Between fear and fantasy: governmentality and the working of power in Mexico

M.C.M. Nuijten

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    42 Citations (Scopus)


    The question that guides this article is how to articulate, on the one hand, huge bureaucracies and bewildering governmental techniques, and, on the other, a regime of rule where power is to a large extent based on money, personal relationships and ultimately violence. An in-depth ethnography is presented of land conflicts between a peasant community and private landowners in Mexico. The article shows how, in their fight for agrarian justice, peasants get lost in a labyrinthine bureaucratic world, in which they create their own magic, fantasies and fetishes. Instead of implementing standardized procedures the bureaucracy applies governmental techniques in personalized ways and on an ad hoc basis. In this context, brokers thrive. This points to the need for new ways of conceptualizing the relation between governmentality and state power.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)209-230
    JournalCritique of anthropology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2004


    • state
    • politics

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