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Accepted Paper:

Fighting fascism at its roots: Hobbes’s grim foresight and the relational subject of sovereignty  
Greg Feldman (University of Windsor)

Paper short abstract:

Fascism and anthropology share an epistemology of discrete social wholes that must be fully abandoned. This paper revisits Hobbes’s Leviathan to show how its massification of precarious people into discrete groups presages fascism. It then offers an alternative “relational subject of sovereignty.”

Paper long abstract:

Anthropologists rightly identify neoliberal economic precarity as a condition of today’s fascist turn. Yet, they struggle for analytical angle to undercut fascism’s roots thus risking complicity. This paper argues that an anti-fascist anthropology begins with exposing the common epistemological basis of fascism and anthropology. That basis lies in the early modern claim that the world consists of discrete bounded subjects – individuals, cultures, classes, nations, races – the knowledge of which leads to their progress, freedom, and becoming. Classic anthropology, thus, sustains a politics of liberation of essentialized categorical types that fascists usefully invoke. Of course, anthropologists now critique these constructions, but a genuinely alternative angle will remain elusive until that legacy is fully removed. This paper begins that task by revisiting Hobbes’s Leviathan to expose fascism’s centrality to modern political society. This core text of Western sovereignty focuses not on an absolute monarch, as commonly recited, but rather a bourgeois subject who, in an emergent capitalist economy, is prone both to isolation, insecurity, and precarity and to a mass conformity that is inherently racist and potentially authoritarian. The paper next offers an alternative in the form of the “relational subject of sovereignty”, who is both internally divided and inherently related to all other subjects so that egalitarian action leads in unprecedented directions. It thus offers a politics of renewal that dissolves clear divisions between “us” and “them.” The paper concludes with the suggestion that finding an anti-fascist anthropology is inseparable from finding an anti-colonial one.

Panel P162a
Can There Be an Antifascist Anthropology? [ANTHROFA Network Panel]
  Session 1 Friday 29 July, 2022, -