Tag Archives: law

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.

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 …

Recent Supreme Court Decisions

Recently, a couple of blog posts have dealt with the most outrageous, important, and/or course-changing decisions of the US Supreme Court in the last months, including topics such as botched executions and the right of women to remain in control of their  bodies. The following posts are worth reading:

1. Ilya Somin’s Religious Freedom in the Commercial Sphere (Burwell VS Hobby Lobby)

2. Austin Sarat’s Botching the 8th Amendment (Atkins VS Virginia)

3. Lyle Denniston’s Fifth Circuit Allows More Limits on Abortion in Texas

4. Amy Howe’s Court Strikes Down Abortion Clinic “Buffer Zone”( McCullen VS Coakley)


There is also a new monograph on the topic, published by University of Pennsylvania Press.

Garrett Epps’ American Justice 2014. Nine Clashing Visions on the Supreme Court