Trusting the State ? Law, Bureaucracies and Politics
Place des Orateurs 3
4000 Liège See the map
This workshop aims to explore how trust in the state and its institutions is constructed, enacted or contested. To do that, we connect and combine three entry points through which state-citizen interactions have been considered so far: politics, bureaucracies, and the law. It is organized by Sophie Andreetta (FNRS/ULiège) and Flávio Eiró (University of Groningen).
Anthropologists of the state have highlighted citizens and noncitizens’ complex and multifaceted representations of the State, and their relationships shaped by these imaginations. Recent studies of bureaucracies ‘at work’ contend that the state can be experienced (often simultaneously) as a provider of goods and a punitive force, warm and cold, intimate and to be feared. In West Africa, public institutions – including the courts – are largely perceived as corrupt and/or inefficient, but they are still regularly mobilised by citizens hoping to benefit from the symbolic authority conveyed by the State. Migrants experience the symbolic, and sometimes, physical violence of the State from the moment that they cross European borders, but they still expect asylum and immigration bureaucracies to fairly assess their claims. Recipients of anti-poverty in Brazil understand bureaucratic complexity and frontline workers erratic decision-making as a source of bureaucratic insecurity that threatens their survival, prompting immediate strategies to counter avoid falling on the wrong side of these bureaucrats. Frustrated promises made ‘by the state’ can result in deep mistrust towards it, as residents see such actions as betrayals. Public servants can simultaneously be critical of the State and their own working conditions; using public office and resources to serve their own interest, and at the same time trying to uphold certain values of standards associated with the public good. Despite numerous occasions of frustration and despondency, the state continues to generate, among many, feelings of hope, as the only one who can eventually respond to certain needs and aspirations. Building on these works, this workshop aims to further explore how trust in the state and its institutions is constructed, enacted or contested. To do that, we connect and combine three entry points through which state-citizen interactions have been considered so far: politics, bureaucracies, and the law.