The article describes an event in Njeguši, a small village in Montenegro, whereby a group of people tried to honour their ancestor and inaugurate a commemorative building. Unexpectedly, the event was forbidden by the authorities, and the police appeared ostensibly to prevent the outbreak of violence between church factions. I use this ethnographic case as a window to examine how the state comes into being using the concepts of ‘phantom’ and ‘performance’, where phantoms are defined as things and people that once used to be or that were imagined and treated as a real threat or support and therefore caused actual events. I argue against pathologizing the illusory quality of the state, but instead demonstrate that phantoms are formative and inevitable part of what the state is and how it is performed. Instead of passively reacting to such phantoms, participants can form active alliances with them in order to perform the kind of state that they prefer. The resulting performances are not uniform; various actors may act in a contradictory manner, the same phantoms may be treated as friends and foes depending on perspectives. Yet collectively, the alliances with phantoms contribute to the same result—the emergence of a state.
Field of Science
- 5.9 Other social sciences
- 5.8 Media and Communication
- 1.1. Scientific article indexed in Web of Science and/or Scopus database