What is a Situation?: An Assemblic Ethnography of the Drug War
In this article by Jarrett Zigon, he describes what he learned from the anti-drug war movement—in terms of what its participants address, how they address it, and their form of organization—may help anthropologists rethink their own objects of study.
What do certain military missions in Afghanistan, police violence in the United States, therapeutic interventions in Russia and Denmark, torture and rape in an Indonesian police station, and stop-and-frisk policing in New York City all have in common? They are just a few of the local manifestations of the situation named the drug war, which is responsible for thousands of deaths a year globally, and the social and political death or exclusion of thousands more. But the drug war has potential effects that go well beyond these numbers. For whether by means of military interventions, policing and incarceration strategies, international and national surveillance, and the overblown budgets to pay for them, or by means of biopolitical therapeutics, national and international legislation, and the normalization of labor regimes and discipline—all of which and more constitute aspects of what I call the nontotalizable assemblage of the drug war—this is a war that potentially affects every human on the planet.
Jarett Zigon (2015): What is a Situation?: An Assemblic Ethnography of the Drug War, Cultural Anthropology, 30:3, 501-524.