Ellen Hertz Werro: "What's New on the Copperbelt? Discourse and Practices of 'Innovation' in Anthropology"

Welcome to a departmental seminar featuring Professor Ellen Hertz Werro, Anthropology Institute, University of Neuchatel, Switzerland.

After the seminar, coffee and snacks are served in our lunch room. The event is open to all, no registration required.

Copyright: University of Neuchatel


Like love, "innovation" is in the air. It serves as an organizing principle for the formulation of economic policy in industrial and post-industrial states, it is associated with some of our most intimate daily practices (notably through our use of the Internet and social media), and it dominates the criteria used to attribute research money, jobs and prestige in academia. In my talk, I will examine how discourses and practices of "innovation" are appropriated or resisted in anthropology, by revisiting one of the discipline’s iconic sites of conceptual and methodological inventiveness: the Copperbelt. Beginning with research conducted at the Rhodes-Livingston Institute, and then the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester, these Zambian mining towns and the migrant workers who populated them have been forcing the discipline to develop new methods and reformulate classic concepts since their "discovery" in the early part of the last century. Drawing on on-going collaborative research of which I am a part, I try to chart the relationship between changing anthropological objects and evolving anthropological paradigms, and critically to assess the usefulness of "innovation" as a concept for capturing this complex dynamic. 

Research profile

Ellen Hertz Werro is an anthropologist trained in law, linguistics, and Chinese studies. Her research includes work on the creation of the Shanghai stock market, on indigenous people's rights in the U.N. system, on the UNESCO convention for the conservation of intangible cultural heritage and on the "decent work" agenda in the computer industry. She teaches in the areas of economic, legal and political anthropology, gender studies and China anthropology, as well as generalist courses such as the introduction to anthropology or social theory and the concept of culture in the social Sciences. Selected publications


Published July 16, 2017 4:23 PM - Last modified Nov. 7, 2017 12:44 PM