There will be five keynotes as part of the conference programme.
Against the grain: a deep history of the earliest agrarian states
James Scott (ASA Firth Lecture 2017)Abstract
The first evidence of domesticated grains appears at least four millennia before anything like agrarian societies based on cultivation appear and even longer before the first identifiable states pop into view on the southern Mesopotamian alluvium. These two facts challenge the implicit standard narrative of plant domestication being the spark that sets Homo sapiens on the beneficent and royal road to sedentary civilization. This account of the earliest states explores the advantages of mobile forms of subsistence, the unforeseeable epidemic diseases arising from the crowding of plants, animals, and grain, and the reasons why all early states were based on millets and cereal grains as a basic subsistence and tax crop. Why have rice, wheat, barley, maize and millet dominated state-formation virtually everywhere? Why, in other words, have there been no cassava, potato, yam, lentil, chickpea or banana states (banana republics don’t count!)? It contends that high mortality and flight led to “wars of capture” and unfree labor in the early states and to fragile polities liable to frequent collapse. The process leading to the first agrarian states may be seen as an accumulation of domestications: of fire, of plants, of livestock, of state subjects, and, finally, of women in the patriarchal family. Each domestication must be seen as gaining control over the reproduction of the life form in question.
James Scott, is the Sterling Professor of Political Science and Professor of Anthropology and is co-Director of the Agrarian Studies Program. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has been a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, and the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. His research concerns political economy, comparative agrarian societies, theories of hegemony and resistance, peasant politics, revolution, Southeast Asia, theories of class relations and anarchism. His publications include The Moral Economy of the Peasant, Yale University Press, 1976, Domination and the Arts of Resistance, Yale Press, 1985, Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance, Yale Press 1980, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, Yale Press, 1998; The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia, Yale University Press, 2008, and Two Cheers for Anarchism, Princeton University Press, 2013 and Against the Grain: Plants, Animals, Microbes, Captives, Barbarians and a New Story of Civilization, Forthcoming, Yale Press 2017) He is a mediocre sheep breeder and bee-keeper in Connecticut..
Contingent Statecraft: infrastructures, political creativity and experimentation
Penny Harvey (University of Manchester)Abstract
This keynote address argues that an ethos of experimentation is of central importance to contemporary neoliberal state politics - characterised by administrative decentralization, economic liberalization, infrastructural investment, and managerial government. Focusing primarily on the indeterminate and emergent forms of political life that take hold around processes of state decentralization in post-war Peru, the address examines the complex politics of scale that mark relationships between diverse instances of the state. The conflicting competencies of national, regional and local agencies are addressed by a proliferation of technical instruments and norms. However, in practice, the diverse origins and orientations of these instruments and norms, foster ambiguity and uncertainty. State functionaries and citizens alike skilfully mobilize the multiple possibilities that the ambiguous regulatory frameworks offer them. But such attempts also have to confront the precarious quality of the political and the arbitrary enactments of power that the ethos of experimentation also provokes. The Peruvian case offers a point of comparison for a more general anthropology of contingent statecraft.
Penny Harvey is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester, where she was also Director of the ESRC Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change. Since 2012 she has held the position of Professor II in Social Anthropology at the University of Oslo. She has done ethnographic fieldwork in Peru, Spain and the UK and published widely on politics and state practice, language and communication, technology, engineering, infrastructures and material politics. Recent publications include Roads: An Anthropology of Infrastructure and Expertise (with Hannah Knox), Cornell University Press, 2015. Objects and Materials: A Routledge Companion (edited with Hannah Knox and CRESC colleagues) Routledge, 2013. Infrastructure and Social Complexity (co-edited with Casper Bruun Jensen and Atsuro Morita), Routledge, 2016. She is finalizing a book with Deborah Poole on decentralization in Peru entitled Experimental States – and starting a new research project on decommissioning energy infrastructures, starting with the Sellafield nuclear site in the UK.
