Declarations of Dependence: Labor, Personhood, and Welfare in South Africa and Beyond
James Ferguson (Anthropology, Stanford University)
Tuesday, May 19 / 11:00 AM
McCune Conference Room
South Africa has in recent decades gone through a wrenching transformation from a labor-scarce society to a labor-surplus one. Labor scarcity through most of the 19th and 20th centuries led to forms of social solidarity and social personhood that had significant continuities with the pre-colonial past (continuities that are obscured by conventional narratives that emphasize the rise of capitalism as a complete and comprehensive break with the past). It is suggested that the South African experience reveals, in an extreme and clarifying form, a set of processes that are occurring in many other parts of the world. Better understanding such processes may help us to find our way past some of the current impasses in progressive politics. James Ferguson is Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University. Ferguson’s most recent book, Global Shadows: Africa in the Neoliberal World Order, was published by Duke University Press in 2006. He is now beginning a new research project in South Africa, exploring the emergence of new problematics of poverty and social policy under conditions of neoliberalism.
Sponsored by the IHC’s African Studies RFG, the Department of History, and the Department of Anthropology.