The last two weeks here at Allegra have been dedicated to all things #Anthrostate. To continue the theme, we have handpicked some of our favourite new releases in the field, and are launching the list together with a call for reviews. If you are interested in reviewing one of the books featured, contact Allegra’s reviews editor Judith Beyer or reviews assistant Rosie Gant at email@example.com and they will happily send out a copy!
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Bauman, Zygmunt, and Carlo Bordoni. 2014. State of Crisis. Cambridge: Polity Press. 180 pp. Pb: €18.90. ISBN: 9780745680958.
Today we hear much talk of crisis and comparisons are often made with the Great Depression of the 1930s, but there is a crucial difference that sets our current malaise apart from the 1930s: today we no longer trust in the capacity of the state to resolve the crisis and to chart a new way forward. In our increasingly globalized world, states have been stripped of much of their power to shape the course of events. Many of our problems are globally produced but the volume of power at the disposal of individual nation-states is simply not sufficient to cope with the problems they face. This divorce between power and politics produces a new kind of paralysis. It undermines the political agency that is needed to tackle the crisis and it saps citizens’ belief that governments can deliver on their promises. The impotence of governments goes hand in hand with the growing cynicism and distrust of citizens. Hence the current crisis is at once a crisis of agency, a crisis of representative democracy and a crisis of the sovereignty of the state.
In this book the world-renowned sociologist Zygmunt Bauman and fellow traveller Carlo Bordoni explore the social and political dimensions of the current crisis. While this crisis has been greatly exacerbated by the turmoil following the financial crisis of 2007-8, Bauman and Bordoni argue that the crisis facing Western societies is rooted in a much more profound series of transformations that stretch back further in time and are producing long-lasting effects.
Bierschenk, Thomas and Olivier De Sardan, Jean-Pierre (eds.). 2014. States at Work. Dynamics of African Bureaucracies. Leiden: Brill. 400 pp. Pb: €62,00. ISBN: 9789004264786.
States at Work explores the mundane practices of state-making in Africa by focussing on the daily functioning of public services and the practices of civil servants. Adopting mainly an ethnographic approach as a basis for theorizing, the authors deal with topics including: bureaucratic cultures and practical norms, operational routines in offices, career patterns and modes of appointment; how bureaucrats themselves perceive and deliver goods and services and interact with service users; the accumulation of public administration reforms and how the different bureaucratic corps react to the ‘good governance’ discourse and new public management policies; the consequences of these reforms for the daily working of state bureaucracies and for the civil servants’ identities and modes of accountability; and the space that exists for bottom-up micro-reforms that build on local innovations or informal arrangements.
Bourdieu, Pierre. 2015. On the State. 480 pp. Hb: €38.00. ISBN: 9780745663296.
What is the nature of the modern state? How did it come into being and what are the characteristics of this distinctive field of power that has come to play such a central role in the shaping of all spheres of social, political and economic life?
In this major work the great sociologist Pierre Bourdieu addresses these fundamental questions. Modifying Max Weber’s famous definition, Bourdieu defines the state in terms of the monopoly of legitimate physical and symbolic violence, where the monopoly of symbolic violence is the condition for the possession and exercise of physical violence. The state can be reduced neither to an apparatus of power in the service of dominant groups nor to a neutral site where conflicting interests are played out: rather, it constitutes the form of collective belief that structures the whole of social life. The ‘collective fiction’ of the state – a fiction with very real effects – is at the same time the product of all struggles between different interests, what is at stake in these struggles, and their very foundation.
Conklin, William E. 2014. Statelessness: The Enigma of the International Community. Oxford: Hart Publishing. 380 pp. Hb: £60.00. ISBN: 9781849465076.
