IKSA Graduate Forum

The many social lives of policy: across different processes and regional contexts

Department of Cultural and Social Anthropology (IKSA), University of Vienna 27-29 April 2017, Vienna, Austria

Opening Debate, 27th of April, 5.30 pm, HS A

We are delighted to announce the launching of the IKSA Graduate Forum, in the company of our first distinguished guest scholars, Dr. Zsuzsa GILLE (Associate Professor, Sociology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA), Dr. Shalini RANDERIA (Rector, Institute for Human Sciences (IWM), Vienna and Research Director and Professor of Social Anthropology and Sociology at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva) and Dr. Ayse CAGLAR (Professor, Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Vienna).

Designed as a dialogical exchange between Dr. Zsuza Gille and Dr. Shalini Randeria, and moderated by Dr. Ayse Caglar, the opening public debate will unpack policy as an object of social analysis, and will serve to highlight the methodological challenges as well as the theoretical contributions that the ethnographic study of policy can bring to broader debates in anthropology. This event will be followed by a 2-day workshop during which PhD students and early career scholars will have the opportunity to discuss their work and receive consistent peer-to-peer feedback.


Policy has become a central organizing principle in society. Policies bring actors, institutions, technologies, and discourses into diverse relations across multiple scales. These interactions are reflected in the ethnographic contexts anthropologists investigate. Focusing on, and following policy allows us to link anthropological studies of social transformations in different settings, and opens up new possibilities for comparison. Building on Chris Shore and Susan Wright’s (1997, 2011) seminal work on the Anthropology of Policy, we view policy not as neat, linear, top-down blueprints, but as messy “political processes in which actors, agents, concepts, and technologies interact in different sites“. Moving beyond diagnosis of implementation failures, we are interested in how policies in the fields of urban restructuring, consumption, market liberalization, and nation-building are worked out and negotiated among diverse actors, ranging from governments, companies, non-governmental organisations, public agencies and international bodies to street level bureaucrats and citizens. How do these actors, by doing policy, redraw boundaries, construct subjects, shape social relations, and produce or challenge political legitimacy? Which changes in forms of governance can we witness since Shore and Wright’s diagnoses of a shift from ‘social democratic’ welfare systems to ‘neo-liberal’ forms of governmentality?

Specifically, we want to explore these questions through the following issues:

· How are policies and citizenship negotiated in material practices?

· How are urban planning policies formulated, altered, legitimated and contested?

· How is everyday life affected by contemporary market dynamics?

· Which forms of identities are produced through policies and policy implementations? What does it entail to be a marginalized group in a nation-state setting? These four specific topics are addressed in panels of their own


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Any further questions can be directed to iksa.graduateforum@univie.ac.at