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La ciencia omnivora: antropologia, capitalismo y estados contemporaneos segun Jean y John Comaroff.

[ILUSTRACION OMITIR]

THE OMNIVOROUS SCIENCE: JEAN AND JOHN COMAROFF ON THE POLITICS OF ANTHROPOLOGY, CAPITALISM AND CONTEMPORARY STATES.

Luis Fernando Angosto Ferrandez [LFAF]: Quisiera comenzar esta entrevista con una pregunta retrospectiva. Me gustaria que trajeseis a la memoria vuestras perspectivas sobre la situacion de la antropologia durante la decada de los 80. A esas alturas ya os encontrabais en los Estados Unidos de America (EUA), trabajando en la Universidad de Chicago. Por supuesto, estarias al tanto de los debates de la antropologia estadounidense de aquellos tiempos. Para entonces John ya habia estado publicando sobre tematicas disciplinarias, sobre la relacion entre historia y antropologia y sobre la etnografia en Africa. Y tu, Jean, a mediados de la decada publicabas un libro importante que ya abordaba tematicas de gran amplitud, en vez de inclinarse hacia una antropologia introspectiva (Comaroff, 1985). En aquel trabajo hacias explicita tu preocupacion por la relacion entre lo local y lo global y discutias sobre los efectos del "neo-colonialismo"; tu trabajo proyectaba ambicion cientifica. ?Como veiais en aquel periodo que vuestro trabajo contrastaba con el de aquellos que estaban a punto de publicar Writing Culture y que se hallaban envueltos en debates acerca de la llamada 'crisis de representacion' en la antropologia y en general sobre la falta de legitimidad en las ciencias sociales? ?Como pensabais que vuestro trabajo encajaba en aquel contexto?

Jean Comaroff [JeC]: Esta es una buena pregunta. Habia dos tipos de dinamicas en juego. Una de ellas es el hecho de que fuimos formados en la decada de los 60 en Gran Bretana, como colonos que venian a la metropolis, a la London School of Economics (LSE) durante una epoca de efervescencia. Por ejemplo, muchos de nuestros companeros eran estadounidenses, refugiados de la guerra del Vietnam. Pero, en general, en toda Europa--la Europa joven--habia una efervescencia, y no se sabia claramente su causa. Fue un periodo en que predomino la reaccion politica frente al comienzo de lo que pronto seria conocido como el neoliberalismo (y la epoca de la post-colonia). Politicamente, era la segunda mitad del siglo XX, con la subita desaparicion del modernismo tardio, de los ideales del estado de bienestar, etc. Nosotros estabamos en LSE, que no era ni Oxford ni Cambridge, sino una institucion urbana, en medio de Londres, ciudad que habia acogido a muchos refugiados politicos y a criticos de todas partes del mundo. Estabamos cerca del sitio de las manifestaciones, cerca de la embajada de los EEUU en Grosvenor Square, que era el centro de las protestas en contra de la Guerra del Vietnam y de las diversas orientaciones de disension juvenil que las acompanaron. Por un lado, ese fue nuestro contexto social; por el otro, nos estabamos formando en la antropologia britanica, una clasica antropologia social, modernista, producto de la era colonial, pero poniendo enfasis en el analisis social.

LFAF: En contraste con la tendencia cultural que guio gran parte de la antropologia producida en los EEUU, ?no es asi?

John Comaroff [JoC]: Exactamente.

JeC: En la antropologia britanica, la cultura fue siempre una concepcion mas bien Durkheimiana, un reflejo de la estructura social. No es que la cultura no fuera importante; estaba incorporada en la 'cosmologia' y en el simbolismo ritual, pero se trataba de una expresion de las relaciones sociales mas que de un orden determinante por si mismo. Se nos formo en esa escuela, durante la efervescencia politica de finales de los 60. Y tambien, por supuesto, en medio de la lucha en contra del Apartheid que se daba en Sudafrica y tambien en el Reino Unido. Mas adelante nos fuimos al norte de Inglaterra, a la Universidad de Manchester, (1) en donde nos involucramos con el movimiento sindical y con un tipo de antropologia que tenia conexiones prolongadas con la historia del marxismo y el activismo sindicalista. Max Gluckman se encontraba alli, al centro de la distintiva Escuela de Manchester y su marca particular de teoria social y metodo.

JoC: Peter Worsley estaba alli tambien, con sus firmes raices en el pensamiento marxista. Por supuesto, tambien estaba desarrollando la conceptualizacion del 'tercer mundo'.

JeC: Efectivamente, estaba alli, en el Departamento de Sociologia. Por esas fechas, la sociologia y la antropologia eran departamentos autonomos con orientaciones intelectuales especificas. Marshall Sahlins llego de visita al Departamento de Antropologia mientras estabamos en Manchester y, para resumir lo que fue una historia larga, fue el quien nos invito a los EUA, y eventualmente terminamos en la Universidad de Chicago (2). De manera que nuestro traslado a Chicago se produjo a traves de la antropologia social britanica hacia fines de la decada de los 60, y a traves de personas como Sahlins, que eran teoricos culturales de una formacion distinta a la tradicion interpretativa (como la de Geertz) que fue la que influyo directamente la linea de pensamiento de Writing Culture. La antropologia en Chicago tenia una larga historia de dialogo con academicos britanicos fundacionales, como Radcliffe-Brown y Malinowski, y mas tarde con figuras francesas como Levi-Strauss y Marcel Mauss. Puede que haya tenido raices en los trabajos de Boas, Kroeber y otros, pero siempre mantuvo un dialogo con la antropologia europea. Sin duda, era un centro importante para cierto tipo distintivo de antropologia cultural americana, pero contaba con muchos otros asociados, algunos de ellos mas bien de orientacion sociologica, como Raymond Smith, que tambien estuvo alli ...

JoC: Terence Turner ...

JeC: Terence Turner, que siempre trato de conciliar el marxismo con la teoria cultural de tipo estructuralista ...

Joc: Y Piaget ...

JaC: Si, y Barney Cohen tambien es una figura importante en Chicago, aunque fue mas historiador que antropologo. Estaba haciendo el analisis del colonialismo en la India al estilo foucaultiano mucho antes de que otros usaran este tipo de analisis en antropologia o en historia. Ese es el mundo al que nos integramos en la academia de los EUA. Hubo tensiones desde un principio. Veniamos de la tradicion de Durkheim en la antropologia britanica y generada en Africa. Ademas, estabamos comprometidos con una antropologia que respondiera ante un mundo cambiante. Lo que se desarrollaba en Chicago en esos momentos era mas bien un experimento de punta que surgia desde dentro de la antropologia y que valoraba la teoria y el analisis sistematico. Pero tambien se relacionaba con tiempos y lugares especificos, siendo muy etnografico en terminos de las grandes interrogantes teoricas. En esos momentos, Marshall Sahlins (estructuralista) era uno de los pilares en el departamento. El otro era David Schneider, que estudiaba las relaciones de parentesco en EUA como una "narrativa cultural", como un patron de simbolos. En todo caso, en Chicago se hacia enfasis en las grandes interrogantes teoricas. Y lo que era significativamente diferente entre Chicago y la antropologia britanica era que para los academicos de Chicago la antropologia podia analizar el mundo entero; no se trataba tan solo de conocer a pequenas sociedades no occidentales, ni tampoco era necesario que estuvieran en Africa. Schneider habia escrito sobre las relaciones de parentesco en la sociedad estadounidense; Sahlins, sobre la cocina estadounidense y las propiedades significativas de los vaqueros. Ese fue nuestro centro de gravedad. Algunos ya trabajaban la antropologia de comunidades europeas, pero de una forma distinta a como se desarrollo en California en la decada de los 80. Muchos sospechaban de los enfoques que fueran demasiado textuales, demasiado similares al trabajo de Geertz, afectados por el giro postmoderno en los estudios literarios, puesto que se les consideraba mas hermeneutica que una antropologia sistematica, estructural y anclada.

JoC: !Eso es, justamente! Teniamos nuestro propio sentido de la disciplina en Chicago, aunque habia desacuerdos entre nosotros en cuanto a las grandes interrogantes con las que se enfrentaba la antropologia. Por ejemplo, justo antes de venirnos a Chicago, un factor importante para tomar la decision fue la publicacion de Culture and Practical Reason, de Marshall Sahlins (1976), un trabajo muy importante que tuvo el objetivo extraordinariamente ambicioso de realizar un analisis cultural del capitalismo. Aunque estabamos en desacuerdo con sus ideas sobre la naturaleza del capitalismo, podiamos dialogar sobre esas diferencias con el. En resumen, aunque estuvimos claramente situados en los lugares, espacios y temporalidades en los que realizabamos nuestras investigaciones--ya que la etnografia era fundamental para todos--la antropologia de Chicago era sobre otros; desde luego, no era sobre academicos estadounidenses agonizando sobre si mismos y/o sobre la imposibilidad epistemica de sus practicas. Sobre todo, se trataba de entender la relacion entre otredad y el fenomeno global que impactaba a todos los pueblos del mundo--un fenomeno que tambien se ha visto afectado por las acciones e intenciones de aquellos pueblos. Cuando llego el momento de Writing Culture, estuvimos de acuerdo en que produjo interrogantes eticas y autorales importantes; los academicos involucrados en dicho momento eran muy capaces y se preocupaban de asuntos sobre los cuales valia la pena reflexionar. Pero, por sobre todo, para nosotros la antropologia era y siempre habia sido una practica politica y etica; era, sin apologia, una 'politica del conocimiento'. Como ha dicho Jean, viniendo de nuestras experiencias en el Apartheid en Sudafrica, no podia ser otra cosa. Quienes veniamos del Sur global sentiamos profundamente el impacto de la epoca de descolonizacion y de sus batallas. Habiamos presenciado el surgimiento de una antropologia marxista, comprometida con movimientos nacionalistas y socialistas. ?Y como se explicaba el surgimiento de una Africa Oriental socialista? Un antropologo de la epoca hubiera estudiado la sociedad "tradicional" maasai, pero los maasai ya vivian en un nuevo estado socialista--cuyo presidente era un antropologo. El mundo se estaba "comoditizando" rapidamente. Y la idea romantica de que estos pueblos constituian islas aisladas de la historia ya no tenia sentido. Bajo dichas circunstancias, la obsesion presente en Writing Culture sobre la autoria del autor nos parecia un absurdo. ?Y por que? Pues porque sabiamos desde nuestras experiencias etnograficas que los antropologos rara vez tienen autoridad en el terreno. Muchos eramos ingenuos culturales, 'nuestros nativos' nos usaban para todo tipo de fines porque no entendiamos sus mundos, ni tampoco el nuestro, tan bien como muchos de ellos. La imagen del omnipotente antropologo que todo lo observa, y que podria ser persuasiva en un seminario, era simplemente un mito que guardaba poca relacion con las realidades de la investigacion en la mayoria de los sitios, la cual, como cualquier etnografo con experiencia sabe, es una colaboracion proteica de gran complejidad.

LFAF: En relacion con esta cuestion: cuando anos despues publicasteis Ethnography and the Historical Imagination (1992), ?pretendias responder a aquellos debates metodologicos y politicos que se dieron en la disciplina en la decada de los 80?

JoC: !Ciertamente! Fue una intervencion en aquellos debates, y una provocacion.

