Theorizing ethnographically: No shares without acknowledgement

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3:15 pm to 5:00 pm

About this event

In the face of massive inequalities, sharing resonates as a popular demand. 

Yet shares, as anthropologists have noted, are not gifts: a “rightful share” of something is the portion properly due to a person acknowledged to be the owner. Important questions follow: what kind of person is acknowledged to be the owner of a share? What are the conditions under which demands based on ownership are recognized or disallowed? Where acknowledgement is lacking, how can it be achieved? 

Acknowledgement, as Johannes Fabian insists, is not something that one party can “dole out” to another, like “development aid.” It can only be achieved by co-eval participants engaged in communicative exchanges. To further develop this line of theorizing, I draw on ethnographic research in two Indonesian settings: highland Sulawesi, where individual ownership is vigorously asserted but sharing is moot; and Kalimantan’s contemporary plantation zone where racialized land law and the juridico-spatial arrangements of corporate occupation render villagers’ demands for a rightful share of plantation wealth inaudible, even absurd.

About the speaker

Tania Murray Li is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Toronto. 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, class, capitalism, development, resources and indigeneity with a particular focus on Indonesia. 

Her latest book Plantation Life: Corporate Occupation of Indonesia’s Oil Palm Zone (Duke University Press, 2021) is co-authored with Pujo Semedi (Universitas Gadjah Mada). 

Image by Victor Vazquez via Unsplash