Anthropology

Gitika De

This paper traces F. G. Bailey’s varied oeuvre to arrive at three enduring and significant aspects in his ethnography of politics: morality, truth, and power. In a career spanning more than six decades, Bailey’s political ethnographies have generated concepts, and sharpened the theoretical and methodological innovations of the ‘Manchester School’ for discerning and explaining political phenomena. Focusing mainly on his political ethnographies of Orissa in India, as well as his comparative studies, I attempt to show how Bailey’s paradigm helps us navigate universal principles of social life in specific cultural contexts and political practices. Underlying Bailey’s theoretical concerns is the search for a normative core of societies, and the way collectivities negotiate between norms and strategies. Morality is located in the eschewing of violence in favour of disengagement, the saving lie, indifference and manipulation – elements of so called ‘gentlemanly politics’. In Bailey’s political ethnographies, however, ordinary villagers and peasants, the proverbial small men, are the ones who deploy these strategies to preserve their world unencumbered by those in power. It is this idea of morality that informs Bailey’s substantive notion of politics and political power, leading in turn to his idea of truth in politics arrived at through hard-nosed political ethnographies: contingently, as the case may be.

in The anthropology of power, agency, and morality
Older Americans’ strategies
Yohko Tsuji

Old age in America represents the antithesis of American culture because cherished American values (e.g., independence, health, and productivity) become harder to achieve as people grow older. Thus, older Americans are ‘oppressed’ by cultural demands. This chapter explores how they negotiate the gap between the ideal (e.g., being independent) and the real (e.g., needing assistance), drawing on the data from my longitudinal research at a senior center. To discover elders’ strategies, I examine their social exchange and postretirement housing and demonstrate how their endeavour to conform to dominant values ‒ most importantly, independence, egalitarianism, and freedom of choice ‒ motivates and shapes their actions. Paradoxically, elders negotiate the reality within the realm of the very culture that oppresses them. Such seemingly contradictory actions are not only possible but also normal in human experience, because, as Bailey shows us in his works, sociocultural systems do not exist in the abstract but are embodied in people’s lives and shaped through their agency. Consequently, no matter how despotic the systems may seem, leeway always exists even for the most disadvantaged, invoking people’s ingenuity to achieve their goals.

in The anthropology of power, agency, and morality
Karen J. Brison

This chapter draws on F. G. Bailey’s foundational work in Tribe, Caste and Nation (1960) about the role of entrepreneurial individuals in creating new leadership roles through ‘bridge-actions’ that make use of resources, ideologies, and roles in one political structure to act in another structure. Pastors in the Harvest Ministry, an independent Fijian Pentecostal church, appeared to advocate a shift away from the ethnic pluralism and hereditary rank that organize Fijian society toward multi-ethnic leadership based on professional achievements. But closer examination suggested that pastors used bridge-actions to create new kinds of leadership roles drawing together the structures of the indigenous Fijian vanua, on the one hand, and transnational Pentecostalism and business, on the other, in order to suggest that successful Pentecostal professionals would surpass the power of indigenous chiefs. What looked like social class was really an attempt by entrepreneurial pastors to create new roles for themselves in response to local political and economic changes challenging chiefly power and ethnic pluralism in Fiji.

in The anthropology of power, agency, and morality
Gavin Smith

A short description of a fieldwork experience in highland Peru is used to illustrate how Bailey’s work during his last years at the University of Sussex provided key elements for the author’s ethnographic method and understanding of culture. This is followed by the author’s memories of his time as a doctoral student under Bailey’s supervision. This narrative is then re-envisioned through the lens of selected tools from Stratagems and Spoils.

in The anthropology of power, agency, and morality
An account of normative and pragmatic rules in Norwegian local politics
Christian Lo

In Norwegian local politics, the so-called ‘hourglass-model’ has, since the early 1990s, served as a normative blueprint for the separation between politics and administration. In essence, the model suggests that all communication between elected politicians and municipal administrators should be passed through the top political and administrative leaders: the mayor and the chief municipal executive. Yet, the normative rules prescribed by the model are routinely breached through more pragmatic procedures. In the chapter, F. G Bailey´s game theory is applied to analyse the enactment of the hourglass-model in three Norwegian municipalities. The author demonstrates the strength of Bailey’s framework through capturing how the hourglass-model affects the dynamics of local politics under different circumstances and by addressing the question of why the model is reproduced despite its obvious fallacy. Under certain conditions, the author argues, the hourglass-model may serve to ensure that political competition remains focused on achieving consensus and that the actions taken by the municipal administration reflect the agreed goals of the municipal council. However, the author also applies Bailey’s framework to understand shifts in these social dynamics as political competition escalates into more pragmatic fights.

in The anthropology of power, agency, and morality
Work and legacy of F. G. Bailey
Stanley R. Barrett

