Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Cultural Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: The Political
Classical discourses on sovereignty are frequently premised on the assumed singularity of the state and its juridical control over a territory and the people residing therein. In fact, in these discussions, sovereignty is a specific construct that locates in a state a connection between population, power and territory. Yet, in practice the state is not singular (Gupta 2012), and sovereignty is not a timeless principle (Bierstaker and Weber 1996). Further, conceiving of power exclusively in terms of a singular state’s sovereignty diminishes the potential to understand the dispersed nature of power itself (Foucault 2007, 2004, 1995). This panel aims to examine “nested sovereignties” (Simpson 2014) through their affective registers. In one of the oft-cited quotations on affect, Baruch Spinoza noted that “no one has yet determined what the body can do” which highlighted the potential of bodies to affect or be affected (1959: 87). Deleuze and Guattari took this provocation further, suggesting that affects are the capacities of bodies to act or be acted upon when they encounter other bodies, with an orientation toward transformation (1987). The turn to affect, renewed by “Shame in the Cybernetic Fold” (Sedgwick and Frank 1995) and “The Autonomy of Affect” (Massumi 1995), was argued as a way to restore to critical and post-structuralist theory discussions of bodily matters (Clough 2007).
Affect has been, notoriously, a slippery ethnographic frame for anthropologists. Yet, dealing with the instability of affect, anthropologists have sought to examine, describe and perform bodily intensities that may be felt and sensed. Furthermore, scholars have been attuned to how these intensities circulate within, and become attached to particular social regimes, political projects and historical moments that qualify, mobilize and manage them. This panel follows recent ethnographic research that consider “affective states” (Stoler 2010), “forces, energies, and affective potentialities” induced by administrative and legal orders (Navaro-Yashin 2012), and affective relations as objects of governance (Shoshan 2016). We argue that an attention to affect shifts our perception of how the state multiple exercises power and is apprehended in our field sites. Our papers trace affective resonances of encounters with the state across a variety of sites in South Asia, Southeast Asia and Latin America in ways that illuminate the fragmentary, permeable and spectral nature of the state. Furthermore, these papers explore “public affects” (Mazzarella 2013) such as those generated by the figure of the hunger-striker in India, and the experience of revolution in Nicaragua, as sites of sovereign intervention, or as extensions of sovereign power. The panel invites our discipline to consider state sovereignty as dispersed power that operates not only through governmental instruments, but also through the affective dispositions it creates.