Association for Political and Legal Anthropology
Association for Feminist Anthropology
Cosponsored - Oral Presentation Session
Abstract: This panel centers the analytics and methods that feminist cultural analysis has brought to the fore to revisit a cluster of issues that are central to the anthropology of state and citizenship. Feminist anthropologists have applied postcolonial, transnational, feminist approaches far and wide, engaging practically all the themes and areas that are of interest to the discipline of anthropology as a whole. But these frameworks have largely flourished in subfields of black, feminist, and queer anthropologies, and have not been taken up by anthropologists at large in ways that fulfill the promise for a radical transformation of the discipline (Bolles 2013; Strathern 1987; Weiss 2016).
We see this especially in political anthropology, which too often treats the racialized formations of gender, sexuality, and kinship as supplemental, and not integral, to the study of topics like sovereignty, border regimes, migration, bureaucracy, legal status, humanitarianism, development, neoliberalism, and capitalism. Feminists have shown that this analytical domaining of the “politico-economic” as a discrete site of theorization has historically paralleled the ideological and naturalizing domaining of the “public” (the “politico-jural” and “economic”) as distinct from the “domestic” (Bear et al 2015; Collier and Yanagisako 1987; Yanagisako and Delaney 1995). Like race, kinship, or nation, the cultural domain of “citizenship” comes with normative claims of “becoming stated” through processes of official and symbolic “naturalization”—by birth or incorporation.
Postcolonial feminists have argued that processes of citizen-(un)making are always in an awkward relationship with the nation-state’s formalistic discourse of citizenship (Coutin 2007; Grewal 2005; McGranahan 2016; Ong 1999; Spivak 2002). Neoliberal deregulation, international mobility, and the marketization of the social reveal both citizenship and the nation-state as profoundly unstable formations (Caldeira 2000; Coe 2013; Petryna and Follis 2015; Vora 2013). A transnational feminist practice (Grewal and Kaplan 1994; de la Cadena 2015; Mohanty 2003) has theorized these formations as naturalized, including how ideological formations of citizenship and the state, on the one hand, and race, gender, and sexuality, on the other, are historically and culturally co-produced across borderlands (Bernal 2014; Bolles 1996; Catttelino 2008; Freeman 2000; Malkki 1995; Povinelli 2002; Stoler 2002; Thomas 2011). A newly aggressive politics of securitization intensifies the lethal nature of noncitizenship (Besteman 2019; 2013; Feldman 2007; Ticktin 2011) but also the limits and risks of citizenship (Hamdy 2017; Petryna 2013; Sharma 2008).
This panel asks: How do the gendered and sexualized figures of this current geopolitical moment—migrants, refugees, noncitizens, but also “partial” citizens, like prisoners and minoritized subjects—become “stated”? To “be stated” is to be subject to governance, to be governed. And it literally means to be identified, to be specified. How do discourses of race, gender, sexuality, and humanity secure and authenticate citizenship as a naturalizing discourse of “becoming stated”? Through which processes of naturalization and denaturalization is the “political” being mobilized and dyads like citizen/noncitizen, human/nonhuman, kin/stranger, are made to appear? What are the resonances of terms such as “naturalization”?