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Stategraphy: Toward a Relational Anthropology of the State

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Volume 4

Studies in Social Analysis

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Toward a Relational Anthropology of the State

Edited by Tatjana Thelen, Larissa Vetters, and Keebet von Benda-Beckmann

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170 pages, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78533-699-7 25% OFF! $95.00/£67.00 $71.25/£50.25 Hb Published (November 2017)

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“Drawing on a rich set of case studies conducted across Europe, Stategraphy opens a new line of research in the growing field of the ethnographies of the state. Resolute to bridge the gap between cultural representations and actual practices, and attentive to the relational dimensions of street-level bureaucracies, the authors outline a comparative approach to contemporary states, which will be of interest for both anthropologists and political scientists.” · Didier Fassin, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University, co-author of At the Heart of the State: The Moral Life of Institutions

“This collection makes a strong case for a comparative ethnography of the (modern) state. While much of the anthropological work on the state concerns Africa, the contributions in this book draw in an innovative way on examples from Europe and Russia. The contributors/editors rightly advocate for bridging state ideas and state practices, and for taking into account the benevolent side of the state.” · Pierre Oliver de Sardan, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Science Social and the Centre National de la recherché Scientifique


Stategraphy—the ethnographic exploration of relational modes, boundary work, and forms of embeddedness of actors—offers crucial analytical avenues for researching the state. By exploring interactions and negotiations of local actors in different institutional settings, the contributors explore state transformations in relation to social security in a variety of locations spanning from Russia, Eastern Europe, and the Balkans to the United Kingdom and France. Fusing grounded empirical studies with rigorous theorizing, the volume provides new perspectives to broader related debates in social research and political analysis.

Tatjana Thelen is full professor in the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Vienna, and recently fellow at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research, Bielefeld University, leading the research group on “Kinship and Politics.” She coedited a special issue of Focaal – Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology entitled “Social Security and Care after Socialism” (2007) and the volume Reconnecting State and Kinship (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017).

Larissa Vetters currently acts as research coordinator of the Law and Society Institute at the Humboldt University of Berlin. She previously worked as a lecturer at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology of the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg (2011–2013). Her research focuses on processes of (external) state-building in Bosnia and Herzegovina and, more recently, on migrants encounters with the German state in the frame of administrative court cases.

Keebet von Benda-Beckmann is professor emeritus, former head of the Project Group Legal Pluralism, and currently associate of the Department of Law and Anthropology, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology. Recent publications include the coedited Rules of Law and Laws of Ruling: On the Governance of Law (Ashgate, 2009) and the coauthored Political and Legal Transformations of an Indonesian Polity (Cambridge University Press, 2013).

Subject: General Anthropology Sociology


Introduction to Stategraphy: Toward a Relational Anthropology of the State
Tatjana Thelen, Larissa Vetters, and Keebet von Benda-Beckmann

Chapter 1. Contingent Statehood: Clientelism and Civic Engagement as Relational Modalities in Contemporary Bosnia and Herzegovina
Larissa Vetters

Chapter 2. The State, Legal Rigor, and the Poor: The Daily Practice of Welfare Control
Vincent Dubois

Chapter 3. Relationships, Practices, and Images of the Local State in Rural Russia
Rebecca Kay

Chapter 4. Acts of Assistance: Navigating the Interstices of the British State with the Help of Non-profit Legal Advisers
Alice Forbess and Deborah James

Chapter 5. Images of Care, Boundaries of the State: Volunteering and Civil Society in Czech Health Care
Rosie Read

Chapter 6. State Kinning and Kinning the State in Serbian Elder Care Programs
Tatjana Thelen, Andre Thiemann, and Duška Roth

Chapter 7. Workings of the State: Administrative Lists, European Union Food Aid, and the Local Practices of Distribution in Rural Romania
Ştefan Dorondel and Mihai Popa

Chapter 8. Creating the State Locally through Welfare Provision: Two Mayors, Two Welfare Regimes in Rural Hungary
Gyöngyi Schwarcz and Alexandra Szőke


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