JeC: !Desde luego! Como dice John, una dimension clave en todo aquello fue la sobre-valoracion de la antropologia y la devaluacion de la capacidad de la antropologia de llamar la atencion hacia ciertas interrogantes. Ademas, el debate estaba demasiado ligado a la idea de que la antropologia era mas que nada interpretacion: hermeneutica; que se trataba mas que nada de textos, no de contextos; es decir, de escritura. Y lo que deciamos nosotros era que 'el escribir, incluso para aquellos que escriben sobre la escritura, es algo mucho mas complejo que simplemente una representacion estilistica'. La escritura surge de un mundo en el cual lo que uno escribe, como lo escribe y el privilegio de poder escribir, se dan dentro de un contexto politico y de condiciones sociales de mayor envergadura. El fetichizar solo la dimension escrita de la antropologia nos parecia una lectura errada del legado de las ciencias sociales, y por lo demas estaba relegando la disciplina al oscurantismo. Habia un sentido extrano de contradiccion en todo aquello, puesto que en un nivel los academicos decian que 'se trata de textualizacion, no existe una narrativa verdaderamente objetiva', pero a otro nivel, decian 'debemos hacerlo bien, debemos decirlo con las voces de los nativos, debemos alejarnos de la voz del amo'

JoC: Esto nos parecia, en ultima instancia, una posicion cripticamente neorealista.

JeC: Si, de eso se trataba, y nos parecia que se le volvia la espalda a los grandes problemas que sucedian a nuestro alrededor, como la modernidad y la modernidad tardia, dejandoselos a las otras ciencias sociales. Pensabamos por el contrario que nos quedaba por hacer una contribucion importante y significativa, precisamente por lo particular de nuestro metodo y nuestra escala.

LFAF: Efectivamente, en esa obra (Anthropology and the Historical Imagination), y en contraste con quienes cultivaban aquella antropologia introspectiva, vosotros proponiais mas etnografia en todos los frentes.

JoC: !Ciertamente!

LFAF: Incluso proponiais que se hiciera antropologia en archivos para mantener una perspectiva historicamente reflexiva en la antropologia. Ademas, gradualmente desarrollariais la idea de hacer etnografia a una escala incomoda (2003), lo que considero un punto fundamental en la antropologia contemporanea. Quisiera que hablaseis aqui un poco mas al respecto. Ahora se entiende mejor lo que queriais decir al llevar la etnografia a esa escala incomoda, coordinando la posibilidad de un trabajo local dentro de un marco global. Pero eso es metodologicamente dificil de lograr. Algunos antropologos han hecho contribuciones extraordinarias en ese sentido, pero su trabajo presenta nuevas interrogantes sobre la identidad de la disciplina. ?Creeis que es indispensable que el etnografo sea mas sociologo, o pensais que la antropologia permanece fundamentalmente diferenciada a traves de sus metodos, incluso cuando se enfrenta a las grandes interrogantes?

JoC: Creo que la antropologia permanece diferenciada. A decir verdad, por una serie de motivos los discursos se cruzan cada vez mas, a veces fusionandose en los bordes. La sociologia, por ejemplo, se ha puesto mas etnografica. Ahora existen ramas de sociologia cultural y sociologia legal que se ocupan de lo mismo que la antropologia. Pero lo hacen en una comunidad intelectual e institucional diferente; o, usando el termino de Karin Knorr Cetina, en comunidades epistemologicas diferentes. Lo que la antropologia trae a la division disciplinaria del trabajo es su forma de problematizar el mundo fenomenologico. Los antropologos no nos tomamos el mundo fenomenologico como algo dado, o al menos no debieramos hacerlo. Nuestro principio epistemologico primario es la extranamiento [estrangement]: extranamos el mundo, nos preguntamos que constituye el fenomeno que estudian las ciencias sociales, que significado tienen las practicas del vivir diario. Por ejemplo, la ciencia politica invierte muchisimo tiempo midiendo los indices de democracia a traves del mundo; "?Que nivel de democracia existe en Venezuela, o en Nigeria o en Egipto o en Italia o en los EUA?" Nuestra tendencia es preguntar ?Que significa democracia? ?Que es, como practica politica, gubernamental o cultural? ?Por que cuando se hacen encuestas, por ejemplo en Africa, los que responden casi nunca mencionan las urnas como un elemento de la democracia? O bien, en cuanto a etnicidad, los sociologos evaluan las posibilidades de vida de diferentes grupos etnicos. Nosotros preguntamos ?que es la identidad, que significa, que formas concretas la expresan, y por que? ?Por que es tan importante como un principio explicito de afiliacion en momentos especificos de la historia y no en otros? Nada esta dado. Intente publicar un ensayo sobre etnicidad en la decada de los 80 y me dijeron que el articulo no era publicable porque ya nadie se interesaba en esa tematica. Curiosamente, fue vuelto a publicar muchas veces despues, pero en esos momentos historicos la identidad cultural no aparecia como una problematica antropologica de importancia en las revistas periodicas mas influyentes. Eso sucedio por aquel entonces. Extranamos, pues ponemos las cosas en orbitas espaciales y temporales, frecuentemente sobre coordenadas espaciales y temporalidades dificiles, que no consideran las otras disciplinas. En breve, no es nuestra materia de estudio lo que nos hace diferentes, mas bien es como realizamos nuestros estudios. Cuando los sociologos hacen lo mismo, se les acusa de ser antropologos. Por ejemplo, nuestra ex-colega en la Universidad de Chicago, Lisa Wedeen, una distinguida cientifica politica de orientacion cultural, hace lo que vengo diciendo, y muchos cientificos sociales la consideran una 'cripto-antropologa'. No nos preocupan los cruces disciplinarios cuando se hacen con intenciones intelectuales creativas. Si a otros cientificos sociales les preocupan ciertos cruces hacia nuestro terreno, eso es problema de ellos, no nuestro.

JeC: Si. Y lo que esta detras de esto es la forma en que entendemos la naturaleza de la historia, la condicion humana y el crear mundos. Un antropologo siempre asume que existe una dialectica entre sujeto y objeto, que los seres humanos crean los mundos en que habitan, probablemente no tal como los quisieran, pero como un ejercicio intencional de significacion. Por lo tanto, llamemoslo como sea, nos enfocamos en una dialectica: como antropologos, no llegamos al terreno con nuestros cuestionarios listos para aplicarlos. Hay mucho mas que aprender sobre cualquier fenomeno social que lo que es posible adelantar desde afuera, desde condiciones 'objetivas', como: que es lo relevante, que es lo que motiva las acciones de la gente, que los anima, que valoran, que les causa 'ansiedades'. Nada de esto es predecible, y por eso la historia y la sociedad no se pueden simplemente determinar y predecir. Siempre hay una interaccion dialectica entre la fenomenologia, lo que la gente vive, y el amplio horizonte de su origen. ?Que relacion existe entre las grandes estructuras y la naturaleza de la experiencia local? ?Por que se retorna a las relaciones de parentesco como un valor en muchos sitios del mundo, y como un refugio para los pueblos cuando el estado-nacion y otras estructuras parecieran desintegrarse? Subitamente, pareciera ser que las conexiones de sangre crecen en importancia en muchos sitios como formas de organizar identidades y relaciones sociales. ?Por que se enfatiza la etnicidad en la vida de la gente, tanto como asunto de sangre como de cultura? Este es el tipo de pregunta que atrae a los antropologos como nosotros. Es cosa tanto de la estructura como del sentir en lugares especificos, y de las condiciones que hacen que esto sea posible. Y para dar respuesta a estas preguntas, los antropologos siempre comenzamos con algo del mundo, algo tangible, un objeto, ya sea una actividad, una ansiedad, o una expresion cultural. Porque la gente crea sus mundos a traves de la practica, de ahi la teoria de la practica. Y reitero, esto hace dificil distinguir claramente entre sociologia y antropologia, accion social o construccion significativa. Porque estas son las interrogantes que indagaron los antepasados teoricos como Durkheim y Weber, ambos antepasados de la sociologia y de la antropologia.

LFAF: Esa tension entre lo que la gente vive y los 'horizontes mas amplios' dentro de los cuales dicha experiencia toma una forma particular parece ser algo fundamental en la antropologia. Y para resolver dicha tension los antropologos siguen ciertas estrategias. En este sentido podemos reiterar lo que explicaba John: que nuestro trabajo es extranar. Esta expresion se ha asociado con vuestro trabajo. El extranamiento penetra la antropologia desde sus comienzos, pero vosotros habeis complementado dicha perspectiva metodologica con otras premisas generales, enfatizando la necesidad de buscar lo que en otro lugar habeis llamado 'patrones en formacion', como lo planteo Gluckman. Este ejercicio consiste en encontrar lo que conecta elementos extranos y aparentemente no-relacionados que se observan en la vida social; se trata de preguntar que es lo que une dichos elemento dentro de esferas sociales.

JoC: Justamente.

JeC: Y esa es una dimension clave en la politica de la antropologia. Otra persona que ha enfatizado esto es nuestro colega y amigo Keith Hart, maravilloso antropologo britanico que trabaja la economia, entre otras cosas. Por largo tiempo, la metodologia de la antropologia, en particular la antropologia cultural de la tradicion de Boas, persiguio descubrir sociedades unicas y comprenderlas en terminos de su complejidad interna, tratandolas en forma aislada, en terminos de la belleza de sus relaciones sociales, semanticas y cosmologicas internas. El problema con esta perspectiva es que coincidia con la ideologia del mundo colonial que florecio bajo una vision de modernizadores europeos que traian la luz y el desarrollo a pueblos simples, cohesionados por sus tradiciones, y el tratarlos de acuerdo a su belleza respondia a los crudos estereotipos evolucionistas, enmascarando las realidades estructurales del predominio y del impacto de los imperios modernos, que han tenido penosos efectos sobre las diversas comunidades que cayeron bajo su dominio. Nuestra celebracion academica de la resistencia de sociedades, antes autonomas, frente a la dominacion politica y economica, ha sido valiosa porque ha demostrado como las grandes y violentas colonizaciones jamas sirvieron simplemente como determinantes, sino que siempre involucraron procesos locales de hacer-historia y construir significados. Pero cuando se priorizan los textos por sobre los contextos de las fuerzas sociales y politicas de mayor escala, se encubre la gran historia, los procesos mas amplios de escala mundial, que impusieron procesos de marginacion y homogenizacion tristes y predecibles, a traves de todo el planeta. Esto es lo que sucedio bajo el colonialismo moderno, y es lo que sucede de manera algo distinta bajo las politicas neoliberales de 'globalizacion'.

LFAF: Y esta es la interrogante central de la antropologia.

JoC: Asi es.

JeC: Y asi tiene que ser. El antiguo estilo comparativo nos decia que 'tenemos que estudiar distintos sistemas de relaciones de parentesco, en sus versiones patrilineales y matrilineales ...' esa forma de comparar de caracter tipologico, deja de lado las determinaciones estructurales que crean interconexiones entre estos mundos. Y, desde luego, es asi como nacio la antropologia del colonialismo, lo que no quiere decir que todos los sitios se determinaron de la misma manera, sino que las interrogantes que nos desafian son que es lo que fue igual en todos los sitios y que fue diferente, bajo tales circunstancias ...

JoC: Y por que.

JaC: Y como damos cuenta de las influencias que hacen que ciudades en Latinoamerica se parezcan a ciudades en Africa. Entonces, ?que nos dice esto del mundo postcolonial, o sobre la naturaleza cambiante del urbanismo en las ciudades del Sur?

LFAF: A proposito de estas lineas de reflexion metodologica y teorica, quisiera examinar el rol del estado en estos escenarios de discusion. Mas de una vez habeis indicado que el capitalismo transnacional ha erosionado el rol del estado. Y, a estas alturas de la globalizacion, existe suficiente evidencia de que el estado ha perdido parte de sus monopolios, que ha delegado algunas de sus responsabilidades cuando no las ha abandonado del todo. Junto con otros, trabajais la idea de que el capital no tiene limites nacionales. Esto ciertamente debe reconocerse. Pero, en mi opinion, tambien hay un cierto riesgo en ese tipo de analisis: a veces contribuye a que se le reste importancia al rol del estado en la reproduccion del capitalismo global. En este sentido, aunque el neoliberalismo ha intentado reducir el estado a su mas minima expresion en ciertos campos, tambien se puede argumentar que los estados han alcanzado el tamano que el neoliberalismo requiere de ellos para mantenerlos como en instrumentos del sistema capitalista global.

