This talk explores how kinship ties have been central to recovery after political crisis in Iceland. Revelations of elite corruption following the 2008 global financial crisis and recent global leaks of incriminating data have led to several government collapses and declining public trust in economic and political institutions. In this context, political reform has been mounted against the government by concerned citizens from below the state, primarily through protest movements and efforts to rewrite the constitution. Drawing on ethnography among citizens’ groups, kinship is shown to be an organising framework through which reform is envisioned and enacted. I explore how ‘compassionate solidarity’ (samkennd), understood historically through kinship idiom as a shared sense of belonging to the nation form, is today being reinvoked and reformulated as the basis for reform after elite impropriety. This includes what I describe as empathic witnessing of corruption, set against a broader cultural script of the inherent richness and uniqueness of the nation form in Iceland as it has been narrated going back in time. This witnessing, I argue, is giving rise to renewed assertions of ‘the collective’ premised on kincentric politics, thus demonstrating the enduring, if under-researched, relationship between politics and kinship in anthropological scholarship.

About the Presenter:

Timothy Heffernan is a postdoctoral fellow at UNSW School of Built Environment and a visiting fellow (2022–24) at the ANU School of Psychology and Medicine. His research focus is the crisis-recovery nexus after event-based hardship, including in post-economic crisis Iceland and in Australia after wildfires. His work has appeared in the journals History and Anthropology, Social Anthropology, and Conflict and Society and he is co-editor of The anthropology of Ambiguity (Manchester UP, 2024).


About Anthropology Working Papers

The Working Papers in Anthropology seminar series provides a forum for dissemination of anthropological research and ideas among UQ scholars and invited researchers. All students are invited to attend the series and postgraduate students, from honours upwards, are invited to present their research. The aim is to provide opportunities for students, staff and those from outside UQ, to present and discuss their work in an informal environment.


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