Post-democracies: interdisciplinary engagements after the democratic ideal

15 April 2013 - 18 April 2013

Social Anthropology, Free School Lane, Cambridge CB3 9DT


Henrietta L. Moore (Social Anthropology)

Nick Long  (LSE)

Joanna Cook (UCL)

Conference summary

In recent years, the promise of emancipatory democratic statehood has inspired uprisings, revolutions, and unilateral interventions into other nations' affairs. 'Democracy' appears to be a cherished value for the actors in such situations. Yet ethnographic research is making some intriguing discoveries in this regard. Growing numbers of former pro-democracy activists in emerging democracies such as Indonesia or Kenya have come to view the democratic ideal with suspicion or disdain, perceiving it to be inherently ineffective or morally flawed. In the established democracies of Europe and North America, apparent advocates of democratic principles now seem to be tacitly renouncing them in favour of technocratic managerialism, and ‘apathetic’ forms of citizenship. Why? Our conference aims to solve this puzzle.

Scholars in political science, geography and sociology have explained such a phenomenon, which they label ‘post-democracy’, in terms of the increasing power that global corporations hold over nation-states and the technical complexity of current policy issues. This leaves several questions unanswered, and these will be at the heart of our workshop. How, exactly, might such structural factors prompt changes in the intensely personal arena of political belief? Are seemingly ‘post-democratic’ practices necessarily underpinned by post-democratic values? What other factors or circumstances might prompt people to discard the democratic ideal they previously subscribed to? To what alternatives do they turn?

Drawing together experts from diverse disciplines to address these issues; from those who have witnessed ‘post-democracy’ first hand in their fieldwork, to those deeply sceptical about the concept, this conference will be a landmark event in opening up a critical study of ‘post-democracies’ in their many scales and forms. 

Confirmed Speakers

  • Jan Bock, University of Cambridge
  • John Borneman, Princeton University
  • Joanna Cook, UCL
  • Jim Glassman, University of British Columbia
  • Thomas Grisaffi, LSE
  • Azra Hromadzic, Syracuse University
  • Giorgos Katsambekis, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
  • Insa Koch, LSE
  • Nick Long, LSE
  • Marianne Maeckelberg, Leiden University
  • Hiro Miyazaki, Cornell University
  • Henrietta Moore, University of Cambridge
  • June Nash, CUNY
  • David Nugent, Emory University
  • Ruth Prince, University of Cambridge
  • Natalia Roudakova, UCSD
  • Yannis Stavrakakis, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
  • Stefanie Strulik, University of Zurich
  • Andre Willis, Brown University


Registrations are now closed.


Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CRASSH),  University of Cambridge and the Wenner-Gren Foundation.


Accommodation for non-paper giving delegates

We are unable to arrange accommodation, however, the following websites may be of help.

Visit Cambridge
Cambridge Rooms

University of Cambridge accommodation webpage

NB. CRASSH is not able to help with the booking of accommodation.


Administrative assistance:

Poster image courtesy of


Location : Division of Social Anthropology, Free School Lane, Cambridge CB2 3RF

Date : 15 - 18 April 2013

 Monday 15 April


8.30 - 9.00


9.00 - 10.40

Session 1: The origins, scope and limits of post-democracy

  • Yannis Stavrakakis (School of Political Sciences, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki): Debt Society: Beyond Post-democracy?
  • Jim Glassman (Department of Geography, University of British Columbia): Post-Democracy, Fascism, or Something Else? A Comparative-Connective     Assessment of Politics in Thailand and the United States

10.40 - 11.10

Coffee Break

11.10 - 12.50

Session 1 (continued): The origins, scope and limits of post-democracy

  • David Nugent (Department of Anthropology, Emory University): Towards a Pre-History of Post-Democratic Tought: The Political Underground and Priests of Democracy in Nothern Peru
  • Samir Allel & Jean-Louis Fabiani (Centre Norbert Elias, EHESS Marseille & Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Central European University): Post-democracies or ante-democracies? A comparative framework

12.50 - 14.00


14.00 - 15.40

Session 2: Cynicism and discontent

  • Nick Long (Department of Anthropology, London School of Economics): Rethinking the causes of democratic recession: post-democratic     perspectives from Indonesia’s Riau Archipelago
  • Insa Koch (Department of Anthropology, London School of Economics): 'Democracy means nothing when you’re uneducated and poor’: Everyday     politics and electoral participation on an English council estate.

