Accepted Paper:

Reimagining the academy as a generous ecology of practices. Or, could a conference become a potlach?  
Toby Austin Locke (Goldsmiths College)

Paper short abstract:

Through possible dialogues between Marcel Mauss's The Gift and the work of Isabelle Stengers on Cosmopolitics, I seek to open possibilities for reimagining academia as a generous ecology of practices through which autonomous spaces of value may emerge and generous analytics replace critique.

Paper long abstract:

In Why has Critique run out of Steam, Bruno Latour sketches the desert emergent of the dominance of the critical tendency in scholarly practice. In its endless iconoclasm, uncovering and unmasking, critique leaves nothing untouched, dissolving all theories, models and concepts through the sheer force of its critical gaze. The figure of the critical analyst comes to rule absolutely, but they rule across a decimated landscape hollowed out of meaning, significance, and friendship. It is an unpopulated landscape, scared by the battles of the intellect. The critical iconoclastic gesture taken to its extremity leads to a nihilistic cynicism through which the brightness of enlightenment comes to shine only across a desert in which despondency rules.

The latent seeds of an alternative mode of scholarly practice that might be able to flourish in this hostile landscape are already with us in the works of Mauss and Stengers, and more crucially in conversations between their works.

Mauss's essay The Gift presents generosity as a primordial underpinning of human sociability. Generosity is an obligation which in turn obligates further generosity. In this sense it is a recursive foundation to human sociability. Drawing on Stenger's identification of specific obligations as a way of identifying varying modes of knowledge production, I hope to explore ways in which this primordial obligation of generosity might itself become enshrined within scholarly practice through the psychosocial type of 'the idiot' in Stengers and that of the 'humble giver' in Mauss.

Panel B08
Generosity and analysis