Daromir Rudnyckyj

Daromir Rudnyckyj
Position
Associate Professor
Anthropology
Credentials

PhD U of California, Berkeley

Status

On leave

Contact
Office: COR B208

I am a socio-cultural anthropologist with research interests in globalization, neoliberalism, religion, alternative economies, power, and the anthropology of knowledge.  I conduct fieldwork in Southeast Asia (primarily Indonesia and Malaysia) and North America. The central problem I have pursued in my research is a critical examination of projects to make economic calculation a global norm and moral standard for the management and government of human life.

Currently, I am pursuing this line of inquiry by focusing on efforts to make Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, “the New York of the Muslim world”: the central hub in a transnational network of Islamic finance.  Islamic finance, which seeks to enable the circulation of capital while adhering to religious prohibitions against interest and speculation, is growing rapidly in many parts of the world.  My research entails an ethnographic investigation of ambitious plans in Malaysia to develop the infrastructure necessary to facilitate a transnationally viable Islamic financial system.  My fieldwork consists of observation of and participation with shariah scholars, Islamic finance professionals, banking regulators, and Islamic economists.  In the context of recent financial crises in many parts of the world, I am analyzing the debates regarding the creation of an Islamic financial system that offers a “real” alternative to conventional finance, which is based in large part on interest-bearing debt.

My previous research analyzed a socio-technical scheme for developing faith in contemporary Southeast Asia. I documented how Islam was mobilized to facilitate the neoliberal reform of state-owned enterprises planned for privatization. Based on more than two years of ethnographic research, most of which took place at state-owned Krakatau Steel in western Java, I examined how what was referred to as “spiritual reform” was designed to address the challenge posed by the end of faith in development (the utopian aspirations inherent in modernization and industrialization). I argued that efforts to merge Islam with the ethics of globalization created what I termed the “afterlife of development”: an assemblage of a modernist commitment to rationality and domains, like religious practice, that previously were discounted from the logic of modernization and development.

I welcome applications from students who are interested in any of the following areas:

  1. Globalization and development
  2. Contemporary religious practices
  3. Contemporary social change and emergent forms of living 
  4. Neoliberalism, financialization, or knowledge economies; 
  5. Society and culture in Southeast Asia
  6. The anthropology of science, technology, and knowledge

Interests

  • Anthropology of knowledge
  • Economic anthropology
  • Political anthropology
  • Globalization
  • Religion
  • Southeast Asia

Courses

Summer 2019 - Summer 2020

  • Not teaching. On leave. Please contact via email.

Faces of UVic Research

This video is a short introduction to my current research.

Current projects

Spiritual Economies: Islam and the Afterlife of Development

This project analyzes a socio-technical scheme for developing faith in contemporary Southeast Asia. I analyze how Islam is mobilized to facilitate the neoliberal reform of state-owned enterprises planned for privatization. Based on more than two years of ethnographic research, most of which took place at state-owned Krakatau Steel in western Java, I examine how what is referred to as “spiritual reform” is designed to address the challenge posed by the end of faith in development (the utopian aspirations inherent in modernization and industrialization). I analyze how efforts to merge Islam with the ethics of globalization create what I term the “afterlife of development”: the assemblage of a modernist commitment to rationality and domains, like religious practice, that previously lay outside the logic of modernization and development.
View the interactive, hypertext essay on this project now.

Homo Economicus or Homo Islamicus?: The Globalization of Islamic Finance

Recent financial crises around the globe have precipitated renewed enthusiasm across the Muslim world for an Islamic alternative to conventional finance. This project is an ethnographic investigation of ambitious plans in contemporary Malaysia to develop the infrastructure necessary to create a transnationally valid Islamic financial system. The project documents the debates among government planners, Islamic scholars, bankers, and others as the state seeks to make the country’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, the “New York of the Muslim world”: the central node in a transnational Islamic financial network. The project asks whether Islamic finance offers an alternative economic rationality to conventional capitalism or whether it simply represents a translation of homo economicus into Islamic idioms. This ethnographic study of the everyday practices of creating a transnational Islamic financial infrastructure offers the possibility of an alternative conceptualization of globalization, insofar as it focuses on a global network in which traditional centers in Europe, the United States, and East Asia play a relatively minor role.

