The Anthropology of Politics: Persuasion and Power

A drawing of a large, scaly creature with webbed feet and hands.

Cuban Rock Iguana: a lizard afforded protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act at Guantánamo naval base, where detainees are held outside any legal jurisdiction and without charge or trial. Such zones of "exception" to legal governance are discussed in this class. (Image source: Birkin, David. “Cyclura Nubila: The Iguanas of Guantánamo.” Cabinet Magazine 59 (2015): 46–53. Image appears courtesy of Cabinet Magazine.)


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Spring 2019



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Course Description

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Course Description

This course introduces the ethnographic study of politics, i.e., what anthropologists understand to be "political" in various social and economic systems, from small-scale societies to liberal democratic states. It examines politics across three contemporary contexts: electoral politics, public spheres, bureaucracies and humanitarian governance. Students consider and analyze how questions of authority, coercion, and violence have been theorized to relate to the political, and how some aspects of social life are regimented in explicitly non-political ways.

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Xenia Cherkaev. 21A.506 The Anthropology of Politics: Persuasion and Power. Spring 2019. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare, License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

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