JoC: Correcto. Entre otras cosas, el estado provee la instrumentacion legal.

LFAF: Asi es, y en ese sentido ?creeis entonces que existe riesgo en estos debates sobre la erosion del estado? Tal y como generalmente se enmarcan dichos debates en las discusiones contemporaneas, podrian estar contribuyendo a que los cientificos sociales no le brinden la atencion adecuada al rol politico del estado en el mantenimiento del capitalismo global.

JoC: Antes que nada, debemos recordar que los estados no son iguales en todos los sitios, no son la misma abstraccion concreta. El articulo definido para referirse a 'el estado' es una ilusion, no una realidad politica o sociologica. Los diferentes estados presentan caracteristicas distintas dependiendo de sus escalas, sus geopoliticas, y su posicion dentro del orden capitalista mundial. Hay un enorme contraste entre 'el' estado estadounidense o 'el' ruso, por ejemplo, con el estado sudanes o egipcio o italiano. Y las relaciones y articulaciones de los estados con el capital corporativo varian segun sea el caso. En efecto, la naturaleza de esas relaciones debe analizarse cuidadosamente. Algunos estados obviamente se han corporatizado; se han convertido en mega corporaciones. Rusia es un conocido ejemplo de esta situacion: el Kremlin usa a Gazprom, la empresa estatal de petroleo ruso, como instrumento de su politica externa ...

LFAF: Y tambien ex-politicos se convierten en lideres de aquellas companias.

JoC: Si, Medvedev, Primer Ministro y Presidente, fue su Ejecutivo maximo.

JeC: Si, se mueven entre esos mundos [de la politica a las corporaciones].

JoC: Y veamos como Berlusconi frecuentemente se refiere a Italia como 'nuestra compania'. Pues, reiterando lo que he dicho, las conexiones entre el estado y el capital son variables y cada vez mas complejas. Algunos estados operan, de facto, como subsidiarias de empresas, otros (muy bien remunerados), sirven como instrumentos legales de desregulacion, defendiendo sus libertades en contra de las actividades y los intereses de la sociedad civil; en dicha capacidad, sirven como autoridad licenciadora del capital. En Ethnicity Inc. (2009) hemos incluido un capitulo al respecto. Los que frecuentemente se llaman 'estados debiles'--un termino aplicado con cierto prejuicio en contra de regimenes del sur global--son basicamente estados-nacion en los cuales el capitalismo corporativo se ha apropiado de gran parte del control, tipicamente legitimado por una clase politica pequena y basicamente prisionera; estos estados no se encogen hasta desaparecer, sino que se transforman (por supuesto, la promiscua interdigitacion del capital corporativo y las clases politicas--con beneficio economico para ambos y con un coste material para el bien comun--tambien se ha convertido en una caracteristica del norte global, en donde es posible esconderlo mas eficazmente bajo el velo ficticio de la democracia, lo que significa la competencia por recursos entre diferentes facciones de dichas clases). Despues de todo, para que una industria extractiva, ya sea en Angola o en el Congo o en Corea compre tierra agricola en una republica central africana, es necesario que exista una sancion legal y una infraestructura legal, lo que requiere al menos una apariencia de gobernanza, una gobernanza que este de acuerdo--o bien una gobernanza sumisa. Es asi como colaboran los estados y las corporaciones: sus regimenes proveen las licencias legales requeridas, de manera que sean reconocidas en las cortes legales internacionales, a cambio de que las corporaciones mantengan a aquellos regimenes en el poder. Los casos de Rusia, los EUA o India--mas precisamente sus clases politicas--tienen los recursos necesarios para imponer sus deseos sobre los terminos de la relacion entre el capital y el estado. Y la delegacion de estas funciones de gobernanza no significa una reduccion del estado, sino que sencillamente desplazan el control directamente hacia una forma de rentier y agencia de jurisprudencia.

JeC: Las ONGs tambien tienen una dimension interesante en esto. ?Acaso representan una contraccion del estado o una extension del estado? Gran parte de las ONGs a traves del mundo no son parte de una sociedad civil transnacional, sino agencias estatales que operan por otros medios, de manera menos visible, menos controlable. La crisis economica del 2008 es un ejemplo perfecto de este hecho. Desde un punto de vista del capital corporativo, la ideologia en los EEUU es garantizar un gobierno minimo. Pero ese gobierno minimo tiene como prioridad regular las condiciones que permitan la operacion de dichas corporaciones. El minimizar el rol del gobierno requiere muchas mas leyes.

JoC: Y tambien mas personal.

Jec: Y el gobierno debe actuar como aval de empresas corporativas que son 'demasiado grandes para venirse abajo'. Hemos visto recientemente como el estado se involucra con financiamiento publico. Creo que es muy importante que los academicos no se dejen enganar por la retorica que facilita este tipo de actividad, algo en lo que siempre caemos, hasta cierto punto, porque vivimos en el mundo que analizamos. Debemos tratar de extranar la retorica del gobierno minimo y de los mercados libres. Destacados economistas, personas como Joseph Stiglitz, han demostrado que Adam Smith jamas quiso decir que el mercado 'libre' debiera operar sin regulacion; se dio cuenta que siempre era necesario cierta intervencion del gobierno, porque los mercados solo se pueden auto-regular bajo 'condiciones perfectas', y las condiciones reales siempre son imperfectas. En los EEUU, la ideologia sobre la necesidad de que el gobierno ejerza mas o menos intervencion se manifiesta en el debate sobre la constitucionalidad de la iniciativa de sanidad de Obama. Mientras tanto, en Brasil se ha instituido lo que tal vez sea la mas grande transferencia de dinero desde el gobierno hacia la poblacion de toda la historia mundial: la llamada bolsa familia, medida que se ha debatido e imitado en muchos lugares del Sur. Este tipo de redistribucion desde el estado sucede junto con una rapida expansion de la empresa privada en aquellos paises. En este ejemplo, vemos una reinvencion de la relacion entre el ciudadano y el estado, al mismo tiempo en que el capital renegocia su relacion.

LFAF: ?Y diriais que el estado juega un rol liberador o potencialmente liberador en sociedades postcoloniales, o veis en esto un potencial de doble filo?

JoC: Es un potencial de doble filo.

LFAF: ?Que tipo de estado requeriria, en vuestra opinion, una nacion 'postcolonial' para sobreponerse a cierto tipo de desventajas estructurales?

JeC: Como ha dicho John, esto depende mucho de la naturaleza del estado. Creo que estamos viendo en Latinoamerica algo que los antropologos han descrito desde una vision critica. Claudio Lomnitz, por ejemplo, ha dicho que una de las formas en que varias naciones latinoamericanas (tal vez no estados 'postcoloniales' del mismo tipo que las africanas) se posicionan en el orden global es fortaleciendo el estado y mediando mas efectivamente con el capital translocal, los terminos del comercio, de las inversiones, la venta de tierras y propiedades a extranjeros, etc. Una de las maneras de adaptarse al orden global es fortalecer el rol del estado en la regulacion de relaciones internas/externas. En algunos sitios del Africa, esto se ha llamado "ajuste hacia arriba" o "beneficializacion".

JoC: Asi es. El Consenso de Washington causo un dano extraordinario a lo largo y ancho del mundo. Un numero creciente de estados sobre los cuales se impusieron 'reajustes estructurales' han comenzado a distanciarse e incluso a revertir su curso. Por largo tiempo, en especial durante los periodos de Bush, bajo los principios del fundamentalismo del mercado se amenazo a muchos paises en el sur global de que si no desregularizaban sus economias, si se atrevian a sostener elementos del estado benefactor, se les cancelarian sus prestamos y ayudas. Por algun tiempo, estos paises liberaron sus economias, motivaron privatizaciones, cortaron beneficios sociales y se adhirieron a los principios del neoliberalismo. Algunas personas y corporaciones locales se beneficiaron mucho, y ciertamente se creo nueva riqueza. Pero, al mismo tiempo, algunos paises se enfrentaron a la perdida de millones de puestos de trabajo, eliminados para favorecer a companias privadas; tambien vieron subir sus coeficientes Gini, sus indices de crimen y el desorden civil. Por eso comenzaron a moverse hacia lo que Anthony Giddens ha llamado la 'tercera via' de gobernanza. Como en el Brasil, la bolsa familia, una tremenda institucion de redistribucion economica cuya operacion se fraseo en terminos de emprendimiento e inversion, pero que sin embargo es tambien una forma de intervencion del estado, para paliar la pobreza y la desigualdad que crecio en la reciente historia economica del pais. Esto es tan solo un ejemplo del punto que hemos tratado de enfatizar, sobre 'el' estado en la historia global actual. El estado no se ha restringido ni se ha marchitado, sino que se ha transformado en una variedad de formas. Como cientificos sociales, debemos poner atencion en 'el' estado, que no es una simple abstraccion y que no opera de la misma manera en todos sitios, sino que es una abstraccion concreta que toma muchas formas, forjadas en sus relaciones especificas con el capital.

JeC: Si, y tambien hay mas. Vivimos en un mundo de constitucionalidades, de derechos. Muchos discursos sobre los derechos de las personas se refieren a cosas mas bien simbolicas que pragmaticas. Existen foros de justicia transitorios que investigan atrocidades y patrones de victimacion durante transiciones democraticas, que han reconocido a pueblos y voces silenciados y que han ofrecido disculpas formales. Pero esto no cambia mucho los terminos de su viabilidad como ciudadanos. Cualquier sociedad que considere seriamente restaurar derechos normales y honrar el contrato social, requiere un tipo de estado que vele por su cumplimiento. Sin una comunidad responsable, los derechos de las personas no tienen mayor valor. El llamamiento hacia los derechos humanos globales, sin algun cuerpo local que pueda ponerlos en practica, carece de significado. En muchos lugares observamos un deseo de retornar hacia algun tipo de comunidad politica que responda a las necesidades de la poblacion, como lo es la vuelta al liderazgo socialista en Francia, y el clamor por un gobierno nacional responsable en aquellos sitios de Europa que estan sufriendo medidas de austeridad. Por ejemplo, en la Sudafrica actual existe un fuerte deseo de que el estatus de ciudadano tenga un significado real; los que se sienten marginados protestan con el proposito de impulsar la creacion de un estado que provea 'servicios'. Entre los academicos del modernismo tardio se ha cultivado un fuerte acuerdo alrededor de Foucault y de la idea que los estados son basicamente una cuestion de dominacion, pero de hecho mucha gente alrededor del mundo quiere ver mas gobierno.

LFAF: ?Y que rol le cabe a la cultura en estos nuevos significados de ciudadania? Quisiera ahora abordar algo relacionado con esto, que nos lleva hacia otro angulo. Vosotros habeis abordado este asunto en Ethnicity Inc.; en la relacion que existe entre aquella etnicidad y 'nacionalidad Inc.'. Me parece que lo planteais acertadamente cuando decis que en la actualidad hay una tendencia a reducir la cultura a una posesion de derechos de autor naturalizados [naturally copyrighted possession]. En este sentido tanto los grupos etnicos, etno-nacionalismos y algunas naciones convergen en sus lineas de accion. Pareciera ser otro aspecto central de los estados contemporaneos. En muchos paises observamos como los estados y los gobiernos se transforman en corporaciones; comparten lenguajes. Vosotros os referis a esto en la conclusion de vuestro libro y quisiera que desarrollaseis esto aqui un poco mas. Sugeris que hay una forma de mirar a estos procesos enmarcados por el modelo de 'Ethnicity Inc.' como algo potencialmente beneficioso para grupos que en la economia global no cuentan con otra posibilidad mas que recurrir a ese tipo de 'bien inmaterial' a fin de incorporarse al comercio y a las transacciones economicas globales. ?Creeis que esto tiene un potencial liberador, o pensais que esta es otra forma de subyugar o incorporar instrumentalmente a las 'minorias culturales' en el capitalismo? Porque tal vez estos grupos no podran escalar hacia en la economia capitalista mas que como proveedores de cierto tipo de servicio cultural. ?Como veis esto?

