Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Urban, National and Transnational/Global Anthropology
Of interest to: Students
Primary Theme: Citizenship
Secondary Theme: Labor
This panel seeks to acknowledge Aihwa Ong’s germinal contributions to anthropology by highlighting their impact and exploring their future potential. Since the 1980s, Ong has created new methodological and conceptual interventions in anthropology, refocusing the anthropological lens on new problems, spaces, and sites, and it has addressed in novel ways of approaching the pivotal questions facing humankind today. In bringing together a set of papers inspired by and in dialogue with Ong’s work - most notably through the participation of many of her former students - the panel seeks to both recognize her landmark contributions and build on them to address critical contemporary anthropological questions.
In order to accommodate the range of her influence among her many former students, we have broken the panel into two components (I & II) and proposed them separately.
The panel, timed in conjunction with the 2018 AAA meetings in San Jose, marks the 30th anniversary of Ong’s pioneering book, Spirits of Resistance and Capitalist Discipline. Now a classic example of a fine-grained ethnography of globalization, power and labor, this book broke new ground by taking a close, empirical examination of the different assemblages of human practice and technological forms associated with globalization. Unparalleled for its time, Spirits of Resistance added conceptual precision by deploying Foucaultian concepts for an ambitious anthropology of the global: an ethnography of globalization that simultaneously addressed cultural change, technical transformation, and institutional shifts.
In the intervening three decades, Ong has pursued a range of studies investigating some of the most critical issues facing anthropology, including problems of gender, political subjectification, human mobility, economic integration, and the production of people and things. In so doing, Ong has pursued these topics with a flair for conceptual experimentation that has not only aided scholars to better understand critical dimensions of the contemporary world, but has also enabled them to conduct more inventive anthropology. This creative inquiry has yielded a range of insightful concepts that have been made a critical impact in anthropology and have indeed reverberated across its allied disciplines: global assemblages, flexible citizenship, graduated sovereignty, neoliberalism as exception, and fungible life. These concepts have sought to move anthropological inquiry forward by enabling it to address problems and domains of critical contemporary relevance, while simultaneously remaining faithful to its core principles of rigorous ethnographically-grounded investigation and conceptual precision. Given the landmark contributions of Ong’s oeuvre, this panel will explore Ong’s conceptual, methodological and pedagogical contributions by bringing together a diverse array of scholars who have shown in their own work how her ideas have decisively influenced debates across anthropology and throughout the social sciences at large.