Introducing the David Graeber Memorial Lecture Series
This Spring inaugurates our Annual David Graeber Memorial Lecture Series, bringing together David’s friends, collaborators, colleagues, and readers across international and disciplinary boundaries.
David saw anarchism as something you do, and not an identity. While ultimately rejecting the label “anarchist Anthropologist,” David nonetheless undertook a body of work in his lifetime that responds in a singular way to the oddities, contradictions, and limitations of bureaucracy and capitalism, often with a focus on those spaces outside capital domination. This can be seen from his early work in Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology (2004), and Lost People: Magic and Legacy of Slavery in Madagascar (2007). But it is in the field where David formed the relationships and friendships for which he is so fondly remembered, blurring the lines between activism and academia. As much at home talking to Charlie Rose on PBS as he was addressing a general assembly at Occupy Wall Street, David became known as the one who popularized the guiding slogan of Occupy, “We are the 99 Percent!”
Through his activist involvement and a series of book-length works on historical anthropology, David still consistently managed a dizzying range of speaking engagements, even while becoming an academic-in-exile after a highly political departure from Yale University, followed by a stint at Goldsmiths (2008-2013), and finally a professorship at London School of Economics from 2013 onwards. His later publications delve into historical anthropology along with critiques of bureaucracy and managerialism, in Debt: The First 5000 Years (2015), The Utopia of Rules: on Technology, Stupidity, and Secret Joys of Bureaucracy (2015), and Bullshit Jobs: A Theory (2018). A posthumous collaboration with David Wengrow, The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity is due out in late 2021.
Care and freedom remained at the center of David’s work and thought. He believed that all revolutions are essentially moral transformations. It is in that spirit that we offer these memorial lectures, as a way of remaining in dialogue around ideas that are as much about future society as they are the present moment.
The David Graeber Memorial Lecture Series is a collaborative project of Anthropology and Social Change (CIIS), The Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences (BUAP), The Élisabeth Bruyère School of Social Innovation (St. Paul University), and University of Rojava.