Anisogamic imaginaries of state and nation
Ghassan Hage (University of Melbourne)
This keynote address is a contribution to debates concerning the specificity of an anthropology state. I particularly emphasise the argument that this specificity lies in the focus on the everyday experience of the state. I explore some of my ethnographic notes regarding the Lebanese diaspora and compare the way Lebanese immigrants to Venezuela, the United States and Australia speak of the State in the countries they have migrated to. I look at the way these experiences are continuously haunted by the imaginary of the Lebanese State. I argue that this experience can be better understood when the imaginaries of the nation are also brought into the analytic/comparative equation. As importantly, I maintain that all these imaginaries cannot be understood outside the fact that migration is a form of hierarchical circulation and exchange structured by colonialism. It is so in so far as it involves a movement from an 'underdeveloped' to a 'developed' country and as such it is a circulation occurring between entities with different statuses. It always carries within it what I will loosely but I hope suggestively call, after Levi-Strauss, an anisogamic dynamic. Understanding the above allows us to also highlight the hierarchical, racialized and gendered nature of the imaginaries of state and nation that immigrants have to negotiate in the process of settlement. To take this into account allows us a better understanding of the diasporic experiences of belonging, and points to the rather narrow and sometimes inadequate conceptions of citizenship on which social and cultural integration policies in Western receiving countries are often formulated.
Ghassan Hage is professor of anthropology and social theory at the University of Melbourne. He works on the comparative anthropology of nationalism, multiculturalism and racism. He has worked for many years on the Lebanese diaspora around the world and is currently working towards a manuscript on the topic. His most recent works are Alter-Politics: Critical Anthropology and the Radical Imaginary (MUP, 2015) and Is Racism an Environmental Threat? (Polity, 2017).
Inside Out: Indigeneity in the era of Native Title in Australia
Suzi Hutchings (AAS Distinguished Lecturer 2017)Abstract
In 2011 former Australian Prime Minister, Paul Keating, in his Lowitja O’Donohue Oration, revisited the history of the implementation of native title law and the passing of the Native Title Act in 1993 by the Australian Federal Labor Government. The most telling message in his speech was the level of change in intent of the Act, as it has been enacted during the past 22 years. Originally native title was an existing title recognized by the common law of Australia, now the burden of proof of native title is firmly the responsibility of Aboriginal people. For those whose lands lay in areas of intense rural and urban colonisation the level of proof of prior occupation required to obtain native title rights has been almost insurmountable.
Many urban and rural communities have suffered a history of removals of knowledgeable members variously disrupting a lineage of the laws and customs needed to show a continuous connection to the lands they once occupied. But it is within the social and intellectual spaces created by the requirements of native title that many claimants and community members have re-interpreted and combined the often-fragmented knowledge they have learnt from their elders into a comprehensive Indigenous knowledge that they believe does meet the requirements of the burden of proof. Invariably, what they have faced is skepticism among practitioners including lawyers, judges and anthropologists, as to whether their knowledge is authentic, or fabricated to suit a new political game in the face of oppression from the dominant society.
Dr Suzi Hutchings is of Arrernte descent. She is a social anthropologist with a doctorate from the University of Adelaide. For the past 20 years Suzi has worked as an anthropological consultant and expert witness on native title claims and Aboriginal heritage protection across Australia. She has also provided expert cultural evidence in the Federal Magistrates Court, the Supreme Court and the Magistrates court in family law, criminal law and injury compensation cases involving Aboriginal families. Suzi is currently a senior lecturer in the Indigenous Studies Unit in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at RMIT University in Melbourne.
