States of Power: Culture, Governmentality and Market in Transition, 1999

States of Power: Culture, Governmentality and Market in Transition

San Francisco, 1999

Organizers: Vincanne Adams (Princeton U) and Aihwa Ong (UC Berkeley)

An anthropology that seeks to engage the big questions of transition in modernity must rethink the relation between culture and power. In the recent past, interpretive approaches have popularized a view of cultures as particularistic, localized, and creative action which can be othered from material forces represented by the state, political economy, and nature. Other approaches, variously informed by Foucauldian and political economic perspectives, handle questions of culture and power in ways that transcend binary concepts such as culture/nature, form/matter, meaning/practical reason, and local/global. In an era marked by the restructuring of state forms, societies in rapid transition, internationally mobile fractions of corporate and finance capital, and the proliferation of multilateral agencies and NGOs, how can the ethnographic method address comparative questions of social transformation? In what ways is culture directly embroiled in different forms of ruling, the mutations of capitalism, and varied strategies in the structural transformation of society? How can we take account of the power of capital operating at both the macro- and the micro-levels within and across national borders?

The aim of this conference is to address the cultural logics of human agency, and of the state, so that economic and political relations of globalization can be brought squarely within the framework of anthropology. We bring together anthropologists who analyse the interplay of culture and power in institutionalizing relations of production, ruling, markets, violence, and everyday life. Foucault maintains that "States of power are always local and unstable," but his idea of power goes beyond sociality because social hegemony must be understood as a codification of these force relations. Thus, questions we ask are concerned with the cultural content of political-economic structures, the cultural logic of state action, and the political regulation of cultural forms locally and globally. In an era of globalization, how can we pursue the relations between cultural forms, ruling processes, and the market?

Because the ethnography of global cities, the state, and mobile capitalism is a fairly recent enterprise for anthropologists, conference speakers will also address methodological issues. How can an ethnographic strategy investigate different states of power, and the shifting relations between the market, state, and society? What kinds of anthropological traditions can respond toissues like the "clash of civilizations," the financial crisis in Asia, the spread of market-dictatorship in the world, market transitions in socialist and post-socialist societies, the forms of "disciplinary neoliberalism" in the United States? The cultural organization of power and the embedding of cultural forms in structures of power (e.g., institutions of production, consumption, sociality, reproduction, or citizenship) suggest a series of critical questions:

Questions of globalization:

How can anthropologists assess the nature of intervention by agencies like the World Bank, and by multilateral agreements (the Multilateral Investments Agreement) in different countries?

What are the cultural logics and implications of the out-sourcing of state functions to capital and transnational entities?

How is constitutional power transformed by the refigurings of the metropole?

Questions of transition:

How have events and conjunctures of globalization disrupted social formations, bringing about new cultural and political relations to capital?

What are new modes of state power?

What are the roles of the state, and capital, in producing new social geographies of property, nationality, and graduated sovereignty?

What are the links between new modes of regulation and new regimes of valuation, as for example, in the spread of property concepts in former socialist countries?

Who and what are peripheralized as regional cultural logics become instruments of transnational power and models of economic success?

Questions of regulation and citizenship:

For communities and individuals, how are new space-time coordinates, the concentration of capital, and informational technologies in metropoles, new forms of technical discipline, and emerging networks of social power closely articulated with processes of national and regional competition and opportunity?

How is culture implicated in new forms of technical-practical regulations of the public, the government of sociality, techniques of the body, and new social hierarchies?

Questions of method:

How can the anthropological sensibility be recast in order to grasp, track, and take into account emerging power structures that transform social life?

We will explore ethnographic strategies for doing fieldwork within and across multiple sites, as for instance, in following a process that unfolds across national borders and in a sense produce its own organization and cultural dynamism (e.g., from forms of consumption to new forms of political activism)?


This year, there will be small but significant changes in the format of the meeting. We have decided to call the keynote address "The David M. Schneider Distinguished Lecture." In addition to the lecture, the two main sessions, and two workshops, we will add two graduate student panels. This is an effort to support, value, and learn from graduate students, a move that is vital to the growth of the SCA.

