Financialization or Transculturation? Poverty Knowledge in South Africa

Presented by Grace Davie

Monday, 10 February, 2020 - 15:00

The history of South Africa’s major economic policy debates since the 1980s, as well as the related story of post-apartheid poverty and inequality statistics, could be fruitfully interpreted through the lens of financialization (Feher, Davis) and in light of the naked logics of today's global economic field (Bourdieu).  However, too narrow a focus on the conditions created by post-1970s global finance capitalism, including the rise of shareholder activism, risks occluding the complexities of social science keywords such as poverty and inequality.  This paper argues instead for a focus on what some anthropologists have called transculturation (Coronil, Malinowski).  Using examples from the history of poverty research in South Africa since the 1890s, this paper asks how historians and anthropologists examining the making of modern concepts and the politics of knowledge might define transculturation as their object of study.

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