Policy Mobility as Assemblage? The Advantages and Limits of Assemblage Theories for the Anthropology of Policy
(University of Leuven)
Paper short abstract:
Policy mobility presents a series of theoretical and methodological challenges for anthropology. What does it mean when we say that policy is an assemblage, and what do we obscure? This presentation aims to clarify the value and limitations of assemblage theory for the anthropology of policy.
Paper long abstract:
Policy mobility, a process that takes place on various scales at the same time, offers the opportunity for a profound reconceptualization of 'the field' beyond the bounded site. At the same time, it presents a series of theoretical and methodological challenges as policy mobility is not a singular process but an 'assemblage' of various processes taking place in different places, scales, and policy networks. But how exactly do we use the concept of 'assemblage'? What does it mean when we say that policy is an assemblage, and what do we obscure? Clarification is needed regarding assemblage theory, the use of the concept of 'assemblage', its methodological value and limitations. In the first part, I will present how the concept of 'assemblage' is understood and used in research, and argue there is a disjunction between its ontological meanings and its use primarily as a methodological tool in empirical research. The second part of the presentation will focus on the advantages and limits of assemblage theories for the anthropology of policy. I argue that the notion of 'assemblage' allows us to conceptualize policy mobility as an inherently relational process, and to focus on processuality, relationality, and 'the labor of mobilizing' policies across places. Assemblage thinking can reveal the labor practices and the relations (in)between actors, instruments, infrastructures that make possible policy mobility. Yet, the concept of assemblage obscures how policies are immobilized, partially im/mobilized and contested - due to its very focus on policy presence and the labor of coherence-making.
Policy mobility in a globalised world: how ideas and practices of governance and management travel, settle and colonise new domains