JeC: Pues, a modo de ejemplo, nos referimos a algunos grupos que han logrado escalar hasta el punto de convertirse en operadores economicos a nivel global. Pero constituyen una excepcion. Comenzamos este libro indicando que no intentamos alabar ni enaltecer la etnicidad, pero que sin embargo es una realidad cada vez mas visible en el mundo. Y en vez de decir simplemente que debemos negar su importancia--que es resultado de la dominacion estructural, que se equivoca en cuanto a cultura, etc.--necesitamos entender por que ha adquirido tanto relieve y como podemos entenderlo como una reaccion frente a circunstancias particulares. Desde luego, esto se deriva directamente de algo que dijimos al comienzo y que es la tendencia, que viene con el colonialismo, de separar e identificar a los pueblos segun sus diferencias, segun sus caracteristicas distintivas. La antropologia ha estado muy involucrada en esta empresa. Muchos de los pueblos que llegaron a tener etiquetas etnicas (como los Tswana, que estudiamos), solo se auto-designaron--qua etnias--bajo el sistema colonial. Gran parte de lo que le dio estabilidad, cuerpo y textura a dicha identidad cultural etnica surgio en la interaccion entre ellos y el mundo que los rodeaba--incluyendo a los academicos. Pero no se trata meramente de 'escribir cultura'. Durante muchos anos, dichas designaciones se usaron como marca de inferioridad, de marginalizacion. El ser etiquetado etnicamente en Sudafrica queria decir, por definicion, que esas personas constituian una fuerza laboral de bajo coste, y que no eran ciudadanos, sino apenas subditos.

JoC: Se les marcaba racialmente.

JaC: Lo que es brillante acerca de este movimiento actual es como aquellas marcas de marginalidad se han convertido en una fuente de capital y de valor. Estos pueblos, bajo ciertas condiciones estructurales e historicas, se lo han tomado en serio y han dicho 'vale, somos diferentes, pero tambien somos iguales. Tenemos algo distintivo y vamos a hacerlo nuestro'. Porque en un mundo que teme a la homogenizacion y a la falta de diferencia, la diversidad se celebra (al menos en teoria); lo que es mas, viene a ser un tipo de herencia que puede ser fuente de ingresos, de ganancias. De esta manera han revertido la historia de relaciones coloniales, de diferenciacion cultural y de discriminacion. Esta percepcion se nos hizo evidente cuando alguien en una comunidad rural en Sudafrica, en donde habiamos realizado nuestras investigaciones por algun tiempo, nos dijo: 'antes vendiamos nuestro trabajo y ahora vendemos nuestra cultura. Por lo tanto debemos recuperarla, porque si no tenemos cultura, tradicion, no somos nadie'. Esta aguda aseveracion puede tomarse como un comentario tragico de la dominacion colonial, pero tambien como el tomar literalmente el mito tan promulgado por Occidente, de que 'otras culturas' son iguales y tienen valor. Este esfuerzo por tomarse en serio el mito ha dado origen la industria que discutimos en Ethnicity Inc. Enfatizamos que el proceso es complicado. No se desvalua el mito: muchos pueblos continuan siendo explotados porque son diferentes, y no todos han logrado beneficiarse del ser distintivos. Estos pueblos viven dentro del mercado y el mercado puede permitirles recibir alguna ganancia de su herencia cultural, tambien puede sencillamente someterlos a las leyes del valor del excedente y del control monopolico. Ambos ejemplos se analizan en los estudios de casos en Ethnicity Inc.

JoC: El etno-capitalismo ha creado una riqueza extraordinaria para algunos pueblos y una miseria palpable para otros. Muchas sociedades que se organizaron al estilo socialista hicieron algo similar: crearon elites politicas ricas por un lado--y el resto, por el otro. Ethnicity Inc. consigue lo mismo, enriquece y debilita, fortalece y excluye, preguntamos para quien, para que, y en que proporcion. Pero tambien plantea el problema del como crear una politica alternativa que no desfortalezca, que no incapacite o excluya de la misma manera en que lo hacen la politica de las identidades y el etno-capitalismo--o, en este sentido, que no erosione las visiones de clase social, el trabajo y la politica de genero, que es algo que termina por ocurrir.

JeC: Y la pobreza. Dignifica y romantiza la pobreza.

JoC: Correcto. Es una bestia muy complicada. Desde nuestra perspectiva, el surgimiento de la politica y economia de las identidades es un desarrollo ambiguo, y prefeririamos ver una politica masiva basada en principios de inclusion, no en principios de diferencia ...

JeC: Y en principios del trabajo. Pero estos pueblos no estan en una economia laboral en un sentido clasico.

LFAF: Continuando con esto, quisiera cerrar la entrevista con algo de prognosis acerca del futuro de la antropologia. Vosotros habeis demostrado coraje en este sentido, discutiendo sobre el futuro de la disciplina. En esta coyuntura del capitalismo global, considerando la crisis financiera capitalista que se ha expandido durante los ultimos anos y que ha impulsado a muchos a volver a discutir las bases materiales de la reproduccion social: ?Creeis que nuestra disciplina seguira ejemplo y cambiara en algunos rincones? Pareciera que aun es una minoria dentro de la disciplina que se atreve a mirar de frente estas corrientes globales. Considerando la importancia de la dimension 'cultural' de la crisis y por supuesto la esencialidad de las bases materiales de la sociedad: ?creeis que tal vez esta crisis, y el impacto que ha supuesto para tanta gente, va a tener algun impacto a corto plazo en la disciplina?

JoC: Interesante pregunta, que no tiene una respuesta facil.

JaC: Lo planteas muy bien, y pareciera que el asunto tiene tanto un lado negativo como uno positivo. La academia, en particular las ciencias sociales, se ven amenazadas por todos lados. Estoy al tanto de los despidos en la Universidad de Sidney, y ciertamente, si vienes al campus en Chicago como un antropologo de Marte concluirias que nuestro templo, nuestra institucion mas valiosa y respetada, es la Escuela de Ciencias Empresariales, seguida por las bio-ciencias. Y entremedias, hay un poco de respeto y apoyo a las artes y a las ciencias sociales. Las ciencias sociales, que una vez fueron percibidas como las "Joyas de la Corona" en nuestra Universidad, ahora reciben mucho menos respeto. De alguna forma, esto refleja lo dificil que resulta imaginar 'lo social' en el mundo en que vivimos, a raiz de la escala de las instituciones y de los campos relacionales que estas han organizado y que nuestro contexto de vida han explotado de una manera tan drastica. Tambien el territorio arquitectonico del estado-nacion, que anclaba nuestro imaginario social modernista, se ha erosionado en nuestro universo actual, cada vez mas integrado. Entonces, resulta problematico tener una vision de lo social y el hacerlo empiricamente tangible, no solo para la antropologia, sino tambien dentro de las ciencias sociales. La antropologia siempre ha sido contra-hegemonica, la que hacia las preguntas dificiles, la que ha cuestionado todos los terminos, como ha dicho John. Al mismo tiempo, y en relacion con su tamano, la disciplina ha contribuido entendimientos importantes al pensamiento social en general. Ya sea si pensamos en Mary Douglas con su Purity and Danger (1966), Mauss con la naturaleza del regalo (1966), Turner con el ritual (1969), o Geertz con su 'descripcion densa'(2000). O si pensamos en lo que es cultura; puesto que la naturaleza de la propiedad, de la posesion en el mundo actual, se entiende cada vez mas en terminos de cultura, y de propiedad intelectual: todos, desde los grupos etnicos a ciudades a estados-nacion, persiguen hacer una economia de la cultura. Y nosotros somos los teoricos de la cultura par excellence, de manera que la disciplina tiene mucho potencial desde este punto de vista. Pero siempre ha habido una relacion extrana entre el tamano modesto de la disciplina y el impacto de sus pensadores clave; Levi-Strauss seria tal vez el mas notable, pero incluso en nuestra generacion, la influencia de nuestros conceptos y metodos es considerable. La 'Etnografia', aun en su forma diluida, se ha esparcido a traves de diversas disciplinas--incluso a traves de escuelas de negocios y enfermeria. Esto guarda relacion con el hecho de que la division institucional del trabajo que ha dominado en la modernidad tardia se ha trastocado, de manera que muchos de los fenomenos 'blandos', de tipo simbolico, que eran favorecidos por los antropologos han adquirido nueva prominencia. Hay una creciente prominencia de movimientos religiosos en lo que antes se habian considerado enclaves 'seculares', como lo serian la politica y la vida publica. Los movimientos religiosos, en especial las fes de revitalizacion y de 'vuelta a nacer', proveen un creciente abanico de servicios, desde bancos a universidades, de medios publicos a traves del mundo. Estan entre los movimientos sociales que mas crecen, especialmente en el sur global, donde ofrecen socialidad cotidiana, intimidad, diagnosticos sociales, y la promesa del fortalecimiento. Los antropologos pueden ofrecer comprension y explicacion sobre estos fenomenos que no se puede dar desde otra disciplina; y tambien, por ejemplo, sobre la compleja y cambiante mitologia--lo que Marx llamara los 'jeroglificos sociales' --que acompana la circulacion de las cosas en un mundo intensamente "comodificado" (piensa en el lenguaje de la publicidad, la poetica de la moda, las culturas discursivas creadas por los nuevos medios). En la primavera del 2012, dictamos un seminario en la Universidad de Chicago, llamado 'Teoria desde el Sur' que estuvo enfocado en lo que debiera ser la antropologia del modernismo tardio y que fue muy bien recibido por los estudiantes, lo que nos sugirio que la nueva generacion que ingresa en la antropologia persigue ese tipo de grandes interrogantes que hemos discutido aqui. La antropologia se ha diversificado con estudiantes de la India, de China, de Latinoamerica, de Africa y de poblaciones minoritarias en Europa. Por lo tanto, hay mayor diversidad en la disciplina en el Norte. Y estos estudiantes buscan respuestas a aquellas grandes preguntas que son demasiado importantes para ignorarlas--sobre la desaparicion del trabajo en su concepcion moderna, industrial, o la desintegracion de las clases medias y la reproduccion de clases en muchos lugares, o la re-inscripcion de la politica en leyes, tecnicismos o "teoria", o el significado poco claro de categorias clave como "propiedad" o "dinero" o "naturaleza. Estas son preguntas que no se pueden abordar desde una perspectiva mas convencional de las ciencias sociales volcadas en metodos positivistas o en enfoques teoricos clasicos. Pienso que este es el gran potencial que debemos abordar ...

JoC: El punto es que debemos saber aprovechar dicho potencial.

JeC: Y hacer que nuestra disciplina sea relevante, capaz de hablar de problemas clave de manera innovadora.

