Upcom­ing Activities

Sit­u­at­ing Soft Author­i­tar­i­an­ism Between Geopo­lit­i­cal Com­plex­i­ties and Every­day Prac­tices. Young Inter­na­tion­al Schol­ars Autumn Research School (YIS­ARES) 2022


27. Octo­ber 202229. Octo­ber 2022

Loca­tion: online


The Russ­ian government’s war against Ukraine has exposed mul­ti­ple dimen­sions and geopo­lit­i­cal fault­lines of con­tem­po­rary author­i­tar­i­anisms: The sys­tem­at­ic hijack­ing of state insti­tu­tions and accu­mu­la­tion of wealth through the extrac­tion and cap­i­tal­iza­tion of gas, oil and coal clear­ly stand out as indis­pens­able pre­con­di­tions for Russia’s neo-impe­ri­al­ism and mil­i­tary pow­er. The inva­sion has been accom­pa­nied by the dis­sem­i­na­tion of state-steered lies, dis­in­for­ma­tion and eth­no-nation­al­ist nar­ra­tives. The rem­nants of inde­pen­dent media and the polit­i­cal oppo­si­tion are threat­ened by a sub­or­di­nat­ed judi­cia­ry. And on a glob­al scale the acqui­es­cence of Chi­na and India to Russia’s inva­sion indi­cates bol­stered alliances between author­i­tar­i­an and soft-author­i­­tar­i­an gov­ern­ments. Some pun­dits pre­dict a geopo­lit­i­cal con­fronta­tion between an author­i­tar­i­an block and seem­ing­ly re-con­­sol­i­­dat­ed “West”. The reluc­tance of many post­colo­nial states to sup­port Ukraine fac­ing this attack by its impe­r­i­al neigh­bor con­tributes to cur­rent­ly emerg­ing geopo­lit­i­cal complexities.

These dynam­ics pose new chal­lenges for any crit­i­cal engage­ment with con­tem­po­rary forms of author­i­tar­i­an­ism, which range from ful­ly fledged author­i­tar­i­an regimes to author­i­tar­i­an prac­tices with­in for­mal lib­er­al democ­ra­cies. War, secu­ri­ti­za­tion and anti-ter­ror­ism poli­cies, sup­pres­sion of move­ments against social inequal­i­ties and inhu­mane bor­der regimes have time and again brought about vio­lent polic­ing or author­i­tar­i­an legal and admin­is­tra­tive mea­sures also with­in lib­er­al democ­ra­cies. How­ev­er, in past years, we have wit­nessed an increased dis­man­tling of democ­ra­cy from with­in. In a num­ber of coun­tries, such as Turkey, Poland, Hun­gary or India demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly elect­ed politi­cians have man­aged to erode demo­c­ra­t­ic prin­ci­ples, prac­tices and insti­tu­tions. They attack inde­pen­dent media and put immense effort into bring­ing courts under their polit­i­cal con­trol. They med­dle with con­sti­tu­tion­al law to impede pro­ce­dures of account­abil­i­ty and dis­man­tle fun­da­men­tal human and cit­i­zens’ rights and free­doms, to inhib­it effec­tive polit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion and a func­tion­ing oppo­si­tion. Often these shifts are accom­pa­nied by dis­cur­sive prac­tices vari­ably dis­cred­it­ing migrants, sex­u­al or reli­gious minori­ties and polit­i­cal oppo­nents. Grad­u­al­ly but sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly the rules of the polit­i­cal game are changed to secure the pow­er of author­i­tar­i­an gov­ern­ments and lead­ers, while main­tain­ing a demo­c­ra­t­ic façade.