This chapter consists of a critical overview of Bailey’s major books in the field of political anthropology, including his early ethnographic work in India, his contributions to anthropology at home, his theoretical volumes and the examination of the links between power and religion in his final book. Special attention is paid to the important changes in the author’s perspective as he became increasingly disillusioned with the suitability of positivism for a complex and disorderly world. The chapter concludes with an evaluation of criticisms levelled at Bailey’s approach to politics, especially his celebrated treatise on the agency model in Stratagems and Spoils.

in The anthropology of power, agency, and morality
Can F. G. Bailey’s toolbox aid our understanding of irrigation bureaucracies?
Namika Raby

This chapter approaches bureaucracies as mechanistic systems struggling to perform functions that are suited to entrepreneurial styles of modern management. In resource-scarce communities facing droughts or poverty, the system functions in an environment of uncertainty or dynamism. As a result, such bureaucracies must wrestle with choice among normative, strategic, and pragmatic rules (Treason, Stratagems, and Spoils 2001) of their institutions in order to cope with influences coming from the top down, from the state, and from the bottom up, from community-based organizations. This choice among normative, pragmatic, and strategic rules by the bureaucracy is the ad hoc response to the asymmetrical flow of information resulting from the contingencies thrust upon them by the politicians and or the ordinary people. Case studies from the internationally implemented Participatory Irrigation Management Program in Sri Lanka, India and the Philippines and the Quantification Settlement Agreement in Imperial Valley, California, are used to illustrate how these choices result in different outcomes at variance to the original goals.

in The anthropology of power, agency, and morality
Robert H. Wade

This chapter reflects the main ‘lesson’ I drew from the experience of doing a PhD in Bailey’s department at Sussex – the lesson being the virtues of understanding ‘big level’ phenomena by ‘soaking and poking’ at street level. I’ve written a lot about the World Bank with this approach. My chapter starts with reference to Tomas Piketty’s recent Capitalism and Ideology, in which he gives ‘ideology’ (or ‘mindset’ or ‘world view’) much more causal role – in income/wealth inequality trends – than other economists do. Then on to the Washington Consensus ideology, dominant in western capitals since 1980s, about appropriate public policies for developing countries. My interest is in how its dominance has been protected, via ‘the social construction of reality’. Then to ethnography – of a particular two-day meeting at UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade & Development, based in Geneva) I attended in 2012, on ‘rethinking trade policy’ with some 30 people (as I recall, offhand). I bring out how little rethinking there was, by design. The ‘rethinking’ meeting confirmed the Washington Consensus – which is all the more striking, because UNCTAD is the one UN development agency meant to be run by and for developing countries.

in The anthropology of power, agency, and morality
Kevin Avruch

The title is from Freddy’s 1978 paper. Tertius gaudens (literally, ‘third man rejoicing’) refers to a third party who benefits from conflict between two others. The gaudens is a strategist and manipulator. Numen conveys religion, divinity, and power. A numen controls via collective beliefs and values. Their legitimacy transcends the self-serving gaudens. Discussion of third parties runs through much of Freddy’s work: political stratagems to acquire ‘spoils’; tension between individualism and action on behalf (or perceived to be on behalf) of a community; the nature of leadership and control over followers; the dangers of a world dominated in the name of numen. I focus on the range of theoretical books between Stratagems and Spoils and God-Botherers and Other True Believers. Third parties are also important in the theory and practice of conflict resolution. In this chapter, I bring together Freddy’s conceptions of third parties with what we know about how they function in the world of disputes and conflicts; and I use what we have learned about third parties in conflict resolution to expand the range of Freddy’s concepts.

in The anthropology of power, agency, and morality
Modernity and malevolence in Tribal India
Andrew Willford

From fieldwork among Irula and Alu Kurumba communities within the Nilgiris mountains of South India, this chapter examines increased anxiety and psycho-social symptoms associated with socioeconomic and cultural transformations. Drawing upon F. G. Bailey’s classic work, I argue that the conflicts between value systems associated with Adivasi (indigenous), Hindu, and civil society have become intensified through landscape transformations in recent years, resulting in a generalized sense of malevolence within communities. Reduced access to land has undermined the cultivation of traditional dietary and ritual staples. As local residents put it, ‘food was medicine’, and ‘now we are sick’. Many have left their respective village-based communities as itinerant laborers. One consequence of this livelihood shift has been the neglect of communal ritual life centered upon ancestral ‘sacred groves’. The disruption of ritual life, in turn, has produced shifts in diet and access to traditional medicines, as well as a drift towards Hinduism, associated with the Tamil population. A rise in ‘new illnesses’ has resulted. Community healers speak of increasing illness due to intensified sorcery. The anxieties and symptoms, in turn, reflect and exacerbate growing inequality and precarity. Notions of change and malevolence construct a tribal harmony that is retroactively imagined in its perceived demise. Against a structuralist or functionalist understanding, and following Bailey’s influential critiques of ‘ideological holism’, I argue that a growing archive of local ideas about cultural loss partially obscures underlying pathologies of power within rural India, and the forces that divide and defer the tribal from non-tribal.

in The anthropology of power, agency, and morality