Aarhus Universitets segl

Anarchism today: An Ethnography of David Graeber

Departmental Seminar with Victor Sacha Cova, Assistant Professor, University of Cambridge in association with the extended seminar programme ‘A New History of Humanity?'

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Torsdag 16. november 2023,  kl. 14:15 - 16:00


 Moesgaard Aud 2, Room 4206-129 – or join us live on Zoom


Graeber is one of the few anthropologists who have become social facts - whose popularity changes his status for other anthropologists from that of a colleague with whose theories one may or may not agree, to an object of cultural significance both to be explained and that can help shed light onto the contemporary social world. It is easy to find fault with his work - countless articles and blog posts have shown that his treatment of this or that phenomenon doesn't get the facts right, or that whatever explanation he gives is too simplistic. While these criticisms often hit correctly, they miss the phenomenon itself: that a plethora of people, from chair of the editorial board of the Financial Times Gillian Tett to average Joes and Janes buying his books at the airport and reading them during their lunch breaks, he seems to get something right. I encountered Graeber in conversations with some of my informants when doing fieldwork in Aarhus at a self-described fristed called Sidesporet where people can drink cheap beer, smoke weed and listen to punk music under an anarchist flag - as well as a Tibetan one. It is very much like the sort of places where Graeber also hung out as an activist - and which he studied as an anthropologist. I propose in this talk to look at the ways that Sidesporet can help clarify the significance of David Graeber today, and at the ways that David Graeber can shed a light on Sidesporet - not as an anthropological theory to an ethnographic object, but as two ethnographic objects, not unlike the Bible can help shed light on what it is to be Christian in Amazonia and vice-versa, or how Bourdieu's work relates to the life of his secret admirer in the Caucasus, a dissident Chechen intellectual turned warlord (Derluguian 2005).

The event is hosted by the Research Programme of Anthropology and the Research Project Poverty-work, funded by the Velux Foundation.

The Departmental Seminar Series features lectures in contemporary ethnography organised by the Research Programme of Anthropology in collaboration with professors and PI’s. The seminars seek insight into the dialectic between current ethnography and anthropological reflections. Responses and conversation are led by Anders Sybrandt Hansen, leading to more open questions and discussion.

Cova’s lecture is part of the “New History of Humanity” theme at the School of Culture and Society, AU, leading up to the Futures Lecture on 7 December 2023 with David Wengrow. Wengrow co-authored the book The Dawn of Everything (2021) together with the late American anthropologist and anarchist activist David Graeber who passed away in 2020.