Micro-Political Anthropology

Micro-Political Anthropology is the title of  a series of roundtable seminars, hosted by the Funen Art Academy, between 1 Oct. – 1 Feb. 2014.

Guest speakers included: Performance Artist Andrea Fraser, performance artist and writer Cally Spooner, Musician and physician Sonja LaBianca, PhD candidate in Philosophy Josefine Wikstrøm.

Can institutional critique in Art constitute a micro-political anthropology? Micro-political anthropology is a speculative term for considering one’s relationship to oneself and the relationship between individual and society. Firstly, by exploring the sensory and intellectual system of the body as the space of institutional critique. Secondly, by critically questioning the institutional structures in society constitutive of citizenship and the gender, race, and class divide. The roundtable seminars will bring together practitioners and thinkers from the fields of art, activism, neurology and psychiatry, political theory and philosophy, whose work will provide a flexible foundation for dealing with these ideas. Informed by the cross-disciplinary presentations and discussions within the student group, the aim of the seminars is to develop an institutional critique that is situationally specific and to consider organisational forms as part of the art making process.


 The political philosopher Thomas Hobbes constructs his theory of the origin of the state though the description of two struggling beasts: The Leviathan that represents the peace-enforcing function of the state and the Behemoth that represents the revolutionary, anarchistic force of the state of nature. The starting point for Thomas Hobbes construction of the state, is the fear of the state of nature that he describes as a perpetual “war of all against all”. Hobbes theory of the social contract (entered by the individual to gain the protection of the state) lay at the foundation for modern political philosophy that impact law and the administration of public life.

The anthropologist and ethnographer Pierre Clastres project in the 1960′s was to critically question and transform social and cultural anthropology (influenced by Thomas Hobbes conception of the state) into a political anthropology. The stateless society, in Clastres’ view, is not a society defined by the lack of the state but a society against the state. Pierre Clastres, made studies of how the distribution of power happened outside the institutions of the state, and how forms of organisation in these communities operated politically. These two opposing ideas of citizenship and the civil society, is taken as a starting point for understanding current political and social struggle that negotiate and change the status of the relationship between individual and society.