Category Archives: teaching
Stellenausschreibung akad. MitarbeiterIn/ Research Position
Zum 01. April 2022 ist eine Stelle als Akademische:r Mitarbeiter:in (w/m/d) für 3,5 Jahre bei mir in der Arbeitsgruppe „Ethnologie mit Schwerpunkt politische Anthropologie“ an der Universität Konstanz ausgeschrieben.
I am offering a research position at my Working Group “Social and Political Anthropology,” at the University of Konstanz for a period of three and a half years, starting April 01, 2022.
Alle Informationen / more information.
Ich freue mich auf Eure / Ihre Bewerbungen / I am looking forward to your applications!
Teaching Hannah Arendt in 2021
Hannah Arendt is one of the best-known political theorists of the 20th century. Her books and her theoretical arguments emerged in dialogue with ancient philosophers (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle) and modern German thinkers (Kant, Hegel), as well as with her own university teachers (Heidegger, Husserl, Jaspers). Arendt never saw herself as a philosopher, but as a theoretician of the political. The topics she dealt with are today more topical than ever before and her books are being read across disciplines.
Hannah Arendt wrote on totalitarianism, statelessness, human community, and freedom and responsibility. In her work she processed her own experience as a Jew in Germany, as a stateless person in World War II, as a migrant in the USA, as a woman in male-dominated academia and as an attentive observer of an increasingly globalized post-war world.
This semester I am teaching some of her main theoretical themes to a group of BA students at the University of Kontsanz. We will not only embed Arendt’s texts in their historical context, but also to think through and with her arguments using current examples — ranging from the covid pandemic to state terror in Myanmar. Hannah Arendt was interested in the basic conditions of human existence: whenever these are questioned or radically transformed, her work offers a fruitful starting point.
“Why read Hannah Arendt now?” (2018) asks the author Richard Bernstein in his recent book. Answer: because she is “the thinker of the hour” (according to the German translation of the book).
Here is the Syllabus to my course (in German).
Webinar on legal pluralism in honour of Sally Engle Merry
Sally Merry was an active participant in the work of the project group “Legal Pluralism” at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology over many years of which I was a part from 2004 until 2010. In this conversation, Keebet von Benda-Beckmann, my former PhD supervisor, who co-headed the project group at the MPI from 2000 until 2012, and I talked about Sally’s role at the MPI, the importance of her work for legal pluralism in particular, and for legal anthropology in general.
We reviewed some of Sally’s theoretical ideas about the concept of legal pluralism: What was so provocative about it that Sally referred to its history as ‘an intellectual odyssey’? How did she explore it in her own ethnographic work? We also discussed the possibility to think through her more recent themes of research on indicators and quantification in regard to the concept of legal pluralism. To expand the conversation, we invited the audience to contemplate the potential of revisiting the numerous debates Sally has initiated with the concept of legal pluralism in mind.
Here is the full schedule of the webinar series that began on December 11 2020 and runs until May 21 2021.
“Sprechstunde” – neues Interview
Die Interviewreihe “Sprechstunde” der Universität Konstanz stellt ProfessorInnen aller Fachbereiche persönlich vor – als WissenschaftlerIn und als Lehrperson. Hier gebe ich Auskunft über meine Professur, meine Forschungen in Zentral- und Südostasien, mein neues Forschungsprojekt zu Staatenlosigkeit in Europa, sowie über unseren interdisziplinären Masterstudiengang “Ethnologie und Soziologie”, der einzigartig in Deutschland ist.
#corona On being prudent
In a recent post for Allegra Lab, I ask what we can do from our homes, to which we are confined these weeks, being overwhelmed, seeing the problematic and political nature of all these facts and narratives that are presented to us in the Covid-19-crisis.
I have elaborated on three tasks:
First, we can join public debates and be a voice of prudence. This is to help de-escalate discussions where people – sometimes out of sensationalism, sometimes out of hurried obedience and often out of fear – demand that their states take extreme measures of surveillance, deprivation of liberty and sanction. The term “state of exception” has been used to such an extent that we have gotten used to it already – exactly what Giorgio Agamben warned us about.
Second, we can engage with our students and address their sense of insecurity by adapting our upcoming or ongoing courses, seminars and lectures in a way that allows the topic to influence whatever subject we had intended to work on. Since few things are as pervasive as a global pandemic, there is hardly any subject (in anthropology and beyond) which we could not reconceptualize by taking account of COVID-19. As we will have to teach digitally, it is also important to discuss the pitfalls that come with online learning, while making use of newly available resources.
Third, we can practice writing our fieldwork diaries in our homes: Note down how the virus has already impacted our own personal everyday lives, how it has led to a restructuring of our daily schedules, how it has decreased and altered the amount of time we spend with colleagues and friends and how it might have increased the number of hours we spend with members of our household. For those of us who have children, we can observe how they, too, struggle to adapt to a physical world that has suddenly shrunk and to a digital world that has suddenly expanded. We can look outside our windows and correlate how changes in governmental policies become observable in the very way people physically move in the streets. And we can honestly record our own feelings from day to day. We can then come back to these notes at a later stage – just as we do when we come home from the field.
This too, to me, is public anthropology. One directly engages with the media, the second takes up current topics and reworks these with our students for whom we are responsible, and the third collects data diligently in order to be able to draw from this source later on when we have the capacity and the psychological distance required to take a long hard look at what is happening in front of our eyes right now.
Read the full post here. My intro is part of an ongoing series which we have labelled #corona thread.
Anthropology and existentialism. Back to the individual?
