Politics and Anthropology

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978-1-934691-07-6

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Democracy: Anthropological Approaches


Edited by Julia Paley

In recent decades, powerful institutions have packaged Western democracy for export around the globe. Although Western democracy is grounded in specific historical experiences and cultural assumptions, advocates have generally taken its normative status for granted. So too have most academics. Yet if democracy is broadly understood as government by “the people,” it must necessarily differ along with “the people” in question. Just what “the will of the people” is and how it might be realized become questions of pressing importance. Rather than advance alternative definitions of democracy, celebrate alternative democracies, or posit alternatives to democracy, the contributors to this volume focus on the way that specific definitions of democracy are advanced as normative and others eclipsed, and how certain claims to represent “the will of the people” gain currency and others are silenced. While previous scholars of democracy have proposed one definitive model after another, the authors in this work suggest that democracy is by nature an open ended set of questions about the workings of power—questions best engaged through the dialogical processes of fieldwork and ethnographic writing.

Published By School for Advanced Research Press


6 x 9 in. 280 pages