Category Archives: Allgemein

Upcoming Workshop: The Future of Central Asian Studies

co-organized by Judith Beyer (Konstanz) and Madeleine Reeves (Manchester).

The last three years have seen a flourishing of anthropological and historical monographs on Central Asia. We propose an innovative workshop format that seeks to launch several of these recent monographs and to use a discussion of their findings as a basis for reflection on the future of Central Asian studies. The workshop will facilitate a series of focused discussions that emerge from bringing the texts into conversation with one another.

How can material from Central Asia inform conceptual debates about order, knowledge, modernity, empire, religion and resources in the widest sense? What can be gained from drawing together anthropological and historical scholarship on law and empire, or dynamics of peace and conflict? How can we better integrate the history and anthropology of Afghanistan to allow comparison with the rest of Central Asia? The book panel discussions will be videotaped and edited versions of these discussions will be made available to an international audience.

For a full programme see here.

 

 

Workshop on Divergent Resource Claims in Plural Ecologies

A group of German anthropologists has met at the Institute for Advanced Study in Konstanz last weekend to carry out the third (out of six) workshops within the framework of a DFG-funded network on “Contested plural ecologies. Anthropological perspectives on Southeast Asia.” After having convened in Heidelberg and Passau already, Konstanz hosted the third gathering in which we continued exploring human-nature-relationships, taking into account recent theoretical debates in anthropology.

Workshop participants in Konstanz. July 8, 2017.

This workshop, entitled “Divergent resource claims in plural ecologies”, was convened by myself and Birgit Bräuchler (currently based at Monash University, Melbourne) and focused on how ambivalences and contestations between local, national and international rights and claims inform ecological policies and power struggles at the respective levels. Given the rising demand for cultural rights and the plurality of ecologies within and across countries in Southeast Asia, a regional comparison can shed new light on debates about diverging normative orders, the translation of individual and collective human rights, and the (sustainable) management of a broad range of resources.

In the papers, we geographically covered Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam, and Myanmar. The ‘resources’ under investigation reached from urban land, waterscapes, religious buildings, rice fields, beaches, eaglewood nursery programs, forested mountains, to gardens and coral reefs. For a full programme of the workshop see here.

The group profited enormously from the two external discussants: the legal anthropologist Prof. Dr. Keebet von Benda-Beckmann (Amsterdam) and the environmental anthropologist Prof. Dr. Greg Acciaioli (Perth). Both are experts on Indonesia and provided thought-provoking individual feedback to all papers.

The group will convene next in Berlin at the Humboldt University in November 2017.

 

Harmony ideology. On ethnographic research in Kyrgyzstan and Ethiopia

Here is the full pdf-version to an article I co-authored in 2015 together with Felix Girke in Common Knowledge as part of a special issue on “Peace by other means.”

In the article we engage with Laura Nader’s famous concept of “harmony ideology” from a practice-oriented perspective by taking ethnographic material from Southern Ethiopia and Northern Kyrgyzstan.

To everyone working on the concept of yntymak in the Central Asian context and on intergenerational dynamics, this paper might be helpful. Also to researchers working on the ‘cultural neighbourhood’, on interethnic relations or on the concept of ädamo in Southern Ethiopia.

Enjoy!

 

Workshop: Divergent resource claims in plural ecologies. Case studies from Southeast Asia

Workshop 6–8 July 2017
Institute for Advanced Study, Konstanz.

Organized by Judith Beyer (University of Konstanz) and Birgit Bräuchler (Monash University)

In this workshop, we intend to investigate divergent claims to resource access, thereby furthering our common interest in plural ecologies across Southeast Asia. Following Ribot and Peluso’s Theory of Access (2003), we define access to resources as the “ability to derive benefits from things – including material objects, persons, institutions, and symbols” (2003:153). Access to natural resources (such as land, water, mineral resources) is always legitimized, negotiated, defended, and denied through the recourse to cultural resources.

Cultural resources include economic (markets, infrastructure, etc.), political (legitimation discourses about civil rights, ethnicity, indigeneity cultural heritage, etc.), and religious (traditional knowledge, cosmology, etc.) forms of power and influence. In social-political practice, natural and cultural resources never appear separately but are always intertwined, and, to a certain extent, interdependent. Competition for and claims to resources is decisive since privileged access and the inclusion of a particular group usually involves the exclusion or neglect of others (see Hall, Hirsch, & Li 2011: 8, 13; Adhuri 2009).

