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Accepted Paper:

Epistemic disobedience in activist anthropology  
Franca Midori Marquardt (Scuola Normale Superiore, Firenze)

Paper Short Abstract:

As activist researchers, we seek ways to make sense of a world in deep crisis with tools and frameworks from inside and outside academic disciplines. What does it mean to deploy epistemic disobedience to challenge the restrictions of neoliberal academia?

Paper Abstract:

The modern world is characterised by a singular perspective, wherein any deviation from the universal norm becomes a challenge. Anthropology itself exemplifies this mindset, originating from the belief that 'others' must be comprehended, translated, and assimilated into the universal framework through rational processes. Elements resistant to such reduction are relegated to insignificance, existing as residual, ontologically incomplete, and irrelevant remnants. As activist researchers, we seek ways to make sense of a world in deep social and ecological crisis with tools and frameworks from inside and outside academic disciplines. The paper is a personal reflection on the implications of researching with social movements and deploying epistemic disobedience to challenge the restrictions of neoliberal academia and oppression in late-stage capitalist lifeworlds. As activists are always already doing theory and theorists are always already political subjects, the challenge lies in increasing our awareness and acceptance of this mutual implication. As such, the concern is not only to navigate between the fields of “activism” and “academia” but to surpass the separation altogether. We are tasked with reimagining anthropology as a machine for the “production of other worlds” (Russell 2015). This means rethinking some of the deep-seated assumptions and dualisms in anthropology and using its tradition and the tools that are at our disposal, to create a “new” kind of anthropology that works for our agenda for change.

Panel P238
Becoming/ being an activist: reflections on a key political subjectivity of late capitalism
  Session 2 Friday 26 July, 2024, -