Development Seminar: Janet Roitman

Date(s) - 08/04/2016
12:00 pm - 2:00 pm

AP 246

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Friday, April 8, 2015

Prof. Janet Roitman (The New School for Social Research)
Africa, Otherwise
Development Seminar
12:00-2:00pm, AP 246, 19 Russell St.
A light lunch will be served at 11:30am, please register below. If the event is fully booked, please email to be added to the wait list.

Abstract: What are the stakes of crisis? While there are abundant essays and analyses that attempt to explain crises, there is a surprising lack of attention to the concept of crisis itself. Although crisis typically refers to a historical conjuncture (war, economic recession, famine) – or to a moment in history, a turning point – it has been taken to be the defining characteristic of the African continent for some three decades now.  Can one speak of a state of enduring crisis?  Is this not an oxymoron?   In effect, how can one think about Africa – or think “Africa” – otherwise than under the sign of crisis?  This is the central question of this essay.  However, instead of starting with a particular crisis (e.g. Congo) and then proceeding on to generalizations (colonialism, postcolonialism, neoliberalism), I begin with a general problem in order to take us to Africa.  The problem is not Africa per se, but rather the concept of crisis. By opening the black box of crisis, we can consider the presumption that crisis has an a priori status in history.  We can ask: How does the term crisis serve as a place from which narrative accounting can begin? How is crisis mobilized to engender conditions of action, serving to constitute a particular mode of critique?  By attending to the practice of the concept of crisis, we can better understand how the term enables and forecloses various kinds of questions. Instead of arguing “against” crisis – imagining that one could somehow move “beyond crisis” – we can then focus on the effects of the claim to crisis.

Bio: Janet Roitman received her doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania.  Before coming to the New School, she served as an instructor at the Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques de Paris (Sciences-po).  She was likewise a research fellow with the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and a member of the Institut Marcel-Mauss (CNRS-EHESS) in Paris.

Professor Roitman has conducted extensive research in Central Africa, focusing specifically on the borders of Cameroon, Nigeria, the Central African Republic and Chad. Her book, Fiscal Disobedience: An Anthropology of Economic Regulation in Central Africa (Princeton University Press, 2005), is an analysis of the unregulated commerce that transpires on those borders.  This research inquires into emergent forms of economic regulation in the region of the Chad Basin and considers consequential transformations in the nature of fiscal relations and citizenship.  More generally, her research covers topics of political economy, the anthropology of value, economization, and emergent forms of the political.

Her recent book Anti-Crisis (Duke University Press, 2013) inquires into the status of the concept of crisis in the social sciences, a project she has developed with the support of the Institute for Public Knowledge, New York University, where she was a scholar-in-residence from 2010-11.

Professor Roitman is on the steering committee for GIDEST.

The Development Seminar is an interdisciplinary initiative that critically examines issues of global inequality, postcolonial politics, and power in the Global South, broadly conceived. Guest speakers bring theoretical questions into tension with their innovative research – on issues that include rural and urban livelihoods, planning, public health, gender, security, and finance.

The Seminar is sponsored by the Faculty of Arts and Science, with additional support from the Departments of Anthropology, Geography, Political Science, and Sociology. This year’s seminar coordinators are Mark Hunter (Associate Professor, Geography, UTSC) and Jacob Nerenberg (Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, St. George).

If the event is fully booked, please email to be added to the wait list. 


This event is fully booked.