Handbook of Political Anthropology
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Handbook of Political Anthropology

Edited by Harald Wydra and Bjørn Thomassen

This Handbook engages the reader in the major debates, approaches, methodologies, and explanatory frames within political anthropology. Examining the shifting borders of a moving field of enquiry, it illustrates disciplinary paradigm shifts, the role of humans in political structures, ethnographies of the political, and global processes. Reflecting the variety of directions that surround political anthropology today, this volume will be essential reading to understanding the interactions of humans within political frames in a globalising world.
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Chapter 4: Contemporary political stakes: after-lives of the modern

Paul Rabinow and Anthony Stavrianakis


This chapter claims the need for a contemporary ethos that helps us respond to a confusing and inchoate present. With the decline of meta-narratives and post-modernism, the authors identify the contemporary ethos in a new, ‘third’ movement of Kant’s original question: ‘What is Enlightenment?’ We must still ‘dare to think’, but need to go beyond Kant’s pact with the reigning powers with its separation of spheres of the public and the private or Foucault’s History of the Present, designed to undermine the seeming solidity of prior formations. In the current political conjuncture, ‘to dare to know’ can be identified in the need for different publics to emerge. Such publics can only emerge in relation to specific problems, which in turn require inquiry and concept work. Political anthropology must therefore proceed by inquiry and concept work in order to conceive of the relation between anthropology and the political stakes of practices.

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