Past Events

Past Events & Gallery

Platonic Symposia

The IPA hosts annual symposia on a variety of topics from the Platonic Dialogues

November the 7th, every year in Florence Italy


The Summer School is free. Limited places available. Apply early!

Roger Griffin: Liminality, Liminoidality, and Modernism
Keynote Speech - IPA Conference 20 May 2021


Liminality, Disease and Politics

May 20-21, 2021

online conference of the journal International Political Anthropology

Conference organising committee: Agnes Horvath, Marius Ion Bentza, Paul O’Connor and Camil Francisc Roman.
Zoom ID: To be inserted Participation requires a password that will be sent a few days before the meeting from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. If you have any questions, please, email Agnes Horvath (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
All times as in Florence, Italy

Day One: Thursday 20th May

10:00-10:15 – Welcome

Arpad Szakolczai (Professor Emeritus, University College Cork, Ireland), Bjorn Thomassen (Professor, Roskilde University, Denmark), Harald Wydra (Holden Fellow in Politics, Director of Studies in HSPS, and Tutor, Cambridge University), Agnes Horvath (Dr of Law, PhD, main editor, International Political Anthropology, Florence)

10:15-12:15 – Panel One: Disease, Technology, and the Digital Panopticon

Chair: Paul O’Connor (Assistant Professor, Sociology, United Arab Emirates University)



Eugene McNamee (Professor, Head of School of Law, Ulster University)

Title: Liminality in no-man’s land: Disease in Northern Ireland


Northern Ireland, a small politically ill-defined (statelet? region? nation? country?) and ill at ease (British/Irish/both/neither) nodule on the edge of Europe, in the recent statequake of the Brexit process became the pivot around which achievement or not of the negotiated separation hinged, a matter of borders, here or there, on land or in the sea.... Borders are paradigmatic places of the liminal and the parasitic, extrusions and ruptures in the flow from one place to another; one thinks of passport controls, customs checks and all the refined machinery of control, but also of no man’s lands, of smugglers, of money-exchange bureaux, clandestine night-crossings... What light might be cast on the murky goings-on in the extended no-man’s land, ‘foot in both camps’, space of Northern Ireland, by a foregrounding of the parasite as a prime concept or framework of analysis? By any chance might light be reflected back on the dynamics of our global times?


Bjorn Thomassen (Professor, Roskilde University, Denmark);

Kieran Keohane (Professor, University College Cork, Ireland)


Rachel MagShamhrain (Head of Department of German, UCC, Cork)
Title: The State of Exception: Re-reading Carl Schmitt in a state of pandemic lockdown


From the Book of Lamentations, which reflects on the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 589 AD, through Boccaccio’s Decameron of 1351, written in the aftermath of the Plague, to Voltaire’s “Poème sur le désastre de Lisbonne” and his Candide, shaken forth by the Lisbon earthquake of All Saints Day 1755, the catastrophic has been a rich source of poetic and philosophical inspiration. In political philosophical terms, Carl Schmitt’s uses the emergency, the Notfall, or state of exception (Ausnahmezustand) as the ultimate test and measure of power, determining who exactly is truly sovereign. To Schmitt, it is only under such exceptional circumstances that we can know where and with whom sovereignty lies: “It is precisely the exception that makes relevant the subject of sovereignty [...]. The most guidance the constitution can provide is to indicate who can act in such a ease. If such action is not subject to controls, if it is not hampered in some way by checks and balances, as is the case in a liberal constitution, then it is clear who the sovereign is. He decides whether there is an extreme emergency as well as what must be done to eliminate it. Although he stands outside the normally valid legal system, he nevertheless belongs to it, for it is he who must decide whether the constitution needs to be suspended in its entirety.” (Schmitt, Politische Theologie, 1922, 13-14). He defines sovereignty as a liminal term, a borderline concept (Grenzbegriff) and the question of sovereignty as the decision on the question of the exception.
On the basis of this, he develops a working theory of decisionism, whereby the actual content or “what” of a decision is not understood as the germane element, but rather the “who” of the decision and whether that “who” is the proper authority and possessor of the necessary sovereignty.
His political philosophy is, naturally, read in and possibly irredeemably tainted by the immediate historical context of the rise of National Socialism. Nevertheless, its usefulness, not as a political doctrine but rather as a tool to scrutinize and understand the decisions taken under evolving COVID-19 pandemic conditions, will be explored here.


