Tag Archives: Bruce Kapferer

Bruce Kapferer: The Hau complicity: An event in the crisis of anthropology

Hau is a phenomenon. It burst on the scene of the relatively small academic scholarly world of anthropology capturing scholars from around the globe into its spirit. Hau rapidly established itself as a premier journal in the discipline with an increasing defining role for anthropology. It was becoming a power in the field legitimating reputations and concerned with building them. Perhaps most surprising (but less so on reflection) was the speed of its ascent within the academic community largely through the efforts of its inspiration, the founding editor whose journey describes a kind of Rake’s Progress (or threatens to do so). The ambiguities and hesitancies in defense and attack, reported injuries, moral ire that are surrounding the characterization of his alleged behavior refracts critical features of Hau’s rise and not least the complicity, intentional or otherwise, of those who aided and abetted the rise of Hau (David Graeber’s public confession being an egregious example). The whole sad story (in some ways reflecting the current tragedy of anthropology as a discipline) manifests the sociopolitical crisis affecting global realities that has particular effect and expression in the plight of Hau. The progress of Hau embodies a critical moment perhaps a turning point in the history of the discipline that is not reducible to the responsibility of the editor (although he might be described as anthropology’s Trump), regardless of the fact that so much blame seems to be piling up around his feet (see also Kalb, Murphy, and Neveling on Focaalblog).

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Bruce Kapferer: Ideas on populism: The paradox of democracy and the rise of the corporate state

“All forms of the state have democracy for their truth, and for that reason are false to the extent that they are not democracy.”
— Karl Marx, Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right

“The power of the people is always greater than that of the people in power.”
— Wael Ghonim, a Google executive at the time of Egypt’s popular uprising against President Hosni Mubarak

When Hillary Clinton attempted to counter Donald Trump and his supporters’ populist attacks by explicitly branding them a “basket of deplorables, racist, sexist, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it,” she was hoist on her own petard. The chant “Lock Her Up” drew its enormous potency from her alleged corruption and from her being a figurehead of the ruling Washington elites who have leached the American state’s democratic egalitarian idealism. Calling Trump and his followers racist and sexist was waving a red rag to a bull. She played on a negative view of populism, an immanent antidemocratic elitism, which elicited outrage, making a mockery of her own populist appeal. The occasionally rank dominant-class prejudice that accompanies antipopulist sentiments (including those that assume it is a working-class phenomenon, when it is frequently cross-class) was egregiously apparent in a CNN pundit’s observation that Trump “was throwing red meat to the base” in his highly controversial travel bans.

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Bruce Kapferer: Brexit and Remain: A pox on all their houses

A crisis is always good for humor. The English satirical magazine Private Eye caught the spirit of uncertainty and the possible tragedy of Brexit—that many of those who voted for it may have intensified their abjection as a result. One spoof comment for The Daily Turkeygraph (a composite of the conservative Daily Mail and Telegraph papers) written by Jeremy Paxo (a reference to the news commentator Jeremy Paxman, also a brand of stuffing mix) was headlined “TURKEYS VOTE FOR CHRISTMAS IN REFERENDUM CLIFFHANGE.R. Another for The Indepandent (sic, The Independent, a liberal/conservative paper) headlined “BRITAIN VOTES TO LEAVE FRYING PAN AND JUMP INTO FIRE.”
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