[English below]

Op vrijdag 24 mei organiseert de Antropologen Beroepsvereniging (ABv) een ledendag over macht, openbaar bestuur en samenleving onder de titel ‘Anthropological Approaches to Governmentality: the State and its Shadows‘. Deze ééndaagse conferentie, die open staat voor alle antropologen in Nederland, is een vervolg op de traditie van twee-jaarlijkse congressen van twee dagen die de ABv tot 2011 organiseerde.

Zeven onderzoekers van verschillende antropologie instituten in Nederland delen recente inzichten uit hun onderzoek en ook drie pas afgestudeerden komen aan het woord over hun Masterscriptie. Hoogtepunt van de dag is een lezing door Nils Bubant, professor van de Deense Aarhus Universiteit. Voertaal is Engels vanwege de buitenlandse sprekers. Inschrijven via: abvcongres@gmail.com.

Update: inschrijven wordt zeer op prijs gesteld maar is niet verplicht. Het definitieve programma is nu beschikbaar voor download via deze link.

On Friday May 24 the Dutch Anthropological Association organizes a conference for (new) members, entitled ‘Anthropological Approaches to Governmentality: the State and its Shadows’. You can find the full program below.

Introduction to the theme ‘Anthropological Approaches to Governmentality: the State and its Shadows’

Govermentality has become a key concept for anthropologists who study the workings of the modern state. Governmentality can be regarded as a thickened conceptualization of governance, extending the analysis of state-institutions to include representations of self and society. Drawing on Foucault’s insights on discipline and knowledge, various authors have investigated how power operates through “techniques” of domination (maps, censuses, surveillance) but also through self‐discipline and self‐styling (Foucault 1991; Gordon 1991; Lemke 2001).

In past decades, neoliberal ideologies, shifting transnational relations and cross border movements, have put pressure on the ‘traditional’ niches of states. The twin identity of the state – owner of the monopoly on violence and principle caretaker of citizens – has changed drastically over the last thirty years. A variety of new actors have come to play prominent societal roles, organizing public forms of security, surveillance and redistribution, amongst others. Moreover, both formal institutions and ‘informal’ authorities within civil society have started to engage in state-like performances.

How useful is the concept of governmentality for understanding the current forms of authority? Governmentality suggests oversight and control, but the current economic crisis in the US and Europe has enlarged lingering doubts about what actually can be known and controlled? The shifting relationships between political authority and the financial sector, between public knowledge and control, between credibility and trust require radical rethinking, especially since these shifts regularly tie in with ideas that ‘real power’ is unknowable and uncontrollable by means of the regular institutions. In order to come to terms with these shifts, anthropology requires approaches that reveal the interlacing of governmentality and popular notions of the shadow worlds.

Engaging with the concept of governmentality during this ABv workshop (ledendag) will allow a variety of anthropologists to contribute to a better understanding of the shifts described. The relocation of state-like tasks has stimulated new anthropological approaches to the articulations between legal and illegal institutions, between state and market forces, between political and economic powers, and between public and private actors. Furthermore, prevalent ideas that ‘real power’ is evasive and unaccountable pose interesting methodological questions. The ABv is very proud to present some of these approaches and methodological challlenges on May 24 and cordially invites ABv members and friends to participate in debate.

Day Program

Anthropological Approaches to Governmentality: the State and its Shadows

Friday May 24

Allard Pierson Museum, Oude Turfmarkt 127, Amsterdam (route)

Registration is appreciated, via abvcongres@gmail.com

Costs: free for ABv members (suscribe here), €5 for students, €10 for others.

9.00 – 9.15 Welcome and Introduction to the ABv Day by Thijl Sunier, chair of the ABv (VU University)

9.15 – 10.30. Panel 1: Out of Control. The Anthropology of Popular Discourses on the State and its Opponents

Panel description:

State attempts to control specific sectors in civil society are always accompanied by moral discourses. Particular groups or economic actors need to be brought under proper state regulation to counter illegal, immoral and violent practices. The state pretends to intervene in situations that are out of control. Similarly, the state and its representatives are also frequently accused of immoral behavior beyond belief. Both of these allegations tap into popular stereotypes and are often based on rumors. This panel is interested to analyze similarities in these discourses, both on the level of content (assumptions) and of form (rumors and stereotyping). The panel seeks to understand how this common ground affects the articulation of state and its others. We are particularly interested to see how popular moralities may work to weaken both the state and its opponents. Moreover, the panel addresses the problem of how anthropologists should approach this elusive field of morals and accusations.

