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Political Studies Program, Environmental and Urban Studies Program, Anthropology Program, and Africana Studies Program present

A Rightful Share: Beyond Gift and Market in the Politics of Distribution

James Ferguson
Professor of Anthropology, Stanford University

Thursday, April 10, 2014

This paper develops an argument that new kinds of welfare states in the global South are opening up possibilities for new sorts of politics.  Against an analysis of the limitations of traditional ideas of nationalization in Africa, it seeks to show that new forms of social assistance are allowing the question of national ownership of wealth to be reimagined in new ways -- ways that may allow the idea of a ”rightful share” to take on a quite different significance than it does in traditional discussions of nationalization of natural resources. Taking recent campaigns for a “Basic Income Grant” (BIG) in South Africa and Namibia as a window onto these new political possibilities, it argues that a new politics of distribution is emerging, in which citizenship-based claims to a share of national wealth are beginning to be recognizable as an alternative to both the paradigm of the market (where goods are received in exchange for labor) and that of “the gift” (where social transfers to those excluded from wage labor have been conceived as aid, charity, or assistance).  Beyond the binary of market and gift, the idea of “a rightful share”, it is suggested, opens possibilities for radical political claims that could go far beyond the limited, technocratic aim of ameliorating poverty that dominates existing cash transfer programs.

James Ferguson is the Susan S. and William H. Hindle Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences, and Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University. His research has focused on southern Africa (especially Lesotho, Zambia, South Africa, and Namibia), and has engaged a broad range of theoretical and ethnographic issues.  His works include The Anti-Politics Machine: 'Development,' Depoliticization, and Bureaucratic Power in Lesotho; Expectations of Modernity: Myths and Meanings of Urban Life on the Zambian Copperbelt; and Global Shadows: Africa in the Neoliberal World Order.

For more information, call 845-758-7219, or e-mail ysuzuki@bard.edu.

Time: 4:45 pm

Location: Reem-Kayden Center Laszlo Z. Bito '60 Auditorium