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 10: The anthropology of political revolutions

Bjørn Thomassen


This chapter outlines a series of anthropologically inspired contributions to the study of revolutions. Most scholarship on political revolutions has come from sociology, political science and history. However, in recent years, and closely related to the Arab Spring and the worldwide political upheavals after 2011, a growing number of scholars have provided ethnographic accounts of revolutionary settings. At the level of theory, the chapter indicates some possible anthropological contributions to the study of revolutions and revolutionary action. It invites an understanding of revolutions as ritual processes, highlighting transformative characteristics that closely resemble liminal in-between periods and spaces known from rites of passage. The overall point stressed here is therefore that anthropologists have contributed not only with ethnographic accounts of revolutions as lived through by social actors, but also with analytical approaches that can inspire and supplement existing theoretical approaches to political revolutions.

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