of Power: Culture, Governmentality, & Market in Transition
Society for Cultural Anthropology
San Francisco, 1999
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
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:
can anthropologists assess the nature of intervention by
agencies like the World Bank, and by multilateral agreements
(the Multilateral Investments Agreement) in different countries?
are the cultural logics and implications of the out-sourcing
of state functions to capital and transnational entities?
is constitutional power transformed by the refigurings of
have events and conjunctures of globalization disrupted
social formations, bringing about new cultural and political
relations to capital?
are new modes of state power?
are the roles of the state, and capital, in producing new
social geographies of property, nationality, and graduated
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?
and what are peripheralized as regional cultural logics
become instruments of transnational power and models of
of regulation and citizenship:
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?
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?
can the anthropological sensibility be recast in order to
grasp, track, and take into account emerging power structures
that transform social life?
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
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