When Elites and Outlaws Do Philanthropy: On the Limits of Private Vices for Public Benefit

Public Lecture

2nd February 2017


Historical Museum, University of Oslo

Frederiks gt. 2, Oslo, Norway

Following the financial crisis of 2008, global financial and corporate elites suffered a profound blow to their legitimacy. The 1% on the top, evading taxes and leading the way to a global financial meltdown, were re-cast as villains. In response to this crisis, philanthropy was revamped and positioned as the only solution to global problems. Billionaires were turned into philanthropic heroes and greed into a social good. ‘Philanthrocapitalism’, moral capitalism, ‘celebrity humanitarianism’ and CSR became the buzzwords in elite circles, accompanying elitist resentment towards weak governments. If there is any other group that has been fighting its villainous public image, resenting the government and seeking to acquire legitimacy through philanthropy, it must be the transnational outlaw motorcycle clubs, the so called 1%ers, considered by law enforcement worldwide as organized crime. Juxtaposing philanthropy of the top and bottom 1%, the talk analyses both the function and ideology of contemporary philanthropy, while placing it within the context of neoliberal restructuring of economy and social relations, most pressingly felt precisely at the bottom. The critique effectively points to the limits of utilizing private vices for public benefit.

Tereza Kuldova is a social anthropologist and Researcher at the Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History, University of Oslo, and currently a Visiting Senior Researcher at the Department of Cultural and Social Anthropology, University of Vienna. She has studied the elite segment of the Indian fashion industry and the complex relations of production. Currently she works on an individual research project ‘Gangs, Brands and Intellectual Property Rights: Interdisciplinary Comparative Study of Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs and Luxury Brands’ funded by the Norwegian Research Council. She is the author of Luxury Indian Fashion: A Social Critique (2016) and editor of Fashion India: Spectacular Capitalism (2013), as well as Urban Utopias: Excess and Expulsion in Neoliberal South Asia (2017).

The seminar will take place in the seminar room on the 3rd floor, Frederiks gate 2. After the seminar there will be room for informal conversations and drinks.

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