What is it like to be someone who once had, who actively desires, or currently has power over others? Inspired by Jean-Jacques Rousseau's belief in the supremacy of 'The General Will', the panel aims to illuminate the actual experiences of having power and being at the apex of a collective tide.
Inspired by Jean-Jacques Rousseau's belief in the supremacy of 'The General Will', this panel will explore what is it like to be responsible for the carrying out of the 'The General Will'? Anthropologists have done much over the years to elaborate the perspective of the subaltern - those 'under' the power of others. Anthropologists have also been adept at revealing the various limits of 'The General Will'. But what does it feel like to have power from highest vantage point? How is power defined from within, and how do power holders handle their own interests in relation to competing forces from without? This panel seeks to delve into experiences of power, aspirations to dominate political ground, symbolic capital, or simply, to have influence over others. It invites reflections on power holders past and present, including on the declining fortunes of previously important organizations, concepts, or even famous individuals. We welcome contextualized and historicized studies of governmental, political, kinship, intellectual, artistic or religious leaders, and of famous and influential (or once-famous or influential) figures in any part of the world. The key assumption of the panel is that anthropology has not sufficiently engaged with the phenomenological consequences of power among the powerful, nor has it properly explored the fragile and unpredictable qualities of power in decline. The panel invites submissions from all branches of anthropology, including anthropology of religion, history, politics, art, science and so on.
Lucia Michelutti (University College London)
Bethany Honeysett (University of Edinburgh)