Tayyab Mahmud, LAPA Fellow; Seattle University School of Law

Debt and Discipline

Mon, 04/30/2012
4:30 - 6:00 PM, Kerstetter Room, Marx Hall
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We hope you will join us for a LAPA Seminar with  Tayyab Mahmud, LAPA Fellow and Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Global Justice at Seattle University School of Law, to discuss "Debt and Discipline."  The commentator is Carol Greenhouse, Chair of the Department of Anthropology.

As always, the LAPA format asks that seminar participants familiarize themselves with the paper in advance. The commentator will open the session by summarizing the main themes in the paper and presenting some topics for discussion. The author then has the right of first response before we open to the floor for questions. The seminar will end with a brief reception in the Kerstetter Room, giving everyone a chance to mingle and meet.  The topic and paper will be available soon.

Abstract:  "Over the last three decades, neoliberal restructuring of the economy created a symbiosis of debt and discipline. New legal regimes and strategic use of monetary policy displaced Keynesian welfare, facilitated financialization of the economy, broke the power of organized labor, and expanded debt to sustain aggregate demand. Public laws and policies created a field of possibility within which financial markets extended their reach and brought ever-increasing sections of the working classes and the marginalized within the ambit of the credit economy. Reordered public policies and new norms of personal responsibility demarcated the horizon within which the economically vulnerable pursued strategies of economic survival and security. Neoliberalism deployed refashioned concepts of individual responsibility and human capital to facilitate assemblage of subjects who would engage the financialized economy as risk-taking entrepreneurs. Faced with restructured labor markets, wage pressures, and shrinking welfare, working classes found themselves with little choice but to pay for their basic needs through debt. Engulfment in debt, in turn, induced self-discipline and conformity with the logic of the financialized economy and precarious labor markets. This ensemble sutured debt with discipline."

Tayyab Mahmud is Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Global Justice at Seattle University School of Law, where he teaches comparative constitutional law, international law, legal theory, and legal history. He received his B.A. from Punjab University, M. Sc. (International Relations) from Islamabad University, Ph.D. (Political Science) from University of Hawaii, and J.D. from University of California Hastings College of Law. His writings in the areas of comparative constitutional law, international law, critical legal theory, colonial legal regimes, and postcolonial legal systems have appeared in numerous legal journals. He has served on the editorial boards of several journals in comparative and international law. He is a past co-president of the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT), and currently serves on the Steering Committee of the Board of Directors of Latina/o Critical Legal Studies, Inc. (LatCrit). His current research is focused on extra-constitutional usurpation and exercise of power in post-colonial states.

Carol Greenhouse is a cultural anthropologist with primary interests in the ethnography of the law and politics. Her interests focus on the discursive and experiential dimensions of state power, especially federal power in the United States, and the reflexive and critical connections – in the U.S. and elsewhere – between ethnography and democracy. She is also interested in ethnographic genres as forms of knowledge, literariness and social action. Her publications include A Moment's Notice: Time Politics Across Cultures; Praying for Justice: Faith, Order, and Community in an American Town; and Law and Community in Three American Towns (with Barbara Yngvesson and David Engel); as well as edited volumes, Democracy and Ethnography: Constructing Identities in Multicultural Liberal States and (with Elizabeth Mertz and Kay Warren) Ethnography in Unstable Places: Everyday Life in Contexts of Dramatic Political Change. She has taught at Cornell University (1977-1991) and Indiana University - Bloomington (1991-2001), and has served as visiting professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (Paris). Professor Greenhouse teaches courses on the ethnography of the United States, the social effects of political instability, and the cultural dimensions of political and legal institutional processes.