Norms and Illegality: Intimate Ethnographies and Politics explores liminal and illegal practices in relation to political control and cultural normativity. The contributors draw on years of ethnographic experiences in Greece, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Italy, Madagascar, Mali, Philippines, and Thailand to study the contradictions of what is legal and illegal. They explore the production of illegal subjects by the state, the creation of illegal and normative values by liminal and illegal actors, and the mutual entanglements of legal and illegal in the public domains of markets and trade networks. This volume shows that criminalization policies are not necessarily oriented toward erasing crime. Instead, the contributors maintain that opaque spaces ensure the efficacy of control and outwardly conform to the rhetoric and ethics of global neoliberalism. Within these contexts, the contributors shed light on moral economies and frames of value entailed in systems of representation that have been set up by individuals who are deemed illegal, liminal, or deviant in their confrontations with the state. This book is recommended for students and scholars of anthropology, political science, and urban studies.
Cristiana Panella is senior researcher in social and cultural anthropology at the AfricaMuseum.
Walter E. Little is full professor of anthropology at the University at Albany, SUNY.
Introduction: Risk and Hope: Daily Life Subversions of the Norm
Part I Framing of Norms and Illegalities, Theoretical to Ethnographic
Chapter 1: Anthropological Shades of Grey: Informal Norms and Becoming (Il)legal
Chapter 2: Methodological Legalism
Chapter 3: On Doing Fieldwork, Outspokenly: Ethics, Money and Antiquities Illegal Trade
Part II Ethnographies of Illegalities and the Reframing of Norms and Margins
Chapter 4: Street Economies, Illegality and Rights in Antigua Guatemala
Chapter 5: Informal Economies, Illegal Subjects: Roma and Senegalese Traders in Rome
Chapter 6: Repositioning the Edge: The Resilience of Wholesale Vegetable Markets in Benguet Upland Philippines
Chapter 7: Frontier Justice: Making Norms, Negotiating Authority and Becoming Responsible in Northern Madagascar’s Artisanal Mining Sector
Chapter 8: To Legally Beg or Illegally Work? Norms and Illegality Among Asylum Seekers in Hong Kong
This is a fantastic volume. The editors propose an ambitious research agenda, which invites for a fundamental rethinking of ruling notions of norms and legality. This invitation is taken up in a series of fascinating chapters which delve into the lived realities of legality/illegality. It is rare to find a book which so successfully combines ethnographic thickness with conceptual depth. The book deserves a wide readership across the social and human sciences.
Norms and Illegality brings together anthropological studies from diverse urban settings focusing on the making of precarious livelihoods in ‘in-between’ spaces where extra-legal activities slip between norms and law, between toleration, permissiveness, and legal authority. Theoretical discussions and rich case studies provide inspiring insights into the cultures and politics of working on the edge, negotiating illegality and legality in ingenious ways.
Norms and Illegality enjoins legal and economic anthropologists to attend to the corporeality, hope, pain, risk, and ambiguity that mark human lives lived in the abject zones of ‘illegal’ activity. The contributors deftly explore the networks of complicity that make the vital moral economies of aspiration and value in these social worlds invisible to us. The volume’s trenchant, compelling, and intimate ethnographic explorations of illicit activities and informal economies invite us to reevaluate our imbrications in systems of power when ethically reconsidering the politics of legitimacy.
Norms and Illegality is a thought-provoking, timely, and brilliant collective work that challenges our conventional understanding of the limits between legal, illegal, and extralegal practices, and explores their articulation in a given moment and place. This is an important book that intelligently assembles significant theoretical insights with fresh ethnographic configurations of norms, illegality, and their margins. While entirely anthropological in spirit, it is a must-read for scholars across a wide range of academic disciplines and scholars interested in going beyond a legalistic understanding of illegality and extralegality.