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 12: Anthropology and political ideology

Sune Haugbolle

Abstract

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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