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Department of Social Anthropology


Dr Matteo Benussi (University of Cambridge)

Ethics and Emancipation: An Autonomist Reading of Russia’s Islamic Revival and Other Forms-of-Life

This paper seeks to investigate the politics of ethics – and, specifically, to explore the emancipatory potential of collective projects of self-cultivation – by drawing on a reformulation of the Wittgeinsteinian notion of “form-of-life” offered by Giorgio Agamben and the French philosophical collective Tiqqun. It will be argued that 1) Agamben’s form-of-life concept and the related distinction between Rule and Law are particularly helpful to understand the structural tensions that often emerge between demanding ethical projects and the moral/political mainstream, and 2) this framework, indebted to the autonomist tradition, may bring fresh input to an anthropological field of study dominated by communalist approaches. Although the main ethnographic focus of this paper is the Islamic “halal movement” currently expanding in Russia’s Idel-Ural region, this argument and some of its corollaries will be tested against a number of additional case studies.

Friday, 31 May, 2019 - 16:15 to 18:00
Event location: 
Edmund Leach Room, Department of Social Anthropology, Free School Lane, Cambridge