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Anthropology and Political Science

Anthropology and Political Science: A Convergent Approach

Myron J. Aronoff
Jan Kubik
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Anthropology and Political Science
    Book Description:

    What can anthropology and political science learn from each other? The authors argue that collaboration, particularly in the area of concepts and methodologies, is tremendously beneficial for both disciplines, though they also deal with some troubling aspects of the relationship. Focusing on the influence of anthropology on political science, the book examines the basic assumptions the practitioners of each discipline make about the nature of social and political reality, compares some of the key concepts each field employs, and provides an extensive review of the basic methods of research that "bridge" both disciplines: ethnography and case study. Through ethnography (participant observation), reliance on extended case studies, and the use of "anthropological" concepts and sensibilities, a greater understanding of some of the most challenging issues of the day can be gained. For example, political anthropology challenges the illusion of the "autonomy of the political" assumed by political science to characterize so-called modern societies. Several chapters include a cross-disciplinary analysis of key concepts and issues: political culture, political ritual, the politics of collective identity, democratization in divided societies, conflict resolution, civil society, and the politics of post-Communist transformations.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-726-4
    Subjects: Anthropology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Figures
    (pp. xi-xi)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xii-xiv)
  6. Preface
    (pp. xv-xxvi)
  7. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    Recent dramatic changes on the political map of the world, including the fall of the Soviet system, the ensuing “third” wave of democratizations, and the acceleration of the globalization processes, contributed to the reinvigoration of the two fundamental debates in the social sciences:

    Can all political phenomena be described, interpreted, and explained by the same universal theory (epistemological dimension)?

    Do all societies operate according to the same set of political and/or economic principles, encapsulated in the “universal” laws of, say, the socioeconomic development or reconstructed in the model of the rational choice behavior (ontological dimension)?

    There is no agreement among...

  8. Chapter 2 Methods: Ethnography and Case Study
    (pp. 23-59)

    It is difficult if not impossible to provide a simple and concise answer to the question: What is the use of ethnography for the students of politics and power? It depends on the aim of the research project, the specific ontological assumptions about social/political reality, and the particular conception of ethnography. Since it is impossible to consider all possibilities in a chapter, we delimit the scope of these remarks to twoproblématiquesthat are central to the comparativist enterprise, both in comparative politics and in anthropology: the significance of the cultural aspect of social reality and the consequences of the...

  9. Chapter 3 Beyond Political Culture
    (pp. 60-85)

    Culture is a dimension of all social interactions, since as humans we always traffic in meaning. Thus it should not be understood as a separate domain of human activity, contrasted for example with politics or economy (Norton 2004; Sewell 1999: 39). Social interactions, the basic units of society, have a strategic dimension and hence can be usefully modeled as political or economic games. But they also have a communicative dimension and thus can be studied as semiotic events or processes. Events are studied semiotically when the researcher focuses on actors’ actions as they generate, communicate, or interpret meaning. Political scientists...

  10. Chapter 4 Symbolic Dimensions of Politics: Political Ritual and Ceremonial
    (pp. 86-109)

    In this chapter we demonstrate the value of adapting “ritual,” a key concept developed by anthropologists in the study of so-called traditional societies, to understand the nature of political change (often nonlinear) in contemporary so-called modern societies. Before we illustrate the value of our convergent approach through the analysis of three cases of political ritual in Israel and Poland, we briefly review the intellectual history of the distinction between “traditional” and “modern” societies and explain why it is essential to elucidate the differences as well as the similarities between them when concepts developed for the analysis of one type of...

  11. Chapter 5 The Politics of Collective Identity: Contested Israeli Nationalisms
    (pp. 110-131)

    Since the collapse of the Soviet Union one of the most pervasive conflicts on the world stage is the contestation between ethnicity and stateness. Our convergent approach to the analysis of culture and politics is particularly well suited for the study of the tension between ethnic (including national) principles of identity and state building, and the intractable conflicts that result from it. In this chapter we demonstrate how analytical tools of cultural anthropology contribute to understanding the phenomenon of ethnicity, nationalism, and national identity. We move beyond the still used though increasingly discredited binary distinction between civic and ethnic models...

  12. Chapter 6 Democratization in Deeply Divided Societies: The Netherlands, India, and Israel
    (pp. 132-170)

    In this chapter we demonstrate the added value of our convergent approach in the analysis of the reciprocal relations between the political and the cultural dimensions of democratization in three deeply divided societies over a period of six decades. Although the selected political systems are routinely classified as “democratic,” closer inspection reveals that their democratic architectures are in a process of evolution in which political and cultural factors interact with each other in an often-surprising fashion. We trace the evolving patterns of conciliation and control among various sectors and political actors over several decades. In our analysis we emphasize the...

  13. Chapter 7 Camp David Rashomon: Contested Interpretations of the Israel/Palestine Peace Process
    (pp. 171-197)

    Until recently, the kind of research demanded for writing a chapter like this one has not been clearly recognized as having its own specific and properly labeled methodology. This has changed in recent years. Many social scientists now recognize the combination of ethnography and discourse analysis as a useful method (Adams 2009: 336). For international relations scholars our analysis will exemplify a constructivist approach with its attendant focus on the practices of meaning creation and manipulation. We also are engaging here in what Marcus and Holmes callparaethnography(chapter 2). We were not at Camp David, so Aronoff read carefully...

  14. Chapter 8 What Can Political Scientists Learn about Civil Society from Anthropologists?
    (pp. 198-239)

    During the last quarter of the twentieth century, civil society became one of the most celebrated and debated concepts in the social sciences. Since the late 1960s, the concept has been used to discuss the fall of state socialism and the emergence of postcommunist politics, post-colonial power struggles in Africa, the “democratic deficit” in the Western world, and postauthoritarian politics in South and Central America. It has been constructed, deconstructed, reconstructed by the whole army of philosophers, political scientists, anthropologists, and sociologists and yet there is no consensus either on its intension (what it means) or its extension (which real...

  15. Chapter 9 Homo sovieticus and Vernacular Knowledge
    (pp. 240-278)

    When state socialism collapsed in 1989 in East Central Europe and the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, the world changed dramatically. Almost overnight, the seemingly durable political bipolarity was replaced by a new arrangement whose nature is not easy to diagnose. For some, the new world-without-communism has become multipolar; for others, it is monopolar with the American hegemony. For Huntington the political cleavage was replaced by a cultural/civilizational one, and Fukuyama announced the end of history under the banner of triumphant culture of liberalism. Both diagnosed a tectonicculturalshift in the world, yet the cultural dimension of the post-1989...

  16. Chapter 10 Conclusions
    (pp. 279-285)

    When this project was only a vague idea, more then ten years ago, for most of its practitioners political science was moving toward the unification of its methodology around formal methods of game theory and statistical analysis. Yet, at the same time a countermovement began taking shape. It was based on different preoccupations: the systematization of qualitative methodologies, revival of historical approaches, and the specification of the relationship between quantitative and qualitative approaches. Eventually an ideal of multimethod work emerged as a metric of excellence, particularly in comparative politics. The underlying philosophical commitment of all these studies, often exceptionally competent...

  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 286-325)
  18. Name Index
    (pp. 326-333)
  19. Subject Index
    (pp. 334-341)