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Look Inside Anthropology, Politics, and the State

Anthropology, Politics, and the State
Democracy and Violence in South Asia


Part of New Departures in Anthropology

  • Date Published: July 2007
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521777469

£ 23.99

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About the Authors
  • In recent years anthropology has rediscovered its interest in politics. Building on the findings of this research, this book, first published in 2007, analyses the relationship between culture and politics, with special attention to democracy, nationalism, the state and political violence. Beginning with scenes from an unruly early 1980s election campaign in Sri Lanka, it covers issues from rural policing in north India to slum housing in Delhi, presenting arguments about secularism and pluralism, and the ambiguous energies released by electoral democracy across the subcontinent. It ends by discussing feminist peace activists in Sri Lanka, struggling to sustain a window of shared humanity after two decades of war. Bringing together and linking the themes of democracy, identity and conflict, this important new study shows how anthropology can take a central role in understanding other people's politics, especially the issues that seem to have divided the world since 9/11.

    • Synthesizes the most important recent approaches to the anthropology of politics
    • Offers an anthropological approach to the issues of democracy and nationalism
    • Illustrated with first-hand accounts of events of politics and political violence in India and Sri Lanka
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Spencer variously builds upon and critiques the contributions of sub-alternism and classic political anthropology to the topic … The author does a good job of deconstructing the sometimes limiting frameworks of a number of key thinkers on the subject; arguing that the eagerness to invest politics into 'stateless' societies has led the discipline, to its detriment, to draw focus away from the study of the state in favour of instrumentality … this book is an accessible and well written contribution to South Asian studies and political anthropology more generally. Spencer's writing style and the clarity and persuasiveness of his analysis make this broadly conceived work a valuable contribution to the field.' Nations and Nationalism

    'The book champions the structuring of theory around ethnography, and opposes epistemological strait-jacketing through wide-eyed empiricism … This is an exciting book for anthropologists, but students and scholars from other disciplines would also be impressed by the conviction in Spencer's arguments and the diversity of case studies.' Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

    'Spencer, a professor of anthropology at Edinburgh, makes a good case, drawing heavily on a wide reading of anthropological theory, a sprinkling of comparative South Asian case studies, and a strong dose of his own Sri Lanka-focused expertise. Anthropology, Politics and the State is a valuable reminder of the importance of scepticism in research, and of the crucial role primary fieldwork plays.' Alexander Evans, Contemporary South Asia

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2007
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521777469
    • length: 218 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 155 x 17 mm
    • weight: 0.366kg
    • contains: 5 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. The strange death of political anthropology
    2. Locating the political
    3. Culture, nation and misery
    4. Performing democracy
    5. The state and self-making
    6. The state and violence
    7. Pluralism in theory, pluralism in practice
    8. Politics and counter-politics.

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • Anthropology of Conflict and Peacebuilding
    • Anthropology of South Asia
    • Political Anthropology
    • Problems in the Anhtropology of South Asia
    • State Formation and Social Movements
  • Author

    Jonathan Spencer, University of Edinburgh
    Jonathan Spencer is Professor of the Anthropology of South Asia at the University of Edinburgh.

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