Camil Roman (John Cabot University, Rome);

Paul Stenner (The Open University)



John O’Brien (Lecturer, Waterford Institute of Technology)
Title: Drinking in the Pandemic. Politics and the transformation of sociability


The Covid-19 pandemic has created a rapid and dramatic change in the nature of ritual, pleasure and sociability through the raft of political ordinances that were introduced to control its spread. Sociability is one of the key vectors of transmission so became a focus of regulation as a crucial step to protect life. ‘Drinking’, in the sense of alcohol consumption, provides both an indicator of and a lens through which to see these changes. Various dynamics are in evidence. The limits of law and protocol and their tendency to undermine themselves if pushed beyond the limit was in evidence from the nature of directives to close and regulate the reopening of pubs. Goodwill and solidarity underpinned the lockdown ultimately, as there was in general a lack of formal sanctions and unwillingness to utilise criminal law, and to the extent that they were utilised, absurdities and contradictions proliferated. Drinking has been used for symbolic politics, whether representing state -v- community or republican virtue -v- private selfishness in Ireland, or the threat to the supposedly essentialist liberal soul of the British from the pandemic, which Boris Johnson has repeatedly expressed through the appeals to the British pub’s importance. Thus, mundane daily acts have become part of a great public drama, rather than remaining quotidian and local. The pandemic has witnessed a great acceleration in the privatisation of drinking - a process that had been politically created some years before - but which has now accelerated. There is a major change in drinking patterns with the taboo against home drinking that once existed in Ireland further broken; a division of drinkers with heavy consumers drinking more and moderate drinkers drinking less than before as the drinking occasion has become destructured; and an acceleration of the process of ‘premiumisation’ as everyday drinks are replaced with heavily branded products aiming at social distinction. However, a painful melancholic longing for public pleasure and sociability is widely evident. The image of the Irish pub represented the post-Land War ideal of Ireland as a nation of small proprietors. Concentration and massification of the pub and hospitality sector is on the horizon as major pubcos will likely aggressively enter the market and acquire vacated licences of the small fish who could not survive the interruption to their business. Thus, examining drinking, as a lens through which to view the impact of the pandemic on social life at large, we see a leap forward in massification, privatisation, personal behaviour becoming relevant to public dramas, and a sense of the absurd as ordinances grow in importance.


Eugene McNamee (Professor, Head of School of Law, Ulster University); Kieran Keohane (Professor, University College Cork)



Chris Rojek (Professor, The City University, London)
Title: A mysterious pandemic


The two most important facts about the COVID-19 and pandemic are that it is unprecedented and that it is a devil of a mystery. In fundamental ways, both condition the pattern of authority and obedience under lockdown. To take first, the issue of the unprecedented nature of the repercussions of the pandemic, the ILO estimates that 81% of employers, and 66% of own account workers in the whole world, are influenced by recommended or required workplace closures (ILO 2020). In the past, the world has seen major disruptions to ordinary life caused by biological contagion, famine, natural disaster and war, but the global lockdown response to COVID-19 is simply off the scale of anything known to history. There has never been a pandemic that has caused so much cessation of economic activity and such severe curtailment on freedom of movement. To call it unprecedented is entirely apposite. To come to the second issue, despite the massive upward trend in scientific research into the problem, COVID-19 remains an infernal mystery, shrouded in unanswered questions. It’s origins remain disputed.


Maggie O’Neill (Professor, University College Cork);

Marius Bentza (Polish Institute of Advanced Studies, Krakow)


12:15-13:00 Break


13:00-15:30 – Panel Two: The political culture of disease and the void

Chair: Marius Ion Bentza (Polish Institute of Advanced Studies, Krakow)


Keynote Speech: Roger Griffin (Professor Emeritus, Oxford Bridge University, Oxford),
Liminality, Liminoidality, and Modernism

