Evolving humanity, emerging worlds
Manchester, UK; 5th-10th August 2013
Towards a universal paradigm in political anthropology (IUAES Commission on Theoretical Anthropology)
Location University Place 4.205
Date and Start Time 09 Aug, 2013 at 14:30
A universal paradigm in political anthropology will emerge out of critical revaluation of Eurocentrist hegemonic approaches. It will be built around hitherto unused and unknown data coming from the the wide spectrum of world anthropologies.
Epistemologically the theory of political anthropology has thus far resulted from Eurocentrist hegemonism. Equally, the ethnography used in theory building has also been methodologically derived from the same sources. Many misunderstandings and misinterpretations arose from this imbalance. If political anthropology is to offer persuasive and unbiased analyses of various problems of contemporary world but also of the past conflicts and other political conundrums it will have to take into account both theories and ethnographic data which reflect the epistemological pluralism. We have not only a growing number of anthropologies that offer their varied views on the globalized world of today but also the same events, structures and processes of the past acquire new meaning. The aim of the proposed panel is to draw into political anthropology hitherto unknown or unused data from anthropologically less explored areas and eras that originate from often neglected anthropologies. The panelists representing a wide spectrum of political anthropological approaches are expected to challenge received wisdoms and thus contribute to the emergence of an altogether new paradigm that is both a product of the world community of political anthropologists but also makes sense of the wealth of data that until now were left untapped. Obviously within this new paradigm the basic concepts and methods will have to be scrutinized anew just because so many theoretical precepts might or will be found inadequate.
Chair: Petr Skalník
Discussant: John Gledhill
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Beyond the anthropology of the postcolonial State: A view from the margins
Political anthropological studies of the "postcolonial" State fail to challenge Eurocentric comparative perspectives that obscure links and processes of global domination. Understanding the State from its "margins" can be more fruitful only if such margins are not located exclusively in the "South".
Latin American, Asian, and African countries are often lumped together as "postcolonial". Some analyses classify these "new" nations as "weak" or even "failed" in accordance with their distance from the liberal democratic baseline. Such comparative perspectives are not entirely challenged by anthropological analyses that "disaggregate" the State into the multitude of practices and representations in which it appears in everyday life. This useful procedure is seldom directed to countries like the US or the UK, as supposedly strong and developed states. Moreover, the concomitant critique of the "legacy of colonialism" may obscure contemporary processes of global domination and local strategies of resistance to such domination. Framing States in transnational dynamics may thus be more fruitful than dichotomizing between North and South. A focus on the translocality of the national State also casts new light on the notion of "its margins". Taking such margins as the rule rather than the exception, we can go beyond an emphasis on local appropriations of modern liberal rationalities to understand how the State is actually produced in the multiple spaces where political action occurs. Deemed marginal with respect to the hegemonic centres of intellectual production, anthropologists from "peripheral" countries have nonetheless a central role to play in this respect: they conceptualize the "State" which affects them and which they construct through dialogues with subjects who are also fellow citizens.
On correlation of the political and ethnogenetic processes: potestarity as ethnogenetic modus
A correlation of the political and ethnogenetic processes leads to unified and homogeneity of the potestal-political formation. All this creates the ethnopotestarity organisms. Such mechanism of the emergence of the ethnicity is the modus of potestarity.
In ethnological theory an ethnogenetic process is treated as the unity of several moduses such as autohtonity, ethnolinguistic continuity, migration and dispersion. At the same time existing data about various ethnic groups let us expands this list of the moduses by the modus of potestarity. For example, a lot of great ethnoses of the contemporary Sub-Saharan Africa (the Ashanti, the Malinke, the Yoruba, the Bakuba, the Banyarwanda, the Baganda, the Zulus, the Bagirmi etc.) appeared as the result of potestarity-political processes of precolonial epoch. An ethnonymics gives testify this, because many African ethnonyms are obviously derivative from the politonyms, and even coincides with the names of the polities. The latter in most cases are the toponyms and usually are the names of the capital of the polity.
The potestal-political structure and first of all the unified system of power and government are conducive to strengthen a wholeness of the political organisms, because it ensures a domestic intensive contacts and exchange of information. Another words, it stabilizes of the political system and creates the pre-conditions for consolidation of inhabitants into the unified cultural and linguistic communality. A correlation of the ethnogenetic and political processes leaded the inhabitants to self-awareness of their ethnic specific features. The latter is denotes the unified and homogeneity of the potestal-political formation. Naturally all this creates the ethnopotestarity organisms. Such mechanism of the emergence of the ethnicity is the modus of potestarity.
Politics as a language of power
Ethnographic approaches to politics in contemporay anthropology show that State and Nation are ideas and discourses historically and socially crerated to figure out and build the today power relationships. We can then analyze politics as an historically located Language of Power.
Ethnographic approaches to politics in contemporay anthropology and sociology show that ideas and discourses of Politics, State and Nation have been historically and variedly created to support rasing power relations. These ideas have been particullarly useful to build the new contradictory world order all along the uneven defeat of the old forms-languages of power, based on different mythologies and fetiscisms (religion, or kingdom, for example). Politics, Nation, and State appeared as real entities to the contemporary generations. However, recent researchers of politics (Ahkil Gupta, James Ferguson, Monique Nuijten, Michael Taussig, Timothy Mitchell, William Roseberry, among many others) have shown that part of the strongness of this idea of Politics lays in its character of idea-discursse that naturalizes power relationships and constrains fights and conflicts into political arenas. Anthropology can deal with politics, then, as a form of magical and mytological language of power of the today world.