JoC: Muchos antropologos corren asustados porque no quieren encarar los grandes problemas sociales, argumentando que esta no es la forma tradicional de la antropologia. Tambien argumentan que expandir nuestro alcance discursivo para abordar estos grandes problemas convertiria la disciplina en otra cosa, algo extrano, algo que se parecera demasiado a la sociologia, lo que por supuesto nos resulta ironico, ya que algunos practicantes consideran que la sociologia esta sumida en una profunda crisis: notemos, en este sentido, la creciente literatura sobre la muerte inminente de la disciplina por su irrelevancia con el mundo real, por su fetichismo del metodo sobre sus contenidos. Los antropologos de la generacion actual podran asumir el desafio de redefinir la escala de la disciplina. Muchos de nuestros conceptos algo gastados, por no mencionar el andamio epistemico de nuestra practica, han sido repensados para poder hacer esto. Estamos en desacuerdo con quienes piensan que el futuro de la disciplina yace en el pasado: en el retorno al estudio de pueblos 'pequenos', ya sea en los territorios del Norte de Australia o en las islas del Pacifico, o en enclaves indigenas del Africa. Tampoco se trata de encontrar una panacea en un neo-empiricismo, en aislar, descontextualizar y describir redes sociales u organizaciones para tratarlas como fenomenos contingentes. Si esas son las formas que debe tomar la disciplina, es muy posible que se lleve a si misma hacia una exquisita irrelevancia. Igual cosa sucederia si se volviera a una antropologia sin adornos por parte del etnografo, una antropologia puramente filosofica: los filosofos hacen esto mucho mejor que nosotros--a menos, por supuesto, que dejemos la antropologia y nos convirtamos en filosofos. Por otra parte, como ha dicho Jean, la antropologia esta reflexionando sobre las preocupaciones intelectuales de una nueva generacion (tal vez nuestros estudiantes no son tipicos), y si se atreve a abordar las grandes problematicas contemporaneas y se mantiene como una disciplina distintiva, fundamentada para pensarlas, el futuro estaria asegurado.

JeC: La antropologia, desde su nacimiento, ha sido omnivora. Veamos la antropologia britanica en Africa: Evans-Pritchard, por ejemplo, trabajaba con ideas que iban desde Tylor y Frazer, desde Freud a la cibernetica; Gluckman trabajaba todo tipo de teorias, marxistas, jurisprudenciales o psicoanaliticas. La disciplina siempre ha mirado mas alla de si misma, indigenizando y anclando conceptos teoricos de un archivo mas amplio. Esto no debiera cambiar en la actualidad. La idea de que no debieramos orientarnos hacia grandes teorias y abordar grandes problemas porque no serian intrinsecamente antropologicos es un sinsentido. Jamas hemos contado con una teoria que haya sido genericamente puramente antropologica ...

JoC: No olvidemos que el funcionalismo estructural le debe muchisimo a Durkheim ...

JeC: Si, ?y Durkheim era antropologo o sociologo? Lo mismo con Marx, quien de varias maneras escribe con ejemplos etnograficos. Orientaciones clave en las ciencias sociales, como la idea de extranamiento, o la prominencia de la practica, vienen de el.

JoC: Ciertamente. Marx estaba fundamentalmente abocado a escribir una antropologia del capitalismo.

JeC: Y trabajo con ideas como el fetichismo, que en su acepcion original era un fenomeno africano. De manera que siempre hemos visto un intercambio y una reformulacion de la teoria entre las disciplinas humanistas, y eso es lo que tendriamos que hacer ahora. Y a pesar de todo este fermento, el metodo antropologico ha permanecido distintivo, esa es nuestra particularidad, y el potencial permanece tan grande como siempre, solo tenemos que aprovecharlo.

LFAF: No se si quisierais anadir algo para finalizar.

JeC: Conversaciones como esta, a traves de generaciones, a traves de hemisferios, tienen un enorme potencial para el futuro de la disciplina.

LFAF: Para mi ha sido sin duda muy enriquecedor. Resulta muy estimulante descubrir la energia y la fuerza que surge en este tipo de debate con antropologos como vosotros. Para una generacion mas joven es, en mi opinion, inspirador.

JoC: La produccion de una antropologia persuasiva de la globalizacion depende en gran medida de la globalizacion de la antropologia, que, afortunadamente, esta sucediendo mas y mas.

JeC: Estuvimos hace poco en Latinoamerica y nos sorprendio lo que sucede por alla; lo mismo en la India. En aquellos contextos existe una relacion mas estrecha entre el trabajo academico y el mas amplio mundo del debate y de la existencia pragmatica. Los academicos tienden a estar muy al tanto de la relacion de las ideas y de la politica de la historia. Hay una clara memoria de las dominaciones del pasado, incluyendo la dominacion intelectual, y se aprecia una estrecha relacion entre la lucha por la existencia y el tipo de preguntas que hemos discutido aqui, lo que no quiere decir que se trate de preguntas anti-intelectuales, o que los academicos en sitios de lucha se limiten a preocupaciones utilitarias. Se puede pensar en la teoria mas amplia desde cualquier lugar; no es privilegio de las clases privilegiadas. Pero en contextos como Sudafrica, por ejemplo, hay una tendencia a moverse entre la torre de marfil y el mundo tangible en el cual uno se siente responsable, un mundo que nos mantiene honestos. Y esa ha sido siempre la orientacion del antropologo, ?no? Es una disciplina empirica en sus referentes; aunque abstracta, uno toca la base en algun sitio.

LFAF: Y el producir conocimiento para transformar tambien es un asunto antropologico.

JoC: Por supuesto que lo es. Hay que tener el coraje de teorizar, tan sencillo como eso. Jamas debieramos perdernos en la profundidad de lo local --por muy importante que sea mantener alli nuestras raices empiricas--y jamas debieramos perder la capacidad de tomar riesgos intelectuales. Si la antropologia mantiene estas dos ideas en su vision, estara segura. Si se convierte en filosofia o etnologia, no sera nada.

DOI: 10.11156/aibr.070301

RECIBIDO: 02.06.2012

ACEPTADO: 30.08.2012

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Comaroff, John L. (2009). Ethnicity, Inc. In J. Comaroff (Ed.). Chicago:: University of Chicago Press.

Douglas, Mary. (1991). Purity and danger: an analysis of the concepts of pollution and taboo. London;: Routledge.

Geertz, Clifford. (2000). The interpretation of cultures: selected essays (2000 ed. ed.). New York:: Basic Books.

Mauss, Marcel. (1967). The gift; forms and functions of exchange in archaic societies. New York: Norton.

Sahlins, Marshall David. (1976). Culture and practical reason. Chicago:: University of Chicago Press.

Turner, Victor W. (1969). The ritual process: structure and anti-structure. Chicago: Aldine Pub. Co.

(1.) John y Jean Comaroff ocuparon puestos academicos en la Universidad de Manchester en 1972 y 1973 respectivamente.

(2.) Se incorporaron a la Universidad de Chicago en 1978.

LUIS FERNANDO ANGOSTO FERRANDEZ

UNIVERSIDAD DE SIDNEY

TRADUCCION: Maria Ines Arratia (The original English version of this paper is available in the online edition of the Journal).

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Luis Fernando Angosto Ferrandez [LFAF]: I should like to start this interview with a retrospective question. I would like you to recall your view on the politics of anthropology in the 1980s. You were by then already in the United States of America [US], working at the University of Chicago. You must of course have been aware of the debates of the day in the country. Indeed, John had already been publishing about disciplinary issues, about the relation between history and anthropology, and on ethnography in Africa. And you, Jean, came in the middle of the decade with a major book which was tackling very large issues, rather than leaning towards introspective anthropology (Comaroff, 1985). You made explicit your concern with the relation between the local and the global, with the discussion of neocolonialism; your work reflected scientific ambitions. How did you feel in that period that your work contrasted with the work of those who were about to publish Writing Culture (Clifford & Marcus, 1986) and were engaged in debates about 'the crisis of representation' in anthropology and in general about the lack of legitimacy for the social sciences? How did you feel that your work was fitting there?

Jean Comaroff [JeC]: That's a very good question, and there are two kinds of dynamics, I think, that were involved. One was the fact that we were trained in Britain, as colonials who came to the metropole, to the London School of Economics, in the 1960s. This was a time of ferment. For instance, many of our classmates were Americans, refugees from the Vietnam War. But in general, the whole of Europe--youthful Europe--was in ferment, and nobody quite knew what it was about. It was a time pervaded by political reaction to the onset of what would soon be known as neoliberalism--and the age of the post-colony--and the impact of this on Europe. Politically, it was the second half of the 20th Century, and the rapid demise of high modernism, the ideals of the welfare state, and so on. And we were at the London School of Economics, which was not Oxford or Cambridge. It was urban, in the middle of London, which was home to many political refugees and critics from across the world. It was close to the demonstrations in the streets, close to the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square, focus of the anti-Vietnam war demonstrations, and the diverse politics of youthful dissent that accreted around it. So there was that social context for us, on the one hand. And, on the other hand, we were being trained within British anthropology, classic modernist social anthropology, bred of a colonial era, but placing a strong emphasis on social analysis

LFAF: As opposed to the cultural trend that guided much of the anthropology produced in the United States, right?

John Comaroff [JoC]: Exactly.

JeC: Culture was always, for British anthropology, much more of a Durkheimian conception, a reflection of social structure. It's not that culture wasn't significant; it was embodied in 'cosmology' and ritual symbolism, an expression of social relations, rather than an order of determination in its own right. We were trained in that School, but during the political ferment of the late 1960s. And also, of course, in the midst of the anti-apartheid struggle that was going on in South Africa, and also around us in the UK. Later on, we went to the north of England, to the University of Manchester. (1) There we got involved with the union movement as well, and with a kind of anthropology that had longer links to a history of Marxism and union activism. Max Gluckman was there, at the core of the distinctive Manchester School and its unique brand of social theory and method.

JoC: Peter Worsley was there too, and was deeply rooted in Marxist thought. He was also concerned with the conceptualization of the 'third world,' of course.

JeC: He was there indeed, in the Department of Sociology. By then, Sociology and anthropology were separate departments, with quite distinct intellectual orientations. Marshall Sahlins came to visit the Department of Anthropology while we were in Manchester and, to make a long story short, he invited us back to the US, and eventually we ended up in the University of Chicago (2). So our move to Chicago came via British social anthropology at that point in the late 60s, and via people like Sahlins, who were cultural theorists of a particular sort, not of the interpretive tradition (a la Geertz) that led more directly to the 'writing culture' tradition. Anthropology in Chicago had a long history of conversation with foundational British scholars like Radcliffe-Brown and Malinowski, and then later with French figures like Levi-Strauss and Marcel Mauss. It may have had roots in the work of Boas, Kroeber et al, but it was always, in its own way, much more conversant with European anthropology. It was a certainly a major centre for American cultural anthropology of a distinctive kind, but it had many other members, some of more sociological bent: Raymond Smith was in there, for example...

JoC: Terrence Turner ...

JeC: Terrence Turner, who was always trying to reconcile Marxism with cultural theory of a structuralist sort.

Joc: And with Piaget.

JaC: Yes, and Barney Cohen was an important Chicago figure, who was much more a historian than an anthropologist, and who was doing Foucauldian-style analysis of colonialism in India long before people were doing that sort of thing in either anthropology or history. So that was the world which we entered in the United States academy. There was a tension there from the beginning. We came from a more Durkheimian, British tradition, and it was 'out of Africa.' And we were committed to a sense of an anthropology that was responsive to a changing world.

What they were doing in Chicago at the time was in many ways a cutting-edge experiment. It was always very much within an anthropology that valued theory and systemic analysis. But it was also very well grounded in relation to particular times and places, very ethnographic; yet at the same time, it was always ethnographic in relationship to larger theoretical questions. Marshall Sahlins, at that stage, was one major (structuralist) pole in the department. The other was David Schneider, writing about American kinship as a "cultural account," as a pattern of symbols. Either way, the emphasis in Chicago was on grand theoretical questions. What was significantly different from British anthropology was that, for scholars in Chicago at the time, the whole world was susceptible to anthropological analysis; it didn't have to be small-scale, non-Western societies, it didn't have to be Africa. Schneider had written about mainstream American kinship; Sahlins, about US cuisine and the signifying properties of blue jeans. So that provided our centre of gravity. People were also already working on the anthropology of European communities. But they were also quite far from the kind of anthropology being developed in California in the 1980's. Many were suspicious of approaches that were too textual, too Geertzian; too much affected by what was a kind of postmodern turn in literary studies; this was hermeneutics rather than grounded, structural, systemic anthropology.

