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CRASSH Workshop: Hierarchy, Egalitarianism & Responsibility

When May 13, 2016 09:30 AM to
May 14, 2016 06:00 PM
Where CRASSH (SG1&2), Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, CB3 9DT
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Conveners

Dr Anastasia Piliavsky (University of Cambridge)
Professor Joel Robbins (University of Cambridge)
Dr Vita Peacock (University College London)

Summary

Il faut esperer qu'eu jeu la finira bientôtThe world today faces a crisis of responsibility. We have no idea how to assign responsibility for the meltdown of 2008 or the noxious air and water with which many of the world’s denizens must still live. Nor do we know how to make our own grandees—bankers, oligarchs, CEOs, political leaders—effectively accountable at all. Impersonal and increasingly automated regulative processes—bureaucracy, auditing, financial software and the like—deepen confusion still further by eliminating human subjects as carriers of responsibility.  

Our workshop explores the deep social roots of this crisis through a comparative investigation of different cultural orders of responsibility. Bringing social anthropologists into conversation with philosophers and other social scientists, we will examine how different social orders—hierarchical, individualist, egalitarian—distribute responsibility, allocate social duties, and hold their members to account. How do the different ways of placing persons within a society relate to the different cultural allocation of responsibility? How do different norms of personhood and relatedness shape conceptions of social obligation and prescribe means of discharging it? What happens to structures of responsibility when regimes of valuation shift or radically transform? And how do the different orders of responsibility relate to the asymmetries of power and privilege, and the ways these are normatively conceived?

Hierarchy offers an instructive contrast to the Euro-American case, since it allocates responsibility with a clarity lacking in egalitarian schemes. What lessons might egalitarians draw from hierarchical modes of allocating responsibility? And in what ways do hierarchical arrangements already resemble the egalitarian, in ways an egalitarian normative sense may fail to appreciate or even recognize? What can we learn from alternative egalitarian and individualist schemes?  And finally, how do these reflections help us to square the notion of individual, equally distributed responsibility with the de facto asymmetries of resources, status and power, and the stated requirements of accountability?
 
This workshop challenges the ‘flattening’ of the social terrain both in popular imagination and in social theory, which relies increasingly on individualist tropes like ‘agency’ and socially horizontal, mechanistic models like ‘networks’ or ‘reciprocity’. In doing this, we hope to bring into sharper focus the rapidly globalizing egalitarian normativity, whose implications are as political as they are intellectual.

For more information and to register visit CRASSH:Hierarchy, Egalitarianism & Responsibility

 

Programme

DAY ONE FRIDAY 13 MAY

9:30-10:50
Chair: Joel Robbins (Cambridge)
Anastasia Piliavsky (Cambridge): Hierarchy as responsible life
Hallvard Lillehammer (Birkbeck): What do I owe? Moral responsibility and circumstantial luck

10:50-11:20
COFFEE BREAK

11:20-12:40
Chair: Beverley Skeggs (Goldsmiths)
Rupert Stasch (Cambridge): Indigenous egalitarianism and exogenous domination: Paradoxes of hierarchy in state formation at the far periphery
David Gellner (Oxford):Ghosts of hierarchies past: Disasters, inequality, and blame in Nepal

12:40-13:40
LUNCH

13:40-15:00
Chair: James Laidlaw (Cambridge)
Vita Peacock (UCL): From Verantwortung to vendetta: a comparative tale of hierarchy and its absence
Beverley Skeggs (Goldsmiths): Allocating responsibility without resources: Pathological performance on reality TV

15:00-15:20
COFFEE

15:20-16:00
Chair: Caroline Humphrey (Cambridge)
Harri Englund (Cambridge): Liberalism and ethnography
James Laidlaw (Cambridge): Responsibility and the self: beyond holism and individualism

16:00-16:40
Beverley Skeggs (Goldsmiths): Allocating responsibility without resources: Pathological performance on reality TV

16:40-17:00
COFFEE

17:00-17:40
Chair: André Iteanu (CNRS)


DAY 2 SATURDAY 14 MAY

9:30-10:50
Chair: Anastasia Piliavsky (Cambridge)
Nick Evans (Cambridge): The Caliph who cannot be wrong: How an infallible hierarchy demands loose accountability
Ward Keeler (Austin, Texas): Taking responsibility vs. being accountable: What people expect of their politicians

10:50-11:20
COFFEE

11:20-12:40
Chair: Bruce Kapferer (CNRS)
Caroline Humphrey (Cambridge): Shamanism and moral responsibility
Guido Sprenger (Heidelberg): Spirits and systems: The shape of hierarchies and the distribution of responsibility in Southeast Asia and ‘Western modernity’

12:40-13:40
LUNCH

13:40-15:00
Chair: Harri Englund (UCL)
Joel Robbins (Cambridge): What are the prospects for a responsible egalitarianism? Melanesian configurations of value and responsibility
Ayçe Zarakol (Cambridge): Hierarchies in world politics

15:00-15:20
COFFEE

15:20-16:40
Chair: Ward Keeler (U of Texas Austin)
David Sneath (Cambridge) TBC
Harri Siikala (University of Virginia): Hierarchy, egalitarianism, and chiefly authority in Samoa

16:40-17:00
COFFEE

17:00-17:40
Chair: Vita Peacock (UCL)
André Iteanu (CNRS): The confusion of private and public violence

 

Main homepage image credit: Drinks party guests peer down as Anonymous activists are confronted by police. (credit: Vita Peacock, 5 November 2015, London)