Association pour l’anthropologie du changement social et du développement
Association for the anthropology of social change and development

Moral games, between deontology and social justice: the anthropologists of the Indian bureaucracy

Moral games, between deontology and social justice: the anthropologists of the Indian bureaucracy

Auteur(s) : Egas Jose ;

In India the verticality of intercommunal relations that the caste structure provides to social life is staggering. Attempts by the state to alleviate this verticality have been constant since the official abolition of the system in the 1947 constitution. The inclusion of affirmative action policies towards the lower populations of the social pyramid, the Dalits and the tribes, has meant the structuring of exceptional bureaucratic machinery. In order to establish adequate mechanisms for the implementation of these policies, the state has required the establishment of defining criteria on the limits of each social group. Those limits determine who belongs and who does not belong to this or that group. This has been necessary due to the constant attempt of various groups or individuals to adapt their identity in order to claim themselves as members of a lower caste and so access the benefits that positive discrimination grants to those groups.

The monitoring of the fulfillment of these criteria of eligibility to be or not to be part of a social group is the main role of the anthropological research institutes that exist in most of the states of the union. What is curious about this structure is that some of the anthropologists who participate in this monitoring belong to the lower castes and have obtained their position through the eligibility quotas. Such intermediaries act as a hinge between a seemingly rigid state structure and the fractures, cleavages, and ambiguities that state idea, in terms of Abrhams (1988), implies. In the endeavor of these anthropologists, the deontological requirements of their professional expertise are brought into play on the one hand, and on the other, the feelings and afflictions of a moral economy that their own social condition entails. It is a position in which the anthropologist is able to affect and be affected, borrowing Spinoza’s connotation. It is when the character is in the vertex between the deontological questioning that enters in conflict with the political performance where social justice plays, from a historical point of view. It is when the character is in the vertex between the deontological questioning at odds with the political performance where social justice is at stake, from a historical point of view where the low castes have been excluded and marginalized. That political performance is an intervention that breaks the social structure that the state expects. An action-intervention as Lordon (2016) would say, that makes emerge the passionate substance.

Based on ethnographic work in the southern Indian state of Kerala, this presentation seeks to shed light on the work of bureaucratic anthropologists confronting the monitoring procedures of caste belonging. These anthropologists are part of a specific vigilance cell working in research activities to clear the bogus claims of the benefits of the reservation policy.

References:

Abrams, Philip. 1988. “Notes on the Difficulty of Studying the State (1977).” Journal of Historical Sociology 1 (1): 58–89. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6443.1988.tb00004.x.

Lordon, Frédéric. 2016. Les Affects de la politique. seuil.


Mot-clé : affects, Anthropology, bureacuracy, India, morality, politics, et State
Toutes les communications appartenant au même panel :

Voir le panel Des États de sentiments. Explorer les enchevêtrements affectifs et émotionnels des fonctionnaires et des citoyens / States of Feeling: Exploring Public Servants’ and Citizens’ Affective and Emotional Entanglements

Voir tous les panels du colloque Apad conference 2020


Claiming state care: exploring the everyday encounters between child care workers and returning migrants in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Claiming state care: exploring the everyday encounters between child care workers and returning migrants in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Auteur(s) : Hansen Saana ;

This paper is part of my Doctoral Research that uses the return migration of undocumented migrants from South Africa to Zimbabwe as a lens to investigate what has the prolonged crisis and large-scale displacement done to the economies of care in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. This paper asks how care givers of Zimbabwean ’posted back’ and ‘left behind’ children try to secure the state care, such as access to citizenship rights and other entitlements for the children. By looking at the everyday encounters between the care givers and the ward-level child care workers (CCWs), this paper contributes to the scholarship that brings about the creative aspects and affective entanglements of the state-citizen relations (e.g. Navaro-Yashin 2007, 2012; Laszczkowski & Reeves 2018).  The CCWs are non-paid volunteers, and the lowest stratum of the hierarchy of social welfare system, yet closest in proximity to the ordinary people. They embody state authority to intervene the sphere of the intimate with their mandate to identify ‘vulnerable families’ and ‘refer’ them to various ‘higher’ authorities. The CCWs are part of the official government policy and the social welfare relies on their volunteer labour to run the social services on the ground. In doing so, they are key figures through which the people imagine ‘the state’ and seek statutory care.

