ANTHRO 1709 - The Anthropology of Power: Sovereignty, Hegemony, and Resistance

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2022

Prof. Julia Fierman
Thurs. 3:00 PM - 5:45 PM
Tozzer 203

What does it mean when we speak of “political power”? We know, from the work of many anthropologists, that power is not a question of the state. The political anthropologist Pierre Clastres wrote about non-state societies with a deep sense of law, tradition, and propriety that actively combat the emergence of a state system. In an age where we feel constantly surveilled, it is clear that power can be invisible, yet palpable; physical force is not necessary to encourage obedience among a population. In other words, power, specifically political power, is quite a complicated manner. At a moment in global history when traditional political paradigms are being increasingly called into question, this seminar asks us to reflect on power and politics from historical and cultural perspectives that broaden our conception of political identity and political participation. By focusing on the themes of sovereignty, hegemony, and resistance, we move away from traditional notions of power as that which is yielded by individual authority figures or state actors—although, we will certainly spend time reflecting on traditional paradigms of sovereignty. Instead, we contemplate the many shapes political power takes in geographically and ideologically diverse contexts. In doing so, the following questions emerge: Why do so many seem willing to kill and die for political causes? What does it mean to have a political identity? Where is the boundary between complicity and resistance? We will approach these questions through a combination of political theory and ethnography that will place political philosophers in conversation with anthropologists with the aim of elucidating the genealogy of shared preoccupations across the disciplines.