May 4, 2021

Webinar 5/26: Narrating the Ineffable: How Does Inequality Get Reproduced?

  • Webinar
  • Wenner-Gren Hosted Event

If you missed it the first time now you can check out the archive of, “Narrating the Ineffable: How Does Inequality Get Reproduced?”

To solve a problem, it must first be defined. When it comes to enduring and endemic socio-economic inequality, this seems to be particularly the case. But in a post-truth world, we have become unmoored from any “arbiter” that could convincingly establish the measures of vital pillars of the economy, such as “inflation” and “growth.” All the more so for something as complex, multi-varied, and intersectional as “inequality.” Measurements of inequality and the tactics for reducing it (or even, hopefully, eliminating it) abound across our two disciplines of Anthropology and Economics, forestalling our ability to find helpful pathways forward. In short, could agreeing upon a specific definition for socio-economic inequality be a worthy step toward better solving the problem? Or would clarifying the definition do more harm than good, elevating some forms of inequality as meriting solutions while devaluing others?

A first step might be for anthropologists and economists to come together and develop a shared language that traverses their commonly divided domains. Classically, anthropology relies on qualitative data, while economics relies on quantitative data. How can we make these domains more commensurable, and thus, less ineffable to both ourselves and the publics with whom we hope to converse? Could our stories become more powerful if we transcended the qualitative/quantitative domains that divide our disciplines?

To investigate these possibilities, we will hear from three anthropologists and an economist, all of whom will discuss their own strategies for reaching various publics through their research, and how they continually attempt to define and circumscribe the meaning of “inequality”.

While Wenner-Gren is proud to be providing a platform for this event, the views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Foundation.


Gustav Peebles, Isabelle Guérin, Caroline Schuster, and Sylvia Yanagisako