Edited by Harald Wydra and Bjørn Thomassen
Chapter 12: Anthropology and political ideology
This chapter advocates the recognition by political anthropology of the need to match analytically and conceptually the recent renaissance of ideology in the political world. The ‘webs of significance’ that connect human beings form political subjectivities in systemic ways. Political anthropology should shed light on ideologies as cognitive structures with legitimizing functions. Using the uprisings in the Middle East as of 2011, this chapter suggests that ideologies are not fixed or cohesive, but rather can be retrieved from the fluidity of processes through ethnography and analysis of mass-mediated texts and images. Although there is no clear demarcation from other knowledge structures, including those normally related to ‘culture’ (the main subject of anthropology), political anthropology has a distinct edge in the current push in ideology theory towards better understanding the ‘anatomy of thinking politically’ – the complex ways in which political thought is shaped between subjective interpretation and social interaction.
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