11 juillet 2017

The Bureaucratisation of Utopia

On 29 and 30 June, the department of Anthropology and Sociology hosted a workshop on The Bureaucratization of Utopia: International Governance, Audit Culture and Administrative Subjectivities in the 21st Century.

The event, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, was convened by Professor Alessandro Monsutti and Julie Billaud, co-founder of the academic blog Allegra Lab. Experts from University of Vienna, Rice University, Université de Lille, University of Sussex and the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology and others participated alongside Graduate Institute professors Isabelle Schulte-Tenckhoff, Grégoire Mallard and Shaila Seshia Galvin.

“In looking at the UN and the ICRC, I’ve encountered formats and models which could broadly be framed as ‘bureaucracy’ and which seem to be repeating themselves”, said Julie Billaud. “Alessandro and I asked ourselves why it is that you come across these templates over and over again.”

“In a post-, post-Cold War world”, said Prof Monsutti, “all the utopias and the dreams that moved people in the 90s are still around, floating in the vocabulary of many UN agencies and NGOs but probably don’t make people dream anymore. We wanted to explore the everyday practices of these ‘bureaucrats of big ideas’”.

“At the department of Anthropology and Sociology, we’re bringing the perspective of everyday life practices to a higher level of generality […] to understand the big issues of today’s world.”

Details of the workshop are available here, while a short video with Alessandro, Julie, and Miia Halme-Tuomisaari of Allegra Lab/University of Helsinki is below.