15.40 - 16.10

 Coffee Break


16.10 - 17.00

Session 2 (continued): Cynicism and discontent

  • Natalia Roudakova (Department of Communication, University of California, San Diego): The Irony In and Of Postsocialism

17.00 - 17.30




 Tuesday 16 April


9.00 - 10.40

Session 3: Democracy, post-democracy, and culture

  • Andre Willis (Department of Religious Studies, Brown University)
  • Henrietta L. Moore (Division of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge): Politicising Culture: Democracy and Election Violence In the Rift Valley, Kenya

10.40 - 11.10

Coffee Break

11.10 - 12.00

Session 3 (continued): Democracy, post-democracy, and culture

  • June Nash (Department of Anthropology, City University of New York): Post-Democracy or the Passage to Multicultural Co-existence in Democratic Nations

    12.00 - 13.10 


    13.10 - 14.50

     Session 4: Engagements with the state after ‘democratic’ transformations

    • Stefanie Strulik (Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Zurich): The Mantra of Democracy and Political Hope: Women’s Quota and Rural Local Politics in Northern India
    • Azra Hromadzic (Department of Anthropology, Syracuse University): Cheating Citizens: Youth’s Engagement with the State in Post-war and Post-socialist Bosnia and Herzegovina

    14.50 - 15.20

    Coffee Break

    15.20 - 17.00

     Session 5: Authoritarianism and its oppositions

    • Joanna Cook (Department of Anthropology, University College London): ‘What kind of democracy do we want?’: Post-democratic sentiment in Thailand
    • John Borneman (Department of Anthropology, Princeton University): Opposition and Group Formation: Authoritarianism Yesterday and Today

    17.00 - 17.30




     Wednesday 17 April


    9.00 - 10.40

    Session 6: Postdemocracy in times of crisis

    • Hirokazu Miyazaki (Department of Anthropology, Cornell University): Market/Politics: Abenomics and a Politics of Radical Uncertainty in Post-    Fukushima Japan
    • Jan-Jonathan Bock (Division of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge): Rejecting or Remaking Democratic Practices – Experiences during Times of     Crisis in Italy

    10.40 - 11.10

    Coffee Break

    11.10 - 12.30

    Session 6 (continued): Postdemocracy in times of crisis

    • Giorgos Katsambekis (School of Political Sciences, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki): Past the people? The place of the people in post-democracy

    12.30 - 13.30


    13.30 - 15.10 

     Session 7: Social movements and civil society: antidotes to or exemplary of  postdemocracy?

    • Marianne Maeckelbergh (Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology, Universiteit Leiden): What Comes After Democracy?: Experiments in Radical Equality
    • Ruth Prince (Division of Social Anthropology and Centre of African Studies, University of Cambridge): Creating Groups and Expressing Needs: Donors, Self-help groups and De-politicization in Kenya 

    15.10 - 15.40 

    Coffee Break

    15.40 - 16.30

    Session 7 (continued): Social movements and civil society: antidotes to or exemplary of  postdemocracy?

    • Thomas Grisaffi (Department of Anthropology, London School of Economics): Indigenous Visions of Democracy: Local Radio and Political Betrayal in the     Chapare Province, Bolivia.

    16.30 - 17.00


    Thursday 18 April


    9.00 - 10.45

    Postgraduate Seminar

    10.45  - 11.15

    Coffee Break

    11.15 - 12.00

    Concluding Discussion