Monday, May 6, 2013
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM
620 Library Place, Conference Room
Evanston, IL 60208 map it
Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public
Program of African Studies
Group: Program of African Studies
Category: Lectures & Meetings
Public Health in Africa Series
Cultural Strategies for Disorderly Careers: Social Imaginaries and Institutional Logics in Contemporary Malawi
Ann Swidler, Sociology, UC Berkeley
Abstract: In Malawi, as in much of Africa, people construct their lives in situations of high uncertainty. Interviews (and extended acquaintance) with Malawians from varied backgrounds point to three major narratives through which they represent their life possibilities: stories of “Merit,” “Miracles,” and “Malice.” I analyze the way these narratives bridge two important institutional domains: the idealized social imaginary of the formal labor market, with its emphasis on educational credentials and disciplined effort, versus the social imaginary of unequal interdependence based in kin obligations, chieftaincy systems, and patron-client ties. These moral narratives illustrate ways people translate value among institutional (dis)orders.
Bio: Ann Swidler is Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. She has done influential work on culture, religion, and American society, including the now-classic article, “Culture in Action,” Organization Without Authority, Talk of Love: How Culture Matters, and the co-authored Habits of the Heart, The Good Society, and Inequality by Design. She is currently studying African responses to the AIDS epidemic, as well as chiefs, NGOs, and religious congregations in Malawi. Recent papers include: "Condom Semiotics: Meaning and Condom Use in Rural Malawi" with Iddo Tavory (American Sociological Review 2009); “Ties of Dependence: AIDS and Transactional Sex in Rural Malawi” (Studies in Family Planning 2007), "Teach a Man to Fish" (World Development 2009), “Hearsay Ethnography” (Poetics 2009), and “Working Misunderstandings: Donors, Brokers, and Villagers in Africa’s AIDS Industry” (Population and Development Review 2012), all with Susan Watkins; “Return of the Sacred: What African Chiefs Teach Us about Secularization” (Sociology of Religion 2010); and “Outsourcing Social Transformation: Development NGOs as Organizations” (with Watkins and Tom Hannan) Annual Review of Sociology (2012).