Open Stream

Manuela Nocker

Politics faces a crisis of legitimacy in an age of uncertainty. At least, it does if we take politics to mean the formal institutions of representative and parliamentary democracy as these have been founded in the roots of ancient ‘Graeco-Latin’ European citizenship and exported in more recent times around the world. Confronted not only with perennial and on-going allegations of corruption, ineptitude and irrelevance, politics must also consider the possibility that the distinctive qualities and ‘gravitas’ of its occupational expertise are slowly being replaced by marketing and media and other technocratic and managerial practices. For many, the contemporary problem of politics is more fundamental. Existing in a permanent state of emergency, crisis, or exception, filled with terror, fear and militarised security, politics is being eroded and erased in a war of ‘all against all’. Things are worse today than even Hobbes can have imagined, not least by the fact that this war seems also to have been declared on the human – not only by the inhumanity of evil – but by what we used to call nature, a war waged by no-one or no-thing, but what we might call after Lovelock ‘the revenge of Gaia’. Despite this, and perhaps ironically, there are those who claim we now live in ‘post-political’ times.

We might usefully consider this crisis in terms of organization and ask how is politics being organized or re-organized these days? However, from the study of formal bureaucracy to the post-bureaucratic organization, from ‘micro’ studies of the bus-queue to ‘macro’ preoccupations with the prevailing ontological properties of the destiny of ‘the West’ - the problem of organization ranges widely and might even be considered to be the defining problem of the modern social sciences. In one sense of organization we can ask about the changing relation between the workplace as a site of organization and the nexus this forms between the labour process, trade unions and modern labour politics. In another sense we can ask what form of organization can adjudicate all the differences and claims being made on the earth manifest and expressed in spaces that lie between old state territories, in processes and movements that cross-over the old spatial and temporal boundaries? What contribution can those who take organization as their object of analysis make to current anxieties and debates concerning the de-legitimacy of politics as it is currently constituted? How must we reimagine and reinvent politics if communities and people are to survive the widely acknowledged coming crisis in ecological and economic breakdown?

Ethnography has much to contribute to these epochal narratives and their allied debates. From the study of alternative political and economic systems in the anthropological tradition to studies of street corner societies and political activism, ethnography has a fine tradition upon which to draw. We invite submissions to an open stream of papers at this year’s annual international ethnography symposium that connect to, relate and extend these questions.

Please send a 500 word abstract by the deadline of Tuesday 28th February 2017 to Decisions on acceptance will be made by 30 March 2017.