November 2013 Issue: Vol. 36(2)

Editors’ Introduction by John M. Conley and Justin B. Richland

In this issue we are delighted to welcome two guest editors, Rebecca Galemba and Kedron Thomas, who have organized a special Symposium entitled “Illegal Anthropology.” Under this mantle, Galemba and Thomas have brought together eight compelling essays of original research and theoretical reflection that share in their commitment to revealing the manner in which “dominant legal discourses…. ‘illegalize’ particular people and practices.” (Thomas and Galemba, Intro pg. 211). And while at first glance this conceptualization seems almost tautological (for what else could the law be but that which names certain things illegal?), the closer examination offered by the Symposium contributors reveals this simplicity to be deceptive. For as Galemba and Thomas explain, the tendency in anthropology has been to underwrite the presumptive opposition between the legal and the illegal–or at least to eschew attending to the illegal as such for fear of the negative value judgment the term seems to carry–rather than to see how “illegalization” in fact operates alongside legalization, working dialogically, as part of broader processes that make and unmake particular relations of power through operations of law. By bringing illegality into view as the central focus of their anthropological attention, the Symposium contributors remind us precisely of the ways in which legality is an ongoing source of cultural meaning and authority, making sense of the social world it orders and dis-orders, while also creating the conditions by which such ordering and authorizing is always, simultaneously, being made and unmade anew, often in spectacularly violent ways.

In addition to the Symposium, this issue contains three general articles. [Read more]

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