In this paper I argue that the state is best imagined through the metaphor of a liquid crystal – a substance that, at the same time, is both structured and fluid. I combine several well-established views on the state (as an entity that has structure, but that also needs movement), and demonstrate that the state comes into being not only through vertical (and hence hierarchical) activities, but also through multiple other attempts to build transparency and predictability. A three-dimensional liquid crystal can be used as a model of the state that not only has structures shaped by multiple participants, but that also is partly an illusion where various centres only appear to group in a meaningful way. In the second half of the paper, I illustrate this liquid crystal metaphor of the state by using an ethnographic snapshot of Njeguši, a small village in Montenegro. Variously (un)successful attempts of villagers and other actors to shape the new road show how the liquid crystal areas are being initiated, sustained and interpreted, thus contributing to the shape the state is brought into being.
- liquid crystal
Field of Science*
- 5.9 Other social sciences
- 5.6 Political science
- 6.4 Arts (arts, history of arts, performing arts, music)
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