7. Eric Wolf Lecture: "Slum cities or cities with slums in them?"

In the 7th Eric Wolf Lecture, social anthropologist Vyjayanthi V. Rao of the New School for Social Research (New York) will focus on the slum as an "analytic and material artifact". The Lecture "Slum as Theory: A Speculative World History" takes place on Monday, 21 November 2011 at the Campus of the University of Vienna.

In her Eric Wolf Lecture, Vyjayanthi V. Rao explores the slum as a unit of ethnographic analysis demonstrating the contingency of contemporary capitalist experiences of social relations, markets and political arrangements. In the spirit of Eric Wolf's call for envisioning societies "in their mutual interrelationships and interdependencies in space and time," she takes the slum as a unit of analysis arising from a mode of production dominated by finance capitalism. As such, the slum is marked by "lines of tension, contradiction and fracture" and constantly exposed to the "pressures generated in the larger fields of interaction" that surround it, as Wolf wrote in his 1997 preface to his seminal "Europe and the People Without History".

About the lecture: Slums in mega-cities and global cities

The rise of mega-cities across the planet – both in the developed and the developing world – coincides with the dominance of speculative, finance capital as the principle mode of capital accumulation. At the same time, the idea of the city dominates contemporary imaginations about an interconnected global social order. Yet this discourse frequently rests upon a differentiation between the mega-cities of the developed world (known commonly as "global cities") and those of the developing world (referred to simply as mega-cities in much of the literature).

The difference between the two kinds of cities – the global city and the mega-city – in turn hinges on the theorization of the "slum" as a site where political and economic processes as well as of contemporary engagements with nature are enacted and articulated. Mega-cities are often theorized as "slum cities" while global cities might be conceived as cities with slums in them (see the UN-Habitat's reports since 2003, for example). In both cases, an analysis of the slum can reveal the workings and histories of speculation and how the digital flow of capital in the form of investment instruments is shaping the landscape and cultures of contemporary cities.

Vyjayanthi V. Rao

Vyjayanthi V. Rao is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the New School for Social Research, New York. She works on cities after globalization, specifically on the intersections of urban planning, design art, violence, and speculation in the articulation of the contemporary global city. She is the author of numerous articles on these topics and is completing a book manuscript titled "The Speculative City".

Eric Wolf Lectures

Since 2002, the international Eric Wolf Lectures take place every second year. Vienna born Eric Wolf (1923-1999), i.a. McArthur Prize laureate and Dr. h.c. of the University of Vienna, is one of the most outstanding anthropologists of the 20th century. Organised by the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology of the University of Vienna, the Social Anthropology Research Unit of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, and the International Research Center for Cultural Studies IFK, the Eric Wolf Lectures aims to honour the invited anthropologists for "special scientific accomplishments" and furthermore to "develop Eric Wolf’s legacy of a cosmopolitan and timely social and cultural anthropology". (red)

Eric Wolf Lecture "Slum as Theory: A Speculative World History"
Monday, 21 November 2011, 18:00
Aula, Campus of the University of Vienna, courtyard 1
Alserstraße 2, 1090 Vienna

Seminar with Vyjayanthi V. Rao
Tuesday, 22 November 2011, 16:00-18:00
International Research Center for Cultural Studies IFK
Reichsratsstraße 17, 1010 Vienna

Further information

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