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Anthropology of Power And Resistance - Essay Example

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Anthropology of Power And Resistance

For the understanding of anthropology of power, first we have to understand what power is, how it is constituted, and how it works within an allegedly postmodern world in which older rules of authority seem to have decreasing relevance'. The impacts of policy interventions and opportunities at state, supra-state and extra-state levels for example, on the ways in which people evade or ignore the reach of the state in constructing economic power beyond state control; the opportunities for and constraints on ethnic, gender and other group or categorical empowerment offered by institutions such as United Nations agencies and forums, multinational Non-Governmental Organizations, the European Union, the International Court of Justice, the Internet and the global media, among many others; the possibilities for empowerment by manipulating the interstices between local, regional and central levels of state bureaucratic organization; and issues of 'management'".
Foucault's conceptualization of power is "individuals are always in the position of simultaneously undergoing and exercising this power. They are not only its inert or consenting target; they are always also the elements of its articulation the vehicles of power, not its points of application. (Foucault, M. (1980) Power/Knowledge, (ed.) C. Gordon. New York: Harvester/ Wheatsheaf).
There is also a hint here of that contemporary usage of 'empowerment' which implies the drive by individuals, singly or in combination, to get what they want. But such an approach helps us to understand how socially equal individuals (academic colleagues, for example) can exercise power over others and for themselves and get what they want when they want it merely by ignoring the normal rules of polite social interaction.
There are specific circumstances in which the anthropologist is obliged by the dynamics of the public policy process to adopt a more radical position, of the kind associated with a unilocal, univocal and unifocal form of ethnography, where the goal of 'political anthropology' is to achieve a transfer of power from the 'system' to the 'community'. For this reason, it is necessary for the discipline to develop something akin to a 'code of practice', whereby the necessity or desirability of movements between the radical and the moderate position can also be negotiated, within particular political settings, in order to avoid a breakdown in the dialogue which constitutes the discipline itself. A 'political setting' is defined here as something which is necessarily larger than a single 'community', which may be equivalent to a single jurisdiction (or nation-state), but which will normally also have some sectoral component-e.g. 'health', 'conservation', 'mining', etc
On the other hand currently disempowered people subvert dominating structures and relationships and come some way towards achieving their goals precisely by not voicing their resistance to hegemonic power openly, but by exercising some other capacity or resource.
Patterns of domination can accommodate resistance so long as it is not publicly and unambiguously acknowledged voice under domination includes rumor, gossip, disguises, linguistic ...Show more


The word 'anthropology' is ultimately from the Greek (anthropos, 'human', plus logos, 'discourse' or 'science'). Its first usage to define a scientific discipline is probably around the early sixteenth century (in its Latin form anthropologium). Central European writers then employed it as a term to cover anatomy and physiology; part of what much later came to be called 'physical' or 'biological anthropology…
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