‘Statelessness’ is a legal status denoting lack of any nationality, a status whereby the otherwise normal link between an individual and a state is absent. The increasingly widespread problem of statelessness has profound legal, social, economic and psychological consequences but also gives rise to the paradox of an international community that claims universal standards for all natural persons while allowing its member states to allow statelessness to occur. In this powerfully argued book, Conklin critically evaluates traditional efforts to recognize and reduce statelessness. The problem, he argues, rests in the obligatory nature of law, domestic or international. By closely analysing a broad spectrum of court and tribunal judgments from many jurisdictions, Conklin explains how confusion has arisen between two discourses, the one discourse inside the other, as to the nature of the international community. One discourse, a surface discourse, describes a community in which international law justifies a state’s freedom to confer, withdraw or withhold nationality. This international community incorporates state freedom over nationality matters, bringing about the de jure and effective stateless condition. The other discourse, an inner discourse, highlights a legal bond of socially experienced relationships. Such a bond, judicially referred to as ‘effective nationality’, is binding upon all states, and where such a bond exists, harm to a stateless person represents harm to the international community as a whole.
Gardner, Katy and Lewis, David. 2015. Anthropology and Development: Challenges for the Twenty-First Century. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Pb: 224 pp. $32.00. ISBN: 9780745333649.
Western aid is in decline. New forms of aid, from within the developing countries themselves and elsewhere, are in the ascent, and a new set of global economic and political processes are shaping development in the twenty-first century. Katy Gardner and David Lewis have completely rewritten and updated their earlier, influential work, bringing it up to the present day. They engage with nearly two decades of continuity and change in the development industry, arguing in particular that while international development has expanded since the 1990s, it has become more rigidly technocratic. Anthropology & Development will serve as a reformulation of the field and as an excellent textbook for both graduate and undergraduates alike.
Geissler, Paul Wenzel (ed.). 2015. Para-States and Medical Science: Making African Global Health. Durham: Duke University Press. 376 pp. Pb $27.95. ISBN: 9780822357490.
In Para-States and Medical Science, P. Wenzel Geissler and the contributors examine how medicine and public health in Africa have been transformed as a result of economic and political liberalization and globalization, intertwined with epidemiological and technological changes. The resulting fragmented medical science landscape is shaped and sustained by transnational flows of expertise and resources. NGOs, universities, pharmaceutical companies and other nonstate actors now play a significant role in medical research and treatment. But as the contributors to this volume argue, these groups have not supplanted the primacy of the nation-state in Africa. Although not necessarily stable or responsive, national governments remain crucial in medical care, both as employers of health care professionals and as sources of regulation, access, and – albeit sometimes counterintuitively – trust for their people. “The state” has morphed into the “para-state” — not a monolithic and predictable source of sovereignty and governance, but a shifting, and at times ephemeral, figure. Tracing the emergence of the “global health” paradigm in Africa in the treatment of HIV, malaria, and leprosy, this book challenges familiar notions of African statehood as weak or illegitimate by elaborating complex new frameworks of governmentality that can be simultaneously functioning and dysfunctional.
Heidbrink, Lauren. 2014. Migrant Youth, Transnational Families, and the State. Care and Contested Interests. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 208 pp. Hb: $49.95. ISBN: 9780812246049.
Migrant Youth, Transnational Families, and the State examines the draconian immigration policies that detain unaccompanied migrant children and draws on U.S. historical, political, legal, and institutional practices to contextualize the lives of children and youth as they move through federal detention facilities, immigration and family courts, federal foster care programs, and their communities across the United States and Central America. Through interviews with children and their families, attorneys, social workers, policy-makers, law enforcement, and diplomats, anthropologist Lauren Heidbrink foregrounds the voices of migrant children and youth who must navigate the legal and emotional terrain of U.S. immigration policy. Cast as victims by humanitarian organizations and delinquents by law enforcement, these unauthorized minors challenge Western constructions of child dependence and family structure. Heidbrink illuminates the enduring effects of immigration enforcement on its young charges, their families, and the state, ultimately questioning whose interests drive decisions about the care and custody of migrant youth.
Krupa, Christopher and Nugent, David (eds.) 2015. State Theory and Andean Politics: New Approaches to the Study of Rule. Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press. 352 pp. Cloth: £45.50. ISBN: 9780812246940.
In the last few decades, Andean states have seen major restructuring of the organization, leadership, and reach of their governments. With these political tremors come major aftershocks, regarding both definitions and expectations: What is a state? Who or what makes it up, and where does it reside? In what capacity can the state be expected to right wrongs, raise people up, protect them from harm, maintain order, or provide public services? What are its powers and responsibilities?
