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The Black Box: Notes on the Anthropology of the Enemy

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image of Inner Asia

This article critically revisits the Foucauldian perspective on modernity by exploring the constitutive importance of limits of transparency in relations of power and knowledge. It differentiates between Foucault's Panopticon as a model for modernity, which posits a total visibility of subject under modern gaze, and what I call cybernetic ways of knowing that posit the 'black box' of the inner self that is blocked from visibility. The case in point is a comparative study of two anthropologies – two groups of anthropological cadres – the American anthropologists who in the 1940s were involved in emerging Soviet studies, and Soviet anthropologists of the 1920s and 1930s who took part in Soviet reforms. The article draws attention to similarities in their perspective of images and notions of the enemy: the 'enemy of the people' within Soviet society and the Soviet society as the West's Cold War enemy. In doing so, the aim of this article is to develop an ethnographic perspective on state socialism that does not depend on a foundational dualist distinction between 'Soviet' and 'Western' or 'socialist' and 'capitalist' modernity as a starting point.

10.1163/000000008793066821
/content/journals/10.1163/000000008793066821
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/content/journals/10.1163/000000008793066821
2008-06-01
2016-12-11

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