Dur­ing this autumn school we will take the emerg­ing geopo­lit­i­cal com­plex­i­ties as entry point to explore and sit­u­ate these forms of soft author­i­tar­i­an gov­ern­ment anew. We ask whether the cur­rent geopo­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion impedes a fur­ther shift towards polit­i­cal rhetoric and inter­ven­tions hol­low­ing out demo­c­ra­t­ic pro­ce­dures and insti­tu­tions. Or does it per­haps offer new oppor­tu­ni­ties for the tac­it intro­duc­tion of more author­i­tar­i­an leg­is­la­tion, the mobi­liza­tion of hate speech and the mil­i­ta­riza­tion of pub­lic life? What forms of transna­tion­al net­works and rela­tions of author­i­tar­i­anisms can we observe?

In dif­fer­ent the­mat­ic mod­ules we will exam­ine some of the legal, admin­is­tra­tive, dis­cur­sive and dig­i­tal prac­tices with which democ­ra­cy is under­mined in detail. We will look at how illib­er­al dis­cours­es are nor­mal­ized, insti­tu­tions hijacked, laws rewrit­ten, and zones of excep­tion cre­at­ed. We will ask in which way these prac­tices and dis­cours­es real­ly man­age to cov­er up their author­i­tar­i­an inten­tions and deceive their cit­i­zens? And, final­ly, we will explore the forms and scales of vio­lence here­by engendered.

Through­out the whole autumn school, we will also revis­it the dif­fer­ent con­cepts that have been devel­oped to exam­ine the recent con­junc­ture of pop­ulist, anti-lib­er­al and author­i­tar­i­an trends inside nom­i­nal democ­ra­cies. Do we still dis­pose of the right vocab­u­lary to ana­lyt­i­cal­ly dis­sect the con­tem­po­rary moment? Or do we need to adjust our con­cep­tu­al and method­olog­i­cal toolset to make sense of author­i­tar­i­anisms in exac­er­bat­ed geopo­lit­i­cal complexities?

Past Activ­i­ties

The Rise of Author­i­tar­i­an Iden­ti­ty Pol­i­tics in France (Stock­holm University)


Time: 14:00 – 14:30

Loca­tion: Stock­holm

Talk by Hagen Stein­hauer at the con­fer­ence The Power(s) of Lan­guage. Nego­ti­at­ing Voice and Recog­ni­tion (BTWSD#4)

In the wake of the 2020 ter­ror­ist attacks, the term islamo-gauchisme gained salience in French mass media dis­course. Mem­bers of the gov­ern­ment, specif­i­cal­ly the min­is­ters of nation­al edu­ca­tion and research, used it not only to con­demn fun­da­men­tal­ist and Dji­hadist ide­olo­gies, but also to accuse cer­tain aca­d­e­m­ic dis­ci­plines of intel­lec­tu­al com­plic­i­ty with Islamism. Islamo-gauchisme thus equates alleged left­ist sup­port for Islamist fun­da­men­tal­ism with crit­i­cal research projects like post­colo­nial stud­ies or inter­sec­tion­al feminism.

Islamo-gauchisme com­bines the denial of struc­tur­al racism and Islam­o­pho­bia with a dele­git­imiza­tion of cri­tique and the notion of an endan­gered white major­i­ty threat­ened from out­side as well as from with­in. Thus, it should be under­stood as part of the far-right’s larg­er strat­e­gy to push back against left-wing eman­ci­pa­to­ry pol­i­tics and to imple­ment their agen­da in the cen­tre of polit­i­cal discourse.

