What is the State, What is Community? In Search of Critical Perspectives

Course Leader: Dr Ilker Corut, Dr Gozde Yazici Corut

Home Institution: American University of Central Asia, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Course Overview
This course is about the two major forms of social setting, the state and community, and the complicated nature of the relationship between these two social settings. Following interdisciplinary perspectives, mainly those provided by the discussions and researches carried out by sociologists and anthropologists studying on the state and community, we will address the following questions in the course: Are the state and community two trans-historical constants of human societies? Is it possible to define some trans-historical distinguishing features of the state and community? Can we trace the raison d’etre of the state and community back to evolutionary origins of human beings? What are the specific historical, social and spatial conditions that require and reproduce the state and community? Do the state and community represent two irreconcilable poles of human societies? Is it possible to reframe the conflict between the state and community as the conflict between centre and periphery, between assimilation and difference, between identity-blind developmentalist policies and place-based identity-politics, between power and harmony? If the state and community form two irreconcilable poles of human societies, then how can we account for the fact that nation-state, as a particular synthesis of the state and community, has managed to shape the last 150 years of human societies? How do the major outcomes of modernity and capitalism (class struggle, urbanization, secularization, industrialization, increasing division of labour) affect the states and communities? What are the impacts of the transition from indirect rule over people by community leaders to direct rule over people by modern bureaucracies on the forms of relationship between the state and community? How do the states and communities respond to all these transitions and transformations? Are the state and community structurally oppressive? Do they necessarily restrict the domain of individuals? Should we celebrate the on-going dissolution of communities and the decline of nation-states and welcome the hegemony of the idea of the rights-bearing autonomous individual and the decline of nation-states? What are the social and political risks posed by the dissolution of communities? Does not the dissolution of communities shatter the basic protective shield protecting the individual against the massive bureaucratic capacities of the modern state? What new insights into citizenship can we gain if we manage to relate citizenship to the complicated and multi-dimensional relationship between the state and community? What are the forms of citizenship and how do these forms of citizenship relate to community, nation and the state?  

Learning Outcomes
By the end of this course, students should be able to

  • have a broad understanding of the constitutive features of the state and community.
  • have a broad understanding of main arguments, debates and concepts about the complicated and multi-dimensional relationship between the state and community.
  • compare and contrast arguments of main sociological and anthropological perspectives on the state and community.
  • develop a critical consciousness concerning the structural aspects of social exclusion.

Course Content
These are the topics to be covered throughout the class:

  • Classical Perspectives on Community
  • Gift, Reciprocity, Community
  • Nationalism, Nation, Community
  • Nation and the State as Modes of Exchange
  • Moral Economy
  • Primitive Accumulation and Commons
  • The State and Community between Hegemony and Resistance
  • Politics of the Governed
  • The State: An Effect or Idea
  • Historical Sociology of the State
  • Ibn Khaldun and Lev Gumilev: Non-European Perspectives on the State and Community

Instructional Method
The best instructional methods are methods specifically designed based on the academic level and expectations of the students you teach and the duration and goals of the academic period. Therefore, the final composition of the methods to be used in the course will take its final shape based on our conversation with professors of Universidade Da Coruna. However, it is still possible to state at the moment that the composition of the methods to be used will be balanced in the sense that

  • the lecture will establish the very conceptual and theoretical ground of class discussions.
  • discussions based on assigned readings and with reference to hot topics of public sphere will be another major instructional method to be relied on
  • some BBC documentaries and also other visual material will be effectively used.

Required Course Materials
We are going to re-design and re-articulate the reading list below according to the length of the summer school and academic level of the students to be enrolled.

Introduction and Overview of the Course

Community.” Pp. 1-6 in Community: Seeking Safety in an Insecure World. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Williams, Raymond. 1983. “Community.” Pp. 75-76 in Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society. New York: Oxford University Press.

