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14th Annual Endowed Bernard Gallin Lecture in Asian Anthropology
October 12, 2017 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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Politics, Interrupted: Accounting for Silence in Contemporary Indonesia
Dr. Tania Murray Li
In Indonesia as in many other parts of the world, inequality and injustice are ubiquitous, yet effective mobilization to counter these tendencies is not common. The Look of Silence, the title of Joshua Oppenheimer’s 2014 film, captures the problematic , but how can we make sense of it? In this talk, I argue that a capacity for engaging in a critical politics is permanent and broadly distributed, but its expression is often interrupted. Hence we need to attend not only to instances in which an explicit critique is articulated, but also to “unheroic decades” when critical insights are truncated, potential connections are not forged, and individuals do not communicate or organize with others. Studying something that isn’t there – explicit critique and effective mobilization – is of course a difficult task. But posing historically effective political practice as a counter-factual (something we might expect to find), rather than a teleology (something that will inevitably unfold), opens up an important terrain of ethnographic inquiry. I illustrate with examples from three sites in rural Indonesia in which I have carried out research: the project-saturated zone of highland Sulawesi that I examined in The Will to Improve, the abandoned and oddly quiet terrain of Land’s End, and the plantation zone of Kalimantan, where workers appear to accept the status quo.
Dr. Tania Murray Li teaches in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto, where she holds the Canada Research Chair in the Political Economy and Culture of Asia. Her publications include Land’s End: Capitalist Relations on an Indigenous Frontier (Duke University Press, 2014), Powers of Exclusion: Land Dilemmas in Southeast Asia (with Derek Hall and Philip Hirsch, NUS Press, 2011), The Will to Improve: Governmentality, Development, and the Practice of Politics (Duke University Press, 2007) and many articles on land, labour, development, environment, community, class, and indigeneity with a particular focus on Indonesia.
There will be a reception following the lecture in 115 International Center.
For more information on Dr. Tania Murray Li, check out her blog taniamurrayli.wordpress.com