Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Mimetic Sovereignties, precarious citizenship: state effects in a looking glass world


Published in The Journal of Peasant Studies - This article explores the way in which the Indian state and the incipient Maoist state in central India mimic while repudiating each other.  As against theories of sovereignty which see it either as authored from below (contract theory) or scripted from above (domination), or irrelevant to the extent that subject and state are co-constituted by regimes of power (cf. Foucault), I argue that in civil war, the display and practical exercise of statehood and sovereignty is critical. However, this is primarily aimed not at putative citizens but at the enemy. I look at the way in which the Indian state impersonates guerilla tactics in order to fight the Maoists, and the way in which the Maoists mimic state practices of governmentality. Each side identifies its own ‘citizens’ through uniforms, lists of people killed, and inscribes its ‘territory’ with memorials to its martyrs.  For the presumed citizens of these mimetic states, however, it is precisely these markers of identity and legibility which make them more vulnerable. Membership of parallel regimes holds out both promise and precarity.