James FergusonPhoto Credit: Magdalena Kazubowski-Houston

Anthropologist, James Ferguson, spoke about his recent book “Give A Man a Fish: Reflections on the New Politics of Distribution” (Duke University Press, 2015) at the Annual Anthropology Lecture at York University on October 8, 2015. Arguing for a distributive political economy, Ferguson imagines such measures as the basic income grant (BIG) in South Africa as fertile ground from which to reimagine both the politics of social welfare and the radical challenges to capitalism. He asks to reconsider the development slogan “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime” in the contemporary neoliberal moment where an oversupply of labour, scarcity of resources, and the dominance of aquaculture industry make it impossible for many in South Africa and beyond to become fishermen. Consequently, he inspires us to reshift our understanding of poverty as a problem of production to one of distribution.