Late Liberalism, Ontopower and Anthropological Equipment
(University of Massachusetts)
Paper short abstract:
I reassess the contributions to anthropological theorizations of (neo)liberalism proffered by Elizabeth Povinelli and Brian Massumi, showing how both authors provide invaluable tools with which anthropologists might better investigate the tricky interrelations of nationalism, racism and sexuality.
Paper long abstract:
This presentation reassesses the conceptual contributions to anthropological theorizations of (neo)liberalism proffered by Elizabeth Povinelli and Brian Massumi. It is argued that both authors provide extremely timely, though distinct, tools with which anthropologists might better investigate the interrelations of nationalism, racism and sexuality in contemporary Europe. Povinelli has chronicled the ever-deeper reach of liberalism, blending multiple disciplinary angles of approach, including semiotic, historical, queer, ethnographic and philosophical ones. In the first portion of my comments, I provide a summary account of these works, bringing Povinelli's unique conceptual vocabulary to the fore, especially her evolving theorizations of "late liberalism", tracing what is both explicitly and implicitly musical in her approach to periodizing and diagramming the global socius. This occasions a review her portrait of the fundamental grid of disciplinary powers which organize difference, namely the mutually oppositional regimes of what she calls "autology" and "genealogy". Massumi, too, has richly theorized the grid-like dimensions of what he calls "an ecology of powers". In the final portion of my talk, I explicate this approach, drawing out both Jasbir Puar's explication of Massumi's notion of affective and semiotic capture via grids in her account of "homonationalism" as well as Massumi's more recent discovery of a form of power seemingly new to the historical scene, namely, ontopower. I conclude by suggesting some of the ways the latter concept might help anthropologist refine their understandings of (anti-)liberalism, secularity, nationalism, racism and sexuality, especially as related to what Shoshan has called "affective governance".
Tangles of late liberalism: sexuality, nationalism, and the politics of race in Europe [EASA ENQA and ARE networks]