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Sovereign Bodies

Sovereign Bodies: Citizens, Migrants, and States in the Postcolonial World

Thomas Blom Hansen
Finn Stepputat
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    Sovereign Bodies
    Book Description:

    9/11 and its aftermath have shown that our ideas about what constitutes sovereign power lag dangerously behind the burgeoning claims to rights and recognition within and across national boundaries. New configurations of sovereignty are at the heart of political and cultural transformations globally.Sovereign Bodiesshifts the debate on sovereign power away from territoriality and external recognition of state power, toward the shaping of sovereign power through the exercise of violence over human bodies and populations. In this volume, sovereign power, whether exercised by a nation-state or by a local despotic power or community, is understood and scrutinized as something tentative and unstable whose efficacy depends less on formal rules than on repeated acts of violence.

    Following the editors' introduction are fourteen essays by leading scholars from around the globe that analyze cultural meanings of sovereign power and violence, as well as practices of citizenship and belonging--in South Africa, Peru, India, Mexico, Cyprus, Norway, and also among transnational Chinese and Indian populations. Sovereign Bodies enriches our understanding of power and sovereignty in the postcolonial world and in "the West" while opening new conceptual fields in the anthropology of politics. The contributors are Ana María Alonso, Lars Buur, Partha Chatterjee, Jean Comaroff and John L. Comaroff, Oivind Fuglerud, Thomas Blom Hansen, Barry Hindess, Steffen Jensen, Achille Mbembe, Aihwa Ong, Finn Stepputat, Simon Turner, Peter van der Veer, and Yael Navaro-Yashin.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2669-8
    Subjects: Anthropology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Thomas Blom Hansen and Finn Stepputat
  4. List of Contributors
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-36)
    Thomas Blom Hansen and Finn Stepputat

    The attack on the World Trade Center in September 2001 aimed at what Al-Qaeda saw as the heart of America’s global empire. The subsequent reactions in America and the rest of the world demonstrated that sovereignty and its ultimate expression—the ability and the will to employ overwhelming violence and to decide on life and death—have been reconfigured in the last decades of the twentieth century. The “war on terror” and the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrated that underneath the complex structures of power in modern, liberal societies, territorial sovereignty, and the foundational violence that gave birth to...

  6. Race, Law, and Citizenship

    • Territorializing the Nation and “Integrating the Indian”: “Mestizaje” in Mexican Official Discourses and Public Culture
      (pp. 39-60)
      Ana María Alonso

      Robert Young maintains that theories of society, such as Spencer’s Social Darwinism, are built on notions of hybridity that are “elaborated . . . about the issue of sexual interaction between the races.” According to Young, “The races and their intermixture circulate around an ambivalent axis of desire and aversion: a structure of attraction, where people and cultures intermix . . . and a structure of repulsion, where the different elements remain distinct. . . . The idea of race . . . shows itself to be profoundly dialectical: it only works when defined against potential intermixture which also threatens...

    • Violence, Sovereignty, and Citizenship in Postcolonial Peru
      (pp. 61-81)
      Finn Stepputat

      The closure of the third presidential campaign of the once beloved President Fujimori took the form of a huge party in the central Plaza of Lima. The main attraction was the queen of Peruviantechno-cumbia,Rossi War, who helped mobilize many women from the “Mothers’ Clubs” in the city’s popular neighborhoods. The president himself moved in a dancelike fashion to his campaignschlager,“the dance of the Chinese” (el baile del Chino), cheering the huge public at the plaza and the rest of the population who could not help watching the wall-to-wall transmission of the event on five TV channels....

    • Sovereign Violence and the Domain of the Political
      (pp. 82-100)
      Partha Chatterjee

      It is modernity that I will talk about. And also violence, which is a theme that etches itself so strongly on the stories of Saadat Hasan Manto, one of the greatest writers of modern South Asia. As is well known, the question of violence lies at the very heart of the concept of sovereignty. The modern state’s claim to unchallenged territorial sovereignty is in fact identical to the Weberian definition of its claim to a monopoly of legitimate violence. Manto often describes with pitiless irony the devastating hollowness of these claims. But because I do not have the facility to...

  7. Death, Anxiety, and Rituals of State

    • Confinement and the Imagination: Sovereignty and Subjectivity in a Quasi-State
      (pp. 103-119)
      Yael Navaro-Yashin

      It is the 20th of July, the date to commemorate the arrival of Turkish troops in northern Cyprus in 1974 when the island was partitioned. Imagine twenty-five years after this incident, an army still in command in a foreign territory, orchestrating massive ceremonies on the memorable date with tens of thousands of soldiers marching through towns and cities, passing by with tanks and armor, saluting the leader of the administration in northern Cyprus and the commanding generals of the army, and chanting in unison: “Every Turk is born a soldier!,” “Everything is for the Motherland!” Picture such grand military ceremonies...

    • Naturing the Nation: Aliens, Apocalypse, and the Postcolonial State
      (pp. 120-147)
      Jean Comaroff and John L. Comaroff

      What might “natural” disasters tell us about the ecology of nationhood? How might the flash of environmental catastrophe illuminate the meaning of borders and the tortured politics of belonging? How and why, to be more specific, do plants, especially foreign plants, become urgent affairs of state? And what might they disclose of the shifting relations among citizenship, community, and national integrity in an era of global capitalism? Pursuing these questions in South Africa, we run up against two faces of “naturalization” in the politics of the postcolony: one refers to the assimilation of alien persons, signs, and practices into the...

