Let me begin with a brief story about bureaucracy.
Over the last year my mother had a series of strokes. It soon became obvious that she would eventually be incapable of living at home without assistance; since her insurance would not cover home care, a series of social workers advised us to put in for Medicaid.
Many of the internal changes within anthropology as a discipline—particularly the “postmodern turn” of the 1980s—can only be understood in the context of broader changes in the class composition of the societies in which university departments exist, and, in particular, the role of the university in the reproduction of a professional-managerial class that has come to displace any working-class...
As a response to Eduardo Viveiros de Castro’s critique of my essay “Fetishes are gods in the process of construction,” this paper enters into critical engagement with anthropological proponents of what has been called the “ontological turn.”
Any theoretical term is an implicit statement about human nature. Anthropologists tend to be uncomfortable with this fact but it is nonetheless true. Even if one were to make a statement as apparently innocuous as “ritual can take many forms in many places,” one is still asserting that “ritual” is a meaningful cross-cultural category, implying...
Originally, the term ‘fetishes’ was used by European merchants to refer to objects employed in West Africa to make and enforce agreements, often between people with almost nothing in common. They thus provide an interesting window on the problem of social creativity – especially since in classic Marxist terms they were surprisingly little fetishized.
The experience of bureaucratic incompetence, confusion, and its ability to cause otherwise intelligent people to behave outright foolishly, opens up a series of questions about the nature of power or, more specifically, structural violence.