In this talk Roger Griffin will highlight the relationship between the culturally pre-established liminality involved in rites of transition in premodern societies which allows the initiate to progress from one definite to another definite state. This is then contrasted with the liminoidality of modern society where the flux and liquidity of experience and the anomie that accompanies it have become permanent for many with no culturally prescribed second stage to progress to. He will suggest that it is a subliminal drive to resolve the unbearable open-endedness of modernity’s permanent state of flux that generates modernist art -- which imposes utopian (Apollonian) forms on (Dionysian) ‘liquid reality’ to resolve it by expressing it. Moreover, following this argument, he claims that the sense of flux also generates modernist political ideologies which attempt to resolve anomic liminoidality by attempting to impose on contemporary history a utopian and generally catastrophic ‘new order’. It concludes with the suggestion that perhaps the prospect of a horrendously real (ecological, demographic) apocalypse may put an end to the era of artificial ideological apocalypticism which imagines the present as a state of ‘decadent ‘liminality which is to be resolved by imposing through force a new order or new beginning only after a societal catastrophe has been induced by revolutionary action.


Arpad Szakolczai (Professor Emeritus, University College Cork, Ireland);

Marius Bentza (Polish Institute of Advanced Studies, Krakow)



Paul O’Connor (Assistant Professor, United Arab Emirates University)
Title: Technocratic Tricksterism: Experts, Knowledge-Generation and the Self-Legitimation of the Administrative State


The current pandemic can be understood both as a biological and a socio-political event. The biological event is the emergence of the novel coronavirus and its spread through human populations. The socio-political event comprises the responses of governments to this disease and their consequences. Pandemics are nothing new in human history and Covid-19 is far from being the most virulent or deadly pathogen we have encountered. Yet it has resulted in the imposition of unprecedented restrictions on personal movement and social interaction. A crucial role in advocating for and legitimising these extraordinary measures has been played by assorted experts within state bureaucracies, government advisory bodies and academia. The pandemic has provided the occasion for a technocratic backlash against the populist revolts of the past decade, characterised by demands to ‘listen to the experts’, base decision making ‘on the data’ and follow ‘the science’. These claims cannot however be taken at face-value; ‘data’ and ‘science’ are constructs generated through inescapably political processes, while assertions of scientific rigour and neutrality can easily mask the self-interest of technocratic elites. This paper will seek to characterise a particular type of knowledge, that generated by public health and other ‘experts’, using the Covid-19 pandemic as an exemplum. Technocratic knowledge consists of various esoteric procedures for the translation of social processes into abstract models and statistical data, and their manipulation to legitimise interventions directed back onto society. It is founded on a position of exteriority, regarding society not from the point of view of a participant but from a putatively ‘neutral’ standpoint on the outside. It is universalising and generalising, treating the social as a uniform field subject to standardised rules and interventions, disregarding localised contexts and particular circumstances. It is transformative, the purpose of knowledge being not understanding but the design of interventions to advance pre-determined administrative goals. It is monologic, rationalising activity according to the requirements of a singular end (in this case reducing transmission of Covid-19) to the exclusion of all other considerations. Finally, despite its façade of neutrality, its recommendations reliably serve the interests of technocratic status-groups (expansion of administrative competencies, increased claims on resources, enhanced influence and prestige). To this end, technocratic knowledge consistently tends to emphasise elements of risk, danger and suffering in order to justify the need to exert control over and transform society. Technocratic knowledge therefore embodies the ‘trickster logic’ described by Horvath and Szakolczai (2020) and is also clearly related to Foucault’s concept of ‘governmentality’. Rather than a superior, expert, ‘neutral’ type of knowledge, technocracy produces a mere simulacrum, in which abstract models substitute for concrete social reality. One might say it represents the deployment of trickster logic by the administrative apparatus of the state, to exert control over conduct and simultaneously legitimise that control as being in the best interests of the population.


