Political and Legal Anthropology


Political and Legal Anthropology

A forum for considering issues relevant to the anthropological study of law and politics, in all of its myriad interpretations.

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Conference: Beyond the One-Size-Fits-All Model of 'Transitional Justice'

Started by Safet HadziMuhamedovic Aug 13, 2013.

Festschrift VALTAZAR BOGISIC 1 Reply

Started by Urednik Bogisic. Last reply by Francesco Florindi Jan 20, 2012.

Human rights imperialism? 3 Replies

Started by Toby Austin Locke. Last reply by K A Serres Nov 14, 2011.

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Comment by Philip Carl SALZMAN on June 9, 2009 at 9:16pm
On the side of the anthropology of law, there is quite an extensive and lively discussion about intellectual property in the OAC Policy group. A central question is the approach of OAC to legal copyright. Following this is the question of what to do if you disapprove of the laws in place. I think we could say that this is a case of our own participant observation.
Comment by Karen Ann Faulk on June 9, 2009 at 7:01pm
Felix -- very interesting. Thanks. So, perhaps an approach that takes a
careful look at how specifically defined actors navigate and generate
political realities, both in small localized situations (within and in the
process of forming a group) and more broadly in dynamic interaction with
existing political structures and institutions, may safely be called a
‘political anthropology of politics.´
What do you (and everyone else) think?
Comment by Khari La Marca on June 9, 2009 at 1:55pm
Just joining the group.
Comment by Felix Girke on June 9, 2009 at 11:48am
Yes and no - the distinction between political "process" and "institutions" is where the distinction I am making for my own understanding of the academic discipline most visibly manifests. Don't get me wrong: I am not talking about phenomena which I then go on to divide into "process" or "institutions". That would, as you gently intimate, be somewhat disingenous, and would not really add to our insight at all.
Instead, please read my comment as a somewhat surprised statement that I find that it is still possible to apply this distinction to the field (as constituted by people's writing) and achieve some sort of a match. Is that making things clearer?
I would not say that the distinction between "process" and "structure" even adequately mirrors this methodological, nay, philosophical difference.
In the end it is me saying that I find the field of "political anthropology of politics" to be as ill-defined as any other, BUT there is this one schema which I apply to categorize approaches I stumble across. YMMV.
Comment by Philip Carl SALZMAN on June 8, 2009 at 10:51pm
I don't want to oversimplify, Felix, but it sounds to me like a distinction between "political process" and "political structure."
Comment by Felix Girke on June 8, 2009 at 4:04pm
Karen, alright, I'll bite: this is a heuristic which I use to distinguish between approaches which aim to draw out the political animal and which take empirical examples about social behavior as material from which to generate insight into how "politics" (i.e., getting things done in the world in cooperation or competition) work ("political anthropology", i.e. Bailey et al.), and approaches which seem more interested in the analysis of specific institutions and social fields defined deductively as "the political" ("the anthropology of politics"). It's obviously no hard and fast divide; it is more of a quick categorization which takes account how inductive/deductive an approach is, how much interest lies on specific interactions and maneuverings of identifiable people vs. more normative and abstract questions on government, legitimacy, etc.
Does that seem useful to you? I believe there are these tendencies, and while I am not sure what the direct benefit is of making it, I am much more sure that glossing over it is not going to do any good at all.
This from the top of my head, so caveat emptor.
Comment by Philip Carl SALZMAN on June 8, 2009 at 3:41pm
What a good idea: to review Freddie Bailey. When I was a grad student at the U. of Chicago, I took a course of his. Many years ago, I taught his STRATAGEMS AND SPOILS (1969) in a political anthropology course. He sent me a revised version called TREASONS, STRATAGEMS, AND SPOILS (2001). He has written since STRATAGEMS, first a couple of books based on northern Mediterranean research, then nine more general politics books. It would be wonderful to have a review essay of his work, the more inclusive the better. Maybe this is more than you have signed up for, Felix.
Comment by Karen Ann Faulk on June 8, 2009 at 2:50pm
Felix, could you please say more on what you feel this difference to be (between "anthropology of politics" and "political anthropology")?
Comment by Felix Girke on June 8, 2009 at 10:12am
Hm, I was wondering about Freddie Bailey's newest work - something with both Hitler and Gandhi it the title must be speaking about politics in a very general sense. Until I get my fingers on it (anyone want me to write a review?), I refer back to his previous "The saving lie" (2003, yes?), which like so much early Bailey for me drives home once more the point that there is a difference between "anthropology of politics" and "political anthropology".
Comment by Philip Carl SALZMAN on June 4, 2009 at 8:32pm
Thanks, Carole, for the suggestion. The question of the dalits, especially reserved places for them, drove my "clean caste" friends in Rajasthan wild. This was one of the main issues, along with dowry costs, that appeared to be constantly on the minds of a wide range of folks. So this book is very welcome.

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