“Bureaucratics” is an ambitious portrait project by Dutch photojournalist and fine art photographer Jan Banning, shot over several years and spanning eight countries on five continents. The series “hones in on the typically anonymous civil servant, who, anywhere in the world, makes up a small cog in the gigantic machinery of the state.” These 50 low-level bureaucrats include tax collectors, traffic wardens, and agricultural and religious officials, among others, found in Bolivia, China, France, India, Liberia, Russia, USA, and Yemen.
The exhibition is held in Harper Commons, the 11,000-square-foot study space opened this year in what was previously the stacks of the William Rainey Harper Memorial Library. Harper was the University of Chicago’s first library (completed in 1912) and is one of the iconic examples of the campus’s Late English Gothic architecture.
The artwork is particularly suited to a residency at the University of Chicago, as it addresses themes of central importance to the schools of social scientific research pioneered here over the past century. This panel discussion is an opportunity for University of Chicago scholars in the social sciences to discuss issues relating to the rise, spread, and functioning of the bureaucratic state around the world, in response to integral questions provoked by the exhibition.