Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Association for Political and Legal Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students
Primary Theme: Violence
Secondary Theme: Identity and Equity
Be it a tool of class domination, a vessel to win hegemony, or the central site in the life and deaths of populations, violence appears integral to state rule and contemporary governmentalities. The state is also the crucible within which various experiments with democracy sprang up, floundered, or morphed, often into grotesque forms amply documented in the historical record. This panel focuses on the modern problem of state violence, associated with the deeply problematic relationship between reimagined versions of the nation driving the reorganization of modern nation states, and the unfinished, contested and beleaguered projects of liberal democracy, socialism and national liberation. Across the world violent majoritarian movements have wrenched open and filled cracks and fissures in failed liberal democratic and socialist projects, the postcolonial welfare/development state and its unresolved incongruencies, and the putative contours of the global regime of international law and protections guaranteed under the broad rubric of human rights. Today, the “nation” increasingly symbolizes and congeals the furious aspirations of majoritarian racial, ethnic, religious communitarian power, almost universally construed in hyper-masculinist terms, and antipathetic to not just socialism and the radical liberation imaginaries firing various anticolonial, feminist and antiracist struggles across the world, but even liberal democracy, the social welfare state, and international law. Authoritarian populisms target those interpellated as essentialized others who are deemed to pose various types of “threats” to the “nation.” These movements have injected a new impetus to established forms of violence and control over populations and bodies, and have further accelerated the erosion of the very ideas of rights, citizenship, and the rule of law, the unity of the nation, and the state itself.
Through studies spanning military occupation, immigration and the rights of the undocumented, the status and future of religious, ethnic, racial minorities, via the shifting ideological narratives informing ascendant rightwing politics, these papers explore how behind obvious differences in geography and context, there also exist grounds for a fruitful analytics of violence. If the challenge for liberal democracy in the immediate past rested on reconciling its claims of universality with the unresolved contradictions of nation and identity, struggles on behalf of beleaguered populations simultaneously exposed these compromises as strategic tools for the consolidation of power, while still focusing political struggles and demands around the fulfilment of state-delivered or mediated promises of citizenship, rights, and protections. With the triumphant rise of majoritarian nationalism across the world how is this critique of power being reframed and refashioned? We explore the changing terrain of struggles faced by marginalized populations contending with receding hopes of democratization under liberal orders increasingly on the defensive, neoliberal agendas emboldened by the rapid undermining of democratic processes and possibilities, and seeking to fashion new approaches to struggle for survival, dignity, and rights. We explore the possibilities of resistance, new imaginaries of horizontal solidarity, and modalities of existence and refusal, and the resurgence of radical left politics that reaffirm commitments to enduring struggles against capitalist pillage, racial and colonial domination, and genocide.