We here consider the concepts of majority, minority, and indigeneity as political constructs functioning at the interface of local identity claims, traditional resource demands, the enforcement of national laws, and internationally promoted human rights. The “right to culture” is central in the recent development of collective human rights (see, for example, Francioni & Scheinin, 2008; Stamatopoulou, 2007) and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (United Nations, 2007). Among others, it concerns the granting of long denied access to resources and promotes the advancement of group-specific rights on a national level, which is fostered by an increasing number of decentralization and demo- cratization processes in Southeast Asia and does not go undisputed as it leads to the exclusion of non-group members (compare e.g., F. v. Benda-Beckmann & K. von Benda-Beckmann, 2010; Kymlicka & Norman, 2000; Rosaldo, 2003; Taylor, 1994; Young, 1989). In debates on minority and indigeneity the question is whether it is justified to grant specific rights to individuals or groups within a state for historic reasons (see, in particular, Barnard, 2006; Bohnet & Höher, 2004; Guenther et al, 2003; Preece, 2005). Again, this implies a close interlinkage of political, cultural and natural resources.

What is of special interest for this workshop is how such ambivalences and contestations between local, national and international rights and claims inform ecological policies and power struggles at the respective levels. Given the rising demand for cultural rights and the plurality of ecologies within and across countries in Southeast Asia, a regional comparison would shed
new light on debates about diverging normative orders, the translation of individual and collective human rights, and the (sustainable) management of a broad range of resources.

For a full programme of the workshop see here.

 

 

Podcast about my book

Sean Guillory of Sean’s Russia Blog spoke with me the other day about my book “The force of custom. Law and the ordering of everyday life in Kyrgyzstan.” You can listen to the podcast online here or download the podcast here.

In our interview, Sean asked me what inspired me to do a study on “custom” (Kyrgyz salt) and how we can understand the concept anthropologically, how it is communicated, what metaphors are associated with it and in what contexts we can observe it in action.

Sean was also interested in hearing my reasons for not anonymizing my main informants, how people in my fieldsite conceive of their history, what the historical trajectories of the local courts of elders (aksakal courts) are, how Soviet life has been unmade after Kyrgyzstan gained independence, how we should understand the role of the state in the countryside and what the roles of elders and their relationship with villagers, politicians and state administrators are.

Finally, we discuss my decision to end the book with a criticism of the concept of postsocialism which, I argue, is not central for understanding everyday life in Kyrgyzstan.

 

Teaching “The romantization of community” (MA course)

This summer term, I am continuing my exploration of the concept of ‘community’ with an MA-course that is aimed at reading whole monographs instead of articles. We are reading Zygmunt Bauman’s “Community. Seeking safety in an insecure world” (2001), Miranda Joseph’s “Against the romance of community” (2002) and Michael Herzfeld’s “Siege of the spirits. Community and polity in Bangkok” (2016).

What makes community? Solidarity, emotional attachment, common interests and practices? Dependence, debt, death? What is it that community asks from its participants, and what does it promise them? The academic discussion of what community really is has long been controversial. In the last few years, however, publications have critically questioned the concept and its often positive connotation without losing sight of its uninterrupted relevance both within and outside academia.

The aim of the seminar is to examine the concept of community in its entire range: from our own everyday understanding to descriptions of a “paradise lost” to its philosophical “unthinkability.”

Summer Term 2017. University of Konstanz. MA-Course as part of the MA in “Anthropology and Sociology”.

 

The Force of Custom. Law and the Ordering of Everyday Life in Kyrgyzstan

I wrote a book. No, it didn’t happen just like that. It was more of a ten-year thing. Starting in 2004 as part of a PhD thesis, the story unfolded over the course of 10 years, included language training, a lot of reading and thinking, but most importantly spending a long time in a rural part of Kyrgyzstan, getting to know people who grew up there, people who were different from me in so many ways, who knew so much more about life and what it means to grow up and grow older amongst the people you love, but in a society that was changing rapidly. How did ‘the big  change’ (the end of the Soviet Union) relate to the many small changes in a person’s course of life? How did people deal with the fact that the last century had come with a lot of unforseeable innovations impacting all spheres of life – from the economy to politics, religion and law? This book is a book about people not only coping with the fact that life is changing. It is about trying to understand the way in which they manage it – how do they order everyday life? And what role do ‘law’ and ‘custom’ play in this regard? My book is a legal anthropological exploration of people’s everyday lives. In it, I explore aspects of sociality which, at first sight, do not seem to involve law, but which are nevertheless shot through with it: funerals, village genealogies, veterans’ celebrations, mosque congregations…

I am happy about this book. It tells real stories that were told to me by real people. It tries to do justice to their own ways of reasoning. It takes their struggles and concerns serious and it stays with their perspective on life when translating what I have come to understand into the language of social anthropology. I wrote this book for myself, for I wanted to understand. Now I hope it will get read by others, too.

You can order my book here or here

“Judith Beyer has done a magnificent job of unfolding current notions of legalism among the Kyrgyz of Talas province. Her prose is crystal clear, her ethnography is rich, and her theoretical engagement is stimulating and accessible. This book deserves a place on readers’ shelves alongside the best works on the anthropology of post-socialist Eurasia.”

Paolo Sartori, Institute of Iranian Studies, Vienna