Aktuelle Forschungsprojekte der Professur für Ethnologie und Kulturanthropologie

Current Research Projects

Prof. Dr. Thomas G. Kirsch

Ph.D Projects

Brand, Melanie

The Truth of Violence. Domestic Violence against Women and Identity Politics in the Context of Counselling Services in South Africa.

In her sociological, social-anthropological doctoral dissertation project, Melanie Brand analyses the relationship between truth-claims, subjectivization and identity politics that can be observed in counselling services in the area of domestic violence in South Africa. Using ethnographic methodologies, the project focuses on interactions mostly between experts and clients in (A) counselling practices directed at female victims of domestic violence and in (B) rehabilitation programs directed at domestic violence offenders. In doing so, the project asks:

  • which female and male subject-positionings are being constructed in the course of counselling,
  • how specific culturalized realities are negotiated in the interpersonal counselling encounter,
  • which bodily and narrative practices can be observed in the context of proofing violent experiences and which institutional practices are applied in order to validate evidence and proclaim truth(s), and
  • in which manner and to what extent support services in the area of domestic violence that are of European origin and/or funding (try to) influence and refigure South African socialities in respect of gender relations and identities.

The project is part of the PhD program “Europe in the Globalized World” at the University’s Centre of Excellence and is supervised by Prof. Thomas G. Kirsch (University of Konstanz) and Prof. Rijk van Dijk (African Studies Centre Leiden/University of Amsterdam, Netherlands).

Bürge, Michael

In Sierra Leone everybody is a manager

Since 2013, I am a PhD candidate at the chair for social and cultural anthropology (before department for social and cultural anthropology at the university of Zurich). The main research interests of my project In Sierra Leone everybody is a manager concern everyday practices in northern Sierra Leone, in which people (in particular young men) produce social value (or valence) under conditions of existential insecurity to improve their lives and social position. Most centrally, I investigate into local understandings of value(s), wellbeing and power and how they are produced in everyday encounters. The project aims at contributing to economic anthropology, political anthropology and the anthropology of ethics and subjectivities.

Di Stefano, Corinna

Insular Border Regimes. Constructing, Crossing and Conceiving EU-Borders in the French Caribbean

The focus of this research project - which is affiliated to the research field "Migration and Borders in Times of Intensified Mobility" conducted by the Graduate School "Europe in a Globalized World" - is not the heatedly debated borders of the European Union in its southern and east southern parts, but those of the so called 'outermost regions of the EU'. As former colonies of European states, which are nowadays fully or partly integrated in or closely associated with the EU, the geographical location of these regions lies at a great distance from the European continent. Often considered to be islands of great prosperity, some are also well known destinations for immigration from neighbouring countries. Using qualitative methods, the project explores the French oversea departments Martinique and Guadeloupe in order to analyse the multiple modes and levels of constructing and maintaining their borders, as well as the perceptions of the different actors crossing them.

Duarte Dos Santos, Franziska


The Soft Voice of Activism. Christian Lobbying and Reform in the Fields of Sexual Rights and Domestic Violence in Botswana and South Africa

Taking religious-political activism by Christian organizations in Botswana and South Africa as the entry-point for an ethnographic analysis, this anthropological project explores the relationship between two modalities of religious-political activism, namely ‘lobbying’ and ‘reform’. Comparing these modalities provides important insights into forms of religious-political activism that have different audiences and ‘directions’ of communication. As understood in this project, lobbying is characterized by a ‘bottom-up’ approach (i.e. citizens trying to influence political decision-makers); reform, on the other hand, follows a ‘top-down’ approach (i.e. ‘reformed’ activists trying to influence ‘not-yet-reformed’ ordinary citizens). More particularly, the project explores religious-political activism against rights for sexual minorities (sub-project Botswana) and activism against sexual violence committed against women (sub-project South Africa). This promises important insights into how Christian organizations in Africa are presently entering a new phase of civic engagement as they build on previous forms of religious politicking, as they are influenced by transnationally circulating discourses, and as they shape future developments on this continent.

The PhD project – with the working title ‘What it Takes to Be a Man.’ Christian Activism in the Field of Gender-Based Violence in South Africa –is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and supervised by Prof Thomas Kirsch and co-supervised by Prof Rijk van Dijk. The other sub-project, carried out by Kim Molenaar, explores the continuous positioning of Christian organizations (especially Pentecostal churches) in political debates in Botswana about sexuality and gendered relationships.