Invited Speakers include Ashraf Ghani (who will deliver The David M. Schneider Distinguished Lecture), John Borneman, Philippe Bourgois, Anna Tsing, Katherine Verdery, and Brackette Williams.


FRIDAY, MAY 21, 1999

9:00 am - 2:00 pm

Foyer Registration & Exhibits

9:30 am - 12:30 pm

English Room, Graduate Student Panel I: Social Geographies of Gender, Race and Nation. 

Tresa Thomas (Arizona), "Living Late Capital: Hierarchy and Desire in a Border Town" 

Marla Frederick (Duke), "The Question of Progress: Race and Gender in Rural North Carolina"

10:30 am - 11:00 pm

Foyer Coffee Break

Sarah England (Davis), "Creating a Global Garifuna Nation? Reinserting Race, Place, and Gender into a Theory of Empowerment in the Age of Globalization" 

Tom Boellstorff (Stanford), "A Geography of the 'Gay World' in Indonesia: Conjunctions of Capital, State, and Method"

Discussant: Drexel Woodson (Arizona)

9:30 am - 12:00 pm

Garden Room,  Workshop I: Neoliberalism & the Public Sphere. 

Facilitator, Don Nonini (Chapel Hill)

2:00 pm - 5:00 pm

English & Garden Rooms, Panel I: Violence, Citizenship, and the Global Moral Order 

Caroline Humphreys (Cambridge), "Emergent Forms for Rule in the Ashes of Soviet Power in Siberia" 

Mahmood Mamdani (Capetown), "The Citizenship Crisis in Kivu Region, Eastern Congo" 

Philippe Bourgois (UCSF), "Re-Confronting Violences in El Salvador & the US Inner City with a Cold War Hangover"

3:20 pm - 3:40 pm

Foyer Coffee Break


5:30 pm -7:00 pm

Lanai Room Cash bar reception

SATURDAY, MAY 22, 1999

9:00 am - 12:00 pm

Foyer Registration & Exhibits 

9:00 am - 12:00 pm

English & Garden Rooms, Panel II : Transitions: Mutations of Capital, Space and Time 

Akhil Gupta (Stanford), "State Biographies: Exploring Narratives of Government" 

John Borneman (Cornell), "Relocating the Capital: Anticipatory Reflexion and new Powers of State" 

Anna Tsing (UCSC), "Inside the Economy of Appearances"

10:30 am - 11:00 am

Foyer Coffee break 


2:00 pm - 4:30 pm

Garden Room Workshop II: Doing Ethnography of Bio-Social Formations

Facilitators, Judith Farquhar (Chapel Hill) and Paul Rabinow (Berkeley)

2:00 pm - 4:30 pm

English Room,  Graduate Student Panel II: Transitions from Socialism 

Ari Shapiro (Princeton), "Transition Economics: Socialism, Capitalism, and the Culture of Property" 

Lisa Hoffman (Berkeley), "How to Have Culture, Capital and Connections: The Art of Becoming a Modern Professional in China's 'Socialist' Market" 

Dominic Boyer (Chicago), "Longitudinal Schimogenesis and the Fact of Eastern-ness in the Eastern German Media Since 1990" 

Lyn Jeffery (UCSC), '"Re-education through Labor" in the Chinese Market Economy" 

Discussant: Gail Kligman (UCLA)

4:30 pm - 5:00 pm

Foyer Coffee Break

5:00 pm - 6:30pm

English & Garden Rooms,  The David M. Schneider Distinguished Lecture

"State-power and Production and Destruction of Public Value: Toward an Ethnographic Approach" by Ashraf Ghani (Johns Hopkins University & The World Bank) 

6:30 pm - 8:00 pm

Lanai Room Hosted Reception

SUNDAY, MAY 25, 1999

9:00am -- 12:00 noon

English & Garden Rooms, Summing up discussion 

10:30 am -- 11:00 am

Foyer Coffee Break