Department of Social Anthropology

The Fredrik Barth Memorial Lecture 2017: Madeleine Reeves

The title of this year's lecture is "Scaling sovereignty: intimate militarism and the anthropology of exception".

The Fredrik Barth Memorial Lecture
The invited speaker for the Fredrik Barth Memorial Lecture 2017 is Dr Madeleine Reeves, Senior Lecturer at the University of Manchester.
Department of Social Anthropology, University of Bergen

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We are happy to announce that Dr Madeleine Reeves, University of Manchester, will give the Fredrik Barth Memorial Lecture 2017.

Scaling sovereignty: intimate militarism and the anthropology of exception

What is at stake in contemporary calls to ‘take back control’ of state borders? What is being hoped for in demands to ‘regain sovereignty’ in places where it is felt to have been lost or compromised?  In this essay I seek to situate state desire as a properly anthropological object of enquiry through an engagement with Barth’s work on scale. My starting point is a critical engagement, through the lens of scale, with recent ethnographic literature that has taken the production of legal exceptions as the starting point for an anthropology of contemporary sovereignty. Such literature has productively illuminated the legal, political and institutional mechanisms through which some human lives are systematically rendered ‘bare’.

Yet anthropology’s concern with sovereignty-as-exception has, I suggest, left us with fewer tools for exploring sovereignty-as-aspiration: with recognizing the bordered, territorially-integral, notionally-sovereign state as locus of material and affective investment. The concept of scale can be productive here, precisely by illuminating how ‘sovereignty’ might appear differently at different ethnographic and analytical scales. Drawing on research along Kyrgyzstan’s borders with neighbouring Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, I seek to develop this argument ethnographically by exploring what I call ‘intimate militarism’: the normalization of, and desire for, military presence as an index of social and geographical legibility in a context otherwise marked by consistent state withdrawal.

About the lecturer

Dr Madeleine Reeves' work has focused on the way in which state space and state categories are produced and ruptured in everyday life in Central Asia. She has been particularly interested in exploring sites where the authority of the state has been open to contestation, and she has conducted fieldwork in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. More rrecently, she has done research on Kyrgyzstani migrant workers in Russia.

Dr Reeves was an RCUK Research Fellow in Conflict, Cohesion and Change (2007-2012) at the ESRC Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change. She studied Social and Political Sciences at Clare College, University of Cambridge and Russian history at the University of Chicago before embarking on an MPhil and PhD in Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge. She has previously taught at the American University-Central Asia and in the Cambridge University Institute for Continuing Education. Currently, Reeves serves on the Education Committee of the Royal Anthropological Institute and is Editor of Central Asian Survey.

Refreshments and drinks will be served after the lecture. All interested are welcome!