This roundtable discussion is inspired by Keith Hart's work to understand world society and history through human lives and how people are connected. We bring these questions into dialogue with his interest in different writing forms and strategies within and beyond ethnography.
This roundtable is inspired on three counts by Keith Hart's ideas of understanding world society and history through people and restoring humanity and human social relations to the study of economy. The first is that we must learn to think of world society and people not as different ends of a scale - big and small - but as co-constitutive. A human life can be the ground from where we launch our investigations into the world. The individual life encompasses worlds and we can read worlds through individual lives. Understanding world history and society through life histories, journeys and migrations uncovers new connections and relations. The second, is to understand how people are connected. Money, currency, is one such critical window onto the dialectical movement between local and global, personal and impersonal with far greater social remit in Hart's approach than that posited by classical economics or, indeed, mainstream anthropology. If we are to study world society and history, imagining new possibilities that do not intensify global inequalities, we must recognise the multiple currents and currencies of people's lives holding worlds together. The third intervention brings these questions into dialogue with Hart's openness to different ways of writing: how should we best cross intellectual boundaries to write the world, unifying perspectives from life, art and science? We will consider how other approaches and disciplines have tackled these issues as method and writing strategy - and how ethnographic writing can learn from, for example, history, literary studies, (auto)biography and fiction.