By whose authority: investigating alternative modes of power and the legitimization of expertise 
Arne Steinforth (York University)
Sandra Widmer (York University)
Relational movements: States, Politics and Knowledge/Mouvements relationnels: États, politiques et savoirs
LMX 220
Start time:
6 May, 2017 at 8:30 (UTC+0)
Session slots:

Short Abstract:

How might anthropologists contextualise claims about entering a "post-factual" world? This panel explores modes by which authority (economic, medical, technical, political, etc.) is negotiated in local settings vis-a-vis the spread of global institutions and universalizing forms of knowledge.

Long Abstract:

How might anthropologists contextualise claims that we are now entering a "post-factual" world? This panel explores the variety of ways in which authority is contested, particularly with the expansion of global institutions and the rapid spread of universalizing forms of knowledge. Failing to generate a homogenous modernity that invariably overrules local concepts by the power of its principles, these globalized developments urge questions concerning which institution, what kind of knowledge, or whose expertise is accepted as authoritative - questions indicating complex mechanisms of negotiation that highlight the specificities and pluralities in 'modern' society. The inherent contradictions between what is perceived as local vs. global forms of knowledge, between different discourses vying for social acceptance, constitute an open-ended process that questions traditions, creates spaces, transforms hierarchies, and prioritizes values.

This panel addresses the different strategies by which conflicting perspectives on authority are negotiated in local settings. It fosters critical debate on different modes to maintain (and challenge) social structures or institutions that allocate decision-making privileges to groups of people based on specific criteria (e.g. claims of scientific expertise, democratic legitimacy, moral normativity, economic viability, technical consistency, etc.). The panel invites contributors highlighting the processes of negotiation between conflicting claims of authority. Possible contributions may investigate discourses on science and religion in local healing practices, the impact of biopolitics or material resources on local policy, competitions between "traditional" versus "bureaucratic" forms of authority in government, grassroots environmentalism challenging technical knowledge on land use, or discussions concerning outsider/insider expertise of political candidates in U.S. political landscapes, among many others.

Accepted papers: