Monthly Archives: November 2014

CfP “The concept of crisis and the permanent state of exception”

I have a workshop on “The concept of crisis and the permanent state of exception” at the GAA Biannual Conference 2015 30.9. – 3.10.2015 at Marburg University. Here is the full text

Crisis is a temporal concept, indicating a turning point (from the Greek krisis). Its use suggests that it alternates with stable states of being-in-the-world that are predictable and calm. Whereas the anthropological literature of the 1950s and 1960s analysed crisis and conflict in congruence with models of harmony, anthropological research in the last decades has emphasised war, violence and trauma as “existential experiences.” In this body of literature, attention has shifted away from understanding “mounting crisis” as a phase in a sequence of events aimed to restore social equilibrium (Turner 1972). Rather, recent approaches discuss the “ontological alienation” of persons whose bonds “to the everyday world have become stretched, distorted, and even torn; sometimes irreparably so” (Lester 2013). Zygmunt Bauman and Carlo Bodoni (2014) have recently classified “the present crisis” as a crisis of agency and of territorial sovereignty. So is crisis a con-cept of particular Western thinking and acting – an expression of modernity? Eric Wolf (1999) approached crisis differently, arguing that crises are part and parcel of social life everywhere and that the distinction between normality and crisis is to a large extent ficti-tious.

Drawing on classical and recent anthropological analyses of crisis for our own research, this workshop seeks to explore the equivalents of the concept from emic points of view. How do our informants conceptualise and word their often precarious ways of living? When do they experience moments of “judgment,” “separation” and “choice” (all syno-nyms of crisis) in their personal lives? And how do their personal or collective “crises” relate to a more permanent state of exception that increasingly presents itself as the dominant paradigm of government in contemporary politics (Agamben 2003)?

Abstracts should be submitted both as a long version (1,200 characters includ-ing spaces max.) and a short version (300 characters including spaces max.). Email me at my university address in Konstanz if you are interested in contributing. Deadline is February 15, 2015.

Watching Iraq talk about Human Rights. Excursion to the 20th Universal Periodic Review in Geneva

I am preparing for a two-day excursion with my Master students to the 20th Universal Periodic Review of the United Nations. The event will take place in the Palais des Nations in Geneva. In advance, we had to register via email, and in order to be allowed to participate, we will need to collect our “badges” on Monday morning at the gate of the palace.

We will be witnessing the Review of Iraq on Monday and the Review of Slovenia on Tuesday. We will hopefully also arrange for a tour around the building — in which the former Völkerbund was housed — and I am personally interested in observing the Distribution of the report on Kazakhstan.

My students’ task is to learn participant observation in an International Organization. That is, to employ anthropological research methods originally designed in and for colonized societies, in a setting that is not only “Western”, but also transnational, bureaucratic, complex, and …. boring? Maybe not. We shall see …

In order to prepare, we have read a couple of anthropological texts, most importantly those by Jane Cowan and Julie Billaud, who carried out long-term field research in the UPR two years ago. But also documentation itself such as

the English version of the National Report on Iraq

the Compilation of UN Information on Iraq

a Summary of Stakeholders’ Information on Iraq

and several sheets of advanced questions prepared by various member states of the UN. The UK, for example, would like to know the following:

“The situation for ethnic and religious groups including Muslims, Christians, Yezidis, Turkmen and others remains deeply concerning. What is being done to protect vulnerable groups from continued attacks and persecution; and also to enable them to return to their homes in areas where they have been displaced – particularly where their neighbours have allegedly been complicit in the persecution?”

I am very much looking forward to hearing how “Iraq” is going to answer that one …