Anarchists for the State: From Egalitarian Opacity to Anticipating Thoughts of the Powerful

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Korowai of Indonesian Papua have shifted their political order from rejecting relations of authority, to actively subordinating themselves to government patrons and implementing state structures locally. This shift was caused by how internal complexities of the past Korowai egalitarian system have interacted with dramatic macrostructural changes in the intruding state. Previously, I linked Korowai ideas about opacity of minds to political egalitarianism. Analyzing the new political shifts here, I emphasize again how opacity doctrines are embedded in wider processes of exchange and kinship that involve attributing thoughts to others, trying to influence those thoughts, and trying to deal in egalitarian ways with unequal economic conditions, as well as with the intrinsically power-laden dynamics of intersubjectivity itself. The Korowai example suggests wider lessons in how state formation takes hold at extreme colonial and market peripheries, and how doctrines of the knowability of minds articulate with practical institutionalization of state administrative hierarchy.

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Ethnos: journal of anthropology
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U.S. Fulbright Faculty Research Fellowship and ERC grant ‘Situating Free Speech’ (PI Matt Candea)