Research Item (18)
Sociopolitics refer to ways in which politics and relations of power are constituted through an authoritative discourse on the social. This concept echoes Foucault's biopolitics. “Society” and the “social” are devices, as well as categorical foundations, for the political. As with “bio” in biopolitics, “socio” gives a particular form to power that it articulates and constitutes. This review essay uses this concept to discuss recent work of James Scott and David Graeber, and the English-language translation of a 1980 collection of essays by Pierre Clastres. I argue that this anarchist anthropology articulates a clear break within anarchist theory. This break is in the ways the social and the political are related as means and ends in ethnography and in conceptualization of anarchist practice.
- Sep 2013
Does the concept of non-dualism have ethnographic purchase or is it mainly of philosophical interest? This article comprises the edited presentation and discussions of the 2011 GDAT debate on the motion ‘Non-dualism is Philosophy not Ethnography’. The debaters proposing the motion were Michael Scott and Nikolai Ssorin-Chaikov. They were opposed by Christopher Pinney and Joanna Cook. Marilyn Strathern acted as jester – playfully and rigorously engaging with all four speakers. The presentations and the discussions that followed were wide ranging, lively and stimulating.
- Jun 2012
This is a case study in the anthropology of anthropology. Its ethnographic focus is on a contemporary critical anthropologist, rather than on the figure of a colonial or nationalist scholar who is explored from a critical perspective of contemporary scholarship. I chart an episode in political biography and scholarship of Maxim Kuchinski, a Russian anarchist and ethnographer, and contextualise his views in a shifting landscape of critical theory. The broader change I am concerned with here is that from ‘the social’ to ‘power’ as a key explanatory category. The goal of this article is to explore how the category of power enables a particular ethnographic vision. If much of current anthropology explores Foucauldian micro-physics of power, what are the macro-physics of these micro-physics? What is the cosmology of power in the anthropology of power?
The Captive and the Gift: Cultural Histories of Sovereignty in Russia and the Caucasus. By Grant Bruce . Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2009. xxii, 188 pp. Notes. Bibliography. Glossary. Index. Illustrations. Photographs. Maps. $65.00, hard bound. $21.95, paper. - Volume 69 Issue 4 - Nikolai Ssorin-Chaikov
- Jun 2008
This article critically revisits the Foucauldian perspective on modernity by exploring the constitutive importance of limits of transparency in relations of power and knowledge. It differentiates between Foucault's Panopticon as a model for modernity, which posits a total visibility of subject under modern gaze, and what I call cybernetic ways of knowing that posit the 'black box' of the inner self that is blocked from visibility. The case in point is a comparative study of two anthropologies - two groups of anthropological cadres - the American anthropologists who in the 1940s were involved in emerging Soviet studies, and Soviet anthropologists of the 1920s and 1930s who took part in Soviet reforms. The article draws attention to similarities in their perspective of images and notions of the enemy: the 'enemy of the people' within Soviet society and the Soviet society as the West's Cold War enemy. In doing so, the aim of this article is to develop an ethnographic perspective on state socialism that does not depend on a foundational dualist distinction between 'Soviet' and 'Western' or 'socialist' and 'capitalist' modernity as a starting point.
- Jan 2008
In this article, I explore cultural effects of Soviet religious policies in aboriginal Siberia by looking at the transformation of ritual identities and practices in a group of Evenki hunters and herders between the 1920s and the 1990s. I focus on meanings of buhadyl ("spirits") which Evenki associate with old things and dead people. I read meanings and ritual frameworks of dealing with the buhadyl as sites for re-imagining Evenki identities and categories of belonging in the context of Soviet society and Soviet ethnographic gaze. In this article, I use results of my own field research in Central Siberia, as well as newly available Soviet archival materials.
