The anthropology of the state, sovereignty and the law applies a critical eye to the way that power operates in a range of contexts from the institutional to the intimate and attends to the relationships mediated between political actors and the structures that frame them. In the contemporary world, democracy is often celebrated as the ideal state formation, but in many places democratic states are in failure or retreat, while in others, they legitimize exclusions based upon race, ethnicity, gender and class. Anthropologists use ethnographic material gathered from studying bureaucrats, political factions, actors, movements and stateless subjects to draw attention to practices of power, providing crucial insights as to how power and social life intersect, manifest and become mobile. Current areas of research include: citizenship, crime and policing, contemporary legal systems, governance, language and the law, ritual violence and state organization, sovereignty, state formation, socialism and post-socialism.
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