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Conference: Culture, Power, and Policy in the New Europe: Refocusing the Anthropological Purview, AAA Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA, 14-18 November 2012‏

Session at the American Anthropological Association (AAA) Annual Meeting
San Francisco, CA
14 - 18 November, 2012

“Culture, Power, and Policy in the New Europe: Refocusing the
Anthropological Purview”

At a time when European integration faces many challenges and hurdles
in the form of financial, economic, democratic and political crises,
the efficacy of public policies that are decided in Brussels, and in
member state capitals, for managing the everyday lives of average
Europeans acquires dramatic importance and demands scrutiny. For this
session we welcome paper proposals that address issues of culture,
power, and policy from different vantage points, such as those which
engage the drafting, negotiation, and implementation of policies that
are created by the EU, by member state governments and by local
authorities at different scales of governing, or those that focus on
citizen and non-citizen responses to those policies, or those which
consider and/or gauge consequences and effects of policies that are
manifested in everyday life. Papers that expand the anthropological
purview on policy or those that take a comparative outlook on public
policies in various areas in Europe are also welcome. This session
will contribute to the burgeoning scholarship on the anthropology of
European integration and policy-making from the perspectives of
reconfigurations and reevaluations of culture and power in the new

The endeavor to study public policies from within anthropology
acquired greater significance and visibility when the EU project
became an ever encroaching, or intrusive, aspect of human life. From
local levels of city and province, to policy arenas of agriculture and
fisheries, to the cultural and regional policies of European
integration, Europeanists studying policy-making have so far attested
to the fact that policy-makers act within a cultural interpretative
framework. Anthropological scholarship of policy-making in Europe, with
its attention to the lived experiences at the bottom, as well as to
governing practices at the top, has opened up avenues to account for
the fact that public policies are often contested and negotiated by a
variety of agents, actors and enactors during the twin processes of
  policy-making and policy implementation. In adopting an interpretative
approach to public policies, ethnographers studying the role of
policy-workers—such as bureaucrats and consultants in policy
processes—have suggested that researchers focus on the “ritual[s] and
[the] production of meaning” in these processes “rather than [the]
production of effective policies per se” (Blom Hansen and Stepputat
2001:17). Here bureaucrats, consultants and other policymakers are
meaning-producing actors and agents, thereby cultural performers,
“whose product should not be judged in terms of its supposed practical
ends” (Stirrat 2000:43). In this session we welcome proposals that can
bridge the rituals of policy work as meaning-making processes with
their meaning-making “ends”, such as the establishment of legitimacy
and accountability.

The power of the EU, and its pervasiveness in the lives of peoples and
states in Europe, has often been taken for granted as a normative
phenomenon by scholars  investigating European integration from within
anthropology and cognate disciplines. This session will query how, and
to what extent, the normative power of the EU reaches into everyday
life, and in doing so, will illuminate those moments when power is
perhaps more relative than it at first appears.

Those interested should send an abstract of no more than 250 words to
Bilge Firat (,
Bill Pavlovich (,
or James Verinis (
no later than March 16, 2012.