Tag Archives: How is anthropology going?

Jane Guyer “on possibility”: another “How Is Anthropology Going” redux

Some of you might remember a panel I organized, along with Chris Vasantkumar and Mattais Viktorin, at the 2008 annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association called “How Is Anthropology Going? An Inquiry into Movement, Mode and Method in the Contemporary World” (if not, you can read a bit more about it in an earlier post).

We were lucky enough to have a stellar lineup of people agree to be a part and, slowly, that luck is bearing fruit:  this last Spring one of the panel’s participants, Nadezhda Dimitrova Savova, published a version of her paper in the journal Anthropological Quarterly.  Now another participant, Jane Guyer of Johns Hopkins, has gone on to publish a revised version of her own commentary.

Guyer’s article appears in the current issue of Anthropological Theory, and uses the questions we raised in the panel to try to think through the use of “possibility” in anthropological theory and ethnographic representation.  Good stuff.

Bonus: for all of you in Berkeley, Dr. Guyer will be coming through some time this semester and is looking for an opportunity to discuss the article… more details as they become available

Articles Referenced

Guyer, J. (2010). On ‘possibility’: A response to ‘How Is Anthropology Going?’ Anthropological Theory, 9 (4), 355-370 DOI: 10.1177/1463499609358143

Nadezhda Dimitrova Savova, . (2009). Heritage Kinaesthetics: Local Constructivism and UNESCO’s Intangible-Tangible Politics at a Favela Museum Anthropological Quarterly, 82 (2), 547-585 DOI: 10.1353/anq.0.0066


How is Anthropology Going? Redux.

I came across the following elucidation of Foucault’s concept of governmentality.

Legitimate sovereignty is about ensuring the common good, which Foucault points out, consists of a state of affairs where all subjects obey the laws, accomplish the tasks expected of them, respect the established order. “This means that the end of sovereignty is circular…The good is obedience to the law, hence the good for sovereignty is that people should obey it…” With government, we see “emerging a new kind of finality. Government is defined as a right manner of disposing of things so as to lead not to a form of the common good…but to an end which is ‘convenient’ for each of the things that has to be governed. This implies a plurality of specific aims: for instance, government will have to ensure that the greatest possible quantity of wealth is produced, that people are provided with sufficient means of subsistence…In order to achieve these various finalities, things must be disposed…” (94-5)

from Foucault and Indian Scholarship by Nevidita Menon

This made me think back to a panel a helped co-organize (along with Chris Vasantkumar and Mattias Viktorin) at the last American Anthropological Association Meetings.  It was called “How is Anthropology Going?” and was, in part an attempt to think through movement in anthropological text and praxis as a type of ethics or politics.  We argued, in the end, that the discipline’s diverse valences were its politics, not a result of its politics (or of any kind of cognitive or theoretical dissonance).

What struck me in particular from the above passage was the word “convenient”.   The word means, at base, “to come (along) together,” does it not?  Conveniency as the Ends of Governance… interesting.

Does this mean that anthropology is a form of governance?  Not the anthropology of governmentality, but anthropology as governmentality?