Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Association for the Anthropology of Policy
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: Policy
In recent decades, particularly since 9/11, anthropologists, social scientists, and legal studies scholars have become increasingly interested in the theme of governing in and through emergencies, often drawing on Georgio Agamben’s (2005) and Carl Schmitt’s notion of ‘state of exception’. What these studies share is a concern with scrutinizing sovereign power by investigating state interventions into the rule of law, restrictions on jurisdiction, suspension of human and citizenship rights, militarization, surveillance, and constitutional dictatorships emerging from declarations of state of exception. In addition to formal declarations of exception, however, neoliberal policy agendas, the crisis of democracy, and the proliferation of declarations of urgency and emergency suggest that in many places the ‘state of emergency’ has become the new normal. Whether it be environmental catastrophes, wars, economic crises, or political unrest, governments, public-sector institutions, private bodies and not-for-profit organizations all utilize crises and emergencies to justify making ‘exceptional’ interventions into the domains of policy and law. In some contexts, ruling by decrees has become a governing practice that has blurred the relationship between policy-making, laws, and the concept of due process. What contribution can anthropology of policy make to understanding these processes and challenges?
This panel uses historical, comparative, ethnographic, and anthropological approaches to explore how states of exception and legally sanctioned lawlessness operate in different contexts, the effects that these apparent states of emergency produce, the often contradictory logics that underpin them, and the power relations and new forms of governance that they help to create or consolidate. From an anthropology of policy perspective, we trace the intersections of emergency, risk, threats, and crises that foster policy change in different arenas. Case studies include the manufacturing of states of exception in different social, political, and economic domains which nevertheless intersect in fostering capital accumulation, the rise of authoritarian populism and new forms of economic governance being produced by conditions of austerity in Europe, the semi-permanent state of crisis that has been engineered in Israel and Turkey, the new opportunity spaces that have been created in post-emergency situations, and the competing policy logics behind debates over refugees in the United States. In Exploring these and other examples we hope to shed light on a range of key questions such as:
- What are the characteristics of governing in and through emergencies?
- What political and economic interests do emergencies serve?
- What do states of exception tell us about legal norms or ‘states of normality’?
- What formal as well as informal practices of governance are associated with emergencies?
- What new kinds of subjects and relation do states of exception create?
- How do people engage with, or respond to, such states of emergency?