Turner, Victor. 1990. “Liminality and Community.” Pp. 147-154 in Culture and Society: Contemporary Debates, edited by Jeffrey C. Alexander and Steven Seidman. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Classical Perspectives on Community 

Tönnies, Ferdinand. 2001. Community and Civil Society, edited by Jose Harris. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Selection: 17-21, 247-261.

Coser, Lewis. 1984. “Introduction.” Pp. ix-xxiv in The Division of Labor in Society by Emile Durkheim. Basingstoke: Macmillan.   

Durkheim, Emile. 2007. “The Division of Labor in Society.” Pp. 158-180 in Classical Sociological Theory, edited by Craig Calhoun et al. Oxford: Blackwell.

Gift, Reciprocity, Community

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1990. “The Work of Time.” Pp. 98-111 in The Logic of Practice. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Mauss, Marcel. 2002. The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies. London: Routledge Classics. Selections: “Introduction” (1-9), “The Exchange of Gifts and the Obligation to Reciprocate” (10-23).

Sahlins, Marshall. 1972. “A Scheme of Reciprocities.” Pp. 191-196 in Stone Age Economics. Chicago: Aldine-Atherton.

Nationalism, Nation, Community

AndersonBenedict. 2006. “Introduction.” Pp. 1-7 in Imagined Communities. London, New York: Verso.

Chatterjee, Partha.1986. “Whose Imagined Community?” Pp. 3-13 in The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Differences. London: Zed Press.

Jusdanis, Gregory. 2001. The Necessary Nation. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Selections: “Nations as Self-Institutions” (23-27), “Emotional Attachments” (28-35).

Lomnitz, Claudio. 2001. “Nationalism as a Practical System.” Deep MexicoSilent Mexico: An Anthropology of Nationalism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Selections: 3-13.

Nation and the State as Modes of Exchange 

Karatani, Kojin. The Structure of World History: From Modes of Production to Modes of Exchange. Durham and London: Duke University Press. Selections: “On Modes of Exchange” (1-28), “The Modern State” (165-181), “Nation” (209-227).

Moral Economy

Thompson, E. P. 1971. “The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century.” Past & Present, 50: 76-136.

Primitive Accumulation and Commons (1)

Harvey, David. 2003. “Accumulation by Dispossession.” Pp. 145-182 in The New Imperialism. New York: Oxford University Press.

Marx, Karl. 1978. “The So-Called Primitive Accumulation.” Pp.  431-438 in The Marx-Engels Reader, edited by Robert C. Tucker. New York:  W. W. Norton & Company.

The State and Community between Hegemony and Resistance

Roseberry, William. 1994. "Hegemony and the Language of Contention." Pp. 355-366 in Everyday Forms of State Formation: Revolution and the Negotiation of Rule in Modern Mexico, edited by Gilbert M. Joseph and Daniel Nugent. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

Scott, James C. 1990. “False Consciousness or Laying It on Thick?” Pp. 70-107 in Domination and the Arts of Resistance. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Politics of the Governed

Chatterjee, Partha. 2004. The Politics of the Governed: Reflections on Popular Politics in Most of the World. Colombia: Colombia University Press. “Populations and Political Society” (27-52), “The Politics of the Governed” (53-78). 

The State: An Effect or Idea 

Abrams, Philip. 2006. “Notes on the Difficulty of Studying the State.” Pp. 112-130 in Anthropology of the State: A Reader, edited by Aradhana Sharma and Akhil Gupta. Oxford: Blackwell. 

Mitchell, Timothy. 2006. “Society, Economy, and the State Effect.” Pp. 169-186 in Anthropology of the State: A Reader, edited by Aradhana Sharma and Akhil Gupta. Oxford: Blackwell.

Ferguson, James, and Akhil Gupta. 2002. “Spatializing StatesToward an Ethnography of Neoliberal Governmentality.” American Ethnologist 29 (4): 981–1002.