    • Sovereignty as a Form of Expenditure
      (pp. 148-166)
      Achille Mbembe

      The object of this study is to analyze conceptions of the political that, in present-day Africa, articulate power as a theory and practice of war. As it is employed here, the notion of “war” does not refer purely and simply to those moments of the dramatic enactment of conflict that present themselves in terms of the confrontation of forces of men followed by scenes of destruction involving the loss of human life on the field of battle. This form of ordeal has already been thoroughly investigated in his own day by Clausewitz. In the case of Africa, too, it has...

  8. Body, Locality, and Informal Sovereignty

    • Sovereigns beyond the State: On Legality and Authority in Urban India
      (pp. 169-191)
      Thomas Blom Hansen

      “Legal consciousness,” the awareness of rights and the use of litigation, have for decades been integral parts of everyday life of millions of people across India. Yet, events over the past decade suggest that the awe of the law in India, and its corollary, the sovereignty of the state, are in sharp decline. Successive governments seem unable to curb, or prevent, clashes between religious communities and attacks on minority communities in the country; the police force is widely regarded as brutal and incompetent; a large number of crimes and murders are never reported or investigated; the courts are overburdened and...

    • The Sovereign Outsourced: Local Justice and Violence in Port Elizabeth
      (pp. 192-217)
      Lars Buur

      Vigilantism is one of the most contentious issues in the new South Africa because it exposes the limits of the new state’s capacity to secure justice for all. The new democratic state faces a triple legitimation crisis: it has to legitimate the new government as the incumbent of the independent state; it has to legitimate the state itself as the overriding locus of political authority in society; and, finally, it has to cope with extremely high levels of crime. The problem is that the political sensibility of major sections of the population has been forged in antagonism to the state,...

    • Above the Law: Practices of Sovereignty in Surrey Estate, Cape Town
      (pp. 218-238)
      Steffen Jensen

      During the latter part of the 1990s, Cape Town saw the emergence of a number of anti-crime organizations. Most prominent was the vigilante group Pagad (People Against Gangsterism and Crime) whose war first with drug dealers and later with the state engulfed the city in violence from 1996. But Pagad was far from the only anti-crime organization. All over the city, local neighborhood watches emerged to police the townships.¹ Most commentators, along with anti-crime organizations, agree that the combination of inept and corrupt policing and the crime level in the city makes for the emergence of nonstate forms of policing...

  9. Postcolonial Citizenship in the Empire

    • Citizenship and Empire
      (pp. 241-256)
      Barry Hindess

      “Empire is materializing before our very eyes” (Hardt and Negri 2000, xi). The opening line of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’sEmpire, like the title itself, points to a glaring asymmetry in the contemporary global order, an asymmetry that “globalization,” the more usual term for the condition they address, fails to properly apprehend. Empire, in their view, is the emerging global form of sovereignty. It “establishes no territorial center of power and does not rely on fixed boundaries or barriers. It is adecenteredanddeterritorializingapparatus of rule that progressively incorporates the entire global realm within its open, expanding...

    • Splintering Cosmopolitanism: Asian Immigrants and Zones of Autonomy in the American West
      (pp. 257-275)
      Aihwa Ong

      Every fall, wealthy Chinese resident-aliens of Vancouver leave for Hong Kong, like Canadian geese departing for warmer waters. Even more frequently, Taiwanese engineers shuttle across the Pacific, transferring knowledge, expertise and capital from the Silicon Valley to science parks in Taiwan. Yet other flows include thousands of Indian technomigrants who are contracted to work in Silicon Valley firms. Return flows of U.S.-trained Indian engineers set up high tech businesses in Bangalore and Hyderabad. Meanwhile, less well-heeled migrants—Chinese waiters, Hispanic janitors, and Southeast Asian electronic workers—supply the open labor markets that feed the feverish high tech centers driving the...

    • Virtual India: Indian IT Labor and the Nation-State
      (pp. 276-290)
      Peter van der Veer

      One of the most successful television shows in India over the last few years is the quiz “Who Will Become a Millionaire?” presented by the charismatic aging movie-star Amitabh Bacchan. The quiz has a transnational format taken over from British television and in its combination of sudden wealth, quick intelligence in Hindi, and nationalist knowledge (since many of the questions are about national history, religion, and achievement) it is a wonderful vignette of the glamorous real-life story, widely covered in the Indian media, of Indian IT entrepreneurs, such as Azim Premji of Wipro and Sabir Bhatia of Hotmail who indeed...

    • Inside Out: The Reorganization of National Identity in Norway
      (pp. 291-311)
      Oivind Fuglerud

      The aim of this chapter is to contextualize Norway’s increasingly restrictive immigration practice by locating it within larger structures of discourse and meaning. The main point of reference, outside the field of immigration itself, is the way nationality is projected in the marketing of goods and values in the present era. The view put forward is that within both immigration and marketing the search for what may be called the “authentic product” reflects an increasing emphasis on culture, heritage, and local origin. This indicates a narrowing conception of national identity with implications in terms of racism and ethnic exclusion in...

    • Suspended Spaces—Contesting Sovereignties in a Refugee Camp
      (pp. 312-332)
      Simon Turner

      This essay takes its point of departure in Lukole refugee camp in Northwestern Tanzania, where close to one hundred thousand Burundian refugees kill time in a well-organized and clearly demarcated space. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, I explore the nature and limits of sovereign power in and around this exceptional space. That Lukole is exceptional is visible at first sight, sticking out as it does in the Tanzanian landscape with its order and bureaucratic efficiency. It is the kind of space that begs for questions about power, biopolitics, and sovereignty, pushing the limits of our received wisdoms on these issues.


  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 333-362)
  11. Index
    (pp. 363-366)