I argue that we are wit­ness­ing a broad­er author­i­tar­i­an shift which con­sol­i­dates eth­no-nation­al­­ly encod­ed iden­ti­ty pol­i­tics of the men­aced major­i­ty: far-right nar­ra­tives of Islamiza­tion and the grand rem­place­ment have become an inte­gral part of pub­lic dis­course. The main­stream­ing of these ide­olo­gies has already had effects on leg­is­la­tion: A new law on sep­a­ratism led to the dis­so­lu­tion of activist groups and NGOs speak­ing up against Islam­o­pho­bia. Islam in gen­er­al was fur­ther stig­ma­tized and cri­tique of insti­tu­tion­al Islam­o­pho­bia dis­missed as racisme imag­i­naire.    In my pre­sen­ta­tion I will exam­ine the his­to­ry of the term islamo-gauchisme to iden­ti­fy its under­ly­ing argu­men­ta­tion and its influ­ence on cur­rent debates around séparatisme and wok­isme. The dis­cur­sive func­tion of all of these buzz­words, I argue, is to deny the exis­tence of struc­tur­al dis­crim­i­na­tion in order to uphold racial­ized and gen­dered hier­ar­chies. France is wit­ness­ing the rise of an author­i­tar­i­an iden­ti­ty pol­i­tics aimed at dele­git­imiz­ing claims for equal recog­ni­tion and rights of minorities.

Ethnog­ra­phy of Polic­ing: Provo­ca­tion, Affect and the Author­i­tar­i­an State


Time: 18:15–20:00

Loca­tion: online

A Con­ver­sa­tion with Deniz Yonu­cu, New­cas­tle University

This event is based on Deniz Yonucu’s recent­ly pub­lished book Police, Provo­ca­tion, Pol­i­tics: Coun­terin­sur­gency in Istan­bul. (Cor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2022). In it she presents a coun­ter­in­tu­itive analy­sis of con­tem­po­rary polic­ing prac­tices, focus­ing par­tic­u­lar atten­tion on the incite­ment of coun­ter­vi­o­lence, per­pet­u­al con­flict, and eth­no­sec­tar­i­an dis­cord by the state secu­ri­ty appa­ra­tus. Shed­ding light on coun­terin­sur­gen­cy’s affect-and-emo­­tion-gen­er­at­ing divi­sive tech­niques and urban dimen­sions, the book shows how coun­terin­sur­gent polic­ing strate­gies work to inter­vene in the orga­ni­za­tion of polit­i­cal dis­sent in a way that both coun­ters exist­ing align­ments among dis­si­dent pop­u­la­tions and pre­vents emer­gent ones. Draw­ing on her insights into these forms of urban polic­ing in Istan­bul, we would like to dis­cuss how they are sit­u­at­ed in the glob­al his­tor­i­cal con­text and in which ways they pro­vide a back­ground to the author­i­tar­i­an state pol­i­tics we are wit­ness­ing in Turkey today. 

Deniz Yonu­cu is Lec­tur­er in Soci­ol­o­gy at the School of Geog­ra­phy, Pol­i­tics and Soci­ol­o­gy, New­cas­tle Uni­ver­si­ty. She received her PhD in Social Anthro­pol­o­gy from Cor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty in 2014. She holds two MA degrees in Social Sci­ences from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go and in Soci­ol­o­gy from Bogazi­ci Uni­ver­si­ty. Her teach­ing and research inter­ests lie at the inter­sec­tion of polit­i­cal and legal anthro­pol­o­gy and urban stud­ies, with a focus on the Mid­dle East. She is a co-founder and co-con­venor of the Anthro­pol­o­gy of Sur­veil­lance Net­work (ANSUR).  

The event is co-organ­ised by the Depart­ment of Anthro­pol­o­gy and Cul­tur­al Research and the Research Group Soft Author­i­tar­i­anisms. 

To reg­is­ter please send an email to:

Civ­il Soci­ety and Demo­c­ra­t­ic Back­slid­ing Con­fer­ence (Istan­bul)


23. May 202224. May 2022

Loca­tion: Istan­bul

Addi­tion­al event info: Con­firmed speak­ers include: Shali­ni Ran­de­ria, Mar­lies Gla­sius, Ajay Gudavarthy

The con­fer­ence is joint­ly orga­nized by Soci­ety and Legal Research Foun­da­tion (TOHAV) and Aberdeen University’s Cen­tre for Cit­i­zen­ship, Civ­il Soci­ety and Rule of Law (CIS­RUL)

