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This panel presents research that goes beyond normative images of the state and state relations that rely on boundaries, hierarchies, bureaucracies and dichotomies. The presentations re-evaluate the processes and interactions that constitute the state.
Literature on the state often explicitly or implicitly struggles with the concept of the state as something that can and should be analytically isolated from the rest of the social world. As such, the state has at least hypothetical boundaries (that can be also imagined, shifting, blurred or negotiated) outside or inside which various other actors are perceived to exist. Moreover, the state is imagined, described and analysed as vertical or at least as being in competition with other vertical structures. Such approaches inevitably lead to interpretations that give priority to a proper, "correct" form of the state. Various actors then seem to enact, interface with, escape or compete with this (ideal form of) the state and variously strengthen, weaken, corrupt it or make it fail. This panel presents ethnographically-based research that goes beyond such normativity and questions the direction of power dynamics (vertical, horizontal or something else) as well as the boundaries and the inclusion/exclusion of various actors in "the state". Does the state come into being through work of bureaucracies or, quite to the contrary, through not being involved with them? Does the "will of the state" trickle down from the parliament or does it originate elsewhere? When looking at the interaction and the movement of people inside and outside bureaucracies, we can challenge the existence of boundaries and the supremacy of one or another entity or activity in the context of the state and its coming into existence.