Michael Herzfeld: State, Nation, Polity

Michael Herzfeld, Ernest E. Monrad Professor of the Social Sciences in the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University, delivered a talk entitled “State, Nation, Polity: Seeking Alternative Authority in Greece and Thailand” on May 20, 2016, in our visiting research seminar.


Basing his talk on fieldwork conducted at various times in 1974-81 on the island of Crete and in Bangkok between 2003 and the present, the speaker will explore ways in which “local people”  not only defy state power but also generate alternatives to it in their everyday political practices.  In part, the similarities stem from the fact that the two countries are clear instances of what the speaker has called “crypto-colonies.”  In part, however, the experience of local communities in contesting the power of the state takes local forms that turn out to have surprisingly similar properties as well as widely divergent external forms.  This talk will launch the speaker’s current investigation into the concept of “polity.”