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Anthropology, Politics, and the State: Democracy and by Jonathan Spencer

By Jonathan Spencer

In recent times anthropology has rediscovered its curiosity in politics. construction at the findings of this study, this publication deals a brand new means of analysing the connection among tradition and politics, with targeted realization to democracy, nationalism, the nation and political violence. starting with scenes from an unruly early Nineteen Eighties election crusade in Sri Lanka, it covers concerns from rural policing in north India to slum housing in Delhi, providing arguments approximately secularism and pluralism, and the ambiguous energies published via electoral democracy around the subcontinent. It ends through discussing feminist peace activists in Sri Lanka, suffering to maintain a window of shared humanity after twenty years of battle. Bringing jointly and linking the subjects of democracy, id and clash, this significant new research exhibits how anthropology can take a significant function in figuring out different people's politics, in particular the problems that appear to have divided the realm on the grounds that Sept. 11.

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In all these cases, the pursuit of politics and political struggle in other places not normally thought of as political – in domesticity, styles of dress, religious, and other idioms – was a kind of redemptive act, a gesture of hope in an otherwise bleak political landscape. The price, though, could be either indifference, or even hostility, to what people themselves might take to be the political. A good empirical example of this can be found in Scott’s own ethnography (1985). Scott’s Weapons of the Weak is a meticulous account of the ways in which agricultural labourers in a village in Malaysia undermine the authority and power of the local landowners.

Much of their income comes from so-called ‘land business’ – acting as hired enforcers for the urban middle classes whose property interests are no longer adequately protected by the creaky machinery of the formal legal system – but their fame derives in large part from their role as fighters in the city’s intermittent Hindu– Muslim clashes. A story about an older wrestler’s retirement from street violence in the late 1970s provides a different twist to Alter’s argument: Since each one of us interprets the world from the limited view we have of it, Sufi Pehlwan too saw the deterioration of the country through his particular professional lens.

Adams 1998: 194–5) These examples from Nepal bring out a number of themes which will be explored later in this book. Obviously, both ethnographers are explicitly concerned with the cultural consequences of political modernity: Burghart in tracing the persistence and ubiquity of his lordly social idiom, Adams in stressing the cultural specificity of the ‘universal’ language of science, rights, and democracy. Both can be read as telling us something quite important about the difficulties of drawing bounds round ‘the political’: the practices and assumptions which structure the strikes and demonstrations, in Burghart’s account of the mid-1980s, also structure his encounter with the Cobblers in his guise as visiting expert.

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