The Chameleon Crown and Constitutional Reform in post-colonial societies: anthropology of the state revisited
Cris Shore (University of Auckland)Abstract
It is fifty years ago since Philip Abrams wrote his seminal lecture on the difficulties of studying the State, yet those difficulties appear even greater today. Many anthropologists today recognize the state’s elusive character and insist that we view it not as a ‘thing’ but as an assemblage of cultural practices and ideological artefact that attributes unity and autonomy to the fragmented and dependent practices of government. However, locating the state and understanding how ‘state effects’ are produced continues to pose problems for anthropological analysis. These challenges, I argue, are compounded in political systems based on the Westminster model of constitutional monarchy where the ‘Crown’ acts as a metonym and conceptual placeholder for the State. In New Zealand, for example, the Crown stands at the heart of the constitution and features prominently in everyday political discourse, as partner to Māori in the Treaty of Waitangi and source of government legitimacy and authority. Yet the concept of the Crown – like constitutional monarchy itself - is poorly understood and curiously hard to discern. Is it the Queen, the Governor General, the Government, the State, the people, a corporation sole or aggregate, a simple metaphor, a relic of Mediaeval political theology or a mask for the exercise of executive power? Typically, it is portrayed as an entity residing above everyday politics that sometimes represents the will of the people and sometimes exercises a will of its own. As legal scholars argue, it is a ‘convenient fiction’, but convenient for who, and what is gained - or lost - by investing public authority in this ambiguous artefact?
Drawing on ethnographic research in New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the UK, this keynote address will explore these questions and try to open up this constitutional ‘black box’ in the context of debates about the transformation of the modern State. As the address will illustrate, the Crown is an elusive, shapeshifting and omnipresent entity which, like the State, has powerful effects. Moving beyond the ontological question of what exactly is the Crown, I ask, ‘how is it represented and understood? Is the Crown a synonym for the State? What can studying its development reveal about the transformation of the state in post-colonial societies? More importantly, what work (symbolic and political) does it perform? Finally, against a background of constitutional crises in all four countries, is the Crown an obstacle to constitutional reform?
Cris Shore is professor of Anthropology at the University of Auckland. His main research interests lie in the interface between anthropology and politics, particularly the anthropology of policy, Europe and the ethnography of organisations. He is a founder member and co-president of the Association for the Anthropology of Policy (ASAP), a Section of the American Anthropological Association. He has published extensively on various themes of public interest including the EU and European integration, the state and nationalism, elites, corruption, ‘audit culture’ and higher education reform. His current research includes a study of universities in the global knowledge economy and a Royal Society of New Zealand funded project entitled ‘The Crown and Constitutional Reform in New Zealand and Other Commonwealth Countries’. His most recent book, co-edited with Susan Wright, is Death of the Public University? Uncertain Futures for Universities in the Knowledge Economy. (Oxford: Berghahn Press, 2017).
There will also be a plenary roundtable event.
Roles and Relationships of Anthropological Associations in the Era of the Neoliberal University and Populist Backlash
Organised by Greg Acciaioli (The University of Western Australia)Abstract
This roundtable will focus upon how anthropological associations can operate and what they can offer in an era in which anthropology as a discipline is under assault within universities (e.g. as a major that does not prepare students for a job) and in the wider society (e.g. as a defender of multiculturalism in contexts where the assertion of a core set of values is promoted as a bulwark against terrorism). It will address how anthropological associations can help promote the discipline when it is increasingly losing its disciplinary identity within universities as anthropologists are merged into schools or clusters (e.g. Social and Cultural Studies) rather than departments of anthropology. The roundtable will also address how national and regional associations can strengthen their impact by initiating activities with global associations such as the World Anthropological Union (WAU), International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES) and the World Council of Anthropological Associations (WCAA). After brief presentations by the roundtable participants the session will be open for queries from the floor and discussion among all those present.
Participants: Chandana Mathur (National University of Ireland), Chair, World Council of Anthropological Associations
Brigitte Bönisch-Brednich (Victoria University of Wellington), Chair, Association of Social Anthropologists of Aotearoa/New Zealand
Nigel Rapport (University of St Andrews), Chair, Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth
Greg Acciaioli (The University of Western Australia), President, Australian Anthropological Society