Category Archives: state

On Buddhist nationalism in Myanmar – Interview for Radio France International, 27 May 2015

Radio Interview for Radio France International. ‘Buddhist Nationalism in Myanmar.’ May 27, 2015. available here (2 parts):

“Work in progress. Performing the state in Central Asia”

I will give a lecture at the Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca on May 12th, 2.30 pm.

The topic is based on a co-edited volume I did with Madeleine Reeves and Johan Rasanayagam called “Ethnographies of the state in Central Asia. Performing politics.” (2014. Indiana University Press).


The seminar is organized by Antonio De Lauri.

Here’s the link to the programme: seminario stato 2015



“Russian and Polar Bears Unite! A Follow-Up.”

What is 19cm high, 20cm wide, weighs only 680grams but carries a President? Right – it’s the Russian Bear!

And what is flying high into the sky? Right – the Bear, too. There is nothing he can’t do – the Bear, I mean. While everyone has been concentrating on Putin, it is the bear that should interest us; that magical, charismatic hero of Russian folk tales, easily fooled by political rhetoric. It is him who is carrying the President on his back across the country (literally, if you look at the statue carefully), and who is now taking him up into the sky in the recent pictogram of Khabarovsk Airport, in Southeast Russia, close to the China border.


What is next? The moon? Oh no, been there, done that, too.

He seems increasingly, desperate, though. The Bear, not Putin. Some memes pictured him crashed, lying in a state-sponsored, vodka-induced coma.




But someone recently had a useful suggestion: Sarah Palin, ex-Governor of Alaska, who, allegedly, said “you can see Russia from my house.” She has had a longstanding, complicated relationship with bears herself, summarized by The Guardian in 2008 into the question “Sarah Palin vs The Polar Bear – who will survive? It’s 2015 now and both Sarah Palin and polar bears have become more endangered, but she is still “seriously interested” in running for President next year. She recently called up her fellow-countrymen to rise up against an overarching American state, shouting: “‘The Man,’ can only ride ya when your back is bent. So strengthen it. Then ‘The Man’ can’t ride ya.”

I think the Russian Bear should take this exhortation seriously, throw that naked President off his back, form an alliance with the Polar Bear and chase both Putin and Palin all around Little Diomede Island.


The Diomede Islands, Big and Little, in the Bering Strait.


Note: originally published on 03 February, 2015 here: The Bear in Space-pictures are taken from Mikhailov, B. 1973. “How the Bear flew into Space”. Leningrad: Khudozhnik RSFSR. (Б. Михайлов “Как медведь в космос летал” Изд. “Художник РСФСР”. Ленинград 1973).

Statelessness – Summer Term 2015

Here is one of two seminars on “the state” I will be teaching in the coming Summer Term 2015 at the University of Konstanz.

All MA-students registered in Konstanz are welcome:


Statelessness: On the permanent state of exception

What does it mean to live without citizenship in the time of nation states? 10 million people globally find themselves in exactly this situation. As the UNHCR proclaims the end of statelessness in the context of its refugee work (the ‘iBelong-Campaign’) by 2020, more people are born into statelessness or lose their citizenship each day.

In this seminar we will work on ethnographic case studies focusing on the causes and consequences of statelessness. Legal sociological and legal anthropological texts as well as texts from legal philosophy will help us to reflect better on our own civic existence, as well as to critically question the concept of statehood as a ‘normality’ (e.g. with texts from Agamben, Arendt, Badiou). Literature on transnationalism and exceptional cases, in addition to current approaches that understand statelessness as a humane alternative to nation states, will broaden the scope of the seminar. An external speaker will report on stateless women in Central Asia, the so-called border brides.

Seminar requirements: regular participation; reading of texts; presentation of a case study.

Ethnography of the State – Summer Term 2015

Here is one of two seminars on “the state” I will be teaching in the coming Summer Term 2015 at the University of Konstanz.

All BA-students registered in Konstanz are welcome:

Ethnography of the state: Participant observation and photography

The methodology of participant observation is at the forefront of this seminar. Aided by photography, we will close in on self-selected themes within the subject of ‘state’. Once characterised as “fiction of philosophers” (Radcliffe-Brown 1940), the representation of states (i.e. what concretely the state is) has become the central focus today. Students’ field research can be concentrated on institutions, such as the courts, police, state/municipal administration, and other public institutions. It can, however, also focus on other material embodiments of the state, such as streets, architecture, monuments or borders.

The topic will first be explored with the camera, and connected to the seminar by way of a concrete research question. Over the course of the seminar we will examine specific subjects in addition to making observations, and if possible we will also use other qualitative methods such as open questions and semi-structured interviews. As an accompaniment, we will read texts on ethnographic methods together with texts on the ethnography of the state.

The seminar has two goals: firstly, to discuss the method of participant observation in order to understand its possibilities and limitations; and secondly to offer a practical introduction to the theme of the ‘state’ and reflect on how such manifestations influence our daily lives.

New equipment (small and large cameras) has been purchased for the seminar specifically for students to borrow. Students can, however, also use their own cameras.

Possible work formations: individual work or two-person teams.

Seminar requirements: regular participation in class; reading of literature; regular conducting of field exercises during the semester; presentation of preliminary results; seminar paper to be written during the semester break.

Recent Supreme Court Decisions

Recently, a couple of blog posts have dealt with the most outrageous, important, and/or course-changing decisions of the US Supreme Court in the last months, including topics such as botched executions and the right of women to remain in control of their  bodies. The following posts are worth reading:

1. Ilya Somin’s Religious Freedom in the Commercial Sphere (Burwell VS Hobby Lobby)

2. Austin Sarat’s Botching the 8th Amendment (Atkins VS Virginia)

3. Lyle Denniston’s Fifth Circuit Allows More Limits on Abortion in Texas

4. Amy Howe’s Court Strikes Down Abortion Clinic “Buffer Zone”( McCullen VS Coakley)


There is also a new monograph on the topic, published by University of Pennsylvania Press.

Garrett Epps’ American Justice 2014. Nine Clashing Visions on the Supreme Court