My argument draws on 9 months of multi-sited ethnographic research in the city of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, as well as in the border-zones and the homes of transnational migrants in Johannesburg, South Africa. By looking at everyday encounters between the CCWs and the care-takers of ‘left behind’ and ‘posted back’ children, I explore how the responsibilities to care and rights to be cared for are claimed and negotiated in circumstances where ‘the state’ lacks capacity to provide adequate protection and employment to its citizenry. In these conditions, the ‘informal economies’ and a number of non-state actors, such as various ‘fixer’ and ‘brokers’ who facilitate access for instance to documents, foreign currency and cross-border transportation, occupy the ‘state space’ (Ferguson & Gupta 2002). I argue that the CCWs perform a disciplinary role by registering ‘the vulnerable’ and defining who ‘deserves’ access to the scarce statutory care, such as birth registration or school fee programmes (cf. Malkki 2015). I also show that at the heart of these claims lay questions on affective relations and entanglements. By mixing affective and biblical language of passion and love, empathy and spiritual leading with neoliberal self-responsibilization rhetoric, the CCWs make affective and moral claims on how a good citizen and a respectful (transnational) parent should behave and act. On the other hand, the care-givers of displaced children enact and claim vulnerability and citizenship via various performative acts (Butler 2009), including for instance production of legible birth stories. Paradoxically, while the encounters constitute a creative space for claim-making and a sense of hope for ‘the poor’, the volunteers also use this state space to validate their own authority and practice ukuhlanganisa (‘mixing things to make do’), which is the dominant mode of economic survival in the study area today.


Mot-clé : affects, Child care workers, Child Displacement, Documents, Economies of Care, Return Migration, State, Uncertainty, et Zimbabwe
Toutes les communications appartenant au même panel :

Voir le panel Des États de sentiments. Explorer les enchevêtrements affectifs et émotionnels des fonctionnaires et des citoyens / States of Feeling: Exploring Public Servants’ and Citizens’ Affective and Emotional Entanglements

Voir tous les panels du colloque Apad conference 2020


The affective regimes of Chinese media in Africa: Exploring new research paradigms for the understanding of China-Africa media interactions

The affective regimes of Chinese media in Africa: Exploring new research paradigms for the understanding of China-Africa media interactions

Auteur(s) : Jedlowski Alessandro ;

Existing studies on the expansion of Chinese media companies in Africa published in recent years focus mainly on the expansion in Africa of Chinese state media companies, through an approach that tends to read the activities of these companies as being the direct expression of the Chinese government’s hegemonic project in Africa, and therefore as the result of the soft power policies formulated by the Chinese Communist Party. However, to speak of a coherent and homogeneous “Chinese hegemonic project” is likely to be misleading: China’s international activities, in Africa as elsewhere, are the result of the combination of a multitude of actors who do not necessarily share the same project, and have sometimes diverging interests that can produce a hegemonic dynamic, but can also conflict with each other. On the basis of the preliminary results of an ongoing research project on the activities of the Chinese media company StarTimes in Nigeria, this paper proposes some reflections oriented towards the elaboration of an alternative theoretical and methodological approach to the study of Chinese media in Africa, able to take into account, simultaneously, the macro-political and macro-economic factors which condition the nature of China-Africa media interactions, the political intentions behind them (as, for example, the Chinese soft power policies and their translation into specific media contents), and the micro dimension of the “practices” and “uses” of the media made by the actors (producers and consumers of media) in the field. In particular, this paper introduces the concept of “affective regimes”, a tool that makes it possible to take into account the fluid and fragmentary dimension of the engagements between Chinese media and African publics, while equally emphasizing the power dynamics that underlie them, thus offering a theoretical framework able to go beyond the limits of soft power theory, as it has been applied to the study of China-Africa media interactions.


Mot-clé : affects, African audiences, Chinese media, Nigeria, et StarTimes
Toutes les communications appartenant au même panel :

Voir le panel Les médias chinois en Afrique : circulation, production, réception / African uses of Chinese media

Voir tous les panels du colloque Apad conference 2020