Arvydas Grišinas (Lecturer, Kaunas University of Technology);

Arpad Szakolczai (Professor Emeritus, University College Cork, Ireland)



Daniel Gati (MA, University of Amsterdam)
Title: Symbiosis in a predatory framework


Not acknowledging the teachings of the past leaves one vulnerable to falling for the tricks of sophistry or even more simply put, to fall for trickster tactics such as repetition, image mongering, fake news, historical ignorance, or plainly the persuading force of the majority. A cancer according to a definition used by Hippocrates for the uncontrolled growth of malignant cells some 2.400 years ago, is nothing more than a symbiotic relationship turning into a parasitic one. I would go even further by saying that it is a parasitic relationship tipping over to a predatory one as it attacks those who are already weak, and spreads psychologically to others. In our modern world where politics are not conducted by the old and wise but increasingly the young and ambitious, is it so surprising that they cling to whatever can bring them a winning angle, such as the war on terror of the younger Bush, the war on migrants of an Orban or a Salvini, and now the war on Covid by current politicians? As stated by Marius Ion Bentza, isn’t it easier to make ‘policies’ instead of ‘politics’? Isn’t testing, quantifying, rationalising, controlling, (or scapegoating, as pointed out by Janos Mark Szakolczai) the next best thing while you figure out what to do, as written by Paul O’Connor? I believe that a relationship becomes parasitical only if the chain of gift relations is interrupted: a new-born is suckling on her mother’s breast, keeping her awake night after night, demanding unconditional love and attention might come under this interpretation, except that one day, many years later, he or she will give back the love and care a thousand-fold. If not to her, for a lack of time, to his brothers, loved one, children, or to humanity. This is indeed a perfect definition of gift relationships. In my view, a parasite is gift relations interrupted, or ‘suspended in liminality’ as in Arpad Szakolczai’s definition. In short, we cannot live without our parasites because we have been doing so for millions of years in a symbiotic relationship with several kilograms of bacteria and probably viruses (Coronavirus was first identified in 1965), living in our stomachs and on our body, just as we are parasites to our mother earth in a most fortunate and fruitful symbiosis. The problem arises only if we, and our ‘young’ politicians, artists, academics, businessman, philanthropists, and other movers and shakers, come to think that we can live as predators “living on networks, communications, junctions and relations, subduing them and inverting their meaning or rightful dispositions”, as stated by Camil Roman. Making distraction or amusement a final goal would be a grave mistake indeed. The consequences of this temporary ‘fix’, made permanent for lack of better alternative, can be seen all around us. Let us remember that for thousands (millions?) of years we were dedicated to generational wisdom and a general appreciation of heroes and geniuses that fought for mankind; that until our last golden age, a blink of an eye, a skipped heart-beat, which was more then 500 years ago, we valued our kin more than a general idea of ‘equality’, and we admired foremost those artisans, artists and writers who could bring us closer to knowing ourselves through giving beauty to the formless material, it being a piece of marble, an empty canvas or a blank page.


Rachel MagShamhrain (Head of Department of German, UCC, Cork);

Roger Griffin: Professor emeritus, Oxford Bridge University, Oxford 

Arvydas Grišinas (Lecturer, Kaunas University of Technology)
Title: A Splitting Modernity: Divergent Truth Formulae in Crisis Management


This paper argues that over the past several years, we have been experiencing a schismogenesis in Western political epistemology, which has accelerated in face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The disease and the efforts to manage this global crisis reveal a structural divergence of several streams of truth narratives that came to constitute the contemporary Western society over the past few years.
In times of Social media, DeepFake technology and Post-Truth politics, the modern truth regime, to use Michel Foucault’s notion, which has been grounded in traditional knowledge-producing institutions, such as science, government and law, splits into at least two different truth formulae, grounded in different forms of representation and validation. Here, rationalist, empirical validation-based scientific knowledge is challenged by symbolic and charismatic narratives that use digital technologies to performatively establish alternatives to the mainstream knowledge. Forms of validation of such truth formula includes symbolism, experiential grounding, modern folklore and performative imagination. As Thomas Pettit notices, this mostly internet-based political discourse, due to its plural and polyphonic nature, resembles the pre-Gutenberg, oral cultures of communication, where fact, myth, fiction and opinion intertwine to produce experientially rather than empirically - grounded narratives. Instances like Capitol Riots demonstrate, that these a-rational, mythological narratives, especially in form of conspiracy theories, have real political impact and gain prominence across the Western world. The pandemic crisis, however, adds yet another layer of complexity, as the enlightened rationalist crisis management strategies (quarantine, masks, vaccines and social distancing) produce adverse reactions that are motivated by a plural variety of counterproposals, from conspiracy theories to science fiction, to charlatanism, alternative cures, etc. The mainstream explanation for these symbolically grounded social coping mechanisms is lack of education, disinformation or banal ignorance. However, there are deeper motivations for this kind of a-rational behaviour in face of crisis, which stem from the pluralizing regime of truth and knowledge-making.


