Current Issue

Volume 40, Issue 2

Editors’ Introduction

We ended our last introduction by restating our commitment to keeping PoLAR a place where anthropological work is brought to bear on the issues of the day. Of course, how one speaks to the present moment “anthropologically” remains hotly contested. But one distinguishing feature of our journal is its insistence on speaking to current issues and events from the particularities of specific times and places. This emphasis on place and time-centered contextualization gives anthropological work its specific texture, and it allows it to speak to current events with a unique voice and perspective.

In the United States, where we (the editors) live, political fights continue to rage over immigration, borders, government accountability, institutional responsiveness and efficacy, social media, surveillance technologies… the list goes on. There is no shortage of opinion on these topics. In shorter supply are scholarly takes that engage with complexity, turn to overlooked contexts for comparative perspective, and make room for the unexpected.

The articles in this issue provide such perspective. They address topics that are both timely and enduring. These include migration, borders, and the state (Yeh, Alpes); issues of identity in legal institutions (Lambert, Sapignoli, He, Li, and Feng); the unanticipated impact of policies designed to help the vulnerable (Ramsay, Vanderhurst); and the role technologies—electronic, bureaucratic—play in mediating relations between citizens and the state (Adunbi, Larson, Summers and Baiocchi). Five of the articles in this issue (Sapignoli, Vanderhurst, Adunbi, Ramsay, Alpes) center on the African continent and global or transnational links formed through displacement, legal frameworks, and extractive economies. They showcase the exciting new political and legal scholarship emerging from this rich and contested region. Articles centered on China, Mexico, the United States, and East Central Europe comprise the rest of the issue. They demonstrate the power of comparison to highlight the similarities and disjunctures that abide across discrete locales.

Read collectively, then, the articles in this issue give testament to the continued relevance of anthropological scholarship. They provide a fresh perspective on the concerns of the day while addressing the enduring questions of legal and political anthropology.

Heath Cabot and William Garriott


Governing with God: Religion, Resistance, and the State in Nigeria’s Counter‐Trafficking Programs
Stacey Vanderhurst

“Bushmen” in the Law: Evidence and Identity in Botswana’s High Court
Maria Sapignoli

The Facebook President: Oil, Citizenship, and the Social Mediation of Politics in Nigeria
Omolade Adunbi

Benevolent Cruelty: Forced Child Removal, African Refugee Settlers, and the State Mandate of Child Protection
Georgina Ramsay

Papers That Work: Migration Brokers, State/Market Boundaries, and the Place of Law
Maybritt Jill Alpes

Rethinking American Indian and Non-Indian Relations in the United States and Exploring Tribal Sovereignty: Perspectives from Indian Country and from Inside the Bureau of Indian Affairs
Valerie Lambert

On the Possibility of Imagining an Open Border
Rihan Yeh

Controversies, Authority, and the Limits of Participation: Chicago’s 49th Ward
Gianpaolo Baiocchi, Nicole Summers

Mediatory Versus Legalistic Discourse in Chinese Courts
Xin He, Luoyun Li, Yuqing Feng


Wild Eavesdropping: Observations on Surveillance, Conspiracy, and Truth in East Central Europe
Jonathan L. Larson