Online AnthroState Talks 2021-2022
These talks took place on Zoom.
AnthroState Talk I: Thursday 25 November, 4PM (CET): Writing the State, Anthropologically by Anouk de Koning (Leiden University)
This talk uses my struggle to write anthropologically about the welfare state in Amsterdam/The Netherlands to reflect on the state of the anthropology of the state. In dealing with conundrums and divergent reactions to my attempts at writing the state, ranging from enthusiastic to damning, I was reminded of Marcus’ 2008 critique of what he called a neo-pluralist orthodoxy in anthropological approaches to the state. He argued that most anthropologists use an implicit theorisation of the state as one of a number of powerful actors, but rarely explicitly theorise the state and state powers. My own experiences trying to write about the welfare state point to a similar lack of explicit theorisation, combined with deeply dissonant views of and engagements with the state. In this talk, I will first set out two attempts at writing the state and the divergent reactions I/we received, and indicate why I think they point to an undertheorisation of the state combined with deeply ingrained moral positions vis-a-vis that ubiquitous yet elusive entity.
AnthroState Talk II: Thursday 20 January, 4PM (CET): Questioning the Anthropology of the State: Reflections on Intersubjectivity in Danish Welfare State Policing by Mette-Louise E. Johansen (VIVE)
In this talk, I will take up the concept of inter-subjectivity as an analytical starting point for the anthropological investigation of welfare state relationality. Based on six years of ethnographic fieldwork with Danish police officers engaged in various reformatory interventions, such as gang exit programs and counter-radicalization programs, I will discuss how interpersonal state encounters serve as drivers of welfare state interventions. I focus on a case in which a Danish gang exit program engages police officers and gang defectors in a project that focuses on belonging. The project implies that gang defectors cut off relationships to the gang environment, which often include ties of belonging to close friends and family relatives. During this process, the police officers become “significant others” placed in a position of trust, who can temporarily replace kin and social relations, and function as “hinges” to a new (non-criminal) and allegedly “better” social world. I will use the case of the exit program to show the inherently intimate aspect of the notion of belonging, in which kin and state relatedness are deeply rooted in interpersonal spaces and relationships.
AnthroState Talk III: Thursday 31 March, 4 PM (CET): Encamped States: The State of the Camp in Kakuma Refugee Camp and Kalobeyei Integrated Settlement by Stefan Millar (Max Planck Institute)
In this presentation, I examine the role of states in the encamped context of Kakuma Refugee Camp and Kalobeyei Integrated Settlement, Kenya. Previous research focusing on refugee camps has largely side-lined the presence of states, tending to overemphasise the camp as an Agambenian ‘state of exception’ (1998). This is partly a consequence of the traditional role played by the UNHCR in managing such camps instead of the state, prompting some to define the UNHCR as a ‘surrogate state’ (Slaughter & Crisp, 2008) for refugees. However, as of 2016, the Kenyan state has been taking increasing responsibility for refugee protection in Kenya, forcing refugees to engage and negotiate with a previously distant state. In addition, refugees themselves can be representative of foreign states, acting on behalf of external states within the camp. To understand this complexity, I build upon approaches that emphasise how the state is constituted through relations (Thelen, Vetters & Benda-Beckmann, 2017), practices (Bierschenk & Oliver de Sardan, 2014), and sovereign claims (Bryant & Reeves, 2021). By drawing upon a range of ethnographic data from my fieldwork in Kakuma and Kalobeyei between 2018 – 2019, I detail the increasing presence of state actors in former UNHCR institutional roles, such as refugee registration and repatriation. The state becomes constituted at such sites of interaction and negotiation between refugees, humanitarian agents, foreign state agents, and the emerging state bodies involved in refugee affairs. Therefore, I utilise the conceptual framework of encamped states to argue the state in Kakuma is both categorised by its multiplicity and mobility: multiplicity, because of the variety of different states that can be represented within the camps; and mobility in the sense that state actors, their relations and practices are not fixed, but rather adaptable to changing political conditions within the camp and beyond.
AnthroState Talk IV: Thursday 12 May, 4 PM (CET): Provocative Policing: Colonial Legacies and States of (in)security in Turkey by Deniz Yonucu (Newcastle University)
How can we understand the state security apparatus as a provocative force—one that incites counterviolence, perpetual conflict, and ethnosectarian discord? Drawing on her recent book, Police, Provocation, Politics: Counterinsurgency in Istanbul (Cornell University Press, 2022), Yonucu presents a counterintuitive analysis of contemporary policing practices, focusing particular attention on affect-and-emotion-generating provocative policing techniques and their divisive urban dimensions. Situating Turkish policing within a global context and combining archival work and oral history narratives with ethnographic research, she will demonstrate how counterinsurgency strategies from the Cold War and decolonial eras continue to inform contemporary urban policing in Istanbul.
2019 Network meeting
The first meeting of our EASA Anthropologies of the State network was held on 30 October – 1 November 2019 in Leiden, and focused on situated genealogies of anthropological thinking about the state. This meeting examined the embeddedness of approaches to the state in particular intellectual and everyday traditions and locations, those of the anthropologist and the sites where they work.
Read the call here.