‘What it Takes to Be a Man.’ Christian Activism in the Field of Gender-Based Violence in South Africa

The research project explores the intersections between Christianity and activism by focusing on initiatives undertaken by faith-based and non-faith-based organizations that seek to refashion male subjectivities and gender roles in contemporary South Africa. Drawing on ethnographic research in metropolitan areas of Gauteng province, the project analyses the notion of ‘reform’ as a modality of activism to enhance personal and social change. The initiatives that are at the centre of the study aim at the construction of a new self-understanding for men as a means to prevent the occurrence of gender-based violence. The research inquiry is primarily concerned with (1) the pathways, visions and motivations of male gender activists engaging in ‘reform’ undertakings and (2) the relationship between them and their target group, i.e. ‘not-yet-reformed’ men. How do gender activists try to mobilize other men to ‘take action’ and motivate them to re-make themselves? What strategies and spiritual resources are deployed to affect changes in attitudes, life-styles, and, ultimately, gender identities? As ‘personal reform’ promises the prospect to become part of a community that is characterised, among other things, by economic security, non-violent relationships and reliability, the research indicates that there is a link between ‘personal reform’ and ‘social integration’. At the same time ‘reform’ endeavours produce new asymmetries between activists on the one hand and ‘ordinary’ men on the other. Taken together, the overall objective of the research project is to contribute to a better understanding of the interplay between Christianity and gender activism as well as the ambivalent effects of community-building and mobilization in contemporary South Africa.



Fleischmann, Larissa

Dissident Voices at the European Border: Non-State Actors and Visions of a Different Europe Beyond the Fortress

Debates on European asylum and border policies have recently started to question the notion of a 'Fortress Europe', leading to a public critique of the closing and fortifying of the external borders of the European Union. In this situation, 'dissident' voices call for urgent policy changes, and put pressure on the European Union to modify its course of action towards the non-European 'other'. For example, this change in attitude became obvious in the media reaction towards the migrant boat which sank on its way from Libya to Europe near the Italian island of Lampedusa in October 2013. This incident, which was widely seen as a 'tragedy' and 'drama', and to constitute the result of Europe's failure to deal with this form of migration, caused the death of more than 300 refugees from the African continent and triggered an enormous outcry across Europe. In this context, non-state actors (i.e. actors that claim to operate outside formal politics) have gained an increasing role in contesting the European border and asylum policies - thereby rendering the discourse on "Fortress Europe" increasingly problematic. These actors and agencies include social movements, such as the 'Rote Flora' protests in Hamburg, but also activists and refugees who try to draw attention to their situation through hunger strikes or the occupation of public spaces; as well as non-governmental organizations that work towards a fairer engagement with refugees in Europe. All these voices share an important argument: the European border policies are at odds with what are supposed to be the fundamental values of Europe. Thus, the debate is importantly connected to the question of what constitutes the collective identity of Europe and its place in the wider world. The dissertation project examines 'dissident' voices of non-state actors in order to explore their understandings of European identity and European borders. I am particularly interested in their influence on formal politics and public discourses.

Fuchs, Sarah

"Criminal Culture? Controversies on Human Trafficking and Begging Quranic Students in Senegal"

In Senegal's urban centres, many streets and crossroads are crowded by begging children. Often, these are Quranic students, so-called "talibés": Being fostered out at an early age to a Quranic master who does not receive any financial support neither from the student's parents nor from the state, they are forced to beg by the latter and mostly live in extremely poor conditions. Diverging interpretations of the problem, however, lead to controversies between trans- and international child activists and conservative religious actors in Senegal.According to widely spread Senegalese narratives, Quranic education has always been a time full of privation and begging was practised for subsistence, but also for 'educational reasons' by the talibés. Against the background of Senegal's colonial past, during which the French administration sought to control and to contain the Quranic schools in favour of a secular education, any contemporary transnational or state intervention in Quranic education is politically sensitive. What is at stake in this context is not only the role of religion in society and the political power of religious actors, but also what kind of personhood children's education should create.Yet, since Senegal's signing of the UN Protocol "to Prevent, Supress and Punish Trafficking in Persons" in 2003, any "recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation" is legally considered to constitute "child trafficking". Hence, while for some the begging talibés are in continuity with a meaningful socio-religious tradition, others suspect their "exploitation in the name of education" (Human Rights Watch 2014). This further exemplifies how transnationally diffusing categories like "Human Trafficking" are translated, re-interpreted, and subverted in specific local contexts.The research project analyses the discursive field around the begging talibés by following a multiperspectival approach based on approximately 15 month of ethnographic fieldwork in mainly urban Senegal.

  • Funded by the Center of Excellence, University of Konstanz
  • In collaboration with Dr. Julia Hornberger and Prof. Dr. Shalini Randeria, both University of Zurich (Switzerland).

Hüncke, Anna

 Migration und Konzepte zu Grenze und Menschenhandel in Südafrika

  • Funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) as part of the

    collaborative research project entitled “The Anthropology of

    Transnational Crime Control in Africa” (SPP 1448 “Adaptation and

    Creativity in Africa”)

  • In collaboration with Dr. Julia

    Hornberger (speaker of the collaborative research project) and Prof. Dr.

    Shalini Randeria, both University of Zurich (Switzerland).

Hughes, Maria

Louban, Anna

The making of 'the immigrant'. An ethnography on the shaping of immigrant identities in the German immigration bureaucracy"

In light of the increase of transnational migration processes, the research fields of both migration and bureaucracy as well as their intersection have recently gained socio-political and academic significance. It is within this intersection of migration and bureaucracy studies that this project takes shape by analyzing the bureaucratic process of immigration itself as well as the administrative sites in which immigrants are ‘addressed’ and ‘processed’. Thus, the focus of the project is the institutional integration of immigrants in Germany.