Maggie O’Neill (Professor, UCC, Ireland);

Chris Rojek (Professor, The City University, London)



Matthew French (PhD Researcher, Social & Cultural Anthropology, University College London)
Title: Ethnography In/Of Covid 19 – Rigorous Insights or a Cabinet of Curiosities?


More than a year into the pandemic, research based on ‘Covid-era’ ethnography is now emerging. Some academics had called for a halt to fieldwork, mostly amongst sociologists (Fine & Abramson 2020), but also primatologists (Reid 2020). Anthropology faculties have instead insisted that ‘the show can go on!’ This may have been a rallying call born of intense frustration and dislocation. The intimacy of participant-observation (residing long-term amongst interlocutors) has been a differentiating feature of the discipline from the outset. But we can and should ask: Why has anthropology not chosen to take the pandemic as an opportunity to critique itself, whilst staying out of the field (however defined)? This paper considers whether Covid-era research outputs based on ‘virtual’ or ‘remote’ ethnography will provide rigorous insights or merely a cabinet of curiosities? Covid-era research already ranges between: i) presentation of tentative conclusions from remote, often autoethnographic, projects; and ii) hyper-localised, sometimes traumatic, real-time reports from those with privileged, physical (but perhaps unplanned) access. The Covid-era will doubtless invigorate ‘alternative’ ethnographic approaches, focusing remotely on the material, visual and digital (Gunel et al 2020). But common-sense tells us that much will be rendered inaccessible by the absence of visceral co-presence. There are risks that the validity asserted for ‘non-present’ research may stretch credibility. Can we endorse those who claim, as an opportunity, that anthropology thrives amidst such instability and inaccessibility? This paper offers a ‘remote-review’ of the typical responses amongst ethnographers (and their employing institutions) to the threats posed to their method, raison d’être, and social-developmental ambitions by the obstacle of Covid at large.


Paul Stenner (Professor, Open University);

John O’Brien (Lecturer, Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland)



End of the first day of the Conference on Liminality, Disease and Politics


Day Two: Friday 21st May

10:00-12:30 – Panel Three: Parasites on to parasites and the birth of planetary metastasis

Chair: Camil Roman (Lecturer, John Cabot University, Rome)



Paul Stenner (Professor of Social Psychology, School of Psychology and Counselling, The Open University)
Title: The parasite as a liminal operator: from Michel Serres to Bong June-ho to the pandemic


Michel Serres’ book The Parasite (1982) finds within the canon of Western literature an instructive ‘anthropology’ concerning social dynamics of abuse and betrayal, hospitality and hostility, exploitation and justice. He draws from that literature a coherent set of concepts for constructing the ‘field’ of the human sciences in an innovative way. This paper will use Bong June-ho’s 2019 film Parasite to explicate Serres’ notion of parasitism as an atomic (three-sided) form of relation that is unidirectional, and yet whose mediation is constitutive of psycho-social systems. Parasitism turns out to offer new transdisciplinary insights into the relations between systems of different types, from the physical and biological to the psychic and political.


Eugene McNamee (Professor, Head of School of Law, Ulster University); Paul
O’Connor (Assistant Professor, CHSS).


Egor Novikov (PhD Candidate, Heidelberg, Germany)
Title: The Political Ambivalence of Sickness


