The paper explores visibility as a category to describe certain characteristics of the social that can be observed by ethnographers. The field of visibility spans the most immediate interactions that take place in a situated context and mediated social relations. Visibility offers a useful comparative tool to research because very different practices can be compared as specific configurations or regimes of visibility. The effects of visibility are contingent upon the type of regime, as the cases of recognition, control, and spectacle illustrate. The paper does not seek to propose visibility as a catch-all term; rather, it suggests that ethnographic research is inevitably concerned with how features of visibility are employed by actors to introduce thresholds of relevance in the definition of relational territories. In its attempt to understand the constitution of social territories as ‘locales’, ethnography cross-cuts the distinction between the how and the why of observed phenomena.
Neither in contemporary sociology nor in legal theory is much attention paid to the theoretical object of commands. This paper explores some features of commands that tend to remain largely invisible in social action, as well as largely under-theorized in the scholarly literature. The analysis draws on early reflection by Elias Canetti and tries to clarify the dynamics of the relationship between law and commands from a sociological perspective. The main claim is that command cannot be reduced to a linguistic entity, but has to be considered in the more complex frame of a direct relationship among subjects and their bodies within a shared space. Explanation of commands is made even more difficult by the fact that they take place in a space that is located ambiguously in between the realm of the subjective and that of the objective, in between passions and institutions.