Rethinking the concept of moral economy: anthropological perspectives

Giuseppe Bolotta (National University of Singapore)
Chiara Pilotto (University Milano-Bicocca, Ehess)
Silvia Vignato
Start time:
20 July, 2016 at 14:30
Session slots:

Short abstract:

Originally formulated outside the discipline, the concept of "moral economy" is increasingly used by anthropologists. This panel aims to critically "take stock" of the mounting theoretical fertility of this concept by examining its greatly diverse extensions and applications to ethnography.

Long abstract:

Moral economy is a concept which has been widely and divergently used by anthropologists. Initially formulated by a social historian, Edward Thompson, in order to analyze English popular riots in the XVIII century, it later penetrated the anthropological discipline thanks to the influence of James Scott's work on peasants' social mobilizations in Southeast Asia. More recently, Didier Fassin has reflected upon the genealogy of this concept and its potentialities, proposing a new theorization of the "moral economy" which does not limit its heuristic capacities but reasserts its necessary contribution to critical thinking. Following this critical approach, which takes into account the historical, social and political conditions for the emergence of specific moral economies, this panel proposes to offer further insights on the anthropological revitalization of the concept. Contributors might scrutinize different aspects related to its appropriation in the production of anthropological knowledge: how do "moral economies" encounter history in anthropological studies? How can this concept link macro-social and political processes to micro-politics? How does the idea of "moral economy" address the relationship between the production and manipulation of emotions in public discourses, deterritorialized systems of "humanitarian" neo-liberal governamentality and individuals' affects? How can it contribute to critical analyses of political violence which avoids simplified dichotomies between "victims" and "oppressors"? How might the critical stance of anthropology gain political momentum through the use of this theoretical construct? The panel welcomes papers which show a pertinent use of the concept anchored to a deep and extensive ethnographical work.

Accepted Papers: