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Anthropology Annual Lecture

The annual lecture is a marquee event for the Department of Anthropology. The yearly address provides faculty, staff and students with a unique opportunity to meet eminent leaders in the field.

2024 | The Management of Colonial Luggage

Date: Thursday, April 4, 2024

people with suitcases in front of barb wire

Distinguished Lecturer: Ghassan Hage

The Oxford English Dictionary defines luggage: 1.) suitcases or other bags in which to pack personal belongings for travelling and, 2.) past experiences or long-held ideas and opinions perceived as burdensome encumbrances. Each of these definitions belongs to a different dimension of life. An ethnographic investigation of the first takes us into the material culture of physical mobility, what we carry, and how we carry it, as we move from one place to another. The second takes us into the psychological and affective culture that is part of our existential mobility, what we carry as we are moving through life. In this presentation, Professor Ghassan Hage will investigate how these two ethnographies resonate, intersect and speak to each other when researching post-colonial culture.

Learn more about Ghassan Hage

Ghassan Hage is professor of Anthropology and Social Theory at the University of Melbourne, Australia. His most recent works include: Decay (Duke: 2021), The Diasporic Condition (Chicago: 2021) and The Racial Politics of Australian Multiculturalism (Sweatshop: 2023).

Ghassan Hage profile photo

Past Lectures

Juvenile Murder, Vengeance, and Grief

Dr. Laurence Ralph is a researcher, writer and filmmaker. His work explores how police abuse, mass incarceration, and the drug trade make injury and premature death seem natural for people of color. His first book, Renegade Dreams (University of Chicago Press, 2014), received the C. Wright Mills Award and the J.I. Staley Prize. His second book, The Torture Letters (University of Chicago Press, 2020), explores a decades-long scandal in which hundreds of Black men were tortured in police custody.

Serving as the keynote speaker for the event, Dr. Ralph will discussed juvenile murder in which teenage boys of color were killed by their peers, and asked how the victim's family can heal from such incidents.

The Land of Open Graves: Understanding the Current Politics of Migrant Life and Death along the US/Mexico Border

Jason De Leon is Professor of Anthropology and Chicana, Chicano, and Central American Studies at UCLA. He is Executive Director of the Undocumented Migration Project, a research-arts-education collective that seeks to document and raise awareness about the experiences of clandestine migrants, and President of the Board of Directors for the Colibri Center for Human Rights, a non-profit that seeks to identify and repatriate the remains of people who have died while migrating through the Sonoran Desert of Arizona.

In this presentation, De Leon focused on what happens to the bodies of migrants who die in the desert. He argued that the way that bodies decompose in this environment is a form of hidden political violence that has deep ideological roots and demonstrate how the post-mortem destruction of migrant corpses creates devastating forms of long-lasting trauma.

What a Difference Filmmaking Makes: Autoethnography, Multimodality and the Future of Scholarship

Professor John L. Jackson Jr. is currently the Walter H. Annenberg Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. He is an anthropologist of religion and engages critically with theories of race and ethnicity. Jackson's work in media ethnography has been widely recognized with numerous teaching awards, funds and grants. The professor has also contributed to anthropological research through writing, directing and producing films which have been screened at York University and across the United States.

In his lecture in 2020, Jackson described his journey as an ethnographic filmmaker. He stated the case for the epistemological and ethical value of multimodal scholarship, and argued that the future of scholarship is multimodal.

Interior Frontiers: Concept-work on Rough Ground

Ann Laura Stoler is Willy Brandt Distinguished University Professor of Anthropology and Historical Studies at the New School of Social Research. She is the author and editor of numerous books including 'Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power', 'Race and the Intimate in Colonial Rule' (2002, 2010), and 'Imperial Debris: On Ruins and Ruination' (2013). Her most recent book is 'Duress: Imperial Durabilities in Our Times' (2016).

Consent's Revenge: An Inquiry into the Politics of Refusal

Dr. Audra Simpson is a professor in the Department of Anthropology at Columbia University. She is the author of "Mohawk Interruptus: Political Life Across the Borders of Settler States" (Duke University Press, 2014). Her primary research is energized by the problem of recognition, by its passage beyond (and below) the aegis of the state into the grounded field of political self-designation, self-description and subjectivity. This work is motivated by the struggle of Kahnawake Mohawks to find the proper way to afford political recognition to each other, their struggle to do this in different places and spaces and the challenges of formulating membership against a history of colonial impositions. As a result of this ethnographic engagement she is interested especially in those formations of citizenship and nationhood that occur in spite of state power and imposition and in particular, she is interested in declarative and practice-oriented acts of independence.