State Theory and Andean Politics attempts to answer these questions and more through an examination of the ongoing process of state creation in Andean nations. Focusing on the everyday, extraofficial, and frequently invisible or partially concealed permutations of rule in the lives of Andean people, the essays explore the material and cultural processes by which states come to appear as real and tangible parts of everyday life. In particular, they focus on the critical role of emotion, imagination, and fantasy in generating belief in the state, among the governed and the governing alike. This approach pushes beyond the limits of the state as conventionally understood to consider how “nonstate” acts of governance intersect with official institutions of government, while never being entirely determined by them or bound to their authorizing agendas. State Theory and Andean Politicsasserts that the state is not simply an institutional-bureaucratic apparatus but one of many forces vying for a claim to legitimate political dominion.
Lavie, Smadar. 2014. Wrapped in the Flag of Israel: Mizrahi Single Mothers and Bureaucratic Torture. Oxford: Berghahn Books. 214 pp. Hb: $39.95. ISBN: 9781782382225.
What is the relationship between social protest movements in the State of Israel, violence in Gaza, and the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran? Why did the mass social protests in the State of Israel of summer 2011 ultimately fail? Wrapped in the Flag of Israel discusses social protest movements from the 2003 Single Mothers’ March led by Mizrahi Vicky Knafo, to the “Tahrir is Here” Israeli mass protests of summer 2011. Equating bureaucratic entanglements with pain—what, arguably, can be seen as torture, Smadar Lavie explores the conundrum of loving and staying loyal to a state that repeatedly inflicts pain on its non-European Jewish women citizens through its bureaucratic system. The book presents a model of bureaucracy as divine cosmology and posits that Israeli State bureaucracy is based on a theological essence that fuses the categories of religion, gender, and race into the foundation of citizenship.
Oberfield, Zachary W. 2014. Becoming Bureaucrats. Socialization at the Front Lines of Government Service. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 272 pp. Hb: £39.00. ISBN: 9780812246162.
In Becoming Bureaucrats, Zachary W. Oberfield traces the paths of two sets of public servants—police officers and welfare caseworkers—from their first day on the job through the end of their second year. Examining original data derived from surveys and in-depth interviews, along with ethnographic observations from the author’s year of training and work as a welfare caseworker,Becoming Bureaucrats charts how public-sector entrants develop their bureaucratic identities, motivations, and attitudes. Ranging from individual stories to population-wide statistical analysis, Oberfield’s study complicates the long-standing cliché that bureaucracies churn out bureaucrats with mechanical efficiency. He demonstrates that entrants’ bureaucratic personalities evolved but remained strongly tied to the views, identities, and motives that they articulated at the outset of their service. As such, he argues that who bureaucrats become and, as a result, how bureaucracies function, depends strongly on patterns of self-selection and recruitment.
Simpson, Audra. 2014. Mohawk Interruptus: Political Life Across the Borders of Settler States. Durham: Duke University Press. 280 pp. Pb: $23.95. ISBN: 9780822356554.
Mohawk Interruptus is a bold challenge to dominant thinking in the fields of Native studies and anthropology. Combining political theory with ethnographic research among the Mohawks of Kahnawà:ke, a reserve community in what is now southwestern Quebec, Audra Simpson examines their struggles to articulate and maintain political sovereignty through centuries of settler colonialism. The Kahnawà:ke Mohawks are part of the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois Confederacy. Like many Iroquois peoples, they insist on the integrity of Haudenosaunee governance and refuse American or Canadian citizenship. Audra Simpson thinks through this politics of refusal, which stands in stark contrast to the politics of cultural recognition. Tracing the implications of refusal, Simpson argues that one sovereign political order can exist nested within a sovereign state, albeit with enormous tension around issues of jurisdiction and legitimacy. Finally, Simpson critiques anthropologists and political scientists, whom, she argues, have too readily accepted the assumption that the colonial project is complete. Belying that notion, Mohawk Interruptus calls for and demonstrates more robust and evenhanded forms of inquiry into indigenous politics in the teeth of settler governance.