In the Margins of the State. Book Review of Anthropology in the Margins of the State edited by Veena Das and Deborah Poole,Oxford University Press, New Delhi

Publication Type:

Journal Articles


Economic and Political Weekly, p.3510–3511 (2006)



In this collection of essays on what constitutes an anthropology of the state at its territorial and conceptual margins, the ethnographies revolve around the fundamental assumption of the politicophilosophical origins of the modern state as posited against a premodern ?state of nature?. The introductory essay by Veena Das and Deborah Poole outlines the three approaches to mark this dichotomy by different ethnographies: ?unruly subjects? vis-?-vis the lawful subjects of the state; ?legibility? and ?illegibility? of the state?s mapping and documentation practices over its territories and citizenry; and the concept of biopower to define the politicisation of the social and thereby construct the state and its margins. The essay also underscores how most of the authors, drawing upon the works of Walter Benjamin, Carl Schmitt and Girgio Agamben, invoke a concept of the margin as an exception ? ?a threat held in abeyance and a state into which any citizen could fall?.


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