The project focuses on three central stations of institutional integration that immigrants in Germany have to undergo: (1) the Immigration Office, (2) Integration Courses and (3) the Naturalisation Office. The classification system used at the Immigration Office (Ausländerbehörde, 7 months of fieldwork) has momentous effects for the lives of immigrants. In addition to other criteria, the country of origin and purpose of residency determine the legal status of immigrants in Germany. These factors influence which course of action is available for immigrants. Nevertheless, certain activities, such as the participation in a so-called ‘integration course’ are made obligatory for immigrants by the Immigration Office. On the other hand, standardized Integration Courses (Integrationskurse, 5 months of fieldwork) are part of a mandatory curriculum designed to teach immigrants about ‘German society’. Upon completion of integration courses, standardised testing methods are applied to confirm the respective immigrant's degree of ‘being integrated’. The final stage in the structural integration of immigrants in Germany is performed by the Naturalization Office (Einbürgerungsbehörde, 4 months of fieldwork). It is here that, after fulfilling certain requirements within a mandatory period of time, immigrants can apply for German citizenship. Once an application has been approved by the authorities, the ‘integration’ process is completed. In other words, the legal status of immigrants is then officially transferred from ‘foreigner’ to ‘German citizen’.

The project examines the ways in which these three successive stations in the integration process are related to each other by (a) analysing discursive and non-discursive practices from an ethnographic viewpoint. The project also takes into account the perspectives and perceptions of both (b) the protagonists of immigration (immigrants) and protagonists of the bureaucracy (German public servants). Furthermore, this dissertation project utilizes a multi-local ethnographic research approach on which the project is based.

Maier, Pia

Das Trauma der anderen. Eine ethnographische Untersuchung.

Das Promotionsprojekt beschäftigt sich aus ethnologisch-soziologischer Perspektive und mittels ethnographischer Methoden mit den diskursiven und narrativen Ordnungen, wissenskulturellen Praktiken und Techniken sowie den Artefakten und Materialisierungen bezüglich des Konzepts ‚Trauma‘, die in der Vorbereitung auf prekäre Erfahrungen in helfenden Berufen zum Tragen kommen. Dabei soll der Untersuchungsgegenstand des Traumas aus einer befremdenden und agnostischen Grundhaltung in einem Feld untersucht werden, in dem Traumatisierung als ein problematischer ‚Einbruch des Realen‘ verstanden wird und verhindert werden soll. Das Projekt setzt bei der Beobachtung diverser Autoren (Fassin, Rechtman, Bracken & Petty, Neocleous) an, dass der Begriff Trauma weltweit zunehmend verwendet wird, wodurch in paradox erscheinendem Gestus zugleich eine politisierte Universalisierung als auch eine Subjektivierung menschlichen Leidens vorangetrieben wird. Dieser Prozess wird unter anderem durch die Produktion medizinischer und psychologischer ‚Fakten‘ gestützt, die als Belege für die Anerkennung dieses Leidens eingefordert werden. Organisationen, die sich humanitären Grundsätzen verschrieben haben und deren Mitarbeiter in helfender Funktion in der Krisen- und Katastrophenbewältigung tätig sind, werden dabei jedoch nicht nur im Anschluss an Krisen und Katastrophen aktiv, sondern auch vorbereitend im Rahmen von Trainings und Ausbildungen, durch die antizipierend die arbeitsbedingte Traumatisierung dieser Mitarbeiter verhindert werden soll. Anhand teilnehmender Beobachtungen solcher Ausbildungen in vergleichender Perspektive zwischen Deutschland und Nicaragua sowie den sich darin entfaltenden Interaktionen zwischen den Beratern und den Mitarbeitern (nationaler und internationaler) humanitärer Organisationen zielt das Projekt also darauf ab, die soziokulturellen Erscheinungs- und Umgangsformen solcher Bemühungen, eine arbeitsbedingte Traumatisierung zu verhindern, herauszuarbeiten.


Molenaar, Kim

'Sexual Rights in Botswana: Christian Perspectives and Christian Lobby'

This ethnographic research with the working title ‘Sexual Rights in Botswana: Christian Perspectives and Christian Lobby’ is part of the project ‘The Soft Voice of Activism: Christian Lobbying and Reform in the Fields of Sexual Rights and Domestic Violence in Botswana and South Africa’. The other sub-project, carried out by Franziska Duerte dos Santos, explores activist initiatives undertaken by (faith-based) organizations that promote male involvement in gender-based violence prevention in South Africa.

The two sub-projects aim at comparing and exploring the relationship between two modalities of religio-political activism by African Christians, namely 'lobbying' (Botswana) and 'reform' (South Africa). Whereas 'activism' is here understood as an umbrella term for attention-seeking religio-political activity, lobbying and reform are more indirect, soft-speaking and discretional practice of exerting influence on a clearly demarcated audience in the relevant public sphere. Lobbying addresses decision-makers in order to bring about certain outcomes in the wider religio-political realm, reform aims at the personal and subject-oriented reformation of people belonging to specific target populations who can - but do not necessarily - have to be decision-makers themselves. Comparing these two modalities of religio-political activism therefore provides important insights into two forms of religio-political activism that have different audiences and 'directions' of communication. As understood in this project, lobbying is characterized by a 'bottom-up' approach, reform, on the other hand, follows a 'top-down' approach.