Discussant: To be announced

Paper 1: Sabine Luning, Leiden University

Narrating Corruption: The state and the predicaments of opposition in Burkina Faso.

Paper 2: Elisabet Rasch, Wageningen University

Terrorists or Citizens? Speculations on state engagement in illegal networks and the “illegalization” of anti-mining activism in Guatemala

Paper 3: Erik Bähre, Leiden University

Out of Control: Taxi wars and the state in Cape Town, South Africa

10.45 – 11.15 coffee

11.15 – 12.30 Panel 2: Masterpiece: Een blik in de onderzoeken van hedendaagse masterstudenten/Presenting current research of master students

LaSSA (Landelijke Samenwerking Studenten Antropologie)

Panel description:

In the past, anthropology students mostly carried out research in small communities, writing up their traditions, cultural ideas and daily practices. What subjects do anthropology students work on nowadays? Do they still look at small, demarcated, rural communities? Or do the subjects of research also highlight how global trends affect the lives of people at particular places? In this panel master students present their research to show the broad range of subjects covered by anthropology students these days. Three students enrolled in different Master Programmes in The Netherlands, present their topics, which vary from social movements, environmental issues to ritual practices. All papers are based on fieldwork, and analyze how global trends – be it the shift from socialism to capitalism, or various alternatives to capitalism – produce new understandings of how politics, economies and social identities are or should be localized. The panel presents contemporary anthropological research methods and lines of questioning that preoccupy Master students nowadays.

Discussant: To be announced

Paper 1: Annieke Zeumeren, MA student, Leiden University

Shifting values of rituals in globalizing Mongolia

Paper 2: Ying Que, Msc, Utrecht University

Stories to imagine an alternative: the movement of Occupy Wall Street

Paper 3: Florence Scialom, MA student, Leiden University

Debating ‘de-growth’ How can more localised economies challenge the dominant economic growth model?


Lunch 12.30 – 13.30

13.30 – 15.00. Panel 3: The Popular Culture of Illegality: Informal Sovereignty and the Politics of Aesthetics

Panel description:

In contexts of urban marginality in both the Global South and North, criminal organizations have become increasingly powerful and institutionalized. As criminal leaders and gangs take on the functions and symbols of the state, such mafia-like organizations may evolve into extra-legal structures of rule and belonging. This workshop seeks to explore the aesthetics that legitimate and mediate these forms of informal sovereignty. To understand the reproduction of criminal authority, we should not only study informal sovereigns’ use of violence and their provision of material services in socially excluded communities. We must also examine how imaginative, aesthetic practices are critical in normalizing and naturalizing their rule. This workshop will study the ‘popular culture of illegality’: the music, visual culture and material culture that reflect and reinforce the socio-political authority of criminal organizations. Drawing on work linking aesthetics, politics and the body, we seek to examine the emotional and ethical work that texts, sounds, performative practices and visual images do. Examples of the entanglement of criminal authority and popular culture include the relations between Naples’ camorra and neomelodica music, between Mexican drugs cartels and narcocorridos, and between Brazilian gang leaders and baile funk. Through which aesthetic practices are people mobilized to accept and support criminal authority? How does the popular culture of illegality facilitate a form of governmentality performed both on and through the bodies of the urban poor? Given the territoriality of informal sovereignty, how are the spatial parameters of criminal authority mediated through popular culture representations?

Discussant: Freek Colombijn (VU University)

Paper 1: Rivke Jaffe, University of Amsterdam

Introduction of the Research Proposal and Theoretical Outline

Paper 2: Martijn Oosterbaan, Utrecht University

Funk da Milícia: Politics of aestethics in Rio de Janeiro

Paper 3: Scott Dalby, VU University of Amsterdam

The Aesthetics of Surrender and Conviction: Incorporating overseas Chinese and non-Chinese in-and-from Falun Gong’s informal Middle Kingdom.

Paper 4: José Carlos G. Aguiar, Leiden University 

An Obscure Uncertainty. Criminality, illegality and the Culto Santa Muerte in Mexico


15.00 – 15.30. Tea

15.30 – 17.00. Keynote Lecture:

Nils Bubandt, Aarhus University

Corruption, Spirits, and the Democracy-to-Come in Indonesia

17.00 – 18.00. Drinks

Download the full programme (PDF)