Category Archives: teaching

Doing Fieldwork in Myanmar

On April 1, 2016 I co-organized a one-day research workshop on “Doing fieldwork in Myanmar”  with Dr. Felix Girke and the anthropology department of the University of Yangon. The event brought together 24 participants from Myanmar and German-speaking countries. Eleven PhD and MA students presented first findings from their on-going anthropological fieldwork in the country. The topics ranged from labour and migration to religion, livelihood, and cultural heritage ( see the final programme ). A major focus rested on questions of method and fieldwork practice. The students debated challenges and obstacles that they experienced while carrying out their research. More senior scholars guided them in further developing the conceptual frameworks of their studies.

After fifty years of authoritarianism, Myanmar has only recently become accessible for foreign researchers again. These students are thus on the forefront of a new generation of anthropologists carrying out long-time qualitative research in this Southeast Asian country. The University of Yangon itself had been off limits for most foreigners until 2014.

In our effort to bring about a Memorandum of Understanding between the University of Konstanz in Germany and the University of Yangon in Myanmar, this workshop was an important first step towards  more institutionalized collaboration and academic exchange.

Teaching this Winter Term 2015: Milestones and New Horizons: Theories in Anthropology

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.

Teaching: Disputing. Legal anthropological and sociological perspectives on a human universal

 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.

I will be speaking about “Anthropology between book and blog. Evaluation criteria and communication in academia”

19 February, 2015 10 am – 1 pm

Organizers: Allegra Lab Association (Helsinki/Berlin) & The Finnish Institute,

Berlin Georgenstr. 24 (1. OG) 10117 Berlin



Statelessness – Summer Term 2015

Here is one of two seminars on “the state” I will be teaching in the coming Summer Term 2015 at the University of Konstanz.

All MA-students registered in Konstanz are welcome:


Statelessness: On the permanent state of exception

What does it mean to live without citizenship in the time of nation states? 10 million people globally find themselves in exactly this situation. As the UNHCR proclaims the end of statelessness in the context of its refugee work (the ‘iBelong-Campaign’) by 2020, more people are born into statelessness or lose their citizenship each day.

In this seminar we will work on ethnographic case studies focusing on the causes and consequences of statelessness. Legal sociological and legal anthropological texts as well as texts from legal philosophy will help us to reflect better on our own civic existence, as well as to critically question the concept of statehood as a ‘normality’ (e.g. with texts from Agamben, Arendt, Badiou). Literature on transnationalism and exceptional cases, in addition to current approaches that understand statelessness as a humane alternative to nation states, will broaden the scope of the seminar. An external speaker will report on stateless women in Central Asia, the so-called border brides.

Seminar requirements: regular participation; reading of texts; presentation of a case study.

Ethnography of the State – Summer Term 2015

Here is one of two seminars on “the state” I will be teaching in the coming Summer Term 2015 at the University of Konstanz.

All BA-students registered in Konstanz are welcome:

Ethnography of the state: Participant observation and photography

The methodology of participant observation is at the forefront of this seminar. Aided by photography, we will close in on self-selected themes within the subject of ‘state’. Once characterised as “fiction of philosophers” (Radcliffe-Brown 1940), the representation of states (i.e. what concretely the state is) has become the central focus today. Students’ field research can be concentrated on institutions, such as the courts, police, state/municipal administration, and other public institutions. It can, however, also focus on other material embodiments of the state, such as streets, architecture, monuments or borders.

The topic will first be explored with the camera, and connected to the seminar by way of a concrete research question. Over the course of the seminar we will examine specific subjects in addition to making observations, and if possible we will also use other qualitative methods such as open questions and semi-structured interviews. As an accompaniment, we will read texts on ethnographic methods together with texts on the ethnography of the state.

The seminar has two goals: firstly, to discuss the method of participant observation in order to understand its possibilities and limitations; and secondly to offer a practical introduction to the theme of the ‘state’ and reflect on how such manifestations influence our daily lives.

New equipment (small and large cameras) has been purchased for the seminar specifically for students to borrow. Students can, however, also use their own cameras.

Possible work formations: individual work or two-person teams.

Seminar requirements: regular participation in class; reading of literature; regular conducting of field exercises during the semester; presentation of preliminary results; seminar paper to be written during the semester break.