The main goals of the research I’ll undertake in Botswana, are exploring 1) the continuous positioning of Christian organizations (especially Pentecostal churches) in political debates in Botswana about sexuality and gendered relationships and 2) the process of religio-political lobby in Botswana in the context of on-going public debates about sexuality and gendered social relations. I will pay particular attention to interactions and exchanges that take place between a collective of religious organizations, their leadership and their associations on the one hand, and to the domain of the (public) expression of political power and public opinion on the other.

Schäfer, Philipp

Die Regierung von Migration in urbanen Asylregimen

The reception and accommodation of people seeking asylum in Europe has become a key political, socio-cultural and economic challenge for the European Union and its Member States. In my analysis, I focus on the organization of forced migration in two European cities. What actors are taking part in local negotiation processes? How do they position themselves against what normative backgrounds? How do they interact and what individual or collective strategies do they use? What configurations of power and legitimacy characterize local attempts to govern migration? How do the asylum-seeking persons create room for themselves to manoeuvre? Finally, how did the experience of the 2015 ‘refugee-crisis’ affect local attempts to govern forced migration?

My research project addresses a major tension: On the one hand, national as well as regional asylum and residency regulations in the Member States of the European Union are increasingly Europeanized. On the other hand, current debates and conflicts surrounding the reception of asylum-seeking persons in Europe demonstrate the central importance of the local setting. The East-German city of Leipzig and the French metropolitan area of Lyon, two typical European second cities, serve as entry points from which I reconstruct how national, European and global actors, institutions and processes determine the reception and accommodation of asylum-seeking persons in urban localities. What differences in the discursive and practical ‘ordering’ of forced migration can be observed and what are their causes?

My research aims at formulating an empirically grounded theory of urban asylum regimes. The data underlying this theory will be collected during several months of ethnographic field trips in both cities, through (expert) interviews and document analyses. I will analyse the empirical material using methods of reconstructive social research. My PhD project aims to contribute to the sociological foundation of a research field dominated by political science research – the governing of forced migration – by combining the migration regime perspective and field theoretical approaches. In doing so, I will be able to focus on both the questions of the institutionalisation of a political crisis scenario as well as on actors and their difference-based interactions. This in turn enables me to go beyond fixed structure-based or solely agency-centred perspectives on migration and social transformation processes.

The dissertation project is part of the PhD program “Europe in the globalized world”. It is funded by the Centre of Excellence “Cultural Foundations of Social Integration” and the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes.

Scheller, Julia

A Failure of Privacy? ‘Public’ and ‘Private’ in Johannesburg, South Africa

The privatization of public space in Johannesburg and the withdrawal of wealthy sections of the population to privatized gated communities are widely regarded as an obstacle to nation-building processes in South Africa. Given South Africa's history of socio-spatial segregation, spatial practitioners and intellectuals therefore consider it imperative to create new public spaces which can be used by all sections of society. This normative agenda depicts "public space" as something unreservedly desired by the wider public which provides for its general well being. In doing so, this agenda neglects the important fact that, during Apartheid, "black" citizens were not only denied a "right to the public" but also a "right to the private".

Why "privateness" appears merely as a residual category in political, public and scholarly discussions in South Africa and why it consequently, in a manner of speaking, "fails" in its "public" perception, has hitherto been neglected in social science research and is the central question of this research project. Given this background, the project is interested in practices and discourses through which, depending on the situation and socio-spatial circumstances of the social actors involved, "privateness" is made possible. This approach promises to provide important insights into alternative (possibly counterhegemonic) concepts of "privateness". The project starts on the assumption that the ideological critique of neoliberal discourses and practices has up to now impeded an analysis of "the private" in South Africa since these discourses and practices are widely considered a barrier to transparency, participation and publicness. Yet, this critique is voiced by a social elite which, through this action, replicates the very hegemonic structures it aims to eliminate by demanding more transparency and publicness.

Thielemann, Tanja

Doing Diversity – an ethnographic comparison of ‘Diversity Management’ in German and French organisations

In her PhD project, Tanja Thielemann analyses discourses about and practices enacted in the name of ‘diversity’ in Germany and France. It starts out on the assumption that the originally US-American concept of ‘diversity’ is applied differently in various European contexts. In order to understand processes of adaptation and translation, actors within the field of ‘diversity’ are interviewed and observed during ‘diversity’-events, like conferences and trainings. Using ethnographic methods, the project asks: (1) which historical, theoretical and sociopolitical discourses do these actors refer to when contextualizing ‘diversity’ on the micro-level of social interactions, (2) in what ways do actors shape the discursive construction of ‘diversity’, and what kinds of social realities are produced in this way, (3) what types of contradictions and paradoxes result from the aforementioned processes for the application of the concept of ‘diversity’ in different social and organizational contexts?  The PhD project is financed by the Center of Excellence and is supervised by Prof. Thomas G. Kirsch (University of Konstanz) and Prof. Andrea D. Bührmann (University of Göttingen).


