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Acts of Assistance

Navigating the Interstices of the British State with the Help of Non-profit Legal Advisers

Alice Forbess and Deborah James

This article explores everyday interactions with the British welfare state at a moment when it is attempting to shift and transform its funding regimes. Based on a study of two London legal services providers, it draws attention to a set of actors poised between local state officers and citizens: the advisers who carry out the work of translation, helping people to actualize their rights and, at the same time, forcing disparate state agencies to work together. Advice and government services providers are increasingly part of the same system, yet advisers' work runs counter to the state's aims when formal legal process is used to challenge unfair legislation. The article reveals that ever more complex, vague, and idiosyncratic interconnections between state, business, and the third sector are emerging in the field of public services.

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Workings of the State

Administrative Lists, European Union Food Aid, and the Local Practices of Distribution in Rural Romania

Ştefan Dorondel and Mihai Popa

In this article we analyze local distribution practices within an EU food aid program in Romania. We show that an understanding of this program's implementation can contribute to our understanding of how the state works in present-day Romania and, more generally, to the anthropology of the state. We examine the ways in which local-level bureaucrats gain discretion and exercise it when implementing the program. By securing greater control over a scarce transnational resource, local officials are able to shape national policy according to local distributive models. The described distribution process is conducive to community building, although in very different ways in the two rural settings being studied. We argue for a relational analysis of the workings of the state that explores the embeddedness of local actors and their participation in historically shaped power relations.

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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.

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“Your debts are our problem”

The politicization of debt in Azerbaijan

Tristam Barrett

institutions—the bureaucracy, legislature, and so forth—but as the crystallization of a set of relations through which hierarchy and order is produced in society (see also Jessop 2007 ). This relational approach to the state also permits theoretical