Lectures in anthropology 2016-2017 - Nikolaï Ssorin-Chaikov - the 2 May 2017

Speaker : Nikolai Ssorin-Chaikov (Higher School of Economics, St Petersburg)

Biography :

Nikolai Ssorin-Chaikov is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the Higher School of Economics, St. Petersburg. He graduated in History/Ethnography from Moscow State University (1987), and received his MA (1991) and PhD (1998) in Anthropology from Stanford and taught at Cambridge before coming to HSE St Petersburg in 2015. He specialises in Siberia and Russia, but also has carried out ethnographic research in Britain and the United States. Research interests include anthropology and history of the state and governance, exchange theory, time, anthropology of aesthetics, and history of anthropology. Some of the publications are The Topography of happiness: ethnographic contours of modernity (in Russian: Topografia schastia: etnograficheskie karty moderna) Moscow: New Literary Observer Publishers 2013; special issue Ethnographic Conceptualism of the journal Laboratorium (2013), Gifts to Soviet leaders: Exhibition Catalogue (Pinakotheke 2006) and monograph The Social Life of the State in Subarctic Siberia (Stanford University Press 2003).

Title : Performativity theory and ethnographic conceptualism

Abstract :

Performativity theory takes its cue from J. L. Austin’s distinction between “constative” (“representational”) utterances that describe things and “performative” utterances that do them, but it magnifies the performative pole of this distinction by asking how performative is the descriptive. In positing this question, performativity theory has proved highly relevant anthropologically — for example, for science and gender studies, but also for understanding the relationships between economics and the economy (Callon). But I argue that this very question carries a blind spot. It is not clear if this theory is applicable to itself in the ethnographic descriptions of how science or gender or economics are performative. In drawing attention to this “new empiricism”, my goal is not to point out performativity theory’s limitations but to advance it. I do so by redefining the performative not as a type of utterance that is distinct from the descriptive but as the act of drawing this distinction. In this paper, I elaborate this approach with an example of Gifts to Soviet Leaders Exhibition (Kremlin Museum 2006). The material of this exhibition reflected the vast and complex economy of public gifts that Soviet leaders received from Soviet citizens and international leaders and movements. But my ethnographic focus in this paper is on the exhibition itself as a distinctly post-Soviet political and cultural artefact and a study in “ethnographic conceptualism” that both performed and described post-socialism.

  • When ?

Tuesday the 2 May 2017 from 2:00 pm till 4:00 pm

  • Where?

ULB - Campus du Solbosch

Institut de Sociologie (building S)

Room Janne - 15th floor

44 avenue Jeanne - 1050 Bruxelles

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