How ambivalence matters: new critical approach to anthropological engagements with the state
(Utrecht University )
Paper short abstract:
I introduce importance of studying ambivalence in anthropological study of the state. The paper pushes the debates on affective states and hopes for the state by showing how new complexities emerge from studying conflicting dispositions with reference to future, which did not receive much attention.
Paper long abstract:
Inspired by Gramsci and Foucault, anthropology of the state to a large extent started to privilege studying subjects who resist, oppose or evade state/state-craft (cf. Scott 1985; Clastre 1977). Such focus left aside studying people's investments in statecraft and their hopes for the state, the approaches which recently emerged (Jansen 2015). In this paper I critically build upon this debate to introduce a fresh angle to anthropological engagements with the state: I introduce importance of studying ambivalence, while approaching the state from the perspective of everyday concerns of the people who would be its subjects. I base this argument on my ethnographic research in a Serbian copper-processing town, where I focused on people's affective and practical investments in ordering statecraft through industrial company (the state's proxy). I suggest that the focus on conflicting dispositions with reference to future entails an advantaged domain for the anthropological study of the state especially because people's encounters with the state (and the 'state effects') consist of encounters with the social, political, and economic conditions on which people depend on, and which more often than not "work against" them. Such interplay produces ambivalence which impacts particular forms of statecraft. My research on ambivalence pushes the debates on affective states and "hopes for the state" by showing new complexities that emerge from studying, so far unexplored, notion of ambivalence. I argue that, rather than hope alone, ambivalence, which entails hope and various conflicting dispositions, is involved in the production of the state.
Anthropologies of the state: critical interventions, new directions [Roundtable]