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ECPR Journals Virtual Special Issue

Constitutional Complexity - State Theory after the New Political Anthropology

Ethnic Conflict
National Identity
Third World Politics
Comparative Perspective
Section Number
Section Chair
Helge Hiram Jensen
European University Institute
Section Co-Chair
Cathrine Thorleifsson
Universitetet i Oslo

The purpose of this Section is to bring together political scientists and political anthropologists who are discovering realities outside the box of normative / methodological nationalism and statism.

These two fields have developed in parallel, but in relative isolation from each other. Bringing them together might be mutually beneficial at a moment when populist movements are bringing nationalism back on the stage. We will facilitate empirical and theoretical exchange between political scientists and political anthropologists who inquire into realities that can hardly be framed within the normative / methodological assumptions about culturally homogeneous nations and politically unified states.

Political Science: European integration has led political science and practice to re-think the theory of the state, questioning the normative / methodological nationalism and statism implied in the Westphalian order. The re-thinking of the state has been fuelled by, among other issues, an increased awareness to cultural pluralism, following the reaction against the Holocaust, and the arrival of new ethnic minorities. Institutions and citizenship beyond the nation state have been researched by various researchers at the European University Institute, such as Rainer Bauböck, Olivier Roy and the Migration Policy Centre. However, a return of normative and methodological nationalism might be seen, with the populist political responses to economic crisis.

Political Anthropology: Within political anthropology, a parallel, but separate development has taken place. Following the national independence of former colonies, the former anti-colonialist nation-building has been partly replaced by a post-colonial sensitivity to the complex historical heritage in former colonies. Political anthropologists such as Sharon Hutchinson, Deborah Poole, Knut Nustad and Bruce Kapferer are researching complex sovereignty and legal pluralism not only within “third world” states, but also among indigenous “fourth world” peoples. In particular, the indigenous rights struggle, with its recent developments in international law, has implied a search for proof within legal anthropology. As a result, legal scholars in Latin America have developed constitutional legal theory that transcend the normative / methodological nationalism / statism of the previous legal positivism (see e.g. the work of Marcello Neves and Ugo Mattei). Such research has contributed to the refinement of concepts such as “legal pluralism”, “jurisdictional pluralism” and “complex sovereignty”, which may or may not include the presence of territorially clear-cut monopolies of coercive force. The research on complex social, political and/or military systems imply novel theoretical developments in political anthropology and legal anthropology, with potential consequences for state theory and legal theory in general.

These two research fronts have developed in parallel, yet in relative isolation from each other. Nevertheless, some recent multidisciplinary and comparative research has started to exploit the potential to bring the two research fronts together. For example, recent research on the indigenous Sámi people of Northern Europe has brought together these two strands of research, e.g. in the edited volume Indigenous Politics, published at ECPR Press in 2016. This volume, as well as similar research on the Sámi, indicates that the Nordic states never were capable to impose the ideal of the unitary state/nation in practice, compared to how strongly it was claimed in theory. This is only one example of what might happen when the two strands of research are being brought together.

To an increasing degree, anthropologists have turned their attention from the former colonies, and “back home” to the former colonizing nations. Similarly, the sociology of development has identified various forms of “hybrid modernities” emerging in “non-Western” areas, while the commercial, social and cultural ties remain between former colonial nations and former colonized areas. There is a wide field of relevance for potential combinations of the two research fronts: political anthropology after the “island metaphor” of coherent, bounded cultures, and political science after “methodological nationalism”.

Suggested Panels:

1) Various national movements in Europe, e.g. Ukip, Casa Pound, Scottish separatism, and Sardinian autonomism.

2) Various post-colonies and their relations to former colonial powers, e.g. Francophonie, the Commonwealth, and the Amazigh (Berber) movement.

3) Various indigenous peoples within and outside Europe, e.g. the Sámi and the Nenet peoples within Europe; the Mapuche and the Maya peoples outside of Europe.

Chair: Helge Hiram Jensen is an associate professor at Kristiania University College, Oslo, Dept. of Creativity and Innovation, and is member of the Centre of Social Movement Studies, Scuola Normale Superiore, Firenze. He holds a PhD from the European University Institute. Jensen has conducted fieldwork among the indigenous Sámi people at the Arctic fringe of Europe, and he has researched the living conditions of Norwegian residents of Indian origin, for the Robert Schuman Centre (European University Institute), the Migration Policy Centre. Currently, he is developing courses in research methodology. Email: helge.jensen/at/, helge/at/

Co-Chair: Cathrine Moe Thorleifsson is a researcher at Department of Social Anthropology and C-REX Centre for Research on Extremism, University of Oslo. She holds a PhD from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Thorleifsson has extensive fieldwork experience from Europe and Israel, and is currently researching right-wing populist mobilization in Europe. She is a member of the ERC-funded project Overheating and the NFR-funded project European Strains, based at the Dept. of Social Anthropology and the Dept. of Economy at the University of Oslo. 
Email: c.m.thorleifsson/at/, cathrine/at/

Panel List

Code Title Details
P168Indigenous Studies and Constitutional Complexity View Panel Details
P453Reconfiguring Nationhood: Populist and Minority Political Mobilisation in an Age of Acceleration View Panel Details
P454Various Post-colonies and their Relations to Former Colonial Powers View Panel Details
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