Wiese, Inken

Qatar's politics of international development assistance: Giving to the needy between cultural practices, international transcripts and the "politics of branding"

Providing international development assistance is no longer the domain of an exclusive community of states from the Global North. Increasingly, development assistance is also provided by states that used to be recipients of aid themselves. The emergence of these new donors – or “partners” as they prefer to call themselves – and new practices of giving assistance challenge long-standing standards and norms set by traditional donors and development actors.

By focusing strongly on donors’ interests behind providing assistance, research on development assistance provided by both traditional and non-traditional donors tends to confine development assistance to an instrument of foreign policy. Not only political science research, but also anthropological studies are heavily influenced by Marcel Mauss’ notion of reciprocity in gift exchanges. They argue that even gifts which cannot or are not expected to be reciprocated encompass elements of reciprocity, such as symbolic reciprocity in the form of recognition of the gift and of the donor, thereby reconfirming the donor’s superior hierarchical status. Debates about best practices of international development assistance are therefore also a reflection of concerns about changing global political and economic power relations. However few insights exist into domestic factors and local dynamics that impact how and to whom financing for development is being provided. Likewise, little is known about how cultural practices and related norms of giving as well as local social dynamics shape development practices and modalities of financing. This bereaves us of a valuable opportunity to deepen our understanding of the cultural construction of politics.

This project analyzes the ways in which Qatar has been contributing to international development assistance ever since it strongly emerged as a donor around a decade ago. This in-depth study contributes to the study of so-called “Arab aid” which is strikingly absent from the literature on non-traditional development assistance. It analyzes Qatari rhetoric on assistance and the practices through which Qatar provides assistance not only against the background of international transcripts, standards and norms, but also against the background of domestic political discourses on and cultural practices of giving. It follows the discursive repertoires employed in Qatar and by Qataris to demarcate and construct development assistance as a policy field which constitutes a central element of the official politics of “branding” Qatar internationally. Thereby attending to the role of specific domestic political and social actors, among them professional expatriates, in shaping Qatar’s politics of development and to their interaction with international actors, the project also aims to deepen the understanding of political decision-making and of building social consensus in the autocratic Arab monarchies.

This project thereby strives to contribute not only to the anthropology of development, but also to the anthropology of politics and state in the Middle East. Insights into the question how domestic factors and dynamics influence foreign policy strategies and instruments might also allow traditional and non-traditional actors in development cooperation to move international negotiations beyond plainly dismissing practices of the respective “other”.

Finished Ph.D Projects

Malefakis, Alexis

Nyama Ngumu - Tough Meat. Temporality in Sociality among Street Vendors in Dar es Salaam,Tanzania

Die Studie analysiert eine emergente Form von Sozialität im prekären sozialen Umfeld des Straßenhandels in Daressalam, Tansania. Die Fallstudie zeigt, wie sich aus narrativen  Selbstidentifikationen und Modalitäten des Handelns sowohl integrative Momente als auch desintegrative Momente entfalten, die der Sozialität der untersuchten Gruppe eine Dynamik des ständigen Oszillierens zwischen Kooperation und solidarischem Zusammenhalt einerseits und individuellen Bestrebungen nach Unabhängigkeit und Autonomie andererseits verleihen. In der Analyse des empirischen Materials wird ein theoretisches Konzept von Sozialität formuliert, das nicht nur „positive“ Vorstellungen von Zusammenhalt, Kooperation, Vertrauen, Solidarität oder Altruismus als soziale Empfindungen begreift, sondern auch das Verlangen nach Unabhängigkeit, Selbständigkeit, Individualität sowie die Erfahrung von Misstrauen und gegenseitiger Verachtung in ihrer sozialen Ursprünglichkeit erklären kann.

Den Dynamiken der Sozialität der untersuchten Straßenhändler spürt die Studie in zwei Dimensionen nach. Erstens in den Arten und Weisen wie die Akteure sich selbst und ihre gegenwärtige Situation in der Stadt plausibilisieren und wie sie aus den narrativen Selbstbildern Vorstellungen und Erwartungen ihrer Zukunft ableiten (Kapitel 4); und zweitens in den konkreten Formen von Praxis im Straßenhandel, die zum Teil auf der Notwendigkeit von Kooperation beruhen, zum Teil aber mit einem Anspruch auf Unabhängigkeit und Selbstbestimmung einhergehen (Kapitel 5).

