AAA 2016 (Minneapolis) call for participants:
Anthropology and the Worlds of Welfare Capitalism (Roundtable)
Organizer: Kelly McKowen, Princeton University, ([email protected])
More than a quarter century since its publication, Gøsta Esping-Andersen’s seminal work on the welfare state, The Three Worlds of the Welfare Capitalism, continues to stimulate lively debate and productive research on the qualitative differences between different institutional regimes of social policy. Anthropology has in large part been absent from this interdisciplinary exchange. Recent anthropological scholarship, however, has engaged directly and creatively with 21st century systems of social provision, catalyzing new lines of inquiry that link questions of welfare and governance with those of citizenship, morality, identity, belonging, distribution, care, dependency, labor, reciprocity, and discipline. From these questions emerges the discernible outline of an inchoate anthropological perspective on the worlds of welfare capitalism, as well as a distinctive mode of investigating contemporary welfare states characterized by ethnographic sensitivity to practice, power, experience, and meaning.
Despite dire warnings from various corners, the contemporaneous eras of neoliberalism and globalization have not witnessed the withering away of the welfare state. Rather, around the world, ties between the individual, family, state, and labor market have been reconfigured in response to new ideological currents, needs, risks, and interests. These emergent worlds of welfare capitalism, converging and diverging from each other in different ways, constitute a productive “field” for anthropological scholarship moving forward. Setting an agenda for the exploration of this field means considering a host of questions.. These include: in the midst of privatization and neoliberal reform, where is the responsibility for the maintenance of individual and social welfare situated? How does social policy reflect—and occasion—the revaluation and redefinition of labor? What kinds of people and issues are conjured and erased by categories enshrined in policy? How do new benefit schemes and services (re)distribute precarity and dependency among various actors? To what extent do popular policy tools, such as conditional cash transfers, reshape networks of exchange and debt? How are local knowledges pertaining to the navigation of public and private welfare institutions stored, transmitted, and used? What role can ethnography play in illuminating the needs, risks, and challenges faced by different groups? How are intensified flows of people, capital, and resources remaking relations between the individual, the state, and the labor market in different local contexts?
This roundtable invites participants that engage with these and other questions pertaining to how systems of social provision shape—and are shaped by—the sociocultural and political dimensions of evolving capitalist economies. With a view to both growing anthropology’s areas of inquiry and contributing fresh insight to comparative welfare state studies, it aims to set an agenda for future anthropological scholarship and further clarify the position of the anthropology of welfare capitalism within a broader interdisciplinary division of labor.
If you are interested in participating in this roundtable, please submit a short description (of no more than 250 words) detailing your research and interests to Kelly McKowen ([email protected]) by April 3. Notifications will go out no later than April 5. Please note: according to AAA rules, conference attendees can either participate in a roundtable or present a paper as part of a panel—but not both!
PhD Candidate, Anthropology