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[2015/11/09] 10th Eric Wolf Lecture: Gavin Smith - Elusive Relations: Distant, Intimate, and Hostile


Gavin Smith (Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto): "Elusive Relations: Distant, Intimate, and Hostile"

Montag, 9. November 2015, 18.00 Uhr
University of Vienna Sky Lounge
Oskar-Morgensternplatz 1, Dachgeschoss, 1090 Wien

The 2008 economic crisis followed by people's disenchantment with governments exposed the extent of economic polarity and inequalities of power. Yet the complexities of the instruments of finance and the obscurity of the technologies of power provide a challenge to intellectuals wishing to contribute to public understanding and effective politics for ordinary people. This challenge has been met by a flourishing literature explaining the instruments for garnering value and the mechanisms for securing power. While these help us understand current realities, they say little about the relation between the instruments and mechanisms they explain, and the ordinary people affected by their operation. Relations between the dominant and the dominated as well as relations among the latter are neglected. Taking the work of the late Eric Wolf as exemplary, the lecture seeks to redress this imbalance, by revealing the often obscure complexities of class relations hidden along the 'pathways of power'.

Gavin Smith

Focusing on the interfaces of differently scaled social relations Gavin Smith's ethnographic work in South America and Western Europe has focused on the connection between the ways in which people make a livelihood and their forms of political expression. To this end his ethnographic work relies heavily on seeing the present as a moment in history and hence seeking to address that history as real not simply constructed, a perspective captured in the term historical realism. He has worked on large and small-scale agriculture and urban informal economies in South America, as well as on recent forms of flexible labour organization and regional economies in Europe. His works include Livelihood and Resistance: Peasants and the Politics of Land in Peru (1989); Confronting the Present: Towards a Politically Engaged Anthropology (1999); with Susana Narotzky, Immediate Struggles: People, Power and Place in Rural Spain (2006), and Intellectuals and (Counter-) Politics: Essays in Historical Realism (2014).

On the following day, November 10, 2015, at 5.15 p.m., a discussion with Gavin Smith will take place at the Internationales Forschungszentrum Kulturwissenschaften (IFK), Reichsratsstraße 17, 1010 Vienna, Austria.

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