Ethnographic Perspectives on the State | Humanities & Social Sciences

Ethnographic Perspectives on the State

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Course Objective

This is a seminar-style course designed to critically interrogate the concept of the state as an object of ethnographic enquiry. The course will attempt to disaggregate the state as a taken-for-granted entity or institution and focus on the multiple ways in which the state can be realized as an idea or ‘effect’.


Course Content

Traditionally studied by political scientists, the state has increasingly come to be regarded as an object of anthropological study. Ethnographic perspectives on the state seek to open up the state to critical scrutiny, dislodging it as a monolithic conceptual or territorial apparatus. These studies allow us to think of the state beyond governmentality or bureaucracy, to engaging with the multiple ways in which state ‘effects’ shape our engagement with it. How does the ‘idea’ of the state constrain the way in which we ‘think’ the state? What are the ethnographic sites through which the state emerges as an object of study, e.g., bureaucracy, law, sexuality, marriage, citizenship, borders etc? The course will consist of seminars designed around a set of readings, which will be discussed in detail each week.

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