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The Everyday Lives of SovereigntyPolitical Imagination beyond the State$
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Rebecca Bryant and Madeleine Reeves

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9781501755736

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: January 2022

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501755736.001.0001

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Toward an Anthropology of Sovereign Agency

(p.1) Introduction
The Everyday Lives of Sovereignty

Rebecca Bryant

Madeleine Reeves

Cornell University Press

This introductory chapter provides an overview of sovereign agency. Sovereign agency denotes the variety of practices, strategies, and future-oriented claims that constitute institution and subject in ways that make the latter politically recognizable and capable of agentive action. In this sense, sovereign agency is often more aspiration than realization. It is an aspiration for forms of institutional recognition and political legibility that enable efficacious action, or what can be called “state desire.” The desire for sovereign agency, in turn, often emerges from a sense of loss — of political voice, of political legibility, of political order — and a yearning to regain it. This book situates sovereign agency at the foreground of anthropological inquiry. Who or what is the locus of political imagination in claims to “take back control?” What does sovereignty look like from the ground up?

Keywords:   sovereign agency, institutional recognition, political legibility, state desire, political imagination, sovereignty

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