Skip to main content Skip to main navigation menu Skip to site footer

What is a Situation?: An Assemblic Ethnography of the Drug War

By Jarrett Zigon

Cite As:
Zigon, Jarrett. 2015. “What Is a Situation?: An Assemblic Ethnography of the Drug War”. Cultural Anthropology 30 (3):501-24.


In this essay, I offer a new conception of situation through a delineation of the situation named the drug war and the politics that have emerged out of it. I explore how what I have learned from the anti–drug war movement in terms of what they see themselves addressing, how they address it, and how their manner of organization may help anthropologists rethink their own objects of study. I hope to show that the concept of situation significantly adds to anthropological knowledge because it allows us to consider that which is widely diffused across different global scales as a nontotalizable assemblage, but yet in its occasional and temporary local manifestation allows us to understand how persons and objects that are geographically, socioeconomically, and culturally distributed get caught up in the shared conditions that emerge from the situation. Furthermore, this conception is offered in response to recent concerns within and beyond anthropology that new and creative attempts must be made in the analysis of and engagement with the worlds we study. I argue that by being attuned to hidden potential in the worlds we research, and creatively and speculatively conceptualizing such potential, we can offer a uniquely anthropological contribution and engagement in social and political projects of becoming otherwise.


situation; politics; political ontology; becoming; global; ethnography; drug war