The Mark of the State: Corporeal Inscriptions and Narco Violence in Mexico
This paper utilizes ethnographic and visual data derived from the recent upsurge of violence in Mexico in order to show how specific forms of cartel inspired violence are not only enacted via a similar logic to the that of the State but also serve as a necessary supplement to its existence.
Whether in the form of the destructive force of international capital on the lives of farmers, the occasional clashes between the armed forces of the State and an endless array of guerrilla groups, or the murders and rapes that have become synonymous with attempts to cross the Mexican/U.S. border, violence is very much a part of the everyday lives of Mexican people. However, a federally coordinated crackdown on drug cartels over the last five years has generated a level of violence that far exceeds anything most Mexicans have ever experienced. This paper draws upon visual and ethnographic materials documenting the recent upsurge in government and cartel sponsored violence in Mexico in order to contribute to a universal understanding of the State. Specifically, I highlight the ways that State fetishism in Mexico and the inviolability of the State rely on a specific use of the sacred that is generated in those public displays of excess that point to how one's adversaries await a fate far worse than death. Through an analysis of recent accounts of violence along with visual images of criminals, weaponry, and violent acts I argue that the expanse of the State in Mexico is such that even violence perpetrated against the federal government by groups that are commonly assumed to be its enemy such as drug cartels, and paramilitary groups, is not only enacted via a similar logic to that of its avowed enemy, but serves as a necessary supplement to its existence.
Critique of Tribe, State and Stateless Political Systems in North East India
Much developments in modern day political anthropology are seen globally but South Asian social anthropology failed to critically explore the interconnectedness of the domains of kinship, politics and law mainly in stateless systems.
Northeast India exemplifies multiple polity configuration and authority patterns amongst hills tribespeople who are stretched in acephalous 'tribes', chieftaincies, and 'kingdoms', which are implicitly recognised in federal arrangement of modern state. Sadly no critical analysis of indigenous polity, governmental and jural roles of social organization, native laws in organizing territorial units and impact of modern democratic institutions on them is made. This paper shows limitations of exported anthropological models in portrayal of social formation, territory, and modern ethnicity (secessionism) which have variously influenced the indigenous polities. It is urged that new paradigms need to be distinguished in place of concepts of government of acephalous / stateless 'tribes', 'Headmen' /'Big-men', territory and territorial competition. Using fresh field data the author provides comparison of varied models and flaws involved. Much developments in modern day political anthropology, and by extension 'legal anthropology', is seen globally but South Asian social anthropology failed to critically explore the interconnectedness of the domains of kinship, politics and law mainly in stateless systems, where conceptions of power, authority, rights and privileges are not confined only to unilineal descent groups and territorial divisions but spread through cognatic/matrifiliation and age- sets too. Transformation of clan/lineage elders/headmen as key figures in 'Law-Enforcement' and their 'accommodation' as new Avatar in modern federal organization, while adhering to 'customary law' based adjudication role, remain neglected area of study.
Tribal state : Genesis and Development of incomplete Statehood
Tribal statehood is closely linked with five main factors: the ecology, technology, peoples' organisation, territorial consciousness and ritual practices for boundary maintenance . The hegemony of the emergent clan results in a hierarchy of power that led to formation of incipient statehood.
Binjhals, a pluri clan based tribe , living in western part of Odisha, India and extended to the boardng states like Chattishgarh keep their myths alive through ritual practices every yera . The reconstraction of territorial consciousness among clan members of dominant clan is expressed through rites and rituals that are in the fading memmory of the people which can be reconstructed through demographic distribution and clan concentration, the inter-clan cluster marriage hierarchy and the relative resource holding in terms of individual and community rights over natural resources as of now . The existing theories of origin and development of tribal statehood remains inadequate to understand the dynamism of political structure . The paper tries to link between the existing theories of tribal state formation and explains how among Binjhal unlike other tribes of India and South East countries the statehood in its genesis and development the theories remain inadequate .
Ethnography and Theory: An Exploration of Political Anthropology
The paper discusses the situation in India, a country of many tribes. It will explore the pertinence of the ongoing political anthropological theories in explaining the scenario wherein the indigenous governance oscillates between 'deciding' and 'receiving'.
Political anthropology emerged as comparatively a late development (after 1940) encapsulating the revolutionary and emerging global trends in the areas of authority, power, peace and development. At micro level, at community specific level the reality of ethnographic research raises questions that need to be adequately addressed. Terms like 'colonial' and 'post colonial' times and areas , 'developed', 'developing' and 'third world countries', all convey the need to take into account the political economy of different countries or cultures. The present paper endeavours to discuss the situation in India. India is a country of many tribes. These tribes have lived for ages in states of partial or full isolation - a reality rendered out of territorial and political reasons. After India gained independence from the colonial rule, it came up with one constitution ushering in fresh measures like the Panchayati Raj, the 'Sixth Schedule', the 'Fifth Schedule' - provisions which brought about alterations in the traditional political organization of the tribes. The paper shall attempt to explore the pertinence of the ongoing political anthropological theories in explaining the aforesaid scenario wherein the indigenous governance oscillates between 'deciding' and 'receiving', the actual picture being revealed through ethnographic research.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.