HomeDavid Graeber's political anthropology

HomeDavid Graeber's political anthropology

David Graeber's political anthropology

Restituer l’anthropologie politique de David Graeber

*  *  *

Published on Tuesday, February 09, 2021


David Graeber's sudden passing away has seen the proliferation of numerous articles in newspapers deploring the disappearance of the best-sellers' author of Bullshit Jobs, a book which made him famous in France. However, it led to the unfortunate invisibilisation of its anthropological work, even though David Graeber has been at the forefront of theoretical work in anthropology, through its use of archeological, historical, and ethnographical data. He thus tried to transform our understanding of debt relationships, sacred and divine kingships, and of the origin of hierarchies and inequalities. This call for papers aims at putting at the forefront David Graeber's anthropological work, through an open question to social sciences researchers: how can we, today, mobilize and pursue David Graeber's work?


Study day organised with the  institut interdisciplinaire de l’Anthropologie du Contemporain (iiAC)  seminar

May 17, 2021 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Paris, France


The following call for papers aims at gathering researchers with an interest in David Graeber’s anthropological work. We will prioritise PhD students and young researchers’ contributions. What initially prompted us to write this call, as PhD students in a french university, was the uneasy feeling we felt when reading the numerous hommages from newspapers to David Graeber  It often seemed that these hommages were more often about paying their respect to the bestseller writer of Bullshit Jobs, invisibilizing the writer of a remarkable contribution to the ethnography of politics and memory in Madagascar (Graeber, 2007), or to the anthropology of value (Graeber, 2001) and  sacred and divine kingships (Sahlins and Graeber, 2017). These hommages did not have much to say about the relationship between anthropological work and reflexive experiences within activist groups and in the academic field (Graeber, 2004). They also definitely have tended to ignore the reach of his writings about an history of debt (Graeber, 2011), or of the origin of hierarchies and inequalities (Graeber, 2007 ; Graeber and Wengrow, coming soon), from ethnographical, archeological and historical empirical datas. This call thus aims to highlight the relevance of David Graeber’s anthropological work today and of those who manifest a scholarly interest in it.

If we have to consider the French mediatic field, one of the reasons for such treatment lies maybe in the not-so-evident framing of David Graeber’s work, which draws mainly on both economic and political anthropology. It remains quite uncommon in France, where anthropology still carries  an exotic public image, to hear an anthropologist talking out in the open about neoliberal capitalism, or about the global economy of debt from a point of view informed both by anthropological work and by activist actions. It’s even more striking when we consider that the books that have popularised his name, such as Debt: 5000 years, Bullshit Jobs or The Utopia of Rules, were mostly commented in France by activists, political scientists, sociologists, economists, or even psychologists, a fact that may have obscured the anthropological value of his books. It’s also quite a paradox when you consider the huge influence of French anthropology in Graeber’s work. Such events call for a renewed attention to the modalities through which David Graeber’s work was received, restituted, understood and used globally. We thus come to you with an explicit interrogation for social science researchers: who is nowadays aiming at furthering David Graeber’s work, and how should we do it?

The study day will be pleased to welcome anthropologist Keith Hart in order to introduce our exchanges. He will share with us some of the ideas he wrote in hommage to David Graeber, in order to interrogate the relevance of its legacy for the future of political anthropology." Et : "The study day is organised jointly with "The End of Libertalia" colloquium organised by the Museum of Quai Branly. The colloquium will discuss one of David Graeber's most recent publication, "Les Pirates des Lumières ou la véritable histoire de Libertalia", published by les éditions Libertalia"

Submission guidelines

We are expecting communication proposals in the form of a summary, word document format (maximum: 5000 characters without spaces), to be sent to the contacts below,

by April 30, 2021.

Duration of each communication: approximately 30 min.


  • Aurélia Gualdo - aurelia.gualdo@ehess.fr
  • Olivier Coulaux - olivier.coulaux@ehess.fr

Scientific referents

  • Riccardo Ciavolella - ​riccardo.ciavolella@ehess.fr
  • Gianfranco Rebucini - ​gianfranco.rebucini@ehess.fr
  • Hadrien Saiag - ​hadrien.saiag@ehess.fr


Graeber, David. 2001. ​Toward an anthropological theory of value: the false coin of our own dreams.​ New York, Etats-Unis d’Amérique: Palgrave.

———. 2004. ​Fragments of an anarchist anthropology​. Chicago, Etats-Unis d’Amérique: Prickly paradigm press.

———. 2007. ​Possibilities: essays on hierarchy, rebellion, and desire​. Oakland, Etats-Unis d’Amérique, AK Press.

———. 2007. ​Lost people: magic and the legacy of slavery in Madagascar.​ Bloomington, Etats-Unis d’Amérique: Indiana University Press.  

———. 2011. ​Debt: the first 5,000 years​. Brooklyn, N.Y: Melville House.

———. 2015. ​The utopia of rules: on technology, stupidity, and the secret joys of bureaucracy​. Brooklyn, Etats-Unis d’Amérique: Melville House.

Graeber, David, et Marshall David Sahlins. 2017. ​On kings​. Chicago (Ill.), Etats-Unis d’Amérique: Hau Books.


  • EHESS, Amphithéâtre François Furet - 105 Boulevard Raspail
    Paris, France (75006)


  • Friday, April 30, 2021


  • David Graeber, anthropologie, histoire, capitalisme, Madagascar, anarchisme, néo-libéralisme


  • Olivier Coulaux
    courriel : olivier [dot] coulaux [at] ehess [dot] fr
  • Aurélia Gualdo
    courriel : aurelia [dot] gualdo [at] gmail [dot] com

Information source

  • Olivier Coulaux
    courriel : olivier [dot] coulaux [at] ehess [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« David Graeber's political anthropology », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Tuesday, February 09, 2021, https://doi.org/10.58079/15ys

Archive this announcement

  • Google Agenda
  • iCal
Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search