Neoliberalism + Biopolitics Working Group | Globalizing Neoliberalism(s)?

Michael Kowen

In this session, we reflect on how norms and practices of neoliberal governmentality are disseminated and transformed across borders. Professors Elyachar, Rofel and Bargu’s extensive studies of Egypt, China, and Turkey respectively, offer new insights into how different forms of neoliberalism transform social and political life in various contexts, while also calling into question the enduring viability of neoliberalism as an analytic frame. We aim collectively to problematize and contest Eurocentric approaches to the study of neoliberalism, while also investigating the role under neoliberalism of NGOs, IGOs, corporations and state institutions. We hope to foster a comparative and interdisciplinary dialogue to reassess both how neoliberalisms function as practices in the contemporary world, and what limitations the overall framework of neoliberalism may pose for the analysis of contemporary transformations of social life. We consider questions concerning the privatization of public goods, international investment and development programs, the dissemination of norms of entrepreneurship, the role of experts in development projects, micro-lending, and the effects of such developments on “public culture,” sexual and gender norms, and kinship structures.


Julia Elyachar, “Before (and After) Neoliberalism: Tacit Knowledge, Secrets of the Trade, and the Public Sector in Egypt,” Cultural Anthropology, 27.1 (2012): 76-96.

Lisa Rofel, “Introduction,” Desiring China: Experiments in Neoliberalism, Sexuality, and Public Culture, Duke University Press, 2007, 1-30.

Julia Elyachar is Associate Professor of Anthropology and the Director of the Center for Global Peace and Conflict Studies at UC Irvine. She publishes in the fields of economic anthropology, political anthropology, anthropology of the state, NGOs, and international organizations, the anthropology of value, anthropology of the Middle East, political economy, management studies and knowledge practices, and social theory. She is the author of Markets of Dispossession: NGOs, Economic Development and the State in Cairo (Duke University Press, 2005). She is currently writing about how management studies and business theory have drawn on anthropological research to develop new sources of profit in the global era.

Lisa Rofel’s research interests focus on transnational capitalism, neoliberalism, gender and sexuality. She has written and edited numerous books on China, including Desiring China: Experiments in Neoliberalism, Sexuality and Public Culture (Duke University Press, 2007) and Other Modernities: Gendered Yearnings in China After Socialism (University of California Press, 1999). She is currently finishing a collaborative project (with Sylvia Yanagisako) The Twenty-first Century Silk Road: Transnational Capitalism between China and Italy in the Fashion Industry (Duke University Press, forthcoming).

Banu Bargu is Associate Professor of Politics at the New School for Social Research. Her main area of specialization is politcal theory, especially modern and contemporary political thought. Thematically, her work has focused on theories of biopolitics, sovereignty, and resistance. Her research interests are situated at the intersection of philosophy, politics, and anthropology, with a strong regional focus on the Middle East (and especially Turkish politics). Her current work analyzes how life is forged into a weapon through an in-depth study of the Death Fast Struggle of political prisoners in Turkey. Her book Starve and Immolate: The Politics of Human Weapons will be published in September 2014.

The Neoliberalism + Biopolitics Working Group is supported by The Program in Critical Theory, UC Berkeley’s Divisions of Arts & Humanities and Social Sciences, and the University of California Humanities Research Institute. The program is organized by UC Berkeley graduate students William Callison (Ph.D. Candidate Political Science, DE Critical Theory) and Zachary Manfredi (Ph.D. Candidate Rhetoric), and supervised by Program in Critical Theory faculty Martin Jay (Professor of History) and Wendy Brown (Professor of Political Science).