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The sanctioning state

Official permissiveness and prohibition in India

Ajay Gandhi

In a monograph on the India-Bangladeshi borderland, Delwar Hussain (2013) examines the traffic of labor and commodities across state lines. Recent decades have seen the formidable retrenchment of this border, with personnel, wire, and weapons

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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

“Peace is perhaps implied by the peace accord, but there is not much peace in our lives. Who will bring peace to us? The state? In our lives we seldom find the Bangladeshi state to be sympathetic. Instead, we experience it in the form of military

Open access

Natalia Buitron and Hans Steinmüller

birth and death, luck and misfortune, the seasons and the weather. The rule of metahuman beings is similar to a ‘state’ and a ‘rule of law’, for “something like the political state is the condition of humanity in the state of nature; there are kingly

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The state riddle

Working through messiness alongside a shared deportation apparatus in France and Romania

Ioana Vrăbiescu

Two individual member states – France and Romania – collaborate to identify, arrest, detain and deport thousands of EU citizens within EU territory. While France operates a complex and massive deportation apparatus, the Romanian state has openly conceded to receive its deported citizens and to assist the French authorities in policing irregularised Romanian citizens, mainly of Roma ethnicity. Based on multi‐sited research conducted in Romania and France, this article scrutinises the challenges of ethnographic research within a shared deportation apparatus. It analyses the site of one‐to‐one collaboration between the two EU member states, which offers a unique perspective to make the state readable to researchers. In doing so, I document and expose the ways in which both states granted (or not) access to study state institutions and practices. The researcher's perceived identity and the states’ political interests contributed to the negotiations for access, never fully awarded and always partial. At the same time, access for research is conditioned by the practices, discretion and ambiguity of agents working for one state or another. I thus argue that within the present environment of securitisation and criminalisation of mobility, the police collaboration for deportation greatly informs the research and findings about the state and its institutions.

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City, Community, Nation, State

Participation and Spectacle

Judith Kapferer

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.

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State and life in Cuba

Calibrating ideals and realities in a state‐socialist system for food provision

Osmara Mesa Cumbrera, Lázara Yolanda Carrazana Fuentes, Dialvys Rodríguez Hernández, Martin Holbraad, Isabel Reyes Mora, and María Regina Cano Orúe

Based on our collective ethnography of Cuba’s socialist system for the provision of state‐subsidised food, this article explores manners in which the state weaves itself into the fabric of people’s everyday lives in state‐socialist society. Instituted by Cuba’s revolutionary government in the early 1960s, Cuba’s ‘state system for provisioning’ is still today the backbone of household subsistence, propelling individuals into direct daily relations with the state via its neighbourhood‐level network of stores that distribute food catering to citizens’ ‘basic needs’. Our ethnography brings together a series of studies conducted by the members of our team in different parts of Havana, charting the most salient aspects of people’s interaction with the state in this alimentary context. We argue that the state becomes pervasive in people’s daily lives not just because it is present in so much of it, but also as the basic normative premise on which people interpret and evaluate everyday comportments in the interactions food provisioning involves. Life in state socialism involves the constant and intricate comparison of its own realities against the normative ideals the state purports to institute. These ‘vernacular comparisons’ between life and state, as we call them, are the ‘local knowledge’ of state socialism in Cuba.

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Chloe Nahum‐Claudel

The Enawene are sustained by the Juruena river in central Brazil, where multiple hydroelectric dams are under construction and in planning. The Enawene are fishermen whose highly ritualised economic life centres on feeding the demonic owners of hydraulic resources. In this paper, Nahum‐Claudel takes us through tense negotiations between the Enawene and the para‐state hydroelectric company, observing the former's adroit diplomacy as they repeatedly negotiate ‘wins’ of ever‐larger hand‐outs (motors, boats, petrol, money and even fish) in the lead up to what the company hopes will be a final compensation pay‐out. In the era of hydroelectric ‘accumulation by dispossession’ (Harvey D. 2005. Oxford: Oxford University Press), the Enawene enrol the state in paying the debt to the demon‐owners, becoming – in a perspectival twist – themselves akin to these demons, engaged in an inflationary ‘potlatch against the state’. Diplomatic relations across this frontier are particular to the Enawene ritual economy, to the very recent onset of their relations with the state, and to the speed of resource capture in this region. Given the massive expansion of hydroelectric generation in Brazil, a nation currently achieving vastly accelerated growth, the analysis is likely to be of broader salience.

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Empire/Multitude—State/Civil Society

Rethinking Topographies of Power Through Transnational Connectivity in Ecuador and Beyond

Suzana Sawyer

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.

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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.

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David Chidester

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.