In this issue authors address the question of how putatively universal rules—imperial dictates, state laws, economic regimes, and consequential categories of social life like “religion,” “the market” and “indigeneity”—are translated into local vernaculars and adapted to local sites and singular needs. The process is rarely without friction, resistance, cost, or contest. To take a hydraulic metaphor, the essays offer a comparative viscosity of the force and limits of
flow. When standardizing classifications infill regional uses and users, what sorts of detours, dams, floods, and muddied waters follow? What new springs irrupt?
Daniel Andrew Birchok, Anthropology, University of Michigan-Flint
One of the tall tales of modernity goes like this: as human societies become more complex — more industrial, urban, mass mediated, and public — the importance of kinship as an organizing principle decreases. The rule is invoked in multiple settings, often with a judgmental spin. Seldom does an identity narrative seem so self-evidently true and false at the same time. If we were to flip it, keeping its exaggerated feel but reversing the implications, the story might sound like this: claims about the diminishing significance of kinship (and its radically changing forms) have ethical weight because they are contested, very often inaccurate, and based on aspirations that are hard to realize in everyday life because ideas of relatedness are so important to us. Is this an improved version of the tall tale, or evidence that we need to tell a different kind of story altogether?
Meet our April 2018 authors!
Congratulations to CSSH author Greg Feldman (CSSH 58-2, “With my head on the pillow: Sovereignty, Ethics, and Evil among Undercover Police Investigators”) on the publication of his new monograph, The Gray Zone: Sovereignty, Human Smuggling, and Undercoverr Police Investigation in Europe, published by Stanford University Press.
The Indigenous exists at multiple levels: in the historical embedding of a people with a given landsite and ecosystem most obviously, but also in language, politics, religion, and a lived experience of separateness from settler-states and their progeny. Still, Indigenous peoples’ survival depends in key respects on settler-states and their diverse codes and degrees of recognition. Essays by Uditi Sen and Krista Maxwell each explore registers of recognition that, though applied to dispossess indigenous peoples’ of autonomy, were presented as liberal or humanitarian interventions: the construct of “empty land,” or terra nullius, in Sen’s contribution; and the construct of the Indigenous “child-victim,” in Maxwell’s.
Congratulations to CSSH authors Alireza Doostdar, Graham M. Jones, and Begüm Adalet on the publication of their new monographs.
Read on to learn more about our authors whose work appears in this issue.
Congratulations to CSSH authors Michael Meng and Alain Mikhail.
CSSH has been host to an impressive gathering of essays on the cultural and historical aspects of law. During the last decade, we have published influential pieces on Islamic law, on states and their jurisdictions, on spaces beyond the law, on legal practitioners, criminals, police, and prisons.
In his CSSH review essay, “On Authoritarianism,” Michael Meng investigates the history of authoritarianism and provides a comparative study of authoritarian regimes. In his reflections below, he turns his attention to the nature of current presidential politics in the United States. A number of historians have attempted to place Donald Trump’s presidency in historical perspective. Most…