Desire and the ethnography of economic and political change
Holly High (Sydney University)
Henrietta L. Moore (University College London)
Yannis Stavrakakis (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki)
Invited workshops
Theatre S1
Wednesday 11 July, 11:30-13:15, 14:30-16:15 (UTC+0)

Short abstract:

The aim of the panel is to rethink theoretical and empirical approaches to the analysis of desire. In particular, we invite contributions that bring together explicit theorizations of desire with empirical accounts of political and economic change. By bringing these into dialogue with one another, we aim to provide a critical perspective on both.

Long abstract:

The conference theme points to the anxieties that have met many contemporary economic and political changes. Yet uncertainty, disquiet and anxiety are arguably only secondary to that more basic element of human politics and economy: desire. For instance, crises of debt, spending cuts carried out in their name and the social movements that have challenged these, have pulled on uncertainties and disquiet about the future. But they have also significantly, perhaps primarily, found formation through the fantasies born of desire. Likewise, the expansion of modern markets and states into formerly peripheral places, and the knitting together of diverse regions via intensified resource exploration, have been discussed most often in terms of either incorporation or resistance among peripheral peoples. Yet ethnographic accounts of these peoples have demonstrated that there are local configurations of desire for (among other things) states, markets and imagined riches which are neither simply ideology nor dominant transcripts: local desires for political and economic engagement appear to be cultural in ways that require theoretical critique and empirical investigation. The starting point, we suggest, should be an explicit theorization of such desires in relation to political and economic change. The aim is to bring desire into conversations where it has hitherto played little role and make its implications explicit in those conversations where it has, too often, played merely the role of a poetic word for "want". We understand desire in terms a re-reading of psychoanalysis that insists on sensitivity to the way cultures slip and slide differently around the question of desire, and its impossibility (Moore 2007:183). We also welcome papers that deploy desire based on critical readings of Deleuze, Foucault and others.