital, Yakutsk, and in the various groups that adhere to charismatic healers and seers. Debates about faith, as well as fragmented faith epistemologies, are described. The data derive from over 25 years of intermittent fieldwork in the Republic and with the Sakha diaspora. My approach is situated at the crossroads of medical-psychological anthropology, political anthropology, and new religious movement analysis.