On the New Politics of Distribution
A Conversation with James Ferguson
The Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Bern inaugurated its new lecture series Anthropology Talks in September 2015. The first guest was James Ferguson, professor at the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University. The lectures and workshops focused on the questions of poverty and (re)distribution that Ferguson, a scholar with a pronounced political commitment, deals with in his new book Give a Man a Fish (2015a). Ferguson’s thinking involves, within a context of widespread unemployment, a creative tension between ethnographic curiosity and political concerns about poverty reduction. Through projects that «just give money to the poor» (2015a: 2), his work examines what such interventions do in people’s everyday lives, and how they might direct us towards a new politics of distribution, or «proletarian politics today,» as the main lecture’s title suggested (Ferguson 2015b).