Most public narratives of the pandemic espouse the biomedical vision of disease as an external or internal enemy seizing public and individual bodies. Within this discourse, disease is constructed as a purely negative event: a meaningless corruption, an error, which has to be fixed, so that the public and individual bodies return to the hypothetical ‘normal’ state. This normative vision inspires and justifies the exceptional policies of biopolitical governance, carried out in the name of saving life from non-life. In this key, we witnessed how the virus became the public enemy, the hostis (in Schmitt’s terms), justifying the disciplinary tightening and cleaning of the collective bodies around the globe.
Meanwhile, charity and mysticism can build different, non-antagonistic relations with disease (or, rather, sickness, if we accept the terminological distinction between the physical state and its interpretation, applied by Kleinman and others). Disease is ambivalent because it is a part of self and negation of self at the same time. Healthcare and hygiene-oriented policies address this ambivalence as a lack of normality, restricting the experience of sickness to the role of a mute hostis within. But in the non-medical context, the ambivalence of sickness imbues it with liminal, transformative potential, relating it to hidden truths and sacred powers. The sacred position of lepers and madmen investigated by Foucault in History of Madness is an archetypical example of this ambivalence: dangerous for the social order, they are excluded, but also feared and venerated as outsiders. This ambivalence of sickness was systematically mobilized at the junction of politics and mysticism as a source of empowerment or as a bridge to the transcendental and the sacred. In this paper I bring up examples from Christian understanding of sickness and Saiva Tantric tradition to demonstrate the possibility of a sensitive attitude towards the dialectic nature of disease.


Paul Stenner (Professor of Social Psychology, School of Psychology and Counselling, The Open University, UK);

Matt French (PhD Researcher, Social & Cultural Anthropology, University College London)




Janos Mark Szakolczai (Ph.D Candidate, University College Cork)
Title: “Nothing New in the West”: paralleling the eternal recurrence of invisible and miasmatic enemies


Since its outbreak, many political leaders paralleled the gestation of the COVID19 pandemic to a War (see for e.g. Pedro Sanchez, Emmanuel Macron, Mario Draghi). This argument (or better, declaration) has been particularly enforced in concomitance with the harshening of the first lockdown measures and since then repeated and reused, comparing medics to front-line soldiers, masks to ammo, etc. In my paper, I will draw parallels with the real essence of front-line and trench living, as testified in the short novel by E.M. Remarque, ‘All Quiet in the Western Front’ (1929). With a vividness and tragedy that cost him exile, the author describes the unbearable conditions of living locked within trenches, the propaganda of warfare requiring fighting at ‘whatever the cost’ (over our youngest); the feeling that war becomes the only existence that matters, taking over our actions and thoughts; the deep certainty that we will never return to normality once it is all ‘over’ – whatever ‘normality’ meant before. My argument is that if we want to live this pandemic as a War, we then must thus take into consideration the true horrors of such implications: what war indeed justifies and has justified, what it causes and changes. The long-term effects of such conditions, like the ones described in the novel, are becoming more and more evident.


Harald Wydra (Cambridge University, UK);

Roger Griffin (Professor Emeritus, Oxford Bridge University, Oxford)



Bjorn Thomassen (Professor, Roskilde University, Denmark)
Title: From the social life of parasites to the parasitical nature of social relations


Simply put, parasites are organisms that live in or on another organism. Human beings are hosts to a whole series of parasitic worms and protozoa. When exactly we became hosts to parasitical worms is not known with certainty, but they were certainly already present in Ancient Egypt. Most of the parasites we host can be explained by animal contact. Parasites can be plants, fungi or animals, and each of these forms can develop various strategies for “exploiting” the host. When infected with a worm, we will instinctively find a way to get rid of the parasite, and as quickly as possible, to rid ourselves from a disease. However, sometimes parasites develop a
symbiotic relationship with their “host”, adapting in a more structural way to the host environment, becoming “functioning”. Now, the open question I would like to discuss in this paper is the following: to what extent, and in what exact ways, can parasitical relations be considered part of social and political life – in a direct or metaphorical way? And could it even be
that the theory of ‘spontaneous generation’, falsified long ago in biology, holds some value when applied to the social level? I will try and tackle the question via a discussion of Gabriel Tarde’s theory of imitation and with reference also to Michel Serres’ ‘epistemology of the parasite’.


