Introduction: Bureaucracy: Ethnography of the State in Everyday Life
Government has become a central character in anthropological studies, but anthropologists rarely investigate how government itself operates. Instead, it appears as a looming shadow that mysteriously affects its surroundings. My portion of this introduction to a symposium on state bureaucracy recasts government administration as a site for ethnographic study — a place with an everyday life of its own. It asks scholars to move beyond the political philosopher’s view of bureaucracies as bleak, bland, lifeless assemblies of cogs. It also urges rejecting the image of unaccountable, intractable, unknowable morass that bureaucracies seeking to insulate themselves from probing project.
PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review
Anya Bernstein & Elizabeth Mertz, Introduction: Bureaucracy: Ethnography of the State in Everyday Life, PoLAR, May 2011, at 6.