Beide analytischen Dimensionen von Sozialität, die narrativ-diskursive einerseits und die praktische andererseits, werden auf zwei Achsen der Integration und Desintegration untersucht: Zum einen die Beziehungen von Individuum und Gruppe; zum anderen um die Fähigkeiten von Narrativen und Praktiken Zeit zu organisieren. In dem Maße, so eine zentrale These der Arbeit, in dem sozial konstruierte Vorstellungen und soziale Praktiken den Individuen Mittel an die Hand geben ihre Zeitlichkeit zu organisieren, wirken diese Vorstellungen und Praktiken integrierend auf ihre Sozialität. In der narrativen Dimension der  untersuchten Sozialität ist auffällig, dass aus emischer Perspektive aus den engen sozialen  Beziehungen und der geteilten Vergangenheit der Akteure nicht nur Solidarität und Kooperation begründet werden, sondern wirkmächtige Vorstellungen von Misstrauen, eine mangelnde Bereitschaft zur Kooperation und insgesamt ein Unwillen abgeleitet werden, sich dauerhaft aneinander zu binden. Aus narrativen Selbstidentifikationen der Akteure wird in der Studie herausgearbeitet, wie ihre multiplexen und engen sozialen Beziehungen aus emischer Perspektive zum Problem werden. Unter den Straßenhändlern der Untersuchung herrscht die Vorstellung darüber vor, dass sie aufgrund ihrer geteilten Herkunft und Vergangenheit in den Dörfern und aufgrund ihrer geteilten ethnischen Identität als Wayao in kultureller, sozialer und ökonomischer Sicht weitgehend gleich sind. Diese Vorstellung ihrer Gleichheit begründet einen egalitären Imperativ: Da sie alle aus gleich ärmlichen Verhältnissen stammen und die gleiche geringe Schulbildung genossen haben, soll folglich keiner von ihnen mehr Erfolg im Geschäft haben als seine Kollegen. Aus dieser Logik folgt die Abneigung, soziale Stratifikation und Führerschaft innerhalb der Gruppe anzuerkennen sowie die gegenseitige soziale Kontrolle, die auf jede „Abweichung“ vom Imperativ der Gleichheit mit generellem Verdacht und in vielen Fällen mit Beschuldigungen der Hexerei reagiert. Ebenfalls begründen die Akteure in ihrer gemeinsamen Herkunft und ihren engen und multiplexen Beziehungen ihren Unwillen, sich dauerhaft Vertrauen entgegen zu bringen. In der Studie wird dies an einem empirischen Fall exemplarisch aufgezeigt. Einer der Händler machte seinen Kollegen den Vorschlag dauerhafter und substantieller zu kooperieren. Dieser Vorschlag wurde abgelehnt mit der Begründung, dass die dafür notwendigen vertrauensvollen Beziehungen dem Selbstverständnis seiner Kollegen als Wayao widersprechen würde. Mit dem Verweis „so sind wir nun mal“ (Suaheli ndivyo tulivyo) wurde der Vorschlag abgelehnt und so aus der narrativen Selbstidentifikation eine wirkmächtige Selbstbeschreibung. Die einerseits verbindenden Beziehungen der Verwandtschaft und Ethnizität werden also aus emischer Perspektive mit Bedeutungen und Bewertungen belegt, die ihre potentiell integrative Wirkung in das Gegenteil umkehrt. In der narrativen Dimension dieser Sozialität entfaltet also die Vorstellung von sozialer Nähe und von genereller Gleichheit paradoxerweise eine Dynamik der Desintegration, die verhindert, dass die Akteure sich dauerhaft aneinander binden.

In der praktischen Dimension der Sozialität folgt die Untersuchung den strukturierenden Momenten, die sich aus den alltäglichen Praktiken des Schuhhandels auf der Straße ergeben. In auffälligem Gegensatz zum Selbstverständnis der Akteure hängen sie in ihrer täglichen Arbeit in hohem Maße von gemeinsam erzeugtem Wissen und gegenseitiger Hilfestellung ab. Durch ihre individuellen Erfahrungen und Praktiken auf der Straße erzeugen die Händler Wissensformen, über die sie sich mit ihren Kollegen austauschen. Durch diesen kommunikativen Prozess kristallisieren sich mehr oder weniger feststehende Kategorisierungen und Bezeichnungen von Orten, Typen von Waren, Kunden, Begegnungen und Verkaufsstrategien heraus. Indem die Schuhhändler Slang-Ausdrücke prägen mit denen sie sich über ihre Erfahrungen und ihre Arbeit austauschen, produzieren sie und erhalten sie Zugang zu Wissensformen, die in die Produktion ihrer Praktiken zurückfließen. Ausgehend von Pierre Bourdieu´s Konzept von Praxis und von Anthony Giddens´ Theorie der doppelten Strukturierung analysiert die Dissertation an dieser Stelle die produktiven und kreativen Kapazitäten von Praktiken, in denen es zu strukturierenden Momenten kommt. Die Studie zeigt hier auf, wie diese strukturierenden Momente zum einen sozial integrativ wirken und zum anderen eine bestimmte Zeitlichkeit der Praktiken organisieren. Zum Beispiel wird aus der Erfahrung vieler Schuhhändler über die Zeit hinweg ein bestimmter Stil von Schuhen mit einer bestimmten Gruppe von Kunden assoziiert und entsprechend benannt (zum Beispiel ein „großmütterlicher Schuh“). Diese Kategorisierung impliziert für die Händler zum einen eine bestimmte Zukunftserwartung, welche Kundinnen Interesse für diesen Schuh zeigen werden, zum anderen aber auch welchen Verlauf das Verkaufsgespräch nehmen wird und welche Gewinnspannen zu erwarten sind. Grundsätzlich beruht die gesamte Orientierung der Straßenhändler auf einer gemeinsam konstruierten Geographie der Stadt, in der bestimmte Orte mit bestimmten Zeiträumen assoziiert sind, in denen bestimmte Typen von Kunden und bestimmte Arten von Verkaufsgesprächen zu erwarten sind. Indem solche Verdichtungsräume in der Innenstadt mit Namen markiert, sind erlauben sie dem individuellen Händler seine Route durch die Straßen in einem bestimmten Rhythmus zu organisieren, bei dem sich seine kognitive Aufmerksamkeit und körperliche Anspannung entsprechend dieser Geographie ständig auf die implizierten Erwartungen einstellen. Indem die Straßenhändler die Stadt mit symbolischen Markierungen versehen, konstruieren sie einen Markt als „epistemisches Ding“, als ein Wissensobjekt, mit dem sie in bestimmter Art und Weise interagieren.

