Past events


Podcast: Black Box by Algorithmic Governance Research Network with Tereza Østbø Kuldova

Click here to listen to the podcast episode.

Presentation at Behind Walls, Beyond Disciplines: Science, Technology, and the Carceral State of the Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program, University of Michigan

Organizer: Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study & Law, Organization, Science and Technology Research Network

Organizer: Research Cluster “Society and Culture in Motion”, Convenor: Prof. Dr. Olaf Zenker

The recording of the Amo Lecture can be found here:

Organizer: David Kananizadeh, Jamal Ali Bashir

In social scientific engagements with modern statehood, patron‐client‐relationships are on a rather complicated footing, regularly framed as state apparatuses’ wicked other. Whereas the modern state is understood as working through a bureaucratic process that facilitates a fair distribution of resources, patron‐client‐relationships emerge as “corrupt” and “ineffective” (cf. Asiimwe 2013). However, as more recent contributions (Chatterjee 2004, 2011; Piliavsky 2014; Lyon 2019) have tried to show, often enough, it is exactly these networks that keep states “working” and provide them with legitimacy by mediating between state apparatuses and citizens in complicated ways. In this workshop, we will contribute to these debates by interrogating the relationship between patronage and the state as ‘politics‐in‐conjunction’, i.e. exploring the ways patronage and the state are politically productive in relation to each other. Hereby, we focus on exploring the critical moments in which actors navigate between these two registers – patronage and the state – in holding politics accountable for the ways resources are distributed.

We understand patron‐client‐relationships as a form in which people “invest” (Thévenot 1984) to engage the uncertainties of resource scarcities and related constraining conditions (Scott 1972). By asking how equivalences are established in these relationships, we will inquire into the reciprocity at work therein, into how exchanges of service are measured, and into the materialities of measurement (cf. Boltanski and Thévenot 2006 [1991]). Rather than engaging patron‐client relationships merely as an ideal type, we will investigate the negotiations necessary to stabilize such relationships and their frequent contestation. While patronage as a system of exchange can be mobilized to problematize the distribution of resources, often enough, patron‐client‐relationships are themselves criticized by the actors involved with reference to other institutionalized forms (e.g. Scott 1985; Van der Linden 1997; Mannathukkaren 2010; Bolten 2013; Murphy 2017). Here, we interrogate patron‐client‐relationships not as isolated, but deeply entangled with other social institutions (e.g. kinship, gender, class) and principles of sociality, through which actors creatively navigate to make claims, pursue negotiations and contest resource flows. These moments of contestation provide fruitful insights into the ways patronage is accounted for and how these accounts relate to other regimes of accountability, like the technical‐financial accounting through which, ideally, the modern state distributes its resources (cf. Luhmann 1983 [1969]). It is exactly in these moments in which actors translate between these different regimes, where notions of the common good are negotiated (cf. Boltanski and Thévenot 2006 [1991]). In what ways, then, do patronage and modern statehood supplement each other in accounting for the flows of resources and the inequalities produced therein?