Introduction: Bureaucracy: Ethnography of the State in Everyday Life

Polar: Political & Legal Anthropology Review, Vol. 34, No. 1, 2011

5 Pages Posted: 8 Jul 2012

See all articles by Anya Bernstein

Anya Bernstein

University at Buffalo Law School

Elizabeth Mertz

University of Wisconsin - Madison; American Bar Foundation

Date Written: 2011

Abstract

Government has become a central character in anthropological studies, but anthropologists rarely investigate how government itself operates. Instead, it appears as a looming shadow that mysteriously affects its surroundings. My portion of this introduction to a symposium on state bureaucracy recasts government administration as a site for ethnographic study — a place with an everyday life of its own. It asks scholars to move beyond the political philosopher’s view of bureaucracies as bleak, bland, lifeless assemblies of cogs. It also urges rejecting the image of unaccountable, intractable, unknowable morass that bureaucracies seeking to insulate themselves from probing project.

Keywords: bureaucracy, ethnography, legal anthropology

Suggested Citation

Bernstein, Anya and Mertz, Elizabeth Ellen, Introduction: Bureaucracy: Ethnography of the State in Everyday Life (2011). Polar: Political & Legal Anthropology Review, Vol. 34, No. 1, 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2102254

Anya Bernstein (Contact Author)

University at Buffalo Law School ( email )

School of Law
624 O'Brian Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260-1100
United States

Elizabeth Ellen Mertz

University of Wisconsin - Madison ( email )

716 Langdon Street
Madison, WI 53706-1481
United States

American Bar Foundation ( email )

750 N. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

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