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Discussion | Presence, Obligation, and the Politics of Distribution

12/02 Friday | 8am

The Oikos working group at NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge invites you to join us for an open discussion with James Ferguson about his recent book, Give a Man a Fish: Reflections on the New Politics of Distribution (Duke University Press, 2015). The book explores the rise of cash-transfer programs in southern Africa and elsewhere in order to interrogate new forms of political mobilization in conditions of mass unemployment and poverty. Over the course the book, Ferguson shows how these programs challenge fundamental premises about markets, personhood, and well-being and invite us to rethink the emerging social and political possibilities of contemporary capitalism.

Please note that our discussion will assume familiarity with the book. To pick up a copy of the book in advance of the discussion, please email siera[dot]dissmore[at]nyu[dot]edu.

After the book discussion, Professor Ferguson will give a talk followed by a Q&A. Entitled “Presence and Social Obligation: An Essay on the Share,” the talk builds on the themes of the book:

In a recent book, I analyzed the figure of the share as a principle of distribution of social protection payments or “cash transfers” in the global South in general, and in southern Africa in particular. Nothing that today’s existing schemes of distribution are (like all “social” schemes before them) limited by principles of nation-state membership, I concluded with the suggestion that it may be possible to detect new logics of social obligation emerging that work not according to a logic of citizenship and national membership, but according to a principle that I called “presence.” This paper is an attempt to elaborate this conception, and to develop a more complete account of how such an understanding of presence might provide a basis both for an expanded sense of social obligation and for more inclusionary forms of politics.

James Ferguson is Susan S. and William H. Hindle Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences and Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University. He is the author of numerous books, including Global Shadows: Africa in the Neoliberal World Order and The Anti-Politics Machine: Development, Depoliticization, and Bureaucratic Power in Lesotho, and co-editor of Culture, Power, and Place: Explorations in Critical Anthropology.

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