Plenary session I – Power and Security in Times of Precarity

Plenary session I – Power and Security in Times of Precarity

Organised by:
Katharina Bodirsky (University of Konstanz)

Setha Low (The Graduate Center, City University of New York)
Ursula Rao (Universität Leipzig)
Corinna di Stefano (Universität Konstanz)

Sunday 29.09., 18.00-19.30h, Audimax

Conditions of precarity are caused in today’s world not only by insecure employment, but are also consequence of – among others – political repression, war, environmental degradation, climate change, land grabs, debt, austerity, and various (other) forms of dispossession. The production of precarity entails distinct power asymmetries and can severely curtail capacities for individual and/or collective practice. It creates a fragmented landscape where people face starkly differential threats to their lives and livelihoods. Formal politics in turn, beyond taking an active part in the production and unequal distribution of precarity, responds often not with an attempt at restoring human security of precarious populations but with their securitization, that is, their construal and containment as potential threat. Thus, the securitization of precarious populations often works by invoking – actual or proclaimed – security demands of other groups.

This plenary examines the role of processes of social negotiation, and of their closure, in contemporary predicaments of in/security. It explores various forms of security that are made to stand against each other in contexts of precarity and the power dynamics at play here.

pdf: Abstracts Plenary I

Plenary session II – Bureaucratic Closings – Bureaucratic Openings

Plenary session II – Bureaucratic Closings – Bureaucratic Openings

Organised by:
Thomas Kirsch (University of Konstanz)

Miia Halme-Tuomisaari (Helsinki Collegium For Advanced Studies, Finnland)
Matthew Hull (University of Michigan, USA)
Colin Hoag (Smith College, USA)

Monday, 30.09., 09.00-10.30h, Audimax

It is only in the recent past that anthropologists have begun to acknowledge through increasing research activities that examining bureaucracy is pivotal to gaining a thorough understanding of the contemporary world, and this not just with a view to what has been called ‘centers of calculation’ but also with regard to the effects of bureaucratic regimes on marginalized populations. By studying bureaucratic practices ethnographically, this emerging research tradition has overcome the previously dominating disparaging attitude of many anthropologists towards bureaucracy (cf. David Beetham’s dictum that bureaucracy is something “we all love to hate”), in doing so opening up new avenues of innovative research.

As it stands now, there is widespread consensus among academics of different theoretical orientation that bureaucracy plays an important role in establishing and maintaining power, and that there is also a sense in which bureaucracy – the Herrschaft of the bureau –itself constitutes a distinct mode of exerting power, for example by subsuming the lived realities of those who are administered under its own logic. What is much less clear, however, is the question of the relationship between bureaucracy and processes of social negotiation. On the one hand, one finds the argument that that certain features of bureaucracy, such as its materiality, its emphasis on inscription, normalizing categorization and formal procedurality, have restrictive effects on what can be socially negotiated, even to the point of entirely inhibiting negotiability. On the other hand, recent ethnographic research has examined the ways in which bureaucratic practices interweave formal and informal registers of interaction, thus opening up space for creative processes of sense-making, socially negotiated constructions of reality and discretionary decisions by street-level bureaucrats.

This plenary session explores and compares these two perspectives in order to come to an empirical and conceptual assessment of bureaucratic (non)-negotiability. It does so by drawing on ethnographic case studies from different regions of the world and applying different theoretical approaches in their analysis.

pdf: Abstracts Plenary II

Plenary session III – (Un)Intended Gender Politics of Humanitarianism

Plenary session III – (Un)Intended Gender Politics of Humanitarianism

Organised by:
Maria Lidola (University of Konstanz)

Ilana Feldman (George Washington University, USA)
Julie Billaud (Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies Geneva, Switzerland)
Calogero Giametta (Aix-Marseille Université, France) 

Monday, 30.09., 18.00-19.30h, Audimax

Modern humanitarianism grounded its legitimacy in the nonnegotiable premise of universal humanity and an ethical imperative of relieving suffering. Humanitarian organizations and actors see their commitments as based on compassion, solidarity and equality abstracted from political aims and contexts, and distance themselves from historical accusations of taking part in racialized, religious and moral orderings implicit in helping out “distant others in need”. Yet throughout the last decades, the assumption of humanitarian principles’ universality came under attack from within and outside the humanitarian world. Critics described humanitarianism as a “politics of life” (Fassin 2009) and thereby assailed its non-negotiable “doing good”. As part of these critiques, anthropologists have shown that affects and sentiments towards suffering others do not simply direct onto a universal ontology of biological humanity, but are embedded in culturally and socially framed moral legitimacies of deservingness (Ticktin 2017). Deservingness as an important imaginary and parameter of humanitarian politics is thoroughly gendered.

