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date: 27 February 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines how anthropological work on the state and political power not only complements, but also contests the political scientific conception of limited statehood. The two disciplines are no longer distinguished by the methods they employ, or their analytical dispositions, or the regions of the world where they conduct research. Here it is suggested instead that anthropology continues to be defined by its commitment to challenging universalizing social scientific assumptions on the basis of ethnography that theorizes from everyday experience. Drawing on examples both from the global South and North, we delineate how anthropology nuances various conceptions of limits of state power, particularly those that structure the binaries of West and non-West, public and private, state and non-state, formal and informal, national and trans- or supranational, on which much of the discussion of state capacity, or its partial absence, is predicated.

Keywords: anthropology, power, ethnography, post-colonial theory, Western and non-Western states

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