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  • 1 University of Cambridge

This issue is quite a milestone: we have reached the thirty-fifth volume of the journal. We will come back to that in the next issue and, to celebrate, there will be a free gift. If there is such a thing…

For the moment, our current issue is a Special Issue guest edited by Rachel Douglas-Jones and Justin Shaffner: it is devoted to the topic of ‘capacity building’, and we find an anthropological examination of promises in its pages. Indeed, one of the forms that capacity-building projects can take is that of a web of local promises (Ballestero, this issue). What this Special Issue examines more generally is the persuasiveness of ‘capacity building’, a pervasive idea that goes beyond development. The authors treat capacity building ethnographically, looking in part at different ‘capacity buildings’. The different ways in which such work is done, the ideals and empirical realities constructed under this banner, and the people, paper, objects, affects and socialities it engenders or gathers, all figure as part of the worlds presented in this issue. The articles direct our attention to contexts as varied as Amazonia and Ghana, and to occupations as seemingly different as bureaucrats and bar girls. The ‘vague universality’ (Jensen, this issue) of capacity building stretches round the globe in these pages – but its specificities and its blind spots stop us in our tracks.

We close the issue with two book reviews – of books by Edward Fischer and Stephen Gudeman – which deal with yet another elastic banner, that of economics, and the good life it can promise.


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