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Over the last one week, I’ve been reading the book: Power and Its Disguises by John Gledhill. 

The book was written by an anthropologist at the time working at the University of Manchester. He tackles political anthropology with a lot of skill. 

He takes a dive into origins of coercive power, the rise of Western national states, anthropology of colonialism,post colonial states, conflict, violence and politics of social movements. 

Gledhill has generally given new perspectives on anthropology. Before reading this book, I never used to give a lot of thought on what anthropologists do. Now I know. 

Below is a 3-point summary of what the book is all about: 

  1. Under consumerism, films play a central role in passing messages from one part of the world to the other. This builds what is termed as global culture. However, there is a missing link between the film life and actual life. Ideas end up getting localized interpretations which may be different from the original intended ideas by the creators. 
  2. The book provides a detailed analysis of social movements and how they are formed. The author provides readers real life examples. It is so interesting that social movements do not have to be started by peasants. For instance, Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) was started by disgruntled intellectuals at a university town in Peru lead by Abimael Guzman. He was at one point a philosophy lecturer San Critobal de Huamanga based in Ayacucho. The Shining Path was not a social movement for the peasants. It was actually a political and military organization. It was created in 1970 as a break away segment from Red Flag Party. 
  3. Segregation is a big problem in the United States. The other illustrates how the problem is even practiced among security forces in America. For instance, for many years there was internal pacification at the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) where officers lived in segregated living quarters located at the city periphery. The residents were divided into two. That is ‘normal’ people and ‘assholes.’

Grab a copy of the book (Power and Its Disguises) and learn more about political anthropology. 

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