Professor Michael Herzfeld will present findings from his recent (and ongoing) research on Thai goldsmiths in Bangkok. He will focus especially on the fragility of their collaborations and competition, and on the distrust that seems to be especially symbolized – and materialized – by an intense focus on what happens to the clouds of gold dust created by their work. He will place these findings in the context of research that he and others have conducted among artisans in other countries, notably Japan, Greece, and Italy.
About the Speaker
Michael Herzfeld is Ernest E. Monrad Professor of the Social Sciences in the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University, where has taught since 1991, and where he serves as Director of the Asia Center’s Thai Studies Program. He is also IIAS Visiting Professor of Critical Heritage Studies at the University of Leiden (and Senior Advisor to the Critical Heritage Studies Initiative of the International Institute for Asian Studies, Leiden); Professorial Fellow at the University of Melbourne; and Chang Jiang Scholar (2016-18) and currently visiting professor at Shanghai International Studies University (2015-17). The author of eleven books -- including Cultural Intimacy (1997; 3rd edition, 2016), The Body Impolitic: Artisans and Artifice in the Global Hierarchy of Value (2004), Evicted from Eternity: The Restructuring of Modern Rome (2009), and Siege of the Spirits: Community and Polity in Bangkok (2016) -- and numerous articles and reviews, he has also produced two ethnographic films (Monti Moments  and Roman Restaurant Rhythms ). He has served as editor of American Ethnologist (1995-98) and is currently editor-at-large (responsible for “Polyglot Perspectives”) at Anthropological Quarterly. An advocate for “engaged anthropology,” he has conducted research in Greece, Italy, and Thailand on, inter alia, the social and political impact of historic conservation and gentrification, the social effects of urban policy, the discourses and practices of crypto-colonialism, social poetics, the dynamics of nationalism and bureaucracy, and the ethnography of knowledge among artisans and intellectuals.