Lotta Björklund Larsen: "A fiscal anthropology in Sweden? Why, how and for whom?"
Welcome to a departmental seminar featuring Lotta Björklund Larsen, Research fellow at the Department for technology and social change, Linköping University.
After the seminar, coffee and snacks are served in our lunch room. The event is open to all, no registration required.
Taxes and taxation has been strangely overlooked in contemporary anthropology. In most countries are taxes the very foundation for infrastructure as well as welfare benefits for all citizens, yet the question of how we are made to pay taxes is largely left to the legal and economic disciplines. Taking the question of how seriously, I argue for the need to study how the law is interpreted and practiced.
The book "Shaping Taxpayers. Values in Action at the Swedish Tax Agency" is an attempt to address how taxation is made possible in society. It is an ethnography of knowledge making at one of Sweden’s most esteemed bureaucracies – the Tax Agency. In its aim to collect taxes and minimize tax faults, the Agency mediates the application of tax law to ensure compliance and maintain legitimacy for it actions in society. I followed one risk assessment project’s passage through the Agency, from its inception, through the research phase, in discussions with management to its final abandonment. Inspired by economic anthropology, actor network theory and fiscal sociology, I propose a fiscal anthropological approach that reveals how diverse knowledge claims – not only legal and economic but indeed cultural – compete to shape taxpayer behaviour.
Norwegian anthropologists have a long tradition engaging with society ‘at large’ - outside the ivory tower of academia. With this presentation, I invite a discussion on what insights anthropology can offer tax interested scholars and practitioners but also what a study of taxation can offer anthropology at large.
Lotta Björklund Larsen holds a PhD degree in Social Anthropology from Stockholm University in 2010. Her thesis, "Illegal yet Licit", addressed how a group of people create meaning with their purchases of undeclared work and thereby define their relationship with the Swedish society. Which social practices and values make informal purchases justifiable and in what way does deficiencies in the formal economy play a role? In what way are these informal purchases part of everyday life in today's Sweden? The thesis raised questions about the taxation of services, at the intersection between the private and the public. Björklund Larsen continues to explore this border in ongoing projects and publications.