1st Edition

Shifting States New Perspectives on Security, Infrastructure, and Political Affect

Edited By Alison Dundon, Richard Vokes Copyright 2021
    234 Pages 7 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    234 Pages 7 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Shifting States draws on a rich history of anthropological theorising on all kinds of states – from the pre- to the post- industrial – and explores topics as diverse as bureaucracy, infrastructure, surveillance, securitization, and public health.

    As we enter the third decade of the twentieth century, there is a growing sense that ‘the state’ is in crisis everywhere. Although the nature of this perceived crisis varies from place to place, everywhere it is seen to have been caused by some combination of the inter-related forces of ‘globalisation’, of successive economic shocks, and of the rise of social media-fuelled populist movements. Yet, conversely, there is also a creeping perception that state power is becoming more pervasive in its reach, and in its effects, in ways which make it ever more imminent to the material worlds in which we live, more fundamental to the ways in which we conceive of the future, and more foundational to our very sense of self. How might we try to make sense of, and to mediate, these apparently contradictory impressions?

    Based on ethnographic case studies from all over the world, this timely volume forges new ways of thinking about how state power manifests, and is imagined, and about the effects it has on ordinary people’s lives. In so doing, the volume provides tools not only for understanding states’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also for judging what effects these responses are likely to have.


    Part I: Ethnographies of Infrastructure: Assemblage, Experimentation, and Mobilization

    1. Contingent statecraft: infrastructures, political creativity, and experimentation 

    Penny Harvey

    2. Materialising the state: the meaning of water infrastructure

    Veronica Strang

    3. Driving into the nation-state: driving, roads, and selfhood in a post-socialist milieu

    Andrew Dawson 

    4. State of the grain: grain of the state: the political- and moral-economy of rice in Indonesia

    Graeme MacRae and Thomas Reuter 

    Part II: Dialectics of Security, Surveillance and Struggle

    5. Indigenous social policy, settler colonial dependencies, and toxic lingerings: living through mining and militarism in the Anthropocene

    Tess Lea

    6. Awkward biculturalism: embodying ambiguity in New Zealand Army haka

    Nina Harding

    7. Fear of a free lunch: markets, publics, and the would-be gift

    David Boarder Giles

    Part III: Sensory States, and their Contingent Citizenries

    8. Intimate tonguing: the governance of the tongue in smokefree Australia

    Simone Dennis

    9. Sensing late-liberal state failure: ecologies of resistance in a post-industrial German city

    Felix Ringel

    10. Dialysis in the desert: blood, biomedial technologies, and transformation in Central Australia

    Henrietta Byrne

    11. 'Looking for a nice face': shifting states of marriage and intimate citizenship in Papua New Guinea

    Alison Dundon

    12. The state of silence as sensory and social: towards an anthropological appreciation

    Nigel Rapport


    Alison Dundon is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology and Development Studies at the University of Adelaide, Australia.

    Richard Vokes is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Western Australia.