Edited by Harald Wydra and Bjørn Thomassen
Chapter 6: Cultural intimacy and the politics of civility
This chapter focuses on the performative and affective foundations of the informal ways in which social actors defend the inner spaces of institutional life. States and societies cannot consistently conform to the formal standards required by their institutions, norms, and laws; consequently, their citizens practice and experiment with locally recognizable political styles. An anthropology of politics must therefore recognize that collusion depends heavily on the intimate winks and nods that signal shared recognition of long-familiar but well-concealed possibilities for what may ultimately prove to be transformative action. Concepts such as phatic communion and cultural intimacy, conjoined in a comparative framework resting on several different cultural spheres (especially those of Thailand, Italy, Greece, and the US), allow us to tease out the multiple ways, some of them at odds with the prescriptions of the bureaucratic nation-state, in which social actors play with the conventions of civility, and to explore the effects they thereby achieve.
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