Ihre Grundhaltung diesem Markt gegenüber bezeichnen die Schuhhändler der Fallstudie als piga fos, als das Einsetzen von „Kraft“. Damit wird sowohl die erhöhte kognitive und körperliche Anspannung bezeichnet, durch die ein Händler versucht die Aufmerksamkeit eines potentiellen Kunden auf sich und seine Waren zu lenken, als auch die rhetorische Geschicklichkeit, durch die eine zunächst unverbindliche Begegnung zu einer verbindlichen Verkaufssituation umgedeutet wird. Die in solchen Bezeichnungen von Waren, Kunden,  Verdichtungsräumen und Verkaufspraktiken aggregierten Erfahrungen vieler Schuhhändler über  den Lauf der Zeit können also von einzelnen Schuhhändlern eingesetzt werden, wenn sie als  Teilnehmer der Sozialität Zugang zu diesem Fachvokabular und dem in ihm enthaltenen Wissen erhalten. Die signifikante Orientierungsleistung solcher Wissensformen ist, dass sie zeitliche Abläufe planbar machen und die Zukunftserwartungen individueller Händler strukturieren. Ein wichtiger Faktor in ihrer Arbeit ist der zeitliche Druck, unter dem sie versuchen aus ihrem geringen Kapital Gewinn zu schlagen. Zeitlich effizient zu arbeiten ist daher ein zweiter Imperativ ihrer Praxis, und in dem Maße, in dem die in der Sozialität geteilten Wissensformen die Organisation und Antizipation der Zukunft ermöglichen, bindet die Sozialität Individuen aneinander.

Die Sozialität der Schuhhändler dieser Untersuchung ist somit gekennzeichnet von verbindenden sozialen Beziehungen wie Verwandtschaft, geteilter ethnische Identifikation oder geteilter Erinnerung an die Vergangenheit im Dorf, deren integrative Kraft jedoch im Selbstverständnis der Akteure oft in ein desintegratives Moment umschlägt und individualistische Aspirationen und den Wunsch nach Unabhängigkeit und Loslösung von der Gruppe inspiriert. Der grundsätzlichen Verweigerung einer dauerhaften Bindung aneinander steht in der praktischen Dimension der Sozialität der Befund gegenüber, dass ihre alltägliche Arbeit tatsächlich auf der gemeinsamen Konstruktion von Wissensformen beruht, die strukturierende Momente entfalten, da sie Individuen erlauben ihre Praktiken raum-zeitlich zu organisieren und somit ihrer Sozialität ein integratives Momentum verleihen.

Entscheidend für unser Verständnis menschlicher Sozialität ist neben der Analyse sozialer Beziehungen vor allem die Art und Weise, wie Menschen diesen Beziehungen Bedeutungen beimessen. Die Vorstellungen, die Menschen über die Erwünschtheit oder Unerwünschtheit bestimmter Beziehungsformen haben, so argumentiert die Studie, sind sozial in ihrem Ursprung. Damit können auch der Wunsch nach Abnabelung und individualistische Bestrebungen als eine soziale Kraft verstanden werden, die einer Sozialität innewohnt. Der menschlichen Kapazität Dingen Bedeutung beizumessen die nicht unmittelbar anwesend sind, ihrer „virtuellen Fähigkeit“ (Moore 2013: 38) kommt dabei eine entscheidende Bedeutung zu. Denn nur in der Dimension von Vorstellungen und Bedeutungen können die Ideen gefunden werden, welche alle sozialen Beziehungen in Bewegung setzen. Und diese Bewegung zielt unweigerlich in die jeweilige Vorstellung von Zukunft, die ein Akteur hat: Sein Wunsch eine Beziehung künftig auf- oder auszubauen, oder sich aber ihrer zu entledigen ist der Motor seines sozialen Handelns. Wie die Studie zeigt, sind diese Vorstellungen gemeinsamer Zukunft oder der Wunsch nach zukünftiger Loslösung von der Gruppe inhärente Bestandteile von Sozialität.


Bunke, Tim

Modern Slavery, Human Rights and the State - Introducing the Human Trafficking Legislation in Zambia

The project „Modern Slavery, Human Rights and the State - Introducing the Human Trafficking Legislation in Zambia” studies the implementation processes of an internationally compatible legislation against human trafficking in Zambia from a micro-sociological and political anthropological perspective. After ratifying the United Nations’ so called ‘Palermo Protocol’ (United Nations 2000) Zambia was among the first sub-Saharan countries that incorporated this multinational convention in its domestic law. In the process of translating it into the Zambian context, the discursive formation of ‘human trafficking’, which originated in the Global North, is being re-interpreted influenced by different traditional practices.