Gift or Graft?: Anti-Corruption in Indonesia

I have recently initiated a project on the emergence of corruption as an object of intervention in Indonesia and the effects of state and para-state efforts to diagnose and prevent corruption. I seek to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the category corruption and its effects by asking what forms of economic rationality are produced through denoting certain practices corrupt. This project focuses not so much on determining the causes of corruption, but rather on how corruption is represented and acted upon as a problem that is simultaneously moral and economic. At stake in this transformation is a radical redefinition of what constitutes a moral economy, as the rationality of gift exchange is called into question in efforts to conform to prevailing global norms.

The Everyday Life of Modernity: Forging the Nation in an Indonesian Steel Town

This ongoing ethnographic project documents the worldviews of a generation of engineers and other skilled workers who worked at Krakatau Steel, a massive state-owned company in western Java and the largest steel factory in Southeast Asia. In describing the lives of workers who produced steel, the signature material symbol of modernity, I show how their hopes and aspirations were connected to a broader set of assumptions about development, progress, and the conduct of modern life.

Selected publications

Books and Edited Volumes

  • 2019. Beyond Debt: Islamic Experiments in Global Finance. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  • 2017. Religion and the Morality of the Market. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press (co-edited with Filippo Osella).
  • 2010. Spiritual Economies: Islam, Globalization, and the Afterlife of Development.  Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 

Articles and chapters


  • 2018. Rudnyckyj, Daromir. “Crisis Effects,” Cultural Anthropology. 33(4).

  • 2017. “Subjects of Debt: Financial Subjectification and Collaborative Risk in Malaysian Islamic Finance,” American Anthropologist. 119(2): 269-283.
  • 2017. “Assembling Islam and Liberalism: Market Freedom and the Moral Project of Islamic Finance.”  In Religion and the Morality of Markets, edited by Daromir Rudnyckyj and Filippo Osella. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 
  • 2017. “Assembling Market and Religious Moralities.”  In Religion and the Morality of Markets, edited by Daromir Rudnyckyj and Filippo Osella.  Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press (with Filippo Osella).
  • 2017. “Debating Form, Consuming Substance: Halal Authenticity in Malaysian Islamic Finance,” Practical Matters. 10: 1-14.
  • 2017. “Objectifying Economies: Contemporary Themes in Economic Anthropology.” In Routledge Companion to Contemporary Anthropology, edited by Simon Coleman, Susan Hyatt, and Ann Kingsolver. London: Routledge.
  • 2016. “Islamizing Finance: From Magical Capitalism to a Spiritual Economy,” Anthropology Today. 32(6): 8-12.
  • 2015.  “Religious Reform and Emerging Middle Classes.” In the Routledge Handbook of Religions in Asia, ed. Bryan Turner and Oscar Salemink, 329-342. London: Routledge.
  • 2015. “Religion and Economic Development.” In the Routledge Handbook on Religions and Global Development, ed. Emma Tomalin, 405-417. London: Routledge.
  • 2014. "Afterlives of Development." Symposium in Political and Legal Anthropology Review. 37(1). Co-edited with Anke Schwittay.
  • 2014. “Regimes of Self-Improvement: Globalization and the Will to Work.” Social Text. 32(3): 109-127.
  • 2014. “Economy in Practice: Islamic Finance and the Problem of Market Reason.” American Ethnologist.  41(1):110-127.
  • 2014. “Islamic Finance and the Afterlives of Development in Malaysia." Political and Legal Anthropology Review. 37(1)69-88.
  • 2014. “Introduction: Afterlives of Development." Political and Legal Anthropology Review. 37(1):3-9. (Co-authored with Anke Schwittay).