Against this background, the plenary focuses on gender/ed politics in humanitarianism and how it effects closure in social negotiations. We will not just discuss how gendered notions of deservingness and victimhood become fixed, but also how they ground and even enable humanitarian reason and its principle of a supposed political disengagement. By considering feminist criticism of assumptions about female passivity and male agency, how does (un)intended gender politics produce conceptions of innocence and culpability, but also render aid workers’ positionalities possible? How does this (un)intended politics acknowledge or disregard women’s and men’s needs, knowledges and subjectivities in humanitarian emergencies and effect gender norms in aidland’s afterlife? In brief, how do gendered humanitarian politics and practices exclude people from or end negotiations about how to “do good”?

pdf: Abstracts Plenary III


Plenary session IV – Envisioning Anthropological Futures

Plenary session IV – Envisioning Anthropological Futures

Organised by:
Kristina Mashimi
and Thomas Stodulka (on behalf of the DGSKA board)

Janina Kehr (Universität Bern)
Sandra Calkins (FU Berlin)
Tomás Sánchez Criado (HU Berlin)
Michaela Haug (Universität zu Köln)

Tuesday, 1.10., 9.00-11.00h, Audimax

In the wake of political, economic, and ecological transformations of the contemporary world, and the far-reaching impact of digitalization and mediatization, social and cultural anthropologists are challenged to continuously rethink their theoretical, methodological, and professional practices. Not only are they required to respond to the emerging topical challenges of globalizing, postcolonial research settings by engaging the expertise from other social science and humanities’ disciplines, the wider field of area studies, and the natural and health sciences. They also face growing expectations from their interlocutors, funding organizations, and their immediate professional environments in regard to shifting standards of research ethics and data management, the engagement in various modes of collaborative research, and meeting their responsibilities to society and the public.

This plenary assembles presentations from 4-5 early to mid-career scholars who discuss the challenges and tensions they face when doing anthropology today. They will outline their visions for future positionings of the discipline regarding its epistemological and methodological opportunities and limitations in inter- and transdisciplinary research settings. Furthermore, the panelists will discuss the discipline’s engagement in academic teaching and the move towards open access publishing, as well as its intervention in public debates. As a forum for innovation, the plenary session is less concerned with systematic reviews of previous disciplinary discussions than with the articulation of future visions for practice and collaboration in and beyond the context of anthropology (or, in the German-speaking context, Ethnologie or Sozial- und Kulturanthropologie). The contributions will be published in the upcoming 150th anniversary issue of the Zeitschrift für Ethnologie (ZfE, 2019) which will be edited collectively by the DGSKA board and is due to appear in time for the 2019 conference.

pdf: Abstracts Plenary IV

Plenary session V – Populist Persuasions

Plenary session V – Populist Persuasions

Organised by:
Felix Girke (University of Konstanz)

Insa L. Koch (London School of Economics and Political Science)
Chris Hann (MPI für ethnologische Forschung)
Mario Krämer (Universität Siegen)

