Today, competitive formats such as rankings, contests, evaluations and similar practices seem to be omnipresent. This panel has been convened to explore the cultural logics, the socio-political and economic ideologies and the circulating nature of this form of "audit culture".
Over the past years competitions and similar cultural practices such as rankings, listings or evaluations affected many spheres of our everyday life: Media are in search of national superstars, extraordinary talents, the best dinner, the most beautiful girl and any form of superlative, companies award their best employees, and even scientific knowledge is evaluated and ranked. The ideological background of this circulating cultural phenomenon assumes that competitive formats enhance quality, merit and personal skills. Whereas competition as a powerful economic principle is broadly discussed, more anthropological research on competitive practices and discourses - here understood as a cultural logic with its own dynamics - is needed. This panel invites contributions examining the complex ways competitive logics that one could also interpret as a specific form of "audit culture" (Strathern 2000) circulate through our lifeworlds. Additionally it seeks to document and critically discuss the social and cultural effects of circulating ideologies of merit articulated in concrete cultural practices: How do social actors who compete for different resources in performative formats such as contests or evaluations perceive their own roles, their skills and the competitive situation itself? How do competitive formats as a form of cultural performance work? How do social actors compete with each other in these formats and what are the sustainable effects, e.g. on identity building processes? The panel invites presentations of ethnographically based case studies, as well as papers reflecting theoretical approaches on the circulating nature of a powerful cultural phenomenon.