Accepted Paper:

Blame-sharing, the state and faulty persons: uncovering violence in public and private  


Narmala Halstead (University of Sussex)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines interactions between state and people as an untangling of two kinds of morality to illustrate the roles of violence and public sanction against faulty persons in the enforcing of cosmopolitan spaces for the law. A new emphasis on disclosing individuals as law-breakers reinforces the legitimacy of state and re-positions it as caring.

Paper long abstract:

This paper considers the production of the state in Guyana as a singular caring body through a focus on particular persons as the problem. Certain individuals within familial settings as well as those in public office are unveiled as faulty persons where the problem of violence and injustice is seen to be the failure of persons to demonstrate care and responsibility. This failure is engaged through a kind of moral responsibility which is at odds with a morality that has also sanctioned illegal practices: illegality became 'normalised' within everyday settings following economic and political instability from the 1970s. The new emphasis on the law as an ethos of shared responsibility co-resides with a new publicness of violence carried out in domestic settings. Suddenly, as part of various state and NGO's initiatives, people are being named, shamed and criminalized in unprecedented ways for hitting a loved one or carrying out other forms of abuse. The outcry and publicity create a distinctive public person representative of an emergent violent space. The uncovering of violence in the name of rights repositions the state in a cosmopolitan space: however, this space is also reliant on blame-sharing where certain individuals have to be separated from both the state and the family and held as culpable. Whilst particular state actors endeavour to use universal laws as an external source of empowerment, they also draw on 'community morality' to demonstrate others in local settings that are also produced as 'cosmopolitan.'

Panel W036
Vernacular cosmopolitanisms in an age of anxiety