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Crisis, Power, and Policymaking in the New Europe

This is a special post written by guest editor Bilge Firat on the thematic focus for Volume 23, Issue 1 of Anthropological Journal of European Cultures.


How does power work as an analytic, as a relational reality, and as a capacity to impose and resist through policymaking processes in contemporary Europe, and why should anthropologists care about this line of inquiry? These questions constituted the main pivot for contemplation for the five contributors in AJEC’s new special issue “Culture, Power, and Policy in the New Europe”.


Equipped with expansive ethnographic expertise, contributors queried such themes like urban cultural politics; supranational, international, regional and national lawmaking; and comparative studies of sexuality, reproduction and citizenship regimes in the European context. These themes have long been occupying anthropologists and other ethnographers but not so much from a policy perspective, which is the main contribution of articles in this special issue. What does go on in the “post-industrial” European cities such as Gdansk with regards to spatial struggles between a push for globalization and a pull from local people who fought to make cities as their own? How well does the new discourse on rights and resources sit with rising conservatism seeping through every corner of the wider European region, especially at times of crisis, but more and more from above and at its centers? What are the implications of these on contemporary forms of collectivization and participatory political practices? How do the new centers and old margins of Europe negotiate pressing times and terms of a new economic and political arrangement? With reference to these questions, how are different policy fields, ideas, mechanisms, tools and their workers situated?


Debated by all contributors to the special issue, these questions speak to a wider audience in and outside of the old continent because they reflect at the everyday concerns of the peoples of Europe and beyond. Glocalization, democratic politics and its limits, and wider/deeper regional integration are not exclusive to society and polity in this part of the world but are shared by many whose lives are directly affected by the trials and turbulences of such forces, which are especially exacerbated in times of crises. Policy as a mode of communication has the potential to provide the best tools to make sense of such crises. From the offices of “EU-minded” city level politicians, to street level demonstrations of unionized shipyard workers in Gdansk; from the meetings of diplomats and supporters of faith-based conscientious objection at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, to the Italian judges who adjudicate equality for same-sex couples and the LGBTI rights activists who campaign to that end in Rome; from the young but disenchanted middle classes who engage in food activism and direct democracy elsewhere in Italy, to disenchanted EU techno-bureaucrats and their Eurosceptic Turkish colleagues in Brussels, the makers, shakers and workers of (public and private) policies use them to make sense of the social world that surround them.





In addition to the thematic focus of each issue, which has characterised the journal from its inception, AJEC now also carries individual articles on other topics addressing aspects of social and cultural transformations in contemporary Europe from an ethnographically grounded anthropological perspective. All such contributions are peer reviewed. Each issue also includes book reviews and reports on major current research programmes.