Institutt for sosialantropologi

PhD course in recent anthropological theory, 30-31 May 2011

The Departments of Social Anthropology at both University of Bergen and University of Oslo are co-hosting a PhD seminar on newer anthropological theory with the title "The Search for Order: Territory, Citizen, State and Governance”. The deadline for applying to the course is 1. April 2011.


Course description
In this course we address developments in anthropology’s way of conceptualizing relationships between territories, states, citizens, and migrants. We will look at the creativity with which technologies of government or governance are changing and innovatively reconceptualised – and by means of the course’s required readings we will explore, and discuss, how the “art of government” can involve the development of new assemblages made up of institutions, practices, knowledges and tactics for introducing control, achieving security, creating viable economies, etc. These new assemblages of power have often involved – and we underscore this – not a radical creation of new technologies of social control but a creative borrowing, reuse, amalgamation and regrouping of established technologies of control that have other institutional sites. In today’s neoliberal world, which re-emphasises rationalism and economy, people and institutions all over the world are experimenting with alternative governmental practices that merge local, sometimes customary, technologies of power with modern Western governmental technologies (the state, NGOs, churches and corporations). It can also be suggested that a seemingly endless cycle of wartime violence is a fundamental aspect of liberal Western democracy itself, and such a global war is an inbuilt tool in the development of the world, rather than something can bracketed off and conveniently dislocate to development processes of the West’s cultural other and to faraway geographical distances. This is the historical legacy behind today’s wars for democracy and/or on terror, and anthropology, both past and present, is less than innocent in all this. As the irony of history had it, the colonized subjects, rather than the oppressive colonialists, have been labeled as warlike. Yet the contribution of anthropology and ethnography today must be the attention to how contemporary processes of economic, political and cultural incorporation into global flows nourish and trigger both ruling groups’ and states’ attempts to maintain, consolidate, strengthen and deepen their power and more local experiments to reassume control of the changing terms of human social existence, both through violent and peaceful means.

The present global system of production, commerce and labour involves a movement of money, resources and people but also a global circulation of practices, knowledges, technologies, narratives and meanings. The rapidly changing material and cultural terms of human existence bring both new promises of hope and new experiences of evil. Both generate demands for new forms of social control. The demand for additional and better forms of governance can arise from within the nation as a popular demand by citizens who experience their lives as increasingly insecure. This demand for additional and better forms of governance often involves a critique of the state as the source of chaos and suffering in people’s lives, with people looking outside the state, often to religion or customary forms of sociality, for alternative ordering practices. But processes of change can also emerge inside institutions and within the nation-state. The nation-state is not a homogenous entity and between various state institutions, there can be rivalry and conflicts just as much as alliances. During certain historical periods, particular state institutions grow, adapt and innovate in ways that bring into being new models of sovereignty and new technologies for governing and creating subjects.


Time, place and lecturers:

Dates: 30.- 31. May 2011.

Venue: University of Bergen, Department of Social Anthropology, Fosswinkels gt. 6.

Lecturers and hosts: Professor Knut Rio, University of Bergen, and Professor Christian Krohn-Hansen, University of Oslo are organizing and hosting the course. They have invited Dr. Sverker Finnstöm from the University of Uppsala as a guest lecturer at the course. Finnström has won awards for his monograph Living with Bad Surroundings that is required reading for this course.


For further information about the course - including registration procedures, deadlines, lists of required reading, contacts etc. - please follow this link to the page dedicated to course.