João de Pina-Cabral: "Things into Objects: Care and Activism in Austerity"

Departmental Seminar Series features Professor João de Pina-Cabral, School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent.

The seminar is followed by informal gathering, at which refreshments are served. All are welcome!

Copyright:  University of Kent


Based on ethnographic fieldwork in a small agrotown in southern Portugal, this paper presents the case of a man whose life is marked by a fascination with ‘things’, arguing that he exercises a kind of ‘everyday activism.’  We aim to study contemporary social processes in the peripheral areas of southern Europe that are struggling under the destructive inheritance of neoliberal ‘austerity’ policies.  Taking up a phenomenological tradition, the paper elaborates upon the distinction between those aspects of the world that we have ‘at hand’ and in which we participate (things) and those that have been, in some way, dissociated from our presence, assuming a more abstract existence (objects).  This opposition is mobilised in order to engage ongoing anthropological debates concerning personhood, transcendence and participation.

Research profile

Professor João de Pina-Cabral is a Social Anthropologist whose work over the years has dealt with the relationship between symbolic thought and social power; family and kinship; ethnicity in colonial and postcolonial contexts; and the history of ethnographic methodology. He has carried out fieldwork in northern Portugal (Alto Minho), southern China (Macau) and northeast Brazil (Bahia).

What do we mean when we refer to world? Are there “worlds”? Pina-Cabral provides innovative and sometimes provocative answers to these difficult questions in his book “World: an anthropological examination” (HAU: Malinowski Monographs 2017).

João de Pina-Cabral has held academic posts in the UK and in Portugal, where he founded the Portuguese Association of Anthropologists. His concern to expand the role of social anthropology in Europe led him to actively participating in the launching and running of the European Association of Social Anthropologists. The 2003-2004 President of EASA is João de Pina-Cabral.

Published May 30, 2018 3:21 PM - Last modified Aug. 10, 2018 2:44 PM