Wednesday, 2.10., 11.30-13.00h, Audimax

Politics is a fundamentally rhetorical space, but populist rhetoric stands apart: It seeks broad appeal while at the same time side-stepping the liberal agreement that open negotiations must be the basis of decisions. Populists reject dialectics and discourse ethics, seek to flatten complexity, peddle simple solutions, reject hesitation and deliberation, and draw clear lines between ‘us’ and ‘them’. The aim is to deny the very idea that alternatives are viable, desirable, or effective, and to delegitimize efforts of pluralistic engagement. These perennial qualities of ‘methodological populism’ (de Sardan 2015) are exacerbated in what has come to known as today’s ‘post-factual’ or ‘post-truth’ environment of liquefying modernity, where even scientific findings are classed as just one non-privileged opinion among many. Thus understood, the charge of ‘populism’ is commonly used by elites to denigrate their political opponents; but some critics (e.g. Leggewie 2017) consider populist movements the direct result of anemic contemporary neoliberal governance. As Samet and Schiller emphasize (2017), populism is a response to tendencies that privilege ‘liberal norms, institutions, and procedures’ over popular will: ‘If populism is dangerous, then this is not despite its democratic credentials, but because of them.’ But Gusterson (2017) has articulated a challenge for social anthropology: We know too little about the people who accept this brand of rhetoric in general. Who even are ‘the Conservative Others’ who self-identify as underdogs in their national contexts and the cosmopolitan globalized world? This plenary inquires into the positionality of social anthropology in terms of theory, ethnography, and public engagement towards both the production of populist rhetoric and its reception. We seek to integrate into this wider debate the creative adaptations, rejections, transformations and other responses that seek to establish a populism of the left as endorsed by Mouffe or Frazer that embraces diversity and a democracy that is not defined in ethno-religious or ‘neo-nationalist’ terms.

pdf: Abstracts Plenary V

Open Data in der Sozial- und Kulturanthropologie? Gemeinsam Positionen finden!

Open Data in der Sozial- und Kulturanthropologie? Gemeinsam Positionen finden!

Organized by:

Sabine Imeri und Matthias Harbeck (FID Sozial- und Kulturanthropologie, Humboldt-Universität zu  Berlin)
Wolfgang Kraus (Institut für Sozial- und Kulturanthropologie, Universität Wien)
Andrea Scholz (Ethnologisches Museum, Berlin)
Elisabeth Huber (Datenservicezentrum Qualiservice, Universität Bremen)

in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Vorstand der DGSKA

Tuesday, 1.10.2019, 02.00-03.30 pm, Audimax

Weil Forschungsförderer zunehmend Strategien zum dauerhaften Erhalt und zur Nachnutzung digitaler Forschungsdaten einfordern, hatte sich bereits bei der DGV/DGSKA-Tagung 2017 ein Podium damit beschäftigt, ob, wie und unter welchen Bedingungen Forschungsdaten aus der Ethnologie in diesem Sinne „gemanagt“ werden können, welche Probleme und Schwierigkeiten sich daraus ergeben. Aufgenommen war damit eine notwendige – und längst nicht abgeschlossene – Debatte zu übergreifenden und strategischen Fragen des Umgangs mit Daten aus ethnografischen Forschungen: Unter welchen Bedingungen können Daten überhaupt dauerhaft archiviert und „geteilt“ werden? Welche Konsequenzen haben diese Anforderungen für die Forschung in der Ethnologie, welche Möglichkeiten und Chancen verbergen sich darin? Und: Wie kann den spezifischen Zugängen, Forschungsansätzen und Methodologien ethnografischer Forschung in übergeordneten Planungsprozessen Geltung verschafft werden?

Die Veranstaltung schließt an diese Überlegungen an und soll weiter zur Verständigung über den Umgang mit Forschungsdaten in der Ethnologie beitragen. Wir rücken dazu Ansätze, Konzepte und erste Erfahrungen mit konkreten Umsetzungen der Datenarchivierung und des Daten-Teilens sowie Planungen für die Zukunft in den Mittelpunkt. Ziel ist es, von unterschiedlichen Ausgangspunkten aus entwickelte Zugangsweisen miteinander ins Gespräch zu bringen und für die Diskussion übergreifender Fragen und Problematiken produktiv zu machen.

Inputs tragen bei:

  • Wolfgang Kraus: Projekt „Ethnografische Datenarchivierung“ am Institut für Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie der Universität Wien
  • Andrea Scholz: Projekt „Lebende Dinge in Amazonien und im Museum – Geteiltes Wissen im Humboldt Forum“ am Ethnologischen Museum Berlin
  • Elisabeth Huber: Datenservicezentrum Qualiservice, Universität Bremen