Against this backdrop, the project ethnographically examines how multinational organizations influence the Zambian state. In this wake a further area of enquiry is how diverging interpretations of ‘human trafficking’ are handled during activities of governmental and non-governmental actors. The empirical research for this project was conducted in the form of a 17-month long, multi-local field research in Zambia.

  • Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Thomas G. Kirsch
  • Funded by the Centre of Excellence, University of Konstanz
  • In collaboration with Dr. Julia Hornberger and Prof. Dr. Shalini Randeria, both University of Zurich (Switzerland)


Habilitation and Postdoc Projects

Bodirsky, Katharina

Counter-Terrorism and State-Making in Europe

The research project examines authoritarian politics in contemporary Europe through the lens of counter-terrorism. In engagement with debates on the relation between authoritarianism and neoliberalism, it seeks to understand the role of counter-terrorism law in ongoing processes of state transformation. From an anthropological perspective, this involves examining not only the changes in state institutions and practices that such law enables, but also the wider social conditions that constitute authoritarian states and their social consequences.

Göpfert, Mirco

Caricature in contemporary Iran

With this research I aim to make sense of caricatures as a graphic genre of public commentary in contemporary Iran, particularly in its moments of production and publication. The project focuses on practices of caricaturing as a craft (including the technical skills and the materiality of drawing), as an articulation of the political (with a specific sensitivity to the ‘tipping point’ towards the frowned-upon and the forbidden), and as a mode of producing knowledge about our being in the world (bearing in mind the hermeneutic openness and ambiguity of these pictures).

Heil, Tilmann

(Un)equal lives of migrants. Comparing, reflecting and embodying processes of social stratification andcultural diversification in a Latin American city

This project explores how new migrants into an emergent city of the south, Rio de Janeiro, compare, reflect and embody distinct social mobilities in(to) a locality which is characterised by multiple contradicting and interdependent systems of stratification. The aim is to understand highly stratified urban spaces from multiple perspectives to contribute to a fuller picture of the overall dynamics of current urbanities and the processes of socio-cultural diversification. I argue that we can only understand the social life of a city if we view it from different, but concurrent perspectives. I start by exploring how different city dwellers are situated distinctly within specific urban localities, and which (trans)local reference and value systems they develop to judge and manage their everyday situations.

Two sets of new migrants are the starting point of the project: on the one hand, there are migrants who have come from developing and emerging countries (Senegal and neighbouring countries) and on the other from the countries of former colonial powers in crisis (mainly Spain). They differ according to their places of origin, their human, social, cultural and economic capital, and their legal status. Some of the migrants occupy extreme ends of the social spectrum, yet others mark various and contradictory in-between experiences. Some of the social mobilities of both European and African city dwellers follow neither common sense conceptions nor popular prejudices. Therefore: How do the learning processes about the local practices of social distinction differ and why? How do migrants compare their lives to others in the locality as well as transnationally? How do migrants engage with, narrate and interpret the sequence of statuses they have experienced transnationally and within the same locality? How are situations evaluated and values attached to them? Due to multiple interferences of unanticipated social configurations, migrants experience and live their local incorporation in distinct spaces, variously configured networks, and their respective temporalities. The project hereby contributes to an understanding of both the diversifying and stratifying ‘southern’ urbanity in the 21st century of changing global relations, and the potentially conflicting or converging social imaginaries of its newly arriving city dwellers.

Acosta, Raul

Aspirational activism in urban Latin America

As more than half of the global population now lives in cities, urban governance has become a key interest for scholars and policymakers. This project will analyse a variety of emerging mobilisations by social actors in Latin America who are driven by demands for better government projects and policies so as to improve the quality of urban life. Grassroots efforts to negotiate and achieve collective aspirations constitute a process of imagining and creating possible futures. As such, they are receiving increasing scholarly attention, but still require rigorous systematic investigation. This project introduces aspirational activism as a critical category of grassroots practices in order to analyse the interplay of material and moral interests of activists. It will investigate the way in which activists in two networks (Tomala, in Guadalajara, Mexico, and Rede Nossa Sao Paulo, in Sao Paulo, Brazil) navigate collective aspirations for material and moral improvements in urban life. As a region that grapples with striking levels of inequality, and because of its authoritarian past, Latin America exemplifies the difficulties related to promoting civic engagement when there is a strong resistance to inclusive public dialogues among government institutions and other influential bodies. This is an anthropological study especially focused on three concurrent processes: (1) the way in which activists combine concerns of urban dwellers to articulate aspirations for better futures; (2) the decision-making strategies of activists in light of their demands for inclusive governance schemes; and (3) the innovative performances of dissent by activists as forms of engagement with urban dwellers and government officials. In contexts of increased affluence and persistent inequalities, this project will offer insights into ongoing negotiations over desired futures taking place in Latin America and a critical tool for the analysis of grassroots practices worldwide.