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Senior Research Seminar: Dr Anastasia Piliavsky

When Oct 30, 2015
from 04:15 PM to 06:00 PM
Where Seminar Room, Social Anthropology
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Dr Anastasia Piliavsky
(University of Cambridge)

The morals of effect in north India’s goonda raj (rule of strongmen)

In this talk I examine the moral sense behind the spectacular success of goondas (strongmen) in north Indian political life. I do so by way of a comment on intellectual method in the anthropology of moralities, and especially on the recent adoption of virtue as a general analytic for moral life. Drawing on research conducted across northern India, I show that when people celebrate strongmen as leaders, they do so not because they see in them virtuous men (they are mostly men), but because they believe that goondas can 'get things done'. This stance bespeaks neither a simple instrumentalism nor a virtue ethics with an alternative portfolio of virtues, but an altogether different moral teleology oriented by action rather than character. Insofar as this sensibility challenges the contrast between ‘moral’ and ‘practical’ considerations, it also invites reflections on the limits of ‘the moral' as such.

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