Article

Political Anthropology

Ajantha Subramanian

in Anthropology

ISBN: 9780199766567
Published online January 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199766567-0018
Political Anthropology

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Political anthropology emphasizes context, process, and scale. The field has been most concerned with the contextual specificity of political processes and the mechanisms through which localities are differentially incorporated into larger scales of social, economic, and political life. Whereas political anthropology inhabits much of the same analytical ground as political science in considering phenomena such as state formation, democracy, citizenship, rights, and development, political anthropologists challenge normative assumptions of what counts as “politics” by illuminating connections between formal and informal political arenas, and among cultural, social, and political processes. There is a key internal distinction that has marked political anthropology virtually from the outset: that between a structuralist approach emphasizing the systemic nature of power and the role of political behavior and institutions in social reproduction, and a processual approach that highlights conflict, contradiction, and change. Significantly, political anthropology has been distinguished from other fields of anthropology by its relative lack of preoccupation with “culture” as an analytical category; most political anthropologists focus instead on social inequality, institutional dynamics, and political transformation. To put it differently, political anthropologists typically think of their research sites relationally and dynamically, and not in terms of enduring difference from a purported mainstream.

Article.  11322 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology ; Human Evolution ; Medical Anthropology ; Physical Anthropology ; Social and Cultural Anthropology

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