Category Archives: Anthropology

Michel Foucault: Society Must Be Defended

This is one of the great books in Foucault’s groundbreaking series of lectures at the Collège de France. The e-book is available here. The main theme of the lectures is the contention that war can be used to analyse power relations. Foucault contends that politics is a continuation of war by other means. Thus, any constitutional theory of sovereignty and right is an attempt to refute the fact that power relations are based upon a relationship of conflict, violence and domination. The book is coloured with historical examples, drawn from the early modern period in both England and France, with wonderful digressions into subjects as diverse as classical French tragedy and the gothic novel. Here, Foucault deals with the emergence in the early seventeenth century of a new understanding of war as the permanent basis of all institutions of power, a hidden presence within society that could be deciphered by an historical analysis. Tracing this development, Foucault outlines the genealogy of power and knowledge that had become his dominant concern. Praise for “Society Must Be Defended”: [Foucault] must be reckoned with by humanists, social scientists, and political activists. – The New York Times Book Review. Foucault is quite central to our sense of where we are. . . [He] is carrying out, in the noblest way, the promiscuous aim of true culture. – The Nation. Continue reading

Michel Foucault: The Punitive Society

9781403986603This is one of the great series of books in Foucault’s groundbreaking series of lectures at the Collège de France.“Unfortunately, when we teach morality, when we study the history of morals, we always analyze the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals and do not read [Colquhoun], this character who is fundamental for our morality. To understand a society’s system of morality we have to ask the question: Where is the wealth? The history of morality should be organized entirely by this question of the location and movement of wealth,” said Michel Foucault. These thirteen lectures on the ‘punitive society,’ delivered at the Collège de France: in the first three months of 1973, examine the way in which the relations between justice and truth that govern modern penal law were forged, and question what links them to the emergence of a new punitive regime that still dominates contemporary society. Presumed to be preparation for Discipline and Punish, published in 1975, in fact the lectures unfold quite differently, going beyond the carceral system and encompassing the whole of capitalist society, at the heart of which is the invention of a particular management of the multiplicity of interweaving illegalisms. Continue reading

Michel Foucault: Security, Territory, Population

This is one of the great series of books in Foucault’s groundbreaking series of lectures at the Collège de France: the full pdf e-book is available here. The book description is as follows: Marking a major development in Foucault’s thinking, this book derives from the lecture course which he gave at the Collège de France between January and April, 1978. Taking as his starting point the notion of ‘bio-power’, introduced both in his 1976 course Society Must be Defended and in the first volume of his History of Sexuality, Foucault sets out to study the foundations of this new technology of power over population. Distinct from disciplinary techniques, the mechanisms of power are here finely entwined with technologies of security, and it is to the 18th century developments of these technologies with which the first chapters of the book are concerned. By the fourth lecture however Foucault’s attention turns, focusing newly on a history of ‘governmentality’ from the first centuries of the Christian era through to the emergence of the modern nation state. As Michel Sennerlart explains in his afterword, the effect of this Continue reading

Arab Shah: Natural Afghan Mystic

The fortune-teller of Kabul is yet another tremendous long read from The Guardian about an Afghan natural mystic called Arab Shah, who people consult for a variety of reasons including whether they should emigrate from the war-torn country east to Australia or west to Europe? The author, May Jeong, asks the seminal question: for centuries mystics have channelled the hopes and fears of Afghans. With the nation in turmoil, their services are as popular as ever. But can they survive the latest crackdown by religious hardliners? She explores Afghanistan’s tense and complicated relationship with Islam. Here is a further extract from her most excellent must read piece: Shah is a fortune-teller – a falbin, a taweez naweez mulla, a djinn hunter – who belongs to a long tradition of men who practise magic said to predate Islam. Spirit mediums inhabit the interstices between the old and the new: in one neighbourhood in old Kabul, a row of falbin fortune-tellers sit receiving visitors just outside a modern medical clinic, to serve those who want to cover all bases. These men – and the occasional woman – are living manifestations of Afghanistan’s complicated Continue reading

Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison

This classic by Michel Foucault is available as an e-book here. In the Middle Ages there were goals and dungeons, but punishment was for the most part a spectacle. The economic changes and growing popular dissent of the 18th century made necessary a more systematic control over the individual members of society, and this in effect meant a change from punishment, which chastised the body, to reform, which touched the soul. Foucault shows the development of the Western system of prisons, police organizations, administrative and legal hierarchies for social control – and the growth of disciplinary society as a whole. Foucault also reveals that between school, factories, barracks and hospitals all share a common organization, in which it is possible to control the use of an individual’s time and space hour by hour.

The Emergence of Socialist Thought Among North Indian Muslims, 1917-1947

The reconciliation of basic Islamic principles with modernity has been a major challenge for Muslims over the last two centuries. This study uncovers the responses of Indian Muslims who were drawn to socialist ideas between the Bolshevik Revolution and Partition. From the Pan-Islamist muhajirin, who migrated to Soviet Central Asia during the Khilafat agitation of 1919-24, to the upper-class literary radicals of the Progressive Writers Movement of the 1930s and 1940s, socialism provided Muslim radicals with an intellectual toolkit for analysing their own society and constructing strategies for emancipation from Western oppression. In fact, the principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity that existed within Islamic ideology encouraged Muslim socialists to embrace a secular mode of thinking. Continue reading

Remotely Colonial: History and Politics in Balochistan

Remotely Colonial is a monograph that examines tribalism and nationalism as historical processes in Kalat, which is today incorporated in the Balochistan Province of Pakistan. Kalat was ‘remotely colonial’ in two ways. It was located on the far reaches of the Indian Empire, and British interests were geostrategic rather than economic. The British designated Kalat a native state, but proceeded to marginalize the ruler in favour of sardars (chiefs) and tribal governance through jirga (tribal court) deliberations. This led to tensions between local officials dealing with events on the ground and the central government, which was determined that the façade of Kalat State be maintained. Colonial subject status – tribal, client or British Protected Subject – determined rights and obligations. Continue reading