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Department of Social Anthropology


Critique Refigured: Art, Activism and Politics in Post-Recession Dublin 

Dr Natalie Morningstar (University of Cambridge)

This paper argues that the anthropology of critique has been hampered by an implicit framing of critique as the content of, rather than an orientation to, knowledge about the world. It does so building on an ethnographic account of the practices of a group of critical citizens in post-recession Dublin, Ireland. It stages a comparison between two different forms of critique of importance to them: art and activism. Contrary to the assumption that activism and detachment, and moral advocacy and empiricism, are at odds, this ethnographic comparison reveals that here, the ultimate critical skill is thought to be the ability to take up different critical attitudes. Moreover, it isn’t a lack of detachment but the creation of a ‘critical community’ that makes critique political. Drawing from this ethnographic instance of what counts as critique, this paper thus makes a case for an anthropology of critique as itself a certain kind of critical practice – one that is becoming increasingly urgent as critique as we know it has come to exhibit a hegemony of form, both in the social sciences and public cultures of debate.


Please note the venue for this term's seminars is lecture theatre A, in the Arts School (,0.119533,17).

Friday, 28 January, 2022 - 16:15 to 18:00
Event location: 
Lecture Theatre A, Arts School