Give a Man a Fish: The New Politics of Distribution in Southern Africa (and Beyond)

Dr. James Ferguson is the Susan S. and William H. Hindle Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences, and Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University. His research focuses on southern Africa, and how discourses organized around concepts such as “development” and “modernity” intersects the lives of ordinary people. Dr. Ferguson is the author of numerous books including “ Global Shadows: Africa in the Neoliberal World Order” (2006, Duke University Press) and "Give a Man a Fish: Reflections on the New Politics of Distribution" (2015, Duke University Press).

Professor Ferguson's recent work has explored the surprising creation and/or expansion (both in southern Africa and across the global South) of social welfare programs targeting the poor, anchored in schemes that directly transfer small amounts of cash to large numbers of low-income people. His work aims to contextualize these programs within a larger "politics of distribution," and to show how they are linked to emergent forms of distributive politics in contexts where new masses of “working age” people are supported by means other than wage labour. In such settings of scarce and diminishing employment opportunities, distributive practices and distributive politics are acquiring a new centrality, with social protection, in particular, emerging as a key arena within which fundamental questions are addressed concerning how resources should be distributed, who is entitled to receive them and why. In this context, new political possibilities and dangers are emerging, even as new analytical and critical strategies are required.

Film Screening & Discussion: Wretches & Jabberers

Join Academy Award-Winning Filmmaker Gerardine Wurzburg, the director and producer of "Wretches & Jabberers," starring Tracy Thresher and Larry Bissonnette.

Sponsored by Hussman Foundation and The Autism Acceptance Project

Anthropological Cosmopolitanisms and World Anthropologies

Gustavo Lins Ribeiro is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Brasilia. He has authored and edited 14 books, including World Anthropologies. Disciplinary Transformations within Systems of Power (with Arturo Escobar, 2006), and written over 180 chapters and articles on topics such as development, environmentalism, international migration, cyberculture, globalization, transnationalism and world anthropologies. The founder and first chair of the World Council of Anthropological Association (WCAA), he has been a visiting professor in Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, South Africa and the U.S. and serves or has served on more than 20 editorial boards of journals in Europe, the U.S. and Latin America. Currently he is the co-editor of WCAA’s online global journal, Déjà Lu.

The World Anthropologies project, started in the early 2000s, intertwines cosmopolitics with the history of anthropological cosmopolitanisms. It shares some characteristics of current social movements in that it shies away from centralism and
depends on networks that seek to practice global democracy and horizontality. However, any global initiative based such perspectives still confronts the structuring powers of the nation-state and existing structures of hegemonic. Has the WAN been able to fulfill the hopes it raised? Can anthropologists now enjoy a more equitable international scene? What remains to be done?

The Politics of Planetary Care: Moving Beyond Humanism

Miriam Ticktin is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the New School for Social Research. She works at the intersections of the anthropology of medicine and science, law, and transnational and postcolonial feminist theory. Her research has focused in the broadest sense on what it means to make political claims in the name of a universal humanity: she has been interested in what these claims tell us about universalisms and difference, about who can be a political subject, on what basis people are included and excluded from communities, and how inequalities get instituted or perpetuated in this process. She is the author of Casualties of Care: Immigration and the Politics of Humanitarianism in France, University of California Press, 2011 (co-winner of the 2012 Douglass Prize in Europeanist Anthropology); and In the Name of Humanity: the Government of Threat and Care (co-edited with Ilana Feldman), Duke University Press, 2010, along with other articles and book chapters. She is also co-editor of the journal Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism and Development.

This talk discussed how we might care in ways that go beyond its humanist forms, which include protection, rescue and sympathy. The lecture discussed the expansion of humanitarianism to non-humans and explored how this expansion might lead the way into non-humanist forms of care. In keeping with the theme of "world anthropology," we thought about these questions in the context of anthropologists' forms of care.

Mimicking Hedge Funds: Rethinking Risk, Return and the Organization

Karen Ho is an associate professor of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Her research centres on the problematic of understanding and representing financial markets, sites that are resistant to cultural analysis and disavow various attempts to locate or particularize them. Her domain of interest is the anthropology of economy, broadly conceived, with specific focus on finance capital, capitalism, globalization, corporations, inequality, dominant discourses, comparative studies of race and ethnicity and feminist epistemologies.

