Russell Sage Foundation

Policing the Boundaries of Freedom

Chicago – Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago, John L. Comaroff discusses his hope for a renewed public discourse in an Obama administration with Chris Lydon on Radio Open Source. The discussion took place in The Watson Institute’s Jukowsky Forum on Friday the 7th, 2008. The radio show is titled ‘The Pariah-to-Messiah-Moment: John Comaroff’ and you can listen to the entire piece at www.radioopensource.org

Between 1976 and 2010,  Alan Macfarlane, a professor in the Department of Sociology at Cambridge University,  conducted a series of interviews with anthropologists from around the world. Two of those anthropologists included John and Jean Comaroff. They discussed their early lives, their work in the field, life under the Apartheid regime and anthropology, among other things.

Chicago – John Comaroff joined scholars Achille Mbembe, Ho-fung Hung, and Claudio Lumnitz in 2015 for a forum sponsored by the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory. Comaroff focused on the 2008 economic crisis and its impact on the global south. Unlike the United States, which saw the stock market crash and housing foreclosures escalate, capital inflows to Africa increased by 16 percent, money invested in the Nigerian stock market earned a return of 16 percent, and west African banks witnessed an explosion of investments.

Cambridge – John Comaroff explains lawfare or how authoritarian regimes around the world weaponize the legal system to de-legitimize their opponents. The term lawfare was used in Brazil by the defense of former President Lula to describe the violations of legal procedures by the Brazilian courts, as he was a victim of a collective act to discredit him and remove him from public life. Preventing Lula’s election is the struggle of some judges, public prosecutors and most part of the press in Brazil.

New York – In 2018, John Comaroff and Jean Comaroff spoke at The New School for Social Research about “Crime, Sovereignty, and the State: the Metaphysics of Global Disorder.” “The Global South” has become a shorthand for the universe of non-European, postcolonial peoples; it is that half of the planet about which, conventionally, the “Global North” spins theories. Rarely is it seen as a source of explanations for world historical processes, past or present, let alone as the source of those processes. Yet, as much of the northern hemisphere experiences increasing fiscal inscrutability and rising inequality, state privatization, crime and corruption, ethnic conflict, authoritarian populism, and other “crises,” it looks as though it is evolving southward, so to speak. Is this so? Might the relation of “north” and “south” be more a matter of complementary inequity, more a construct of the dialectical imagination, than a hard-and-fast empirical reality? In this seminar, we shall reverse the usual order of things, addressing a range of familiar themes in order to theorize them anew from the “eccentric location” of the “south,” broadly conceived: among those themes, neoliberalism and its futures; the changing relations among capital, the state and governance; democracy, authoritarian populism, and […]

By Jiang Haolie Eminent anthropologists Professors Jean and John Comaroff, renowned for their joint work in African Studies and anthropology as a husband-and-wife team, were recently named Visiting J Y Pillay Professors at Yale-NUS College. The Professorship is part of the J Y Pillay Global-Asia Programme, which was established to honour Professor J Y Pillay, a pioneer who made ground-breaking contributions to Singapore as a top civil servant and corporate leader. Describing the J Y Pillay Professorship as “greatly meaningful”, both Comaroffs effusively shared that they were very honoured to be its recipients. Prof Jean also praised the Professorship’s important role in building important links across global communities of researchers and attracting academic talent to Singapore as well as to Southeast Asian research. Commending the Comaroffs as “outstanding scholars”, Professor Joanne Roberts, Executive Vice President (Academic Affairs), expressed delight at the Comaroffs being awarded the Professorship. “It is wonderful for our students and faculty to get the opportunity to learn from them,” she said. It matches well with our goals of having visiting professorships bring in world class scholars and also, where possible, to have these visitors broaden and diversify the scope of our offerings.” In their short time teaching […]

“The study of ethnicity and indeed of neoliberalism will never be the same after the publication of this book, ” anthropologist Keith Hart commented in the American Anthropologist.