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Call For Papers: Elites, Corruption, and Conspicuous Consumption

LUXCORE Workshop

19-20 May 2022, Department of History and Cultures (DISCI), University of Bologna, Italy

While much of the analysis of corruption has been devoted to the misuse of public resources by individual state officials, few studies have focused on the actions of elite networks capable of diverting substantial financial flows and challenging or shaping regulations and auditing procedures across sectors, while treading the fine line between legality and illegality. We aim to explore the ways in which elites are implicated in both generating and maintaining criminogenic socio-economic structures that serve disproportionately elite interest. Particular attention is paid to the connection between luxury, corruption, and illicit elite economies.

This workshop will provide an opportunity for participants to reflect on the possible connections between anthropology, criminology, and the humanities when studying elites, conspicuous consumption, and corruption. Our primary goal lies in developing an understanding of how these phenomena construct and nurture one another, theoretically and practically.

This workshop is part of the project Luxury, Corruption and Global Ethics: Towards a Critical Theory of the Moral Economy of Fraud (LUXCORE), funded by the Research Council of Norway (313004) and we are also using this workshop to invite external contributors with future joint publications in mind. We invite contributions to the two following panels:

Luxury, Special Liberty and the ‘Defiance Industry’: On Elites and Corruption

May 20, 2022

Discussants: Davide Casciano (University of Bologna) and Petr Kupka (University of West Bohemia)

Luxury goods, art, and real estate are used to launder proceeds from corruption; desire for luxury motivates corruption; images of illicit luxuries are used in corruption exposés and fuel populist politics; anti-corruption measures impact luxury markets. And yet, the relationship between luxury and corruption remains a fairly unexplored terrain (Kuldova 2021). While much of current research on anti-corruption explores the potential of artificial intelligence and big data, new realms of opacity, privacy, and luxury emerge, serving the criminal economies that aim to defy legislation, regulation, and technological surveillance. Over the last two decades, a whole global industry has emerged catering to the needs of the corrupt (Markus 2017). This industry thrives at the border between the legal and illegal and consists of ‘evasion experts’ facilitating tax evasion, shell companies, and money laundering schemes (Zucman 2015) be it through art, luxury real estate or other high-end goods and relying on infrastructures such as freeports; we introduce the concept of the ‘defiance industry’ to capture its logic. Evasion, carefully kept invisible and untraceable, paradoxically manifests itself in luxurious defiance vis-à-vis national and transnational systems of regulation, and in visible refusals to ‘self-regulate’ and to submit oneself voluntarily to the global regime of ethics of transparency, openness, accountability, and audit – or else, to comply. This raises also questions of sovereignty and ‘special liberty’, or else, of the sense of entitlement to transgress rules, norms and regulations in the name of self-interest irrespective of harmful consequences (Hall and Wilson 2014).

We invite qualitative papers from across anthropology, criminology, and other relevant disciplines to explore elite forms of special liberty and defiance through conspicuous consumption and in relation to crime, beyond the well-established focus on elite distinction and consumption. We are interested in ethnographic as well as theoretical papers that explore:

  • the nexus of elite power, luxury, and corruption

  • the nature of the defiance industry and role of intermediaries

  • the intersections of elite interest and the defiance industry

  • the concrete roles of intermediaries and the defiance industry in facilitating luxury consumption and corruption

  • the criminogenic features of elite consumerism and modes of defiance through luxury consumption and display

  • elite strategies of legitimization, evasion, and luxurious defiance


Please submit the following by March 5, 2022 to the workshop organizers:

  • An abstract of max. 300 words

  • Name, title, and institutional affiliation

  • Contact details

  • A brief bio of no more than 150 words


Davide Casciano Petr Kupka Tereza Østbø Kuldova


Hall, Steve, and D. Wilson. 2014. New Foundations: Pseudo-pacification and special liberty as potential cornerstones for a multi-level theory of homicide and serial murder, European Journal of Criminology 11 (5): 635-655.

Kuldova, T. Ø. 2021. Luxury and Corruption. In The Oxford Handbook of Luxury Business, edited by Pierre-Yves Donzé, Veronique Pouillard and Joanne Roberts. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Markus, Stanislav. 2017. Oligarchs and Corruption in Putin’s Russia: Of Sand Castles and Geopolitical Volunteering. Georgetown Journal of International Affairs 18 (2): 26-32.

Zucman, Gabriel. 2015. The Hidden Wealth of Nations: The Scourge of Tax Havens. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Crimes of the Powerful: State and Corporate Crimes, Patrimonialism, Clientelism, Corruption and White-collar Crimes

May 19, 2022

Discussants: Rano Turaeva (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle Saale), Aleksandr Kupatatdze (Kings College London), Petr Kupka (University of West Bohemia)

This panel will bring together scholars who investigate power, crime, and their intersections with corruption both in the Global South and the Global North. As we examine state and non-state actors’ involvement in illicit activities, such as corruption, tax evasion, money laundering, and societal and environmental harms, our goal is to question the concept of the state and that of legitimacy, legal or moral. By confronting existing analytical bias, we seek to challenge simplistic definitions of crime by state and non-state actors, as well as the division of the political, administrative, judicial, and business arenas. In fact, while it is possible to make a distinction, for example, between organized crime and corruption, this distinction may not be relevant in many instances. The complexity of contemporary corruption involves widespread interactions between state officials and organized crime, as well as individuals and groups brokering across both public and private spheres, rerouting financial flows in ways rarely recognized as corrupt while still affecting society. Researchers are often faced with different methodological challenges when attempting to understand the crimes of the powerful and must therefore develop original approaches and analyses to do so. We are interested in papers that analyse:

  • the overlaps between organized crime, corruption, state, and corporate crime

  • corruption, clientelism, patrimonialism analyses from within state networks as well as the private and corporate sectors

  • moral economy of fraud and corruption, but also trickery and deviance from recognized social norms

  • comparative analyses of criminal networks comprising representatives of underworld and ‘upperworld’

This panel is also part of the EASA Anthropology of Crime and Security 2022 Conference, which will be held in Bologna, Italy, May 17-19. Please follow the above link for more information. For information on how to submit your proposals as well as for more information about other panels please see the following links. Deadline for papers submission and pre-registrations: 5 March 2022.

Call for papers:

You may submit your paper to one of 13 panels:


This event is funded by The Research Council of Norway under project no. 313004 – Luxury, Corruption and Global Ethics: Towards a Critical Cultural Theory of the Moral Economy of Fraud (LUXCORE).


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