Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Cultural Anthropology
Primary Theme: The Political
Secondary Theme: Immigration/Migration/Citizenship
It is difficult to avoid the terms “inclusion” and “exclusion” in anthropological debates. There seems to be an implicit agreement among scholars that “exclusion” is an empirical, verifiable practice of power and domination, and that “inclusion” is a worthy normative principle to which liberal thought and governance pay lip service, but rarely, if ever, truly practice. While the analysis of “exclusion” has long been a mainstay of anthropological inquiry, “inclusion” has received far less attention. When “inclusion” has been taken as an ethnographic object, it has typically been in the service of a prefigured critique invested in revealing contradictions, compromises, and unintended consequences or unmasking “inclusion” as really something else. This panel takes the status of “inclusion” as a question for anthropologists, rather than a qualification granted by them. We argue that taking “inclusion” seriously and on its own terms need not signal the abandonment of a critical disposition, but that such critiques can only come after anthropologists do the painstaking work of tracking how “inclusion” is imagined and actively worked out in the present by people and projects that take it to be already realizable.
At a time when right-wing populisms and authoritarian regimes have made a dramatic resurgence across the globe, it is incumbent on scholars to not only imagine future alternatives, but to grapple with the possibility that they are already in our midst, but that we lack the concepts and methods to apprehend them. This is our understanding of a “pragmatics of inclusion”—a framework concerned not simply with whether or why people are included, but how it becomes possible to think and act with “inclusion” as a point of reference. Mindie Lazarus-Black has also used the term “pragmatics of inclusion” in a 2001 American Ethnologist article, defining it as “subordinated peoples' struggles to gain access to and recognition from dominant institutions that often contribute to their everyday oppression” (Lazarus-Black 2001:389). While Lazarus-Black seeks to “direct attention to the un-making of structures of domination through acts of individual and collective resistance,” our goal here is both more modest and less dependent on a script that would privilege “resistance” as the ultimate framework for thinking the political. Our use of “pragmatics of inclusion” is intended precisely not to assume what “inclusion” is beforehand or that it is necessarily always-already a question of “access to” or “recognition from” a dominating power. A pragmatic anthropology therefore cannot proceed from a priori definitions of its object, but must instead investigate how “inclusion” is pursued and constituted in a world that includes the ethnographer, as well as a range of publics and projects. In an effort to ask what such “inclusions” entail and might confer, however, we cannot shy from asking what they cost, how they constrain, and where their limits are plotted.