Dr Mathijs Pelkmans - 3rd October Anthropology Seminar Series

Thursday, October 3, 2019 - 17:00 to 18:30
Anthropology Seminar Room [RH1.20 Rowan House]

Dr Mathijs Pelkmans
London School of Economics

This paper focuses on the predicament of recognition: the impossibility to fully square one’s own sense of uniqueness with the need to have this uniqueness recognized by others. The World Nomad Games provide a particularly useful lens to explore this predicament. Organized biannually since 2014, with the aim of putting Kyrgyzstan on the world map, by 2018 it attracted athletes, spectators, and commentators from dozens of countries. But if the aim was to celebrate cultural uniqueness, how was this aim compromised by the need to be seen? And what is it that the observers actually saw? By taking on these questions, this paper reflects on the fear of irrelevance in our complex world, as well as on the treacherous line between recognition and ridicule.
Mathijs Pelkmans is associate professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His long-term fieldwork in Georgia and Kyrgyzstan resulted in the monographs Defending the Border and  Fragile Conviction. The title of the latter reflects his ongoing preoccupation with the instabilities of knowledge, as also seen in his edited volume Ethnographies of Doubt, a forthcoming special issue on Willful Blindness, and his current project on the 'Predicament of Recognition'.