- Jun 2006
Gift relations have been traditionally theorized as antinomial to modernity or, within modernity, in the spheres of the personal relations and ideologies of altruism which dwell on the contrast with commodity and often cast themselves as residual, ‘traditional’ domains. This article explores claims to modernity that were made by public gift-giving to a modern head of state. It examines birthday gifts to the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin that he received from both his Soviet subjects and international leaders and movements and that were put on public display in 1949-53 in the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow. This article interprets gift-giving to Stalin as a dramatic example of socialist intervention in the modernist temporality, and it theorizes the notions of time that were culturally constructed through the socialist state gift economy. This article reflects part of an ongoing research project on gift-giving to Soviet leaders. It is based on fieldwork, oral-historical and archival research with designers, artisans, and ordinary citizens who were involved in the production of the gift items, as well as with curators and other specialists involved in this exhibition and in preservation of these gifts in different Russian state museums.
In 1921 Lidiya Dobrova-Iadrintseva, an ethnographer and economist, took a steamer that headed down the Yenisei river from the Central Siberian city of Krasnoiarsk. The steamer was to supply the indigenous population of the lower part of the basin with flour, sugar, and hunting equipment — all badly needed after the Russian Revolution (1917) and Civil War (1918-21) shut down most of the northern fur trade. Dobrova-Iadrintseva used this occasion "to make a complete population census and collect data on indigenous economic life" (1925:1). The book that she published, based on this survey, was quickly recognized as seminal in early Soviet anthropology. Contrary to 19th-century ethnographic accounts which analytically separated aboriginal societies from colonial relations, Dobrova-Iadrintseva argued that practices of Russian indigenous administration and fur trade were crucial in the social production of local communities. Thus, instead of looking at the survival of stateless, kin-based communal structures, she analyzed larger systems of inequalities, tax-collecting "districts," and administrative "clans" constructed by the Russian state. Her project was not just an academic expedition, however, and its anthropological value proved inseparable from its administrative results. The expedition was part of a celebrated (in Soviet literature) emergency food supply delivery to northern aborigines, and it was overseen by the Siberian Office of the Soviet ethnic politics ministry (the People's Commissariat for Nationalities) where Dobrova-Iadrintseva worked. Yet, it is interesting to note such a combination of ethnographic and administrative value of this trip underscores not merely its larger context but also its micro-organization. It is the latter that makes it, in my view, symptomatic of the Soviet power/knowledge operation in the indigenous North. At this level we can see the use of the existing state structures for the purpose of the survey and, more importantly, expansion of these state structures through practices of knowledge. Dobrova-Iadrintseva enclosed her questionnaire with accounting books of the state fur trading co-ops which kept the financial balances of indigenous families and channeled early Soviet help. As nomadic reindeer herders and hunters turned up in trading posts to collect the food rations, these books added information about "the native's family members, his economic well-being, and the migration routes" to the trade balance of each family (Dobrova-Iadrintseva 1925:3). These survey cards formed one of the first post-1917 regimes of residency for indigenous "tents" (chumy). 1 Standardized by the Polar Census (1926-27), they became a matrix for local Soviets and collective farms. In a few years after Dobrova-Iadrintseva's trip, "to keep the lists of tent holders [chumovladel'tsev], with a detailed accounting of the reindeer herds" became a task not of the social scientist, but of the new local council — "Clan Soviet" (rodovoi soviet), 2 and the social categories employed by this registrar — "administrative clan," "genealogical clan" and, most importantly, "class" — became the terms for Soviet social construction. The ruling class "elements" and their ideologues (shamans) were first accurately listed, with extensive details about their territorial location and lineage connections, then "alienated" (that is, deprived of their voting rights), and eventually purged ("liquidated," likvidirovany) — while ethnographers looking at the same collected data engaged in debates over whether the genealogical clan, recovered in its evolutionary purity from the colonial and capitalist yoke, could provide a primitive-communist soil for the Soviet culture.
Submitted to the Department of Anthropology. Copyright by the author. Thesis (Ph. D.)--Stanford University, 1998.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--Stanford University, 1998. Includes bibliographical references (p. 322-335). Photocopy.