Historical Sociology of the State

Mann, Michael. 1986. “The Autonomous Power of the State: Its Origins, Mechanisms and Results." Pp. 109-136 in States in History, edited by John A. Hall. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Tilly, Charles. 1986. “War Making and State Making as Organized Crime.” Pp. 169-191 in Bringing the State Back In, edited by Paul Evans, Dietrich Rueschemeyer and Theda Skocpol. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ibn Khaldun and Lev Gumilev: Non-European Perspectives on the State and Community

Alatas, Syed Farid. 2014. Applying Ibn-Khaldun: The Recovery of a Lost Tradition in Sociology. New York: Routledge. Selections: “Ibn Khaldun’s Theory of State Formation” (25-42), “A Khaldunian Perspective on Modern Arab States: Saudi Arabia and Syria” (131-142).

Titov, Alexander Sergeevich. 2005. Lev GumilevEthnogenesis and Eurasianism. Ph.D. diss., School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies, London University. Selections: (42-59), (75-82).

Sociobiology, Community, and the State

Van den Berghe, Pierre L. 1981. The Ethnic Phenomenon. New York: Elsevier. Selections: “Introduction” (1-12), “Ethnicity as Kin Selection: The Biology of Nepotism” (15-36), “Ethnicity and Resource Competition: The Ecology of Territoriality and Specialization” (37-42), “Ethnicity and Coercion: The Politics of Hierarchy” (58-67)


Course Policies:

1-Academic Integrity

All students are obliged to meet the standards of academic honesty clearly defined by the Universidade Da Coruña and must keep in mind that plagiarism will not be tolerated in any cases. Academic dishonesty of any sort may result in immediate course failure.


Students need to be at class on time not to disrupt the flow of the class discussions. Unexcused late arrival to class may be counted as an absence at the discretion of the instructor.

3-Using cell phones or other electronic devices during the class

Using electronic devices such as cell phones or laptops during the course is distractive to the instructor and other students. All such devices should be turned off and put away before the class starts.


Grading will be based on the following components:

  1. Attendance and participation, 30% of the final grade
  2. Response papers (5 in total), 20% of the final grade
  3. Presentation, 20% of the final grade
  4. A final paper, 30% of the final grade

Attendance and Participation

Attendance is mandatory and taken every class. Missing more than two classes without showing any justified excuses (e.g. documented serious health problems) may result in course failure.

A real, meaningful attendance is much more than the physical presence of the students at the classroom. All students present in the class are expected to make real, qualified contributions (questions, arguments, comments, objections) to the class discussions with specific references to the material of the week. 


  1. a) Students are expected to read the assignments in advance and should be prepared to discuss the material in class.
  2. b) Students should have a hard copy of the assigned reading with them in the class.

Response Papers

Students are going to write five (5) response papers (around 450-500 words). To write a proper response paper:

- Choose one of the articles assigned.
- Summarize the arguments of the text and restate what the theorist is saying in your own words (200 words).
- Indicate the main lines of your own understanding of the article (agreement, disagreement, questions) with reference to specific sentences or passages from the article (250-300 words).


  1. Response papers must be submitted by e-mail no later than class session. Late assignments will not be accepted.


Students are expected to present one of the readings of the course.  The presentations need to be designed to foster the class discussions. For this to happen, the presenter must meet two criteria:

  1. To able to provide a useful, concise summary of the arguments of and issues addressed by the text under focus.
  2. To be able to provide critical questions and comments to enable a ground of class discussions.


A presentation should be no more than 20 minutes. Questions for class discussion and their rationale should be e-mailed to me 24 hours before the class.

Final Paper

Students are expected to write a final paper (around 3500 words) at the end of the term (Font: Times New Roman, size 12, spacing 1.5, normal formatting). With reference to the texts discussed throughout the period (and other related texts like optional readings), students will indicate in the final paper the level of their command of sociological and anthropological perspectives on the state and community and how they operationalize concepts, arguments and debates made available by these perspectives.