Theodoros Rakopoulos, one of our post-doctoral fellows, has departed for a 12 months ethnographic fieldwork to work in the neighbourhoods of Thessaloniki, the second largest city of Greece. Below is an abstract of his intention in regards to expanding the understanding of the concept of egalitarianism in two directions, concerning activisms around the practices and notions of solidarity and around ‘truth’ activism.
By Theodoros Rakopoulos
The goal of my project is to investigate divergent egalitarian responses to life conditions produced in and by the current economical crisis, which dominates so much of everyday life of the Greek people. The work will focus on lower-middle class and working class individuals and the intention is to explore analytically how differently positioned actors organise what can be described as a radically diverse, yet at times overlapping, grassroots social responses to hardship.
The nature of the project necessitates that I develop my research in two directions in order to investigate different forms of egalitarian activism. These two trajectories are seemingly parallel, yet seem also to be at times interlocked.
By Jacob Hjortsberg
Thomas Hylland Eriksen, the Norwegian anthropologist, has read Naomi Klein’s new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate (Klein 2014). His verdict? That Klein is being self-righteous. According to Hylland Eriksen, writing on his blog, Klein thinks that she is better than you, or, as he puts it, “holier-than-thou”.
It’s interesting, I think, that Hylland Eriksen chooses to focus on whether or not Naomi Klein thinks that she is morally superior to the corporate bosses who earn millions of dollars from destroying the ecosystem through fracking, that he chooses to critique her for being “smug” when she points out that we really really need to cut back on our emissions of green house gases if we want to have any plausible chance of avoiding a catastrophic 4 (or 5 or 6 or 7) degree C temperature increase by the end of the century. After all, instead of seeing this as a clear sign of Klein’s self-righteousness, he could have chosen to say that she is also just plainly right – or, to be more precise, that the facts that she is referring to are most probably correct, since they reflect a 97% scientific consensus – but still, he chooses to instead call her self-righteous. Now, why is that?
The Egalitarian Projects is strongly represented in Mangalore, India at the Manipal Centre for philosophy and humanities (MCPH), and through its director and head of research, Professor Sundar Sarukkai who is also on our advisory board.
Professor Sundar Sarukkai
Professor Sarukkai (PhD, Purdue University, USA) was a faculty member at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore from 1994-2009, before moving to Manipal to set up the MCPH. His area of research is primarily in the philosophy of science and mathematics, and draws on both Indian and Western philosophies. He is the author of the following books: Translating the World: Science and Language, Philosophy of Symmetry, Indian Philosophy and Philosophy of Science, What is Science? and The Cracked Mirror: An Indian Debate on Experience and Theory (co-authored with Gopal Guru), as well as co-editor of three volumes on logic.
He is further an Editorial Advisory Board member of the Leonardo Book Series on science and art, which is published by MIT Press, USA and the Series Editor for Science and Technology Studies, by Routledge books.
Manipal Centre for Philosophy and Humanities
This is a video of a lecture by professor Bruce Kapferer given at the University of Manchester, England
Abstract by Bruce Kapferer
The lecture begins with a discussion of Clyde Mitchell’s network perspective, its grounding in anthropological ethnography and its connection to the situational analytic perspective of Gluckman’s “Manchester School”. Gluckman was concerned to make Malinowski’s anthropological ethnographic innovation, developed in small-scale isolated traditional societies, relevant to the analysis of social and political processes in the dynamic complex social worlds of modernity. His point is also larger: that is all social contexts no matter how isolated are enmeshed in larger global processes. Gluckman was, in this sense critical of what might be termed ‘island anthropology’ which related societies as enclosed isolated wholes. Mitchell’s approach to networks is influenced by Gluckman’s situational approach as well as his critique of that anthropology that treated of societies as isolated wholes. This had the seeds of a critique of the grand narrative approaches of modern sociological theory and their often retreat into abstraction and a losing of sight of the on the ground processes that such abstraction was given to comprehend as well as inattention to the larger fields of political and social process in which they are enmeshed. Mitchell’s network perspective extended along these lines moreover insisting that institutional analysis, for example, should be traced into detailed accounts of social processes that the network perspective was oriented towards. Read more …
By Theodoros Rakopoulos
I am sipping salepi (salep), a popular hot beverage, in Thessaloniki’s Aristotle square, at the evening of the 25th of January, after the exit polls for what is hailed as a historical election are out. Lefties are gathered around me, chatting, chanting and even dancing: SYRIZA has won by a landslide. The salepi seller is a Greek from the Xanthi area, ethnically Turk, and stemming from what is conventionally, if unproblematically, called ‘a Muslim background’. He belongs to one of the most marginalized and oppressed groups in Greece; his job is extremely precarious. He explains to me that he got a bus early that morning to visit Xanthi and ‘vote for that kid’; that kid being Alexis Tsipras, the 40-year old maverick leader of SYRIZA. Then he adds a phrase that elucidates the profound class immobility of the country: “I don’t care; whoever wins, I shall still be on the streets, selling salepi; but I do care about the country, and the kid is the only moral person out there”.
