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Bureaucraft: Statemakers in Amman and Baghdad

By José Ciro Martínez, Omar Sirri

Cite As:
Martínez, José Ciro, and Omar Sirri. 2023. “Bureaucraft: Statemakers in Amman and Baghdad.” Cultural Anthropology 38, no. 3: 386–410.


Bakers and soldiers strive to provide subsistence and security to the residents of Amman and Baghdad. Yet neither set of actors is involved in straightforward administrative work; they do not sit behind desks, they rarely push paper. Their enrolment in bureaucratic assemblages and policy enactment takes on an altogether different hue. This article dissects the embodied dexterities deployed by bakers and soldiers as they carry out their jobs at bakeries and checkpoints dotted across the Jordanian and Iraqi capitals. Drawing on ethnographic work, we develop the concept of bureaucraft to analyse the variegated modes of labour without which citizens would lack for some of the most basic of public goods. Taming people and things to make them congenial to the state effect takes a great deal of shrewd manoeuvring. We strive to demonstrate that it requires craft.


state; bureaucracy; bureaucraft; Amman; Baghdad; bakery; checkpoint


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.