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Volume 87, #3 • Summer 2014




The No/Name of the Institution

Ian Whitmarsh, University of California San Francisco

ABSTRACT — Anthropologists have lately sought a subject not containable within the institutions that we analyze. This article suggests we should do the same for the institutionality. I define “institutions” as things with the authority of the no/name—to confer the taboo—which includes discourses, rituals, and bureaucracies. The article calls for extending to the institution what we usually ascribe to the subject—violence, but also whatever we oppose to that, such as care or love. Anthropologists and psychoanalysts have an institution long considered a source of love through violence, and violence in love: kinship. This article works through contemporary anthropological queries on the subject, violence, and love in order to explore the possibilities in approaching all institutionality as acting like kinship. Drawing on Claude Lévi-Strauss, E.E. Evans-Pritchard, and Jacques Lacan, kinship is shown to be an institution comprised of a plurality of hierarchies, each of which might undermine the other, creating taboos that call for their own transgression. The article argues that this radical ambivalence in the institution finds desires within needs, displaces the individual as the source of possibility, and locates any radical potential of love within the institution. I call such ambivalence, following Lacan, the no/name of the institution. [Keywords: Violence, love, Lacan, Lévi-Strauss, taboo]


Hybrid Landscapes; Science, Conservation, and the Production of Nature

Volume 87, #3

Summer 2014