Subversive Archaism: Troubling Traditionalists and the Politics of National Heritage
Michael Herzfeld is Ernest E. Monrad Research Professor of the Social Sciences in the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University. He is the author of numerous books, most recently
In Subversive Archaism, Michael Herzfeld explores how individuals and communities living at the margins of the modern nation-state use nationalist discourses of tradition to challenge state authority under both democratic and authoritarian governments. Through close attention to the claims and experiences of mountain shepherds in Greece and urban slum dwellers in Thailand, Herzfeld shows how these subversive archaists draw on national histories and past polities to claim legitimacy for their defiance of bureaucratic authority. Although vilified by government authorities as remote, primitive, or dangerous—often as preemptive justification for violent repression—these groups are not revolutionaries and do not reject national identity, but they do question the equation of state and nation. Herzfeld explores the political strengths and vulnerabilities of their deployment of heritage and the weaknesses they expose in the bureaucratic and ethnonational state in an era of accelerated globalization.
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