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Session 4 : The Nitty Gritty of the State — A lecture by Fabien Jobard 


[Paris • France]
The State, as we say, is the monopoly of violence. The state, it seems, is primarily the army, the police, and prison. But taking a closer look, the State is above all an edifice made of papers. It draws its legitimacy from a written Constitution, and not anymore from customary or divine law. This document, and the seals that attest it, are kept precisely by the same ministry that manages sentences and prisons. The State and its agents dispose of an authority, of a power that is first and foremost made of paper.
From a research we conducted in Paris on identity checks, this very particular act which entails the identification of individuals thanks to their papers by depository agents of the public authority, we offer to enlighten the establishment of the State grasped in History and the consistency of papers that link individuals to public authority. Having papers. Having one’s papers. Losing one’s papers. Presenting them. Is this really how we make the State?