JoC: That's absolutely right. We had our own strong sense of the discipline within Chicago, although there were disagreements among us that hinged on some of the large questions that faced anthropology. For example, just before we came to Chicago, and in fact integral to our moving there, Marshall Sahlins (1976) had written Culture and Practical Reason, a very important book, which sought to write a cultural anthropology of capitalism; itself an extraordinarily ambitious objective. As it happened, we disagreed with him on the nature of capitalism, but it was something we could, and did, argue about. In sum, while we were all deeply situated in the local places and spaces and temporalities in which we did our research --ethnography was critical to all of us--Chicago anthropology was about others. It was certainly not about American academics agonizing about themselves and/or the epistemic impossibility of their practices. In particular, it was about understanding the relationship between otherness and the global phenomena that impacted upon peoples across the world --phenomena that, in turn, were affected by the actions and intentions of those peoples. So when the 'writing culture' moment came, we agreed that it raised some important ethical and authorial questions; after all, the scholars involved in that moment were smart and they were concerned about a number of things that one ought to be concerned about. But for us, ultimately, anthropology was always a political and an ethical practice; it was, unapologetically, a 'politics of knowledge'. Having come from our background in apartheid South Africa, it could not be anything else, as Jean has said. The impact of the epoch of decolonization, and of its struggles, was deeply felt by those of us who came from the global south. It saw the rise of a Marxist anthropology, which was deeply concerned with nationalist and socialist movements. How did one explain the rise of a socialist East Africa? An anthropologist of the period might have set out to study "traditional" Maasai society, but the Maasai were living in a new socialist state--whose president, of course, was an anthropologist. Their world was being rapidly commodified. So the romance of treating these peoples as though they inhabited isolated islands of history made little sense. In the circumstances, too, much of the 'writing culture' obsession with authorial authority seemed absurd. Why? Because we knew very well from our own ethnographic experiences that the anthropologist was rarely the authority in situations of fieldwork. Many of us were cultural dupes: we were used by 'our natives' for all kinds of things, because we did not understand their worlds, nor always our own, as well as many of them did. The image of the all-seeing, omnipotent anthropologist was simply mythological, something that might have appeared persuasive in the seminar room. But it bore little relationship to the realities of research in most places--which, as any experienced ethnographer knows, is a highly complex, protean collaboration.

LFAF: On that note: when, a few years later, you published Ethnography and the Historical Imagination (1992), were you consciously responding to those methodological and political debates that came into the discipline in the 1980s?

JoC: Oh, absolutely. It certainly was intended as an intervention in those debates. And a provocation.

JeC: Absolutely! As John was saying, a key dimension to that was that, in a way, it overvalued anthropology, and undervalued the significance, we felt, of what anthropology should actually be doing to call attention to certain kinds of questions. And it was too invested in the idea that anthropology was about interpretation, hermeneutics; it was about texts, all the way down. It was not about contexts; it was about writing, and we kept saying: 'you know, writing, even to those who write about writing, is a much more complex thing than simply stylistic representation'. Writing comes out of a world where what you write, how you write, the privilege of access to writing, all of those things, are part of a larger political context, social conditions. And so to fetishise the writing dimension of ethnography alone seemed to us to be a misread of what the legacy of social science was all about; and furthermore, it was writing the discipline into obscurity. There was also a strange sense of contradiction in all that; at one level, scholars were saying 'it's all about textualisation, there's no such thing as a real objective account'; but, at another level, they were saying 'we've got to get it right, we've got to get it native voices in there, we have got to get beyond 'his master's voice ...'

JoC: Which, ultimately, read to us as a crypto-neorealist position ...

JeC: Yes, that was in a way the issue. And it seemed to turn its back on the big problems of modernity and late modernity, which were happening all around us, and we were leaving that to the other social sciences to deal with. Whereas we had a really important, significant contribution to make which had to do with our method, and our scale.

LFAF: Indeed, in that book [Anthropology and the Historical Imagination], as opposed to those who cultivated that kind of self-reflexive anthropology, you were somehow calling for more ethnography on all fronts

JoC: Oh, absolutely!

LFAF: You were requesting even to do ethnography in archives, to maintain a reflexive historical perspective in anthropology. As well, you elaborated on the idea of doing ethnography on an awkward scale (2003), and I think that's an essential point for contemporary anthropology. I would like you to talk a bit more about this. It is now better understood what you meant by bringing in that that awkward scale into ethnography, trying to coordinate the possibility of working locally but having the global frame within sight. But, of course, that's difficult to implement methodologically. Some anthropologists have made remarkable contributions in that sense, but their work also posits new questions about the identity of the discipline. In that sense, do you think that it is an indispensable requirement that the ethnographer becomes nowadays more of a sociologist, or on the contrary you think that anthropology remains essentially distinctive through its methods even when tackling the big questions?

JoC: I think that anthropology remains distinctive. The truth of the matter is that, for all kinds of reasons, disciplinary discourses cross over more and more into each other, often fusing at their edges. Sociology, for example, has become more ethnographic. There are now branches of cultural sociology and legal sociology doing exactly what anthropologists do. But they do it in a different intellectual and institutional context; or, to invoke Karin Knorr Cetina, different epistemic communities. But the thing that anthropology brings to the disciplinary division of labor is its way of problematizing the phenomenal world. We anthropologists do not, or should not, take anything in the phenomenal world for granted. Our primary epistemic principle is estrangement: we estrange the world, we ask what it is that constitutes the phenomena that the social sciences study, what they mean in the practices of everyday life. So, for example, political science spends an enormous amount of time measuring democratic indexes across the world; 'How much democracy does Venezuela or Nigeria or Egypt or Italy or the USA have?' Our tendency is to ask 'What does democracy mean?' 'What is it, in political or governmental or cultural practice?' 'Why is it that when surveys are done in, say, Africa many respondents do not even mention the ballot box as one of the desiderata of democracy'? Or take ethnicity. Sociologists evaluate the life chances of different ethnic groups. We ask what constitutes identity, what does it mean, what concrete forms does it take. And why? Why is it critically important as an explicit principle of affiliation at certain moments in history and not at others? That's not given at all. I tried to publish an essay on ethnicity in the 1980s; I was told, then, that the piece was unpublishable because nobody was interested in the topic any more. As it happened, it was republished many times afterwards, but, at that moment in history, cultural identity did not appear, to one of the most influential journals in the discipline, as an anthropological problem of any significance. That was then. We estrange, we put things into spatial and temporal orbits, often along awkward spatial and temporal coordinates, coordinates that other disciplines don't tackle. In short, it is not what we study that makes us different, it's how we study it. When sociologists do the same thing, they are often accused of being anthropologists. To give a specific scholarly example, our former colleague at the University of Chicago, Lisa Wedeen, is a distinguished culturally-oriented political scientist. But she does essentially things of the kind we are talking about. As a result, many political scientists see her as a 'crypto-anthropologist'. We are not especially concerned about crossing disciplinary boundaries for intellectually creative reasons. If other social scientists are worried about cross-overs onto our ground, it is their problem, not ours.

JeC: Yes. And what lies behind that also is the way in which one understands the nature of history, the human condition, and world-making. The assumption of an anthropologist is always is that there's a dialectic between subject and object, that human beings make the worlds they inhabit; maybe not exactly as they please, but as a meaningful, intentional exercise. And therefore, whether we call it that or not, we focus on a dialectic: we anthropologists don't have our interview schedules already worked out before we go to the field. There's more to know about any social issue of phenomenon than you can possibly discern in advance, from the outside, from a consideration of 'objective' conditions: what turns out to be relevant, what motivates people's actions is what excites them, what they value, what makes them 'anxious.' That is not simple predictable, which is why history and society are not a matter of simple determinations and prediction. There's always that interplay: that dialectical interplay between the phenomenology, what people are experiencing, and the larger horizon out of which it comes. What is the relation between larger structures and the nature of local experience? Why does kinship return, now, in much of the world as a value, and a force of refuge for people when the nation state and other structures seem to be disintegrating? Suddenly there seems to be an increase in the role of ties of blood in organizing identity and social relations in many places, and there's a return of kinship studies. Why do people come to stress ethnicity in their lives, and as a matter of blood as well as culture? These are the sorts of questions that compel anthropologists like us. It's a matter of both the structure of feeling in a particular place, and of the larger conditions that make this possible. And to be able to answer that question, we anthropologists always start with something in the world, something tangible, an object, like an activity, an anxiety, a cultural manifestation. Because the world is made by people, in practice; that's where practice theory comes in. And again, that makes the point that one cannot make a clear distinction between sociology and anthropology, social action or meaningful construction. Because these were the questions that people like Durkheim and Weber started out with, and they are in fact joint ancestors--both of anthropology and of sociology.

LFAF: That tension between what people experience and the 'larger horizons' within which experience takes particular shapes seem to be really essential to anthropology. And to resolve that tension anthropologists need to follow certain strategies. In this regard, one can come back to what John was explaining: our work is estrangement. This expression has become associated with your work. Estrangement is of course pervading anthropology from the very beginning, but you have complemented that basic methodological outlook with other general premises. You have been emphatic on the necessity of looking for what elsewhere you called the 'patterns in the making', talking about Gluckman's work. That exercise is about finding out what brings together all those oddments and apparently unrelated issues that one finds in social lives; it is about asking what is connecting all those oddments within social spheres.

JoC: Exactly.

JeC: And that is a key dimension of the politics of anthropology. Another person who has emphasised this a lot is our colleague and long-time friend, Keith Hart, who is a wonderful British anthropologist who works on economics, among other things. For a very long time, the methodology of anthropology, particularly cultural anthropology from the Boasian tradition, was very much focused finding unique societies and treating them in terms of their internal complexity; treating them in isolation, but in terms of the beauty of their internal social, semantic, and cosmological relations. The problem with this perspective is that it fitted the hegemonic ideology of a colonial world that thrived on a vision of European modernizers bringing light and development to simpler people bound by tradition. Treating the latter each in terms of their unique beauty was a good liberal rebuttal to cruder evolutionary stereotypes, but masked the harsher structural realities of overrule and the impact of modern empires, which often had distressingly similar effects on the divers local communities brought within its sway. Our scholarly celebration of the resilience of once independent societies in the face of political and economic domination has been of great value; it has shown how even large, violent forces of colonization are never simple determination, that they always involve local processes of history-making, meaning-making. But the championing of these processes, especially when texts are treated at the expense of contexts, of social and political forces of larger-scale, can mask the bigger story, the larger processes of world-wide scale that are introducing distressingly predictable processes of marginalization and homogenization on small-scale communities across the planet. This was the case under high modern colonialism, and it is the case in a different way under neoliberal 'globalization.'

LFAF: And that is indeed the core of anthropological questioning.

JoC: Absolutely.

JeC: It has to be. And the old style comparison of saying 'we want to look at different kinship systems, at patrilineal and matrilineal versions,.'; a comparativism of a typological kind, misses out on the larger structural determinations that are creating the interconnections of these worlds. And that was of course where the anthropology of colonialism came in; which is not to say these places were all being determined in the same way: the challenging question is what was the same, and what was different in such circumstances ...

JoC: And why.

JaC: And how do we account for the non-accidental forces that are making cities in Latin America now look like cities in Africa. What does that tell us about a late postcolonial world, or the changing nature of urbanism in the cities in the South, for instance?

