Communal sense. The making of ethno-religious selves and others in Myanmar
I am going to present my ongoing work on Myanmar at the Institute of Advanced Study at the University of Konstanz on December 6, 2018 at 5pm (Bischofsvilla, Otto-Adam Str. 5).
In my presentation I will give an overview of my book manuscript which is based on ethnographic data I collected over several long stretches of fieldwork between 2013 and 2018. The focus of my book lies on critically reinvestigating the category of ‘community’ in light of new material from Southeast Asian Myanmar. My study is geographically situated in Yangon, a fast expanding metropolis and the home of various ethno-religious minorities whose ancestors built the city when they were shipped across the Bay of Bengal by the British colonial forces in the 19th century. My informants, who are Hindus and Muslims, are often referred to as “Indians” in the literature or simply “Blacks” by the local Burmese population, but in their self-understanding, they are the true founders of Yangon. My interest lies in understanding how, in a local context of imperialism and ethno-religious nationalism, these people organize themselves as ‘members’ of groups that perform and are recognized by others as ‘communities’.
My theoretical aim in this book, and my contribution to wider anthropological and sociological debates, is to develop an alternative angle towards the category of ‘community’ that focuses on how and when exactly a collective ‘We’ emerges. In the social sciences the process of we-making has so far been analysed only as a by-product of the process by which ‘Theys’ are created (Appadurai 2006: 50). The concept of communal sense, which I am putting forward in my book, focuses instead on the successful establishing of community as an effect of we-intentionality (Walther 1923) which become ethnographically observable in moments of communitas, in the articulation of common sense and in the material anchoring of common goods.
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.”
Aus der aktuellen Pressemitteilung der Universität Konstanz:
“Lange wurden Berührungspunkte zwischen Ethnologie und Soziologie vorwiegend in Fragen nach Entwicklung, Modernisierung, Globalisierung und Migration gesehen. In jüngerer Zeit kam es vermehrt auch zu methodischen Diskussionen, die durch ein gemeinsames Interesse am Forschungsstil der Ethnographie gekennzeichnet sind. Doch oft bleibt es bei einem kurzen Verweis auf Konstellationen der Wissenschaftsgeschichte, in denen die Unterscheidung zwischen den beiden Fächern keine zentrale Rolle spielte, so etwa in der „Chicago School“ oder bei Bezügen auf Gründerväter der Sozialtheorie wie Marcel Mauss oder Émile Durkheim und neuere Grenzgänger wie Pierre Bourdieu oder Bruno Latour, die mitunter von Vertretern beider Disziplinen für sich beansprucht werden. Insgesamt bleibt die systematische Zusammenführung von Allgemeiner Ethnologie und Allgemeiner Soziologie in der deutschen Wissenschaftslandschaft allerdings weiterhin ein Desiderat”
Zusammen mit Prof. Dr. Thomas Kirsch habe ich im vergangenen Jahr an dem neuen Masterprogramm “Ethnologie und Soziologie” gearbeitet – im kommenden Wintersemester 2016/2017 kann es endlich losgehen.
Der Master richtet sich an alle Studierende der Ethnologie, Soziologie oder benachbarter Fächer, die kleine Seminare mögen, selbst forschen wollen und in einer der schönsten Gegenden Deutschlands – im Dreiländereck angrenzend zu Österreich und der Schweiz (Bodensee! Zürichnah!) studieren wollen.
Ethnologie und Soziologie – Un amour fou.
In dem zweijährigen Studium ist eine Lehrforschung, die sich über zwei Semester erstreckt, fest eingeplant. Diese kann sowohl in Deutschland als auch im Ausland stattfinden. Die Ethnologie Konstanz hat mittlerweile Expertise in Afrika (Südafrika, Zambia) und Asien (Kirgistan, Myanmar) vorzuweisen und betreut deutsch- wie englischsprachige Abschlussarbeiten.
MA-Seminar Winter term 2015 / 2015 at the University of Konstanz
The seminar introduces theoretical concepts that have sparked debates in anthropology and sociology in recent years. We will examine these new approaches in the seminar by drawing on the milestones of theoretical development already achieved. Furthermore, in the interests of grounded theory we will examine and discuss concrete case studies in each seminar class, and what advantages and disadvantages these current concepts have in comparison to the more established approaches. Can we understand central themes such as society, state, social organisations, history, temporality, gender, identity or ethnicity better than before with these new theories? In addition to an in-depth examination of each approach, the seminar will thus at the same time keep a sharp eye on ‘progress’ and innovation in the social and cultural sciences.
All students enrolled in the Masters Programme “Anthropology and Sociology” or related disciplines at the University of Konstanz are eligible to attend.
BA-Seminar in Sociology, University of Konstanz, Germany
Winter term 2015 / 2016 (starting mid-October 2015)
Dispute is a human universal and an integral part of social life. Why this is so, however, has been interpreted differently in the social sciences. How do disputes start at all? What happens when we argue? When does an argument become a legal dispute? When does a dispute divide us, and when does it bind us together even stronger? And when is a dispute actually ended?
Scholars of legal anthropology and legal sociology have studied different dispute settlement procedures since the 1960s. In the sociology of law this has occurred primarily in the context of Western state jurisdiction. In legal anthropology, it has occurred in the non-European context, focussing on non-state actors such as councils of elders or religious leaders. In the course of (post-)colonisation, Western-style state jurisdiction was exported to the global South, while dispute settlement procedures (ADR, Alternative Dispute Resolution) enjoyed increasing popularity in Western societies. Both developments are scientifically controversial as their practical success is questionable.
In the seminar we will read texts from legal anthropology and legal sociology. Furthermore, we will draw extracts from classical ethnographies, and try to grasp theoretically how disputes and their proceedings have been studied in non-Western societies, along with new approaches, and phenomena well-known to us such as disputes over the neighbourhood apple tree, the fascination with “court shows,” as well as the trans-local arbitration of disputes in international courts. Moreover, the seminar is also dedicated to qualitative methods, through which dispute settlement procedures can be investigated.
All students enrolled in a sociology BA or a related discipline at the University of Konstanz (Germany) can attend.