This panel explores diverse forms of state and non-state political encounter, in which adversaries attend reflexively to self-other divides of autonomy, language, institutional scale, and manipulability of impressions, in efforts to forge a common future.
In a neglected article, Lévi-Strauss (1949) suggested that the appropriate Western analogue to Nambikwara treatment of foreigners is to be found not in our concept of warfare (which tends to be total) but in 'the arts that we ourselves place at the service of foreign diplomacy'. Framed openly as the artful management of relations with others in the absence of very much linguistic and social common ground, 'diplomacy' seems a promising concept through which to bridge the ethnographic turn in the anthropology of the state (which has powerfully relativized notions of sovereignty, democracy and citizenship), and the opening up of the horizons of political thought that has been characteristic of the study of non-state or anti-state societies (e.g. Clastres 1977; Scott 2009). Uniting anthropologists working in state-saturated contexts with others working at distant frontiers or at interfaces between state and non-state social agents, the panel invites papers that seek to expand the purview of political anthropology through close attention to diplomatic strategies and styles. These could include, among other possibilities: considerations of hospitality, feasting and ritual means of incorporating adversaries; the orchestration of encounters and appearances through performance and gestural expression; skills of dialogue, greeting and oratory; gift, tribute and debt relationships which negotiate relative status and sovereignty; and strategies like blockade, parry and stand-off, by which adversaries test one another in ways which expose, while they also contain, a threat of violence.