Can elections produce embodied knowledge and collective sentiment? And most importantly, can they produce breach? The classic mantra ‘if elections were to change anything, they would be illegal’, falsely attributed to Emma Goldman, comes to mind. Part of the radical suspicion towards elections might be rooted in that the idea of individualist egalitarianism is intrinsic in contemporary election systems, rituals and processes. The adult citizen walks into a voting booth, to cast a personal opinion-cum-decision, which collectively produces, in the sum of its equal siblings across a sovereign territory, a governing administration for the coming years. This collective individualism as the normative method of voting, however, is coupled by the ritualized collective gatherings to celebrate a welcoming event, most often a shift in public decision and a breach in an administrative continuum.
By Alessandro Zagato & Natalia Arcos
“The earth is that from which we were born, that gave us life, and in which we will rest eternally. That is why we are all the colours that we are, all of the languages that our hearts speak; that is why we are peoples, tribes, and nations. We are the guardians of these lands, of this country Mexico, of this continent and of the world.” (EZLN, August 2014)
Between the 24th of January and the 15th of March, UIB Egalitarianism researcher Alessandro Zagato and Chilean art historian Natalia Arcos will participate in “Rights of Nature: Art and Ecology in the Americas”. This is an exhibition hosted by Nottingham Contemporary art centre in England, which will gather fifteen artists confronting the environmental crisis as it is plays out across the Americas, from the Andes to the Arctic.
Our participation, titled “Autonomy is Life” (Autonomia es Vida), won’t consist in the display of a conventional artwork. Rather it will present an organisation of a Space, which recreates a sort of “archive of Zapatismo”. This space will display various pieces of visual art and literature tightly related to (or produced by) the contemporary Zapatista movement of Chiapas, Mexico. On the 11th of March we will be present at the exhibition to give a workshop and a guided tour of the installation. For updated information on the schedule please visit nottinghamcontemporary.org.
Zapatismo, Art, and Ecology
The links between Zapatismo and aesthetics are fairly evident in our view. Many artists (some even very popular like French musician Manu Chao) have adopted elements of the Zapatista imaginary in their art production. However the Zapatista political process has since its beginning been deeply shaped by singular forms of aesthetics and poetics. These have been decisive in producing subversive content, communicating with the civil society, generating affinity of views and cohesion among activists, and stimulating their subjective flourishing – imagining (and experimenting with) ideas of equality for possible better worlds. This particular synthesis of politics and aesthetics has been vital to the process of constructing a real historical alternative, subverting what Jacques Ranciere (2006) has described as “distribution of the sensible”, the regime of conditions of possibility to perceive, think and act in a given social-historical situation.
The”Egalitarianism: Forms, Processes, Comparisons” project has kicked off with an exciting and productive initial week of workshops. During the course of the first week, each participant had the opportunity to present their preliminary project ideas, followed by discussions pertaining to the framework of each project. General discussions were held in regards to how to approach the exploration of “egalitarianism”, and several of the semester’s upcoming events were planned. During the first days, members of the supervisory board were present, as well as other visitors, including members of the Department of Social Anthropology in Bergen. From UiB, attending were Thorvald Sirnes, Annelinn Eriksen, Ruy Jesus Llera Blanes, and Michelle McCarthy, as well as visiting Doctoral Student William Dawley (UCSD) who sat in on a few sessions.
Professor Bruce Kapferer heading a seminar.
A significant part of the week was learning more about everyone’s academic backgrounds, and establishing a good group dynamic in order to generate productive future discussions. We were also fortunate to have the brilliant, Anna Szolucha visiting with for the entire first week.
The ERC-funded Egalitarianism Project hosted by the University of Bergen aims at a multi-dimensional critical approach to the issue of Egalitarianism. The concept of Egalitarianism is extraordinarily broad, as is the no less nebulous ideal of equality, having virtually ontological value in modern Euro-American thought, increasingly so globally.
How is egalitarianism negotiated and enacted in marginalized groups? What are the possible egalitarian dimensions of anonymous commentaries on digital fora? How is egalitarianism reflected in questions of gender and sexuality? What are the egalitarian potentials of technology?
These are only a few of the questions raised at the kick-off workshop of the ERC-funded research project “Egalitarianism: Forms, Processes, Comparisons” that took place on June 2nd -3rd 2014 at the House of Literature in Bergen. 24 national and international researchers participated in an intense program, exchanging ideas and research findings related to the ambitious questions of concern to the project.
In September 2014 Postdoctoral fellows Theodoros Rakopoulos and Alessandro Zagato were appointed to the Egalitarianism project.
Theodoros Rakopoulos is a social anthropologist with a PhD from Goldsmiths. His research interests include cooperatives, the dialectics between ‘community’ and economy, and the social arrangements of land reform and food activism. He has carried out fieldwork on rural anti-mafia cooperatives in Sicily (2008-9) focusing on land restitution, neighbourliness and labour relations, and on the anti-middleman movement of food distribution side-lining market brokers during the Greek crisis (2013-ongoing). Rapopoulos has published a number of peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, and is currently completing a monograph on “Antimafia Cooperatives”. Future projects include exploring the relationship of anthropological and fictional writing.