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State, corruption, postcoloniality: A conversation with Akhil Gupta on the 20th anniversary of “Blurred Boundaries”

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"Blurred Boundaries: The Discourse of Corruption, the Culture of Politics, and the Imagined State," by Akhil Gupta, first appeared in print in 1995 in the pages of American Ethnologist. It went on to become one of the most important and influential articles of recent decades. We talked with Akhil Gupta about how the argument put forward in "Blurred Boundaries" came to be. Our conversation touched on the background of the article and the difficulties in getting it published; the relationship of the article to postcolonial scholarship, subaltern studies, feminist studies, and the then emerging literature on globalization; its relationship with other theorists of the state through themes such as Eurocentrism, reification, fantasy, fetishism, and the role of culture in the analysis of the state; and future directions in research on the state, among them, examining emotion and affect, studying the most powerful bureaucracies in nation-states, and developing the emergent literature on corruption.

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