States of Imagination

Ethnographic Explorations of the Postcolonial State

States of Imagination

Politics, History, and Culture

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Book Pages: 432 Illustrations: Published: December 2001

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, History > World History, Sociology

The state has recently been rediscovered as an object of inquiry by a broad range of scholars. Reflecting the new vitality of the field of political anthropology, States of Imagination draws together the best of this recent critical thinking to explore the postcolonial state. Contributors focus on a variety of locations from Guatemala, Pakistan, and Peru to India and Ecuador; they study what the state looks like to those seeing it from the vantage points of rural schools, police departments, small villages, and the inside of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Focusing on the micropolitics of everyday state-making, the contributors examine the mythologies, paradoxes, and inconsistencies of the state through ethnographies of diverse postcolonial practices. They show how the authority of the state is constantly challenged from the local as well as the global and how growing demands to confer rights and recognition to ever more citizens, organizations, and institutions reveal a persistent myth of the state as a source of social order and an embodiment of popular sovereignty. Demonstrating the indispensable value of ethnographic work on the practices and the symbols of the state, States of Imagination showcases a range of studies and methods to provide insight into the diverse forms of the postcolonial state as an arena of both political and cultural struggle.
This collection will interest students and scholars of anthropology, cultural studies, sociology, political science, and history.

Contributors. Lars Buur, Mitchell Dean, Akhil Gupta, Thomas Blom Hansen, Steffen Jensen, Aletta J. Norval, David Nugent, Sarah Radcliffe, Rachel Sieder, Finn Stepputat, Martijn van Beek, Oskar Verkaaik, Fiona Wilson


"[A] most welcome addition to an important new anthropological project. . . . The volume's eclectic character also contributes its greatest strength, that is, the offer of an unconstrained and dynamic conception of 'state'. For those wishing to explore such boundaries, or rather the lack thereof, States of Imagination is certainly a most fruitful place to begin." — John Friedman , Cambridge Journal of Anthropology

"[A] provocative, lucid, and wide-ranging set of essays. . . . " — Manu Goswami , Comparative Studies in Society and History

"[T]his collection is a useful intervention in theories and research on the state and its modernist legacies. For that, I would recommend the book and its adoption in upper-undergraduate-and graduate-level classes." — Jyoti Puri, American Journal of Sociology

"[T]his provocative and well-balanced collection attests to ethnography's continuing power for critiquing orthodox political theory." — Peter Sutherland , American Ethnologist

"As a whole, the book makes a significant contribution to the recent critical thinking and research on the state from political anthropology, and has much to offer to sociologists. It is uncommon to find such a tightly focused edited volume that is also brimming with intellectual vitality. Such quality work makes the reading highly rewarding." — Akiko Hashimoto , Contemporary Sociology

“This outstanding volume contains an excellent introductory discussion of current trends of thinking and research on the state. The first-rate articles by a mix of well- and less-known scholars are sophisticated, nuanced, and accessible.” — George Marcus, author of Ethnography Through Thick and Thin

“With its wealth of empirical description coming from all parts of the postcolonial world, this book is an immensely valuable contribution to the new ethnography of the state. Hansen and Stepputat have put together a richly varied but carefully organized and theoretically productive set of studies.” — Partha Chatterjee, Columbia University


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Thomas Blom Hansen is a Reader in the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh.

Finn Stepputat is Senior Researcher at the Center for Development Research in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Table of Contents Back to Top

Introduction: States of Imagination / Thomas Blom Hansen and Finn Stepputat

I. State and Governance

“Demonic Societies”: Liberalism, Biopolitics, and Sovereignty / Mitchell Dean

Governing Population: The Integrated Child Development Services Program in India / Akhil Gupta

The Battlefield and the Prize: ANC’s Bid to Reform the South African State / Steffen Jensen

Imagining the State as a Space: Territoriality and the Formation of the State in Ecuador / Sarah A. Radcliffe

II. State and Justice

The South African Truth and Reconcilliation Commission: A Technique of Nation-State Formation / Lars Buur

Reconstructing National Identity and Renegotiating Memory: The Work of the TRC / Aletta J. Norval

Rethinking Citizenship: Reforming the Law in Postwar Guatemala / Rachel Sieder

Governance and State Mythologies in Mumbai / Thomas Blom Hansen

III. State and Community

Before History and Prior to Politics: Time, Space, and Territory in the Modern Peruvian Nation-State / David Nugent

Urbanizing the Countryside: Armed Conflict, State Formation, and the Politics of Place in Contemporary Guatemala / Finn Stepputat

In the Name of the State? Schools and Teachers in an Andean Province / Fiona Wilson

The Captive State: Corruption, Intelligence Agencies, and Ethnicity in Pakistan / Oskar Verkaaik

Public Secrets, Conscious Amnesia, and the Celebration of Autonomy for Ladakh / Martijn van Beek


About the Contributors

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2798-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2801-8
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