The three articles published in this Forum section were all finalists for the Graduate Student Prize of the Society for the Anthropology of Europe (SAE), which met at the American Anthropological Association’s 2013 meeting in Chicago. While they deal with different parts of Europe (Bulgaria and Romania and Spain, respectively), what unites them is a shared interest in issues of loss, social memory, identity, agency and death, and, in particular, the way people experience temporality and change (see Connerton 1989; Forty and Küchler 1991). The authors brilliantly capture the mood of uncertainty and anxiety facing Europeans in a period of unprecedented uncertainty, insecurity and austerity. What they also show is how Europe’s poor and marginalised are both shaped by and, in turn, try to shape or subvert the national and European policy regimes to which they are subjected.
Europe between Nostalgia and Promise
This article explores the legacy of three decades of neoliberal reforms on New Zealand's university system. By tracing the different government policies during this period, it seeks to contribute to wider debates about the trajectory of contemporary universities in an age of globalisation. Since Lyotard's influential report on The Postmodern Condition (1994), critics have frequently claimed that commercialisation and managerialism have undermined and supplanted the social mission of the university as governments throughout the developed world have sought to transform the university 'from an ideological arm of the state into a bureaucratically organised and relatively autonomous consumer-oriented corporation' (Readings 1996: 457). Against this I argue that the new model of the entrepreneurial and corporate university has not so much replaced the traditional functions and meaning of the university as added a new layer of complexity to the university's already diverse and multifaceted roles in society. Drawing on an ethnography of one university and personal observations, I explore the effects of that reform process on the culture and character of the university and, more specifically, its impact on academic identities and the everyday practices of academics and students. As in other OECD countries, New Zealand's universities are now required to deliver a bewildering plethora of government priorities and strategic economic and social objectives whilst simultaneously carrying out their traditional roles in teaching, research and scholarship. The challenge for the modern university, as reflected in the case of New Zealand, is how to negotiate these diverse and often contradictory missions.
Why Mediterranean patron-client relations are relevant for understanding the work of international accountancy firms
Patron-clientelism and corruption were traditionally viewed as problems endemic to underdeveloped marginal countries with weak states, powerful self-serving elites, and widespread civic disengagement. However, recent decades have seen a dramatic increase in corruption scandals in the Global North, particularly its more developed banking and financial sectors. Paradoxically, this has occurred despite a massive expansion in auditing by international accountancy firms (KPMG, PwC, Deloitte, EY) who often portray themselves as warriors of integrity, transparency, and ethical conduct. How are these trends connected? Drawing on anthropological studies of Mediterranean patron-clientelism, I illustrate how collusive relations between accountancy firms and their clients create ideal conditions for corruption to flourish. Finally, I ask how can these accountancy scandals help us rethink patron-clientelism in an age of “audit culture”?
Anthropological Perspectives on Austerity in the EU
Sally Raudon and Cris Shore
Around 2010, a shift in the EU-understanding of austerity took place – from a future-orientated vision based on concepts of solidarity, cohesion and subsidiarity, to a crisis-driven present shaped around the imperatives of immediate fiscal discipline and debt repayment. This has had contradictory effects, producing widespread divisions, disunity and rising nationalism across Europe on one hand, and new forms of social solidarity and resistance on the other.
Cris Shore and Miri Davidson
As an early pioneer of market-led institutional reforms and New Public Management policies, New Zealand arguably has one of the most 'neoliberalised' tertiary education sectors in the world. This article reports on a recent academic dispute concerning the attempt by management to introduce a new category of casualised academic employee within one of the country's largest research universities. It is based on a fieldwork study, including document analysis, interviews and the participation of both authors in union and activist activities arising from the dispute. Whilst some academics may collude in the new regimes of governance that these reforms have created, we suggest that 'collusion' and 'resistance' are inadequate terms for explaining how academic behaviour and subjectivities are being reshaped in the modern neoliberal university. We argue for a more theoretically nuanced and situational account that acknowledges the wider legal and systemic constraints that these reforms have created. To do this, we problematise the concept of collusion and reframe it according to three different categories: 'conscious complicity', 'unwitting complicity' and 'coercive complicity'. We ask, what happens when one must 'collude' in order to resist, or when certain forms of opposition are rendered impossible by the terms of one's employment contract? We conclude by reflecting on ways in which academics understand and engage with the policies of university managers in contexts where changes to the framework governing employment relations have rendered conventional forms of resistance increasingly problematic, if not illegal.
How perspectives from the margins can illuminate the exploits of twenty-first-century global capitalism
Cris Shore and Susanna Trnka
In the context of rapid neoliberal reform, both anthropology as a discipline and the social and cultural phenomena it studies are undergoing profound changes. In this article we develop June Nash's concept of “peripheral vision” to show how peripheries, and the politics of “peripheralization”, can illuminate processes of neoliberalization and the implications that this has for anthropological knowledge production. We argue that anthropology is uniquely situated to examine the conceptual blind spots produced by capitalism. By recasting “peripheral vision” as an analytic concept and methodological tool, we show how cultivating our ethnographic sensibilities to identify and hone in on events and processes that lie beyond our immediate field of vision can provide a useful antidote to the seductive fantasies of contemporary capitalism. In doing so, we also suggest how this approach can help counter some of the increasing strictures on knowledge production and narrowing of the research imagination that neoliberal reforms impose.
Universities and the Politics of Accountability
Don Brenneis, Cris Shore, and Susan Wright
Audit culture and the politics of accountability are transforming not just universities and their role in society, but the very notions of society, academics and students. The modern 'university of excellence' applies a totalising and coercive commensurability to virtually every aspect of university life, from research output and teaching quality to parking space. But more than this, the politics of accountability enmesh universities in conflicts over neoliberal transformations which are taking a wide variety of forms in different parts of Europe, North and South America, and Australasia.
Global Corporatism against Society
John Gledhill, Jane Schneider, Peter Schneider, Ananthakrishnan Aiyer, and Cris Shore
On 2 December 2001, four days after its credit rating had been downgraded to junk bond status, the Enron Corporation of Houston, Texas, filed the biggest bankruptcy petition in the history of the United States. On the 14 March 2002, Enron’s accountants, Arthur Anderson, were indicted by a federal grand jury on the criminal charge of obstruction of justice for “knowingly, intentionally and corruptly” inducing employees to shred documents relating to Enron. Enron was thus both a stock market bubble that burst and a perpetrator of frauds that involved the complicity of many outside the company itself. The fraud element turned Enron from a flagship of the “new economy” into a “corporate scandal,” the first of several. By the end of 2002, the distinction of being the United States’ biggest bankrupt company had passed to the telecoms giant, Worldcom. When Worldcom’s accounting fraud was originally identified in June 2002, its scale was estimated at $3.8 billion. Six months later it was clear that the misreporting was vastly higher, a staggering $9 billion. The New York Times headlined the affair thus: “The Latest Corporate Scandal is Stunning, Vast and Simple” (Eichenwald and Romero 2002).
Ananthakrishnan Aiyer, Janis Bailey, Sarah Baker, Gerry Bloustien, Richard Daly, John Gledhill, Bruce Kapferer, Diane Losche, Di McAtee, Barry Morris, Val Napoleon, Sarah Pink, Jane Schneider, Peter Schneider, Cris Shore, and Benjamith R. Smith
Notes on Contributors