John O’Brien (Lecturer, Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland);

Chris Rojek (Professor, City University, London)


Agnes Horvath (Dr of Law, PhD, main editor, International Political Anthropology, Florence)
Title: Diseases in Politics

The paper will address the central theme of the conference: what if a sudden emergency situation can lead to or bring about permanent changes in politics. An emergency is a crisis or a liminal situation, but it can happen that it turns permanent. Such a turn might be accidental, but it can also be purposefully orchestrated, just as liminal situations can also be forced. The agents of such artificial moves can be called as parasites (Michel Serres), or tricksters (Paul Radin), who have a tendency to take over, through various media, political communication. Under such conditions, politics itself becomes a disease that can act without a mover and can move without an action. It becomes incommensurable, the negation of regularities, gaining a pure dynamism of its own, which can quickly lead into the multiplication and amplification of any growth, undermining commensurability or ratio, promoting a generalizing, universalistic, even eschatological solution.
In this regard the idea that emergencies might be exaggerated, or even purposefully mongered, will also be explored.


Bjorn Thomassen (Roskilde University);

Harald Wydra (Cambridge University)


12:30-13:15 Break


13:15-14.00 – Keynote Speech: Arpad Szakolczai (Professor Emeritus, University College Cork)


Title: Rulers of liminality: On contemporary modes of gaining and operating power

The measures set in motion due to the COVID pandemic, the sudden lockdown in March-April 2020, caught everyone unprepared, and also left bewildered, as if in a state of shock. Our life changed, radically, and evidently forever, in a matter of days if not hours, giving a new meaning
to the old EU slogan “Horizon 2020”. However, some people, among our ‘rulers’, were evidently prepared, perhaps not for this event in particular, but something similar, and if were not specifically prepared, immediately tried to use the events as an opportunity. The paper will try to specify how to understand the term ‘our rulers’, which cannot be comprehended through traditional sociological categories, least of all through Marxism, as they do not belong to a social class like the bourgeoisie, and are not even simply the super-rich, but are persons who gained their wealth and influence quite suddenly, out of the blue, through a kind of ‘competition’ where the game itself emerged suddenly, through a ‘trickster logic’ that has affinity with the game of musical chairs, as the rules of the game also repeatedly changed, by making use of and manipulating liminality. As example, the paper will analyse some ideas exposed in the book of the German-Swiss economist Klaus Schwab COVID-19: The Great Reset (2020, with Thierry Malleret), founder of the World Economic Forum that meets every January since 1987 in Davos.



End of the Journal International Political Anthropology’ conference on Liminality, Disease and Politics with the kind cooperation of the UCC Sociology Department, special thanks to Professor
Maggie O’Neill.

Speakers and Discussants

Evan James Boyle, PhD candidate, Sociology, UCC, Ireland
Matt French, PhD candidate, Social & Cultural Anthropology, University College London
Monica Greco, Professor, Goldsmiths College, University of London
Roger Griffin, Professor Emeritus, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford
Arvydas Grišinas, Lecturer, Kaunas University of Technology, Lithuania
Agnes Horvath, Chief Editor, International Political Anthropology
Osvaldo Javier Lopez, Visiting Fellow, The Graduate Institute, Geneva, Switzerland &
Researcher, INCIHUSA-CONICET, Argentina
Kieran Keohane, Professor, UCC, Ireland
John O’Brien, Lecturer, WIT, Ireland
Paul O’Connor, Assistant Professor, United Arab Emirates University
Maggie O’Neill, Professor, UCC, Ireland
Egor Novikov, PhD Candidate, Anthropology, Heidelberg
Chris Rojek, Professor, City University of London
Camil Francisc Roman, Lecturer, John Cabot University, Rome & LUMSA University, Rome
Paul Stenner, Professor, The Open University
Arpad Szakolczai, Professor Emeritus, UCC, Ireland
Janos Szakolczai, PhD candidate, Criminology, UCC, Ireland
Bjorn Thomassen, Professor, Roskilde University, Denmark
Stephen Turner, Professor, University of South Florida
Harald Wydra, Holden Fellow in Politics, Cambridge University, UK
The conference organisers wish to thank Stephen Turner for giving permission for circulation of his book chapter
on the Pandemic

Past Events and Gallery


International Political Anthropology journal, Department of Political and Social Sciences, Università degli Studi di Trieste, Piazzale Europa 1, 34127 Trieste, Italy 


IPA Journal ISSN: 2283-9887


You can make a donation to the IPA using the link below.

Any amount to support independent publishing is welcome. Thank you!



Cambridge University, U.K.

Roskilde University, Denmark

University College Cork, Ireland

Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland