Diagrams of revolution: an experiment with social and material morphologies

Martin Holbraad (University College, London)
Examination Schools East School
Start time:
21 September, 2018 at 9:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

This panel proposes a thought-experiment: what if such projects of social transformation as revolutions were to be conceived and analyzed by analogy to diagrams? What might we understand about the dynamics of such social transformations if we attend to their diagrammatic qualities?

Long abstract:

This panel explores the anthropological dividends of a subjunctive thought-experiment: what if projects of social transformation were to be conceived and analysed by analogy to diagrams? What might we understand about the dynamics of social transformation if we attend to its diagrammatic qualities? And what effects might this have for anthropological methodology at large? The premise for the experiment is that projects of social transformation involve what might be termed 'relational reductions'. In order to imagine and subsequently implement alternatives to existing social orders, these orders must be conceived abstractly in terms of the altered relationships they seek to precipitate. Focusing on revolutions as examples of projects of social transformation par excellence, the idea of relational reduction is well illustrated by the Jacobin call for 'liberty, equality, fraternity' - the programme of revolution presented abstractly as a recasting of the shapes of social relationships, in a notional diagram of sorts. This panel invites papers that dig deep into the ethnography of socially transformative political projects, such as revolutions, to probe their diagrammatic qualities: how relational configurations are figured, refigured and enacted in different social settings, to bring about diverse political and social effects. In order to explore the methodological dividends of such a morphological approach, panellists are invited to present their ethnography in diagrammatic ways, experimenting with the analytical as well as socio-political possibilities of graphic representations of different kinds. Explicit reflections about the methodological implications of the use of diagrams in anthropological research are also welcome.