LFAF: Along these lines of methodological and theoretical reflection, I would like you to examine the role of the state in this scenario of discussion. You have several times made the point that the state has been eroded by transnational capitalism. And, at this stage of globalisation, there is indeed evidence to support the argument that the state has lost part of its monopolies. It has outsourced some of its responsibilities, when not given them up. Along with many others, you also work with the idea that capital has no national boundaries. And that can certainly be acknowledged. But, in my view, there is also a danger in that type of analysis: sometimes it contributes to withdraw attention from examining the role that states keep on having in the reproduction of global capitalism. In these regard, no matter how small neoliberalism has wanted to make the state in certain fields, one can also argue that what in fact happens is that states have reached the size that neoliberalism requires them to become an instrument of the global capitalist system.

JoC: That is correct. Among other things, they provide the legal instrumentation.

LFAF: That's right. And, in that sense, do you think then that there is a danger in all these debates about the erosion of the state? As these debates are generally framed in contemporary discussions, they can contribute to withdraw social scientists from political analysis of the role of the state in the maintenance of global capitalism.

JoC: First of all we have to remind ourselves of the self-evident fact that states are not everywhere the same thing, the same sort of concrete abstraction. The definite article, 't^e state,' is a chimera, not a political or sociological reality. The scales, the geopolitics, the location within the capitalist world order of different states makes them very different kinds of beasts. 'The' US or the Russian states, for example, contrast dramatically from, say, the Sudanese or the Egyptian or the Italian state. And the relations, the articulations, of states to corporate capital vary accordingly. Indeed, the nature of those relations has to be really very carefully analysed. Some states, to be sure, are themselves becoming more obviously corporate; indeed, they are becoming mega corporations. Russia is a well-known case in point: the Kremlin uses Gazprom, the state-owned Russian Oil Company, as an instrument of its foreign policy ...

LFAF: And actually ex-politicians become leading members of those companies.

JoC: Yes, Medvedev, Prime Minister and President, was its CEO.

JeC: Yes, they move back and forth [from politics to corporations].

JoC: And look at Berlusconi, who frequently speaks of Italy as 'our company.' But, to repeat myself, the connections between state and capital is variable and increasingly complex. Some states operate, de facto, as the wholly owned subsidiary of business, others as the (well-remunerated) legal instrument of its deregulation, of its freedoms against the incursions and interests of civil society; in this capacity, they serve as the licensing authority of capital. We've have a chapter in Ethnicity Inc. (2009) about just this. What are often called 'weak states'--a term often applied, with prejudice, against regimes in the global south--are basically nation-states in which corporate capital has seized a great deal of unmediated control, typically legitimized by a small, largely captured political class; these states do not shrink away, they are merely transformed. (Of course, the promiscuous interdigitation of corporate capital and political classes--to the economic benefit of both and to the material cost of the common good --has become characteristic of the global north as well; it is just that, in the north, this is more effectively hidden behind the fictive veil of democracy, a.k.a. the competition for spoils among different factions of those classes.) After all, for a corporation to invest in an extractive industry in, say, Angola or in Congo, or for Korea to buy up the agricultural land of a central African republic, legal sanction, a legal infrastructure, is required. Which, in turn, demands at least a semblance of governance, indeed, of compliant governance--or, as likely, as governance made compliant. Herein lies one source of the collaboration between states and corporations: their ruling regimes provide the necessary legal licensing, which is recognised in international courts of law, while, in return, the corporations keep those ruling regimes in power. The likes of Russia, the US, or India, for that matter--or, more precisely, their political classes--are in a better resourced position to impose their will on the terms of the relationship between capital and the state. Nor, in this respect, does the outsourcing of the functions of governance necessarily mean a retraction of the state; it simply means a displacement from one mode of direct control into a form of rentier and jurisprudential agency.

JeC: NGOs are one of the other interesting dimensions here. Does the NGO represent a contraction of the state or an extension of the state? NGOs across the world are actually not, for the most part, transnational civil society; they are state agencies operating by other means: less visible, less accountable. The global economic crisis of 2008 was a perfect example. The ideology in the US, from the point of view of corporate capital, is to ensure minimal government. But that minimal government is there above all to regulate the conditions that enable the operation of such corporate, so minimalisation of government requires more law, not less.

JoC: Also more personnel.

Jec: And government must be there to bail out corporate enterprise that is 'too big to fall'. We recently saw precisely how the state leaps in again with public funding. I think it's very important that academics don't fall into the rhetoric that enables this. We always do so to some extent, of course, because we live in the world that we analyse. But one has to try again to estrange the rhetoric of minimal governance and of free markets. Leading economists, people like Joseph Stiglitz, have pointed out that Adam Smith never meant that the 'free' market should work without regulation; he realised that there always had to be government intervention, because markets are only self-regulating in 'perfect conditions,' and actual conditions are always imperfect. In the US, the ideology of more or less government is on display in the debate whether Obama's healthcare bill was constitutional. In the meanwhile, Brazil has just instituted what is probably the largest conditional cash transfer from government to people in the history of the world: the bolsa familia. And in many parts of the South that's been emulated and debated. This sort of state-centered redistribution is happening alongside rapid expansion, in those countries, of private enterprise. So there you see here a reinvention of the relationship of citizen and state at the same time that capital is renegotiating this relationship.

LFAF: And would you say that the state plays a liberating, or potentially liberating role in postcolonial societies, or do you see it as a double-edged potential?

JoC: It's a double-edged potential.

LFAF: And, in your opinion, what type of state would a 'postcolonial' nation require in order to overcome certain types of structural disadvantages?

JeC: It depends very much, as John said, on the nature of the state. I think what you are seeing in Latin America is something that some anthropologists have been writing about with critical insight. Like Claudio Lomnitz, for instance, who is saying that one of the ways that you see various Latin American nations (maybe not technically 'postcolonial' states in the same way as in Africa) dealing with their position in the global order is through strengthening the state and seeking to have it mediate translocal capital more effectively, re the terms of trade, the terms of investment, the terms of selling national land and real estate to outsiders, and so on. One of the ways of coping with their nations in the global order is to strengthen the bite of the state in the regulation of internal/external relations. In some parts of Africa this is termed "upward adjustment," or "beneficialization."

JoC: Exactly. The Washington Consensus did extraordinary damage across the world. More and more states that had 'structural adjustment' imposed on them have started to pull back and even reverse course. For a long time, under the tenets of market fundamentalism, especially during the Bush years, many countries in global south were directly threatened: if they didn't deregulate their economies, if they dared to sustain features of the welfare state, loans and aid to them would be cut. And for a while they did free up their economies, encourage privatization, cut social benefits, and pay obeisance to the tenets of neoliberalism. Some people, and some local corporations, benefited hugely; new wealth was certainly created. But, at the same time, these countries saw themselves losing literally millions of jobs, cut in the cause of company profits; they also suffered from radically rising Gini coefficients, crime rates, and civil unrest. So they started smuggling back what Anthony Giddens dubbed 'third way' technologies of governance. Like, in Brazil, the bolsa familia, a huge institution of economic redistribution whose operations are phrased in the neoliberal terms of entrepreneurship and investment, but which is nonetheless a form of state intervention against poverty and inequality wrought by the recent economic history of the country. This is just one illustration of the general point that we have sought to make repeatedly about 'the' state in the global history of the present. It has not retracted or withered, but has transformed itself in a variety of ways. As social scientists, we have to deal with 'the' state not as a simple abstract form, everywhere the same. It is a concrete abstraction that takes a myriad of forms wrought by the specificities of its relationship to capital.

JeC: Yes, and there's another thing. We also live in a world of constitutionality, rights. And a lot of the talk of entitlements actually often amount to things that are more symbolic than pragmatic. So you have many of transitional justice forums that look into past atrocities and patterns of victimisation in the transition to democracy. And that recognise formerly silenced people and voices and offer them formal apologies. But often, this does very little to change the terms of their actual viability as citizens. Any society that is serious about restoring normal rights, about honouring the social contract, requires a state of some kind to enforce them. Rights without some kind of community of responsibility might well mean nothing. And so, to call for global humanitarian rights without some local body that is able to enforce them is meaningless. The return of some kind of responsive political community is key. And you see this desire in many places; look at the return to socialist leadership in France right now, the angry calls for responsible national government in those parts of Europe suffering the imposition of austerity measures. There's a strong sense in South Africa now, for example, that people want their citizenship to mean something; those who feel neglected try to force the state into existence by angry protests that call for 'services.' You know, there has been a strong Foucauldian sense, among late modern scholars, that states are all a matter of domination, but in fact many people want to see more government.

LFAF: And what about the role of culture in those new meanings of citizenship? I would like to move on now to talk about something that, I think, relates to this discussion from another angle. You have been writing about it in Ethnicity Inc.; about how there is a relation between that ethnicity and 'nationality Inc.'. I think you put it very well when you say there is nowadays a tendency to reduce culture to a naturally copyrighted possession. And in that sense, both ethnic groups, and ethno-nationalism and some nations, have converged, have been working along the same lines. This seems to be another central issue for contemporary states. In many countries we see how states and governments become like corporations; they share common idioms. In this regard, there is something that you touch in the conclusion to your book and on which I would like you to elaborate a bit more here: you suggest that there is a way to look at this processes framed by the 'ethnicity inc.' model as potentially beneficial for groups which in the global economy do not have any other possibility but to resort to this type of 'immaterial good' in order to trade and engage global economic transaction. Do you think that there is a liberating potential there, or do you think that this is other way of subjugating 'cultural minorities' in another way? Because, perhaps, they are never going to scale upwards as a group in the capitalist economy in that way. What is your view on that?

JeC: Well, we actually refer to some examples of groups who actually have scaled upwards to the point of becoming global operators, economically. But they are exceptional in many ways. We start this book by saying that we don't come to praise or extol ethnicity, but that it nevertheless is an increasingly visible reality in the world. And rather than saying simply that everything about it is suspect, negative--that it is a function of structures of domination, the misrecognition of culture, and so on--we need to understand why it has taken on such salience, how it can be understood as a reaction to very particular circumstances. For a start, it stems directly from something that we said right at the beginning, which is the tendency, which came with colonialism, to separate and identify people above all by way of their distinctiveness, their difference. And anthropology was very involved in that business. Many of the peoples who became known by ethnic labels (like the Tswana that we studied, for instance) only took on their current designation--qua ethnics--under colonial conditions. And a good degree of what gave stability, substance, and texture to such ethnic-cultural identity was the actual interaction between them and the world around them--including the world of scholars. But it was not merely a matter of 'writing culture.' For many years, those designations were a mark of inferiority, marginalisation. To be ethnically labelled in South Africa meant, by definition, that you were cheap labour, and that you were not a citizen--you were a subject.

JoC: You were racially marked.

JaC: Now, what is brilliant about this current moment is how these marks of marginality have become a source of capital and value. People have been able, under certain structural and historical circumstances, taken that literally and said: 'okay, we are different, but we are also equal. We have something distinctive here, and we're going to make it ours.' For in a world that has come to fear homogenization and lack of difference, diversity is celebrated (at least, in theory); what is more, it can be a kind of heritage that can be a source of income, profit. So there's a way in which this reversed a whole history of colonial relations, of cultural differentiation, and discrimination. The insight was made evident to us when somebody in the rural South African community where we had long done research said to us: 'we used to sell our labour and now we sell our culture. So we have to have recover it, because if we don't have culture, tradition, we're nobody'. Now, that's a poignant statement. It could be taken as a tragic commentary on colonial domination; but it can also be seen as taking literally the myth long promulgated by the West that 'other cultures' are equal and have value. And it is the effort to take that myth seriously that has resulted in the industry that we talk about in Ethnicity, Inc. We make the point that the process is very complicated. The myth is not simply devalued: many people are still exploited because they are different, and not all that many manage to profit from their distinctiveness. People are living within the market, and the market can both enable them to gain value from their cultural heritage, and it can also simply subject them to the laws of surplus value and monopoly control. And both examples are there, in the cases analysed in Ethnicity Inc.

