How is Anthropology Going? Redux.


I came across the following elucidation of Foucault’s concept of governmentality.

Legitimate sovereignty is about ensuring the common good, which Foucault points out, consists of a state of affairs where all subjects obey the laws, accomplish the tasks expected of them, respect the established order. “This means that the end of sovereignty is circular…The good is obedience to the law, hence the good for sovereignty is that people should obey it…” With government, we see “emerging a new kind of finality. Government is defined as a right manner of disposing of things so as to lead not to a form of the common good…but to an end which is ‘convenient’ for each of the things that has to be governed. This implies a plurality of specific aims: for instance, government will have to ensure that the greatest possible quantity of wealth is produced, that people are provided with sufficient means of subsistence…In order to achieve these various finalities, things must be disposed…” (94-5)

from Foucault and Indian Scholarship by Nevidita Menon

This made me think back to a panel a helped co-organize (along with Chris Vasantkumar and Mattias Viktorin) at the last American Anthropological Association Meetings.  It was called “How is Anthropology Going?” and was, in part an attempt to think through movement in anthropological text and praxis as a type of ethics or politics.  We argued, in the end, that the discipline’s diverse valences were its politics, not a result of its politics (or of any kind of cognitive or theoretical dissonance).

What struck me in particular from the above passage was the word “convenient”.   The word means, at base, “to come (along) together,” does it not?  Conveniency as the Ends of Governance… interesting.

Does this mean that anthropology is a form of governance?  Not the anthropology of governmentality, but anthropology as governmentality?

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