Her ethnography, Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street (Duke University Press, 2009), based on three years of fieldwork among investment bankers and major financial institutions, has won two Honorable Mentions from the Society for Cultural Anthropology and the Society for the Anthropology of North America. Recent publications include “Disciplining Investment Bankers, Disciplining the Economy” (American Anthropology, 2009), “Finance” (Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural Anthropology, 2010), “Outsmarting Risk: From Bonuses to Bailouts” (Anthropology Now, 2010), and "Financial Morality" (Didier Fassin's Companion to Moral Anthropology, Blackwell 2012). Her latest book project attempts to excavate an alternative cultural history of financial risk through the ethno-historic investigation of three central sites – corporations, investment practices, and investment funds – from the mid-twentieth century until the present moment.

Global Events and Local Narratives: 9/11 and the Folk Artists of Bengal

Roma Chatterji is visiting ICCR Chair, and a member of the Department of Sociology of the Delhi School of Economics.

My lecture was about a community of painter-storytellers of Bengal, India, called the Citrakar or Patua who occupy a somewhat interstitial position in the caste hierarchy. They are Muslims but compose picture narratives that are largely based on Hindu mythology. They are also known to compose and sing narratives about secular events such as local disasters. In post-Independence India the fact of their interstitial position has given them a special status as embodiments of folk spirituality, syncretism and secularism. I focused on the making of one particular narrative based on the 9/11 strike on the World Trade centre in New York. The choice of subject allows me to highlight not only the cosmopolitan interests of these folk artists but also to foreground folk art as an emergent phenomenon that is engaged with novelty and with the eventfulness of the contemporary. By focusing on an event that is distant but in the ‘real world’ I showed the relation between the local and the global is not one of passive reception but rather of active re-interpretation and re-incorporation in a storytelling tradition that tends to deal with myths. Since the period between the event’s occurrence and the composition of this story is about two months, a period that was insufficient for the event to become reified in its representation the artists were able to explore the virtual dimension of the story – was bin Laden dead or alive and consequently was his story part of history or myth? The ‘storyable’ potential of the event dries up with bin Laden’s capture and death. Myths in this tradition work in the subjunctive mood posing ‘what if’ questions to the mythic universe that is familiar to the local audience. I contrasted another mode of storytelling – the graphic novel form – in which some of the artists have experimented- to see whether the story can get a new lease of life in another genre when the traditional mode of picture story telling is no longer equal to the task.

Rocks, Stones, and Other Vital Things

Hugh Raffles, of the New School of Social Research, took tentative steps into a new ethnographic project exploring the lives of rocks and stones. There are currently two central problems. One is familiar to anthropologists: What are the forms of life enacted by objects that, in "the Western philosophical tradition," are commonly considered inanimate? The second, although related, may be less familiar: what can we learn from stones? Raffles explores these questions ethnographically, assuming that they are susceptible to empirical investigation. The project considered a limited set of cases of which two are introduced in this talk: the ancient monuments of the British Isles and Chinese "scholar's rocks."

Hugh Raffles is Professor of Anthropology at the Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberal Arts. His work explores these questions through a cultural and historical anthropology of “nature” that focuses primarily on the relationships between humans and other animals. Follow the link for a video recapping his fascinating work "Insectopedia."

Sponsors: Department of Anthropology, Founders College, the Office of the Master of Founders College, the Graduate Program in Social Anthropology, the Sexuality Studies Program, and the Graduate Program in Women’s Studies

The Space of Otherwise, the Hope of Critical Theory

Fugues for Multi-Species Living

Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing
Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz

Sponsors: Department of Anthropology, Founders College, Office of the Master of Founders College, the Faculty of Environmental Studies, York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR), the Graduate Program in Social Anthropology, the Social Anthropology Graduate Students’ Association (SAGA) and the Graduate Program in Sociology

Diversity, (In)Equality & Justice: An Anthropological Perspective on Globalization, Human Rights, and the Politics of Culture

Faye V. Harrison
Director of African American Studies and Professor of Anthropology at the University of Florida

Sponsors: The Department of Anthropology, Founders College, Faculty of Arts Dean's office, The Graduate Program in Social Anthropology, The Graduate Program in Women’s Studies, and CERLAC.