Knowledge revealed and concealed: anthropologies of things unseen by the illiberal state 
Brian Harmon (Shandong University)
Start time:
16 May, 2014 at 15:30 (UTC+0)
Session slots:

Short Abstract:

This panel presents ethnographic evidence of local agency and knowledge emerging in complex relation to normative State-backed hierarchies of knowledge, value, sexuality and law in Russia and China.

Long Abstract

In this panel, we propose to conceptualize anthropology's encounters with a multiplicity of State and customary regimes of knowledge across Eurasia. With local people selectively challenging and manipulating the modernist State's hegemony as a purveyor of authoritative knowledge, anthropology's engagement with these (neo) traditional, non-Western registers of culture acquires a special significance. In this light, this panel engages several ethnographers with research agendas in social spaces formally governed by two States with long traditions in the normative categorization of difference and personal agency: Russia and China.

The following contributions are informed by a mutual interest in how contestations over value, law, and personhood between State and customary agents produce new regimes of knowledge. Furthermore, they explore the permutations of various anthropologies, as they intertwine with new realms - from legal or public anthropology's focus on agency within institutional contexts to ethnographies of sexuality and commodity value creation. Topics will address: Perceptions of public sociality and moral order in Jinan, China (Harmon); Gay persons' negotiations with social normativities about marriage and family in Beijing (Tan); Local knowledge and hierarchies of social value among tea cultivators in Fujian Province, China (Shu); Shamanic (religious) interventions into social tensions ungovernable by the State in Asiatic Russia (Zorbas). The contributions thus aspire to consolidating anthropology's future orientations as a political and epistemological discourse at the interstices of contemporary statecraft and society in Eurasia.

Accepted papers: