To whom accrue the spoils, the risks, and the labours of our collective endeavours? This laboratory uses two keywords, 'risk' and 'value', to explore the anthropology of distribution. Four lab participants present work on new technologies of social assistance and discipline.
The opening clarion of the twenty-first century may be remembered as a global procession of economic crises, insurgencies, and populisms, all drawing heightened attention to the politics of distribution. Although a perennial sociopolitical theme, at this historical juncture its possibilities seem to be thrown radically open, as James Ferguson's work suggests. New economic and social imaginaries now compete in the laboratory of discourse where (neo)liberal modes of distribution once asserted their hegemony. They give rise to new technologies of assistance and discipline (from microfinance to the cashless welfare card), new subjectivities and rhetorics of entitlement (from India's Right to Education Act to the United States' 'Make America Great Again'), and new geographies of empowerment and impoverishment (from the 'global city' to the 'global slum', as Saskia Sassen shows). What windows can a renewed anthropology of distribution open upon these new landscapes? What new modalities of risk and value, embodiment and emplacement may we therein detect? What does this mean for the most vulnerable? And what formerly unthinkable forms of 'poverty politics', as Victoria Lawson and Sarah Elwood term it, become thinkable? In this laboratory, we ask you to join us in exploring the diverse contexts and theoretical implications of a transforming politics of distribution. Over two sessions, each devoted to a keyword ('value' and 'risk'), we will hear from our four convenors (7 minutes each per session) and our four invited discussants (two per session), before opening up the floor for discussion.