ASA14: Anthropology and Enlightenment


Towards a gendered economic anthropology/ towards a gendered critique of political economy

Location Appleton Tower, Seminar Room 2.11
Date and Start Time 22 June, 2014 at 09:00


Victoria Goddard (Goldsmiths College, University of London) email
Frances Pine (Goldsmiths College, University of London) email
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This workshop explores the potential of a gender-aware economic anthropology to articulate a vigorous critique of current economic models, in the context of the ongoing crisis of market models, austerity and debt.

Long Abstract

Taking Hart, Laville and Cattani's call for a Human Economy as our starting point, the workshop explores the potential of a gender-aware approach to economic models to provide a useful critical perspective on current economic models and practices. We highlight the richness of the anthropological tradition in elaborating such critiques and aim to advance current debates by drawing on anthropology's rich conceptual and methodological tool-box. From early debates in the discipline about exploitation, value, systems of production and exchange, we propose to engage with, and extend, anthropology's ongoing critical engagement with neoliberalism(s), the market and individualism. Gender approaches to labour markets and work, particularly those which critiqued received wisdom about 'natural' economic orders, and a 'natural' division of labour, made early inroads into understanding the ways in which markets and economic actors are culturally constituted. How do theories and ethnographies of gender relations and categories inform possible critiques of 'Homo Economicus''? Scale is central to the questions we pose: for example, how may the analysis of households and local communities provide insights into the global movements of capital and broad trends of deindustrializion and financialization? and how might we effectively trace the effects of these processes on households, communities and different categories of person?

Discussant: Barbara Bodenhorn (University of Cambridge)

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Making humans, making people: the under valuation of biological and social reproduction in social and economic theories

Authors: Christine Oppong  email
Amma Oppong-Odiseng  email


This paper addresses the ultimate gender bias in economic models, that is the undervaluation (or complete neglect) of biological and social reproduction or economies of care, using evidence on human development outcomes from Ghana and Botswana.

Long Abstract

This paper is about the ultimate gender bias in economic models, undervaluation (or neglect) of biological and social reproduction. Implications of this are explored with regard to levels of human development achieved in Ghana and Botswana, two countries with recent rapidly rising economic indicators, widely lauded by economists. Yet in both counties a plethora of ethnographic, medical and demographic evidence demonstrates serious shortfalls in human development, signalling malfunctioning of economies of care. This evidence includes high tides of under five under nutrition and rising numbers of infants and young children suffering from arrested development, autism and other signs of attention deficit disorders, even in non poor households. One might argue that many of the domestic groups in which these children are living and growing up are zombie households - lacking the caring familial contexts which the young need for optimum development. Challenges for (medical) anthropological and economic theory and analysis are highlighted and some achievements of feminist economics in this regard are outlined on economies of care. The conclusion calls for greater application of energy and resources to inter-disciplinarity in the human sciences and a greater focus by anthropologists on the big pictures and issues of global human development and a greater determination to affect and impact public opinion and policy making, in particular to humanize economics and influence the hegemonic neoliberal discourses which mould national agendas,affecting household resource availability and individual decision making.

Care and career among young people in the Czech Republic and Norway

Author: Haldis Haukanes (University of Bergen)  email


The paper explores processes of naturalization and denaturalization of gendered work and divisions of labour through a focus on (possible) tensions emerging between care work and professional success in the life-scripts of young women and men in the Czech Republic and Norway.

Long Abstract

Feminist anthropologists and sociologists of work have critiqued ideas about 'natural' economic orders and divisions of labour, and have also made strong effort to deconstruct and de-gender the care - work divide (Christensen and Syltevik 2013, Thelen 2007, Wærness 2000). However, in public debates about gendered work and women's labour maket participation, care is still often associated with the private sphere, the female and altruism, while work/production is associated with the public sphere, the male and economically based individualism. Building on recent feminist scholarship on the complex interconnections between care work and other forms of labour, and on research on globalization and the "flexibilization" of work, the paper explores processes of naturalization and denaturalization of gendered work and divisions of labour. More specifically, it examines (possible) tensions emerging between care work and professional success in the life-scripts of young women and men in the Czech Republic and Norway, two countries with a high level of female labour market participation but with distinctively different welfare policies and care-work regimes.

The solidarity economy of Greece: gender-aware critiques to crisis in the realm of distribution?

Author: Theodoros Rakopoulos (University of Oslo)  email


Enlightenment-deriving solidarity economy is gendered; this ethnographic-based analysis of food distribution and the new social economy of Greece, reviews how crisis rearranges people's priorities and poses alternative political imagination, arranged across class and gender lines for many.

Long Abstract

Submerged reciprocities in crisis-ridden Greece are coming to the fore in the form of grassroots solidarity economies. Such practices rising during (and, partly, because of) the crisis in Greece, urge us to rethink a neglected pillar of political Enlightenment: solidarity. Current debate on the Greek debt crisis and associated austerity politics and recession is often predicated upon an idea of a politicised social movement, presenting responses to the crisis "merely" through livelihoods-seeking activities. This paper, based on ethnographic fieldwork among participants in informal solidarity networks of food distribution, proposes that anthropological discussions on crisis should retain the ability of scale to review questions about Enlightenment's political legacy, reviewing the ideas people endow their everyday practices with. It attempts to revisit the idea of 'solidarity' rather than 'moral' economy for Greece, in order to locate the crisis and the priorities it bears, within the, gendered, participants' paradigms. Thus it takes into account the radical anti-austerity ideas of research

interlocutors, who are organised to bridge the distribution of foodstuff from rural areas to Athens, cutting out middlemen and brokers. Following the development of these solidarity economies in Athens, and the usage of the term 'movementality', it suggests that resistance to the crisis'

effects can offer a diagnostic of the broader picture, beyond claims for moral economies for Greece. The paper argues that what is original for the country's case and significant in terms of a discussion on solidarity in Anthropology is the grassroots responses to the crisis rather than macroeconomic themes.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.