SIEF2013 11th Congress.
Michael Herzfeld: Circulation and Circumvention: reciprocity and Intimacy in the neoliberal world

Klipi teostus: UTTV 03.07.2013 8075 vaatamist Kultuuriteadus ja kunstid


The speaker will address Marcel Mauss's dire predictions about the collapse of reciprocity under conditions of modern capitalism. He argues that a combination of technological innovation (especially the internet) and a new commercial ethic (‘neoliberalism') have subverted older forms of hospitality, exchange, and other systems of reciprocity. While practices ranging from the Melanesian kula to European quêtes and South Asian matrimonial exchanges have had analogues in political practices of patronage and favor-trading, the neoliberal pervasion of these older structures ‘ a process in which claims to have abolished them actually reinvigorates their logic at a more comprehensive but less visible level ‘ amplifies Mauss's pessimism. At the same time, new circulation systems, especially of information and the secrecy rules that purport to protect it, provide new loopholes corresponding to some older modalities, and suggest that human beings will always try to circulate goods (material or otherwise) as a way of remaining connected, but will also always seek to subvert this connectedness (or ‘connectivity') as a way of resisting the structures of power. Illustrative examples will be drawn from the speaker's own fieldwork, from older folklore compilations, and from everyday experience in global cyberspace and in academic and other forms of worldwide exchange. The speaker will also argue that it is in situ fieldwork, albeit not always in static locations, that allows scholars to gauge these sometimes enormous changes and their effects on daily life.