Frank Korom to speak on the the anthropology of disaster at the Anthropological Institute of Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan on March 16.

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March 5th, 2013

Singing about Disaster: How Oral Tradition Serves or Does Not Serve Governmentalities

Drawing on Michel Foucault’s notion of gouvernementalité, here defined as the strategies utilized to render a given society governable, this lecture will explore how the vernacular bardic tradition of narrative picture painting has been co-opted and exploited by the state to convey ideological positions at times of crisis and disaster in the state of West Bengal, India. The theme of counter-hegemonic discourse will also be addressed by demonstrating how the bards in question provide their own running commentaries on tragic events that quite often go against the officially-sanctioned master narratives of local governmental agencies. Examples will be drawn from flood and earthquake relief as well as from communal disharmony and political assassinations. Based on ethnographic fieldwork that began in 2001, the conclusion will question transparent notions of “truth” (satya), when it comes to interpreting and/or explaining contentious moments in the lifeworlds of rural Bengali peasants.

Anthropological Institute of Nanzan University in Nagoya