Next to a BA-level course on Indigeneity and Law, I will be teaching in our Master’s Program “Anthropology and Sociology” a thematic course on anthropology and existentialism. After having spent a couple of months in France (Paris, in particular) this year and last year, living in direct vicinity to Sartre’s and De Beauvoir’s former “writing ground” (Café Le Flore, Café Les Deux Magots) in St. Germain, I became more and more interested in combining anthropological reasoning with existential philosophy. Next to Sartre, De Beauvoir and other French intellectuals of the mid-20th century, I encountered the work of Albert Piette (who teaches at Uni Nanterre in Paris) whom I only knew as Michael Jackson’s “sidekick” from “What is existential anthropology?” (Berghahn 2015). I slowly read through his oeuvre, most of it only available in French, but some of it already translated into English by now. His creative way of approaching an anthropo-centric anthropology via what he calls ‘phenomenography’ is as innovative as it is radical. He argues against ethnomethodology, against social interactionism and against every other theory that privileges collectivity rather than individuality.
Since the best way to truly understand theory is to teach it, I am looking forward to my seminar where the question “What role does the individual actually play in anthropology?” will stand at the center of our inquiry. We will see that this question needs to be answered differently depending on what decade and what anthropological tradition we are talking about. We will be reading classical anthropological literature (Malinowski, Benedict, Geertz, Obeyesekere, Rosaldo, Rapport, Lutz and Abu-Lughod) in order to understand how often the individual rather stood in anthropology’s way on the path towards ‘society’, ‘structure’ or ‘systems of meaning’. We will counter these views not only with recent existential anthropological literature, but also with literature from neighbouring disciplines such as philosophy (the old French classics) and existential psychoanalysis (Chodorow, Yalom).
Last but not least I hope to generate insights into the nature of the relationships we develop with our key interlocutors during field research: Does a stronger focus on the individual’s existence require a change in the way we approach our ‘field’ and collect our ‘data’? How do we reflect on our own role as individuals in the field?
Here is the syllabus to the seminar:
Upcoming term 2019/20: Teaching on Indigeneity and Law
This winter term I will be teaching a course on indigeneity and law for our BA-students at the University of Konstanz.
While in the colonial era the alleged “backwardness” of “natives” or even “savages” was taken as an opportunity to deny them their right to their land, today “indigeneity” is a term used by indigenous people themselves in order to assert their rights (to land, natural resources, cultural self-determination, etc.).
In this seminar, we explore the nexus of indigenity and law by reading anthropological texts on indigeneity (and related concepts such as ethnicity). On the other hand, we learn about legal sources for such claims-making through which the rights of indigenous peoples get articulated in recent decades (for example UN resolutions, current court decisions, …).
We will also read two different types of (auto-) ethnographic texts: on the one hand the life story of a Guatemalan indigenous woman, Rigoberta Menchú (Burgos / Menchú 1984) and on the other the recent monograph of the indigenous anthropologist Audra Simpson (2014) “Mohawk Interruptus. Political life across the borders of settler states “to the Kahnawà: ke (Haudenosaunee / Iroquois Confederation) in Quebec.
The aim of the seminar is to be able to trace historical and current connections between processes of Othering and those of Self-culturalization in the name of “indigeneity” from an anthropological perspective, as well as to understand the central role of law in doing so.
Here is the syllabus of the seminar.
Teaching on Conflict Resolution
In addition to a course on statelessness at our BA-level, I am also teaching a course on conflict resolution for our MA-students this summer term. Both courses fall under the subdiscipline of legal anthropology, which is my specialization. I am looking forward to exploring legal anthropological and legal sociological approaches to this important topic. We’ll start out by laying the theoretical ground, differentiating between conflicts and disputes, between adjudication and settlement, and between the various institutions that can be addressed for actors intending to file complaints and grievances.
In the seminar, we will also have a guest lecturer, who is the current acting Ombudsman (*woman, that is) of the University of Konstanz. Together with her, we will explore the different possibilities the university provides in terms of mediation and solving disputes and conflicts.
The first part of the seminar is focused on classical publications on conflict and dispute resolution that drew on ethnographic data gathered in a colonial context (Gluckman, Gulliver). After a critique of this type of literature (Spittler), we will read and discuss a case study on a village in Bavaria (Todd) to turn the ethnographic gaze onto ourselves.
We will then familiarize ourselves with the important concept of “harmony ideology” (Nader) within the context of “alternative dispute resolution” (ADR).
Through a series of more recent publications, we will approach conflict and dispute resolution in the contemporary era, starting with sharia councils in the UK (Billaud), neotraditional courts of elders in Kyrgyzstan (Beyer), and the particular set-up of international bodies such as “special courts” aimed at conflict resolution in Sierra Leone (Anders).
Here is the syllabus of the seminar.
Teaching on Statelessness
This summer term, I will be back at my University, teaching one course on “Statelessness” at the BA-level for our anthropology and sociology students. I am particularly looking forward to the two guest lectures: One by Felix Girke (University of Konstanz) who will be exploring how anthropology has traditionally worked with “stateless” people during colonial times and what has happened in areas and to people in South Omo in Southern Ethiopia where the modern state had been absent for a long time, but has now become a cruel force.
The second guest lecture will be given by Kerem Schamberger from the University of Munich and a political activist, who will present his new book “Die Kurden. Ein Volk zwischen Unterdrückung und Rebellion” (together with Michael Meyen) during the seminar.
Here is the course syllabus (in English, the seminar will be held in German)