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A caring state in a negative moment? 
Saana Hansen (University of Helsinki)
Florence Ncube (University of Johannesburg)
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Madeleine Reeves (University of Oxford)
Tuesday 23 July, -, -
Time zone: Europe/Madrid
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Short Abstract:

This panel asks how state–citizen relations are refashioned and affectively entangled in contexts where planning futures remains challenging and state care provisions are limited and unequally distributed. How, when the state is also feared and distrusted, can it still serve as carer-in-chief?

Long Abstract:

This panel investigates how state–citizen care relations are dismantled and reconstituted during uncertain times. Some argue that states generally do less vis-a-vis citizens’ welfare and that ‘the resources they are able to extract and distribute are becoming smaller’ (Sharma & Gupta 2006). Others claim the role of the state is likely to diminish, with non-state organisations replacing its core functions. Furthermore, as the literature on state affects shows, states are often experienced through fear and violence (e.g., Laszczkovski & Reeves 2018).

This panel complicates such views by empirically investigating and analytically examining the Janus-faced nature of the state, illustrating how the state nevertheless reproduces its authority and portrays itself as a distributive authority, that is, as ‘carer-in-chief’ (Holbaard 2021). This panel builds upon the anthropology of the state, showing how the state operates at different levels and is constituted through people’s everyday encounters with frontline state agents. Although the state is often defined and experienced as cold and coercive, this panel is motivated by recent anthropological attempts to redefine public services beyond their dysfunctionality in Africa and elsewhere in the Global South (Biershenk & Olivier de Sardan 2014, Gupta 2012).

We welcome papers that consider how affects circulate in ground-level encounters and interactions between state agents and their ‘clients’, constituting ‘the substance of politics’ (Stoler 2004). Submissions can also scrutinise how state authority is reproduced by mobilising and distributing resources the state does not itself supply, such as aid, family resources, or mobility rights.

Accepted papers:

Session 1 Tuesday 23 July, 2024, -
Session 2 Tuesday 23 July, 2024, -