The common sense of expert activists : practitioners, scholars, and the problem of statelessness in Europe
2022-10, Beyer, Judith
In this article, I follow a group of professionals in their efforts to address the problem of statelessness in Europe. My interlocutors divide the members of their group into “practitioners,” on the one hand, and “scholars” on the other. Relating this emic dichotomization to Antonio Gramsci’s dialectical take on common sense, I argue against a theoretical reductionism that regards expertise and activism as two essentially different and mostly separate endeavors, and put forward the concept of the “expert activist.” Unpacking what I call the “practitioner–scholar dilemma,” I show that in their effort to end statelessness, “practitioners” take a reformist route that aims at realizing citizenship for the stateless, while “scholars” are open to a more revolutionary path that contemplates the denaturalization and even the eradication of the state. By drawing on Gramsci, I suggest that the impasse the group encounters in their work might relate more to the structural constraints imposed by the state within or against which they operate than to the problem of statelessness they are trying to solve. This article contributes to a body of emergent work in anthropology that explores the intersection of scholarly expertise and activism.
Imagining the state in rural Kyrgyzstan : how perceptions of the state create customary law in the Kyrgyz aksakal courts
2007, Beyer, Judith
In this paper I examine how the image of the state comes to be constructed in rural Kyrgyzstan. Taking the example of the Kyrgyz courts of elders (aksakal courts) I show how elders perceive the Kyrgyz state and state law and how these perceptions influence the way they carry out their court sessions. By using a divorce case dealt with in an aksakal court I show how images of national and international legal elements define the procedures and the outcome of the court case. This paper contributes to the expanding literature on the anthropology of the state. I argue that anthropology can only tackle “the state” by looking at how its image is created in local practices. What we can observe in these practices, however, are less representations of “the state” than often entirely new practices.