JoC: To be sure, ethno-capitalism has created extraordinary wealth for some people and palpable misery for others. Many societies that styled themselves as socialist did much the same thing: they created wealthy political classes--and all the rest. Likewise, Ethnicity Inc. enriches and disempowers, enables and excludes. The question becomes for whom, for what, and in what proportion. But it also raises the problem of how to go about creating an alternative politics that does not disempower, disable, or exclude in the same way that the identity politics and the rise of ethno-capitalism does--or, for that matter, erode class, labor, and gender politics, which it also does.

JeC: And poverty. It also dignifies and romanticises poverty.

JoC: Right. So it is a very complex beast. From our own perspective, the rise of identity politics and economics is an ambiguous development: we would much prefer to see a mass politics based on principles of inclusion, not on principles of difference ...

JeC: And on labour. But these people are no longer in a labour economy in an old-fashioned sense.

LFAF: Following on this, I would like to close the interview with something about prognosis, about the future of anthropology. You have been daring in that sense, in that you do not fear talking about the prospects of the discipline. At this very conjuncture of global capitalism, considering the capitalist financial crisis that has hold sway over the last few years and which has brought many people to return to discussions about the material basis of social reproduction: do you consider that our discipline is going to somehow follow suit and start to change in certain corners? It seems it is still is a minority within the discipline that dares to look frontally at these global issues. However, considering the importance of the 'cultural' dimensions of the crisis, and of course considering as well the essentiality of the material basis of society: do you think that perhaps this crisis, and the shock that it meant for many people, is going to have an impact on the discipline in the short term?

JoC: That's a very interesting question. And it doesn't admit to an easy answer.

JaC: You put it very well, and it seems to me that there's both a positive and a negative side to this. The academy, and particularly the social sciences, are threatened everywhere. I know that you've had layoffs here at the University of Sydney, by the way. And, certainly, if you came to our campus in Chicago as an anthropologist from Mars, you would conclude that our temple, our most valued, revered institution, was the business school, followed by the biosciences. And, in-between, a bit of respect and support for the performing arts, and for the social sciences. The social sciences, once seen as the "Jewel in the Crown" of our university, are much less valued. And in some ways, this reflects the fact that the very idea of 'the social' is very hard to imagine in the world in which we live, because the scale of the institutions and relational fields that gave it substance, and that form our lived context has so drastically exploded. Also, the territorial architecture of the nation-state, which anchored our social modernist social imaginary, has been eroded in our ever more integrated universe. So envisaging the social and rendering it empirically tangible is a problem, and not only for anthropology. Also, within the social sciences, anthropology has always been the counter-hegemonic social science, the one that asked the hard questions, which has questioned all the terms, as John would say. At the same time, relative to its size, the discipline has contributed major insights to social thought in general. Whether you're thinking of Mary Douglas and Purity and Danger (1966), Mauss on the nature of the gift (1966), Turner on ritual (1969), or Geertz on 'thick description'(2000). Or whether you think about culture itself; after all, the nature of property, of ownership in the current world, is increasingly understood in terms of culture, and intellectual property: everyone, from ethnic groups, to cities, to nation-states seek to make economy out of culture. And we are the theorists of culture par excellence, so the discipline has everything going for it from that point of view. And there's always been a strange relationship between the modest size of the discipline, and the impact of its key thinkers; Levi-Strauss is the most notable, perhaps, but even in our generation, the influence of its concepts and methods is quite considerable. 'Ethnography,' albeit often in watered-down form, is taken up across diverse disciplines--even by business and nursing schools. This relates also to the fact that the institutional division of labour that was dominant in the high modern era has shifted, so that many of the 'softer,' more symbolic phenomena favoured by anthropologists have taken on new salience. There is the increasing salience of religious movements in what were once taken to be 'secular' preserves, like politics and public life. Religious movements, especially revitalized, born-again faiths, are increasingly providing an expanding array of services, from banks and universities to public media across the world. They are among the fastest growing social movements, especially in the global south, where they offer people everyday sociality, intimacy, diagnostic insight, the promise of empowerment. Anthropologists can provide insights into these things that no other discipline can; also, into the complex, shifting mythology--what Marx called the 'social hieroglyphics' --that accompanies the circulation of things in an intensely commodified world (I think here of the language of advertising, the poetics of fashion, the discursive cultures spawned by new media). In the spring of 2012, we taught a seminar at the University of Chicago called 'Theory from the South', which was focused on what a 'late modern anthropology' should look like. Students were very responsive to the topic, suggesting to us that there is a generation now coming into anthropology that wants to ask these sorts of big questions we have been discussing here. Anthropology is becoming diversified; many people are coming into the discipline from India, from China, from Latin America, from Africa. Also, from minority populations in Europe. There's thus much more diversity in the discipline in the North. And these students want to ask large questions, too important to be ignored--about the loss of work in its modern, industrial sense, or the disintegration of the middle-class and class reproduction in many places, or the reinscription of politics into law, technicism, or "theory," or the elusive meaning of key categories like "property" or "money," or "nature." These are questions that you can't get to as suggestively with the more conventional social science perspectives out there, whether vested in positivistic methods, or classic social theoretical approaches. So I think that there's a great potential, but we have to seize that potential ...

JoC: That's the point, we have to seize that potential.

JeC: And make our discipline relevant, capable of speaking innovatively to key issues

JoC: A lot of anthropologists run scared. They do not want to take on the big issues, arguing that this is not what anthropology has traditionally done. They also argue that to expand our discursive range to address those big issues will make the discipline into something else, something alien, something that appears suspiciously like sociology. This is ironic, of course, since sociology is seen by some of its practitioners to be deeply in crisis: note, in this respect, the growing literature on the imminent death of that discipline, on its growing irrelevance to the real world, on its fetishism of method above substance. Anthropologists of the present generation are well placed to redefine the scale of the discipline. But it is a real challenge. Many of our well-worn the concepts, not to mention the epistemic scaffolding of our practice, have to be fundamentally rethought in order to do that. We disagree strongly with those who believe that the future of the discipline lies in its past: in a return to the study of 'little' peoples, whether it be in the Northern Territories of Australia, on islands in the Pacific, or in indigenous enclaves in Africa. Nor is a panacea to be found in neo-empiricism, in isolating, decontextualizing, and describing social networks or assemblages and treating them as entirely contingent phenomena. If those are the ways that the discipline is going to go, it is likely to write itself into exquisite irrelevance. So, too, would a turn to an anthropology unadorned by ethnography, a purely philosophical anthropology; philosophers will always do that better than we can--unless, of course, we give up anthropology and become philosophers. On the other hand, if, as Jean says, anthropology comes to reflect the intellectual concerns of a new generation (and maybe our students are not typical), if it does take on big contemporary issues and treats the discipline as a distinct, grounded way of thinking about them, the future is secure.

JeC: Anthropology, from its birth, has always been omnivorous. Look at British anthropology in Africa: Evans-Prichard, for instance, was working with ideas from Tylor and Frazer, from Freud and from cybernetics; Gluckman was working with all kinds of theories, be they Marxian, jurisprudential, or psychoanalytic. The discipline has always looked beyond itself and has indigenised and localised theoretical concepts from a wider archive. It should not be different now. The sense that we should not look to grand theory and grand problems because they're not intrinsically 'anthropological' in nature or scale is nonsense. We've never had theory that's been generically only anthropological.

JoC: Structural functionalism, after all, owed itself largely to Durkheim ...

JeC: Yes. And was Durkheim an anthropologist or a sociologist? Similarly, Marx. Marx in some ways writes in terms of grounded, ethnographic exemplars. Key orientations, like the idea of estrangement, or the salience of practice come him.

JoC: To be sure. Marx, fundamentally, was concerned to write an anthropology of capitalism.

JeC: And he worked with ideas like fetishism, that was, in its literal origin, an African phenomenon. So there's always been an interchange and reworking of theory between the humanistic disciplines, and that's what we have to do now. And yet, within all this ferment, anthropology's method has remained distinctive, and that's the uniqueness we bring. And the potential remains as great as it ever wasa, we just need to grasp it.

LFAF: I don't know if you would like to add something else, to finalise.

JeC: Conversations like this one, across generations, across hemispheres, carry a great deal of potential for the future of the discipline, in my view.

LFAF: To me it has certainly been very enriching. It is very stimulating to find the strength and the energy that comes into this type of debate from anthropologists like you. For a younger generation it is, I think, very inspiring.

JoC: The production of a persuasive anthropology of globalism, in large measure, relies on the globalising of anthropology, which, gratefully, is happening more and more.

JeC: We recently went to Latin America, and we were greatly struck by what's going on there; and in India it's the same. In these contexts, there is frequently a more responsive relationship between academic work and the wider world of debate and pragmatic existence. Scholars tend to be very aware of the relationship of ideas and the politics of history. There remains a sharp memory of dominations past, including intellectual domination. And there is often a close relationship between the struggle for existence, and these sort of questions we have discussed here. Which doesn't mean that these are anti-intellectual questions, or that scholars in places of struggle are limited to utilitarian concerns. You can think theory at its most grand from most anyplace; it is not the privilege of the leisure classes, as it were. But in contexts like South Africa, for instance, there tends to be a move back and forth between the ivory tower and a tangible world to which one feels responsible, a world that keeps one honest. And that's also always been the anthropologist's orientation, right? It is a discipline that is empirical in its referents; however abstract, one touches base somewhere.

LFAF: And to produce knowledge to transform is also an anthropological thing as well.

JoC: Of course it is. One has to have the courage to theorize. It's as simple as that. We should never lose our heads in the depths of the local--however important it is to sustain our empirical roots there--and never lose the will to take intellectual risks. If anthropology keeps those two things in its vision, it is safe. If it becomes either philosophy or ethnology it will be nothing.

DOI: 10.11156/aibr.070301e

RECIBIDO: 02.06.2012

ACEPTADO: 30.08.2012

References

Clifford, James, & Marcus, George E. (1986). Writing culture : the poetics and politics of ethnography : a School of American Research advanced seminar. In J. Clifford & G. E. Marcus (Eds.). Berkeley. University of California Press.

Comaroff, Jean. (2003). Ethnography on an Awkward Scale: Postcolonial Anthropology and the Violence of Abstraction. Ethnography, 4(2), 147-179. doi: 10.1177/14661381030042001

Comaroff, Jean. (1985). Body of power, spirit of resistance : the culture and history of a South African people. Chicago. University of Chicago Press.

Comaroff, John L. (1992). Ethnography and the historical imagination. In J. Comaroff (Ed.). Boulder. Westview Press.

Comaroff, John L. (2009). Ethnicity, Inc. In J. Comaroff (Ed.). Chicago. University of Chicago Press.

Douglas, Mary. (1991). Purity and danger : an analysis of the concepts of pollution and taboo. London ;: Routledge.

Geertz, Clifford. (2000). The interpretation of cultures : selected essays (2000 ed. ed.). New York.Basic Books.

Mauss, Marcel. (1967). The gift; forms and functions of exchange in archaic societies. New York: Norton.

Sahlins, Marshall David. (1976). Culture and practical reason. Chicago. University of Chicago Press.

Turner, Victor W. (1969). The ritual process: structure and anti-structure. Chicago: Aldine Pub. Co.

LUIS FERNANDO ANGOSTO FERRANDEZ

UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY

(1.) John and Jean Comaroff took appointments in the University of Manchester in 1972 and 1973 respectively.

(2.) They started at the University of Chicago in 1978.
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