Imagining Institutions Otherwise: Art, Politics, and State Transformation


While recent interventions in art and political theory foreground the role of contemporary art in rethinking politics from below, there is a dearth of empirical studies of how this happens in the everyday practices of artists and political movements. To fill this gap, this project offers an anthropological study of the role of artistic practices in reimagining transforming polities. Examining the connection between the so-called social turn in art and dissolving or mutating social infrastructures, the project focuses on three art worlds that have figured prominently in recent protest movements against state repression, corruption, or neoliberal restructuring in Lebanon/the West Bank, Hungary, and Italy.
The central research objective is to understand how art can reimagine institutions in the context of ongoing state transformation (postcolonial, postsocialist, neoliberal), and how it can affect the political imagination, institutional change, and citizenship. I focus on what I call “anticipatory representation”: the proliferation of micro-utopias or creative institutional experiments that instantiate “counter-states,” which both critique the state and engage its apparatuses in various ways, potentially prefiguring new forms of common life. I take an innovative, comparative, and intersectional ethnographic approach to the intersections between art, formal politics, and policy, as well as between increasingly transnationalized art worlds.
This research extends the anthropology of art by connecting it to theories of governmentality and the state under neoliberal cultural capitalism, thus producing a new theory of the radical political imagination and giving cultural and aesthetic politics a new prominence in the humanities. The project is groundbreaking for its empirical, ethnographic approach to theorizing the art-social change nexus; its comparative look at art as a site of institutional innovation, or experimental statecraft, beyond the “West,” that is, aesthetic theories' traditional focus; and its methodological emphasis on intersections, particularly between art worlds and state apparatuses.





Dr. C. de Cesari

Verbonden aan

Universiteit van Amsterdam, Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen, Afdeling Geschiedenis, Europese studies en Religiewetenschappen


Dr. C. de Cesari, Dr. C. de Cesari, Dr. C. de Cesari, Dr. C. de Cesari, Dr. C. de Cesari


01/01/2020 tot 01/09/2024