An extra­or­di­nary range of coun­tries across the world tran­si­tioned to democ­ra­cy in the 1980s and sub­se­quent decades, intro­duc­ing mul­ti-par­­ty elec­tions, con­sti­tu­tion­al pro­tec­tion for minori­ties, free­dom of speech and con­science, and oth­er mea­sures con­sis­tent with inter­na­tion­al human rights treaties and covenants. One set of pro-democ­ra­­cy actors came to be known as “civ­il soci­ety”: a loose term but which often refers to legal­­ly-estab­lished orga­ni­za­tions and asso­ci­a­tions, from NGOs and social move­ments to think tanks and the media, which main­tain a degree of auton­o­my from gov­ern­ments and polit­i­cal par­ties, and which attempt to place pres­sure on gov­ern­ments through mon­i­tor­ing, advo­ca­cy and pol­i­cy recommendations.

In the past decade, how­ev­er, author­i­tar­i­an prac­tices and poli­cies have been on the rise in many con­texts. Coun­tries as dif­fer­ent as Turkey, Hun­gary, Poland, Brazil, Mex­i­co and Tan­za­nia, all held to be con­sol­i­dat­ing as democ­ra­cies, have been crit­i­cized for “demo­c­ra­t­ic back­slid­ing”. The term is not whol­ly sat­is­fac­to­ry because some of the author­i­tar­i­an prac­tices are new – this is no sim­ple return to old habits – and there is no sin­gle trend across coun­tries. For exam­ple, though much atten­tion has been paid to shifts toward the polit­i­cal Right, Mex­i­co is a case of author­i­tar­i­an prac­tices on the Left. Nei­ther are the process­es exclu­sive to new­er democ­ra­cies: India is an old­er democ­ra­cy that is now accused of author­i­tar­i­an­ism, and Trump’s USA was arguably anoth­er exam­ple. Yet “demo­c­ra­t­ic back­slid­ing” does seem to cap­ture some of the expe­ri­ence of these coun­tries: their gov­ern­ments have aban­doned some of the demo­c­ra­t­ic agen­das and prin­ci­ples to which they appeared pre­vi­ous­ly committed.

One com­mon fea­ture is pre­cise­ly that gov­ern­ments tend to denounce “civ­il soci­ety” for being elit­ist and block­ing the will of the peo­ple, includ­ing by kow-tow­ing to inter­na­tion­al donors and pow­ers like the EU and the US. Civ­il soci­ety orga­ni­za­tions that once strug­gled against mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship or one-par­­ty rule have found that their long­stand­ing strate­gies are ill-suit­­ed to these times. For exam­ple, civ­il soci­ety was instru­men­tal in draft­ing demo­c­ra­t­ic con­sti­tu­tions and mon­i­tor­ing their imple­men­ta­tion, yet in recent years gov­ern­ments have mod­i­fied the con­sti­tu­tions and turned them to author­i­tar­i­an ends. Gov­ern­ments have also looked to har­ness the judi­cial insti­tu­tions that civ­il soci­ety used to work through and with. Mean­while, civ­il soci­ety has found itself vul­ner­a­ble to gov­ern­ments’ abil­i­ty to ral­ly new con­stituen­cies in order to com­mand elec­toral majori­ties, often by stig­ma­tiz­ing minori­ties which find them­selves per­ma­nent­ly exclud­ed. Gov­ern­ments use their new­found polit­i­cal pow­er to neu­tral­ize and frus­trate attempts to lim­it that pow­er, whether by civ­il soci­ety orga­ni­za­tions, social move­ments, oppo­si­tion par­ties, the media, or autonomous insti­tu­tions like elec­toral tri­bunals and human rights commissions.

Krieg – Europa – Gren­ze. Her­aus­forderun­gen für eine anthro­pol­o­gis­che Europäisierungsforschung


Time: 18:15 – 20 Uhr

Loca­tion: online

Diskus­sion­srunde mit Jens Adam (Forschungs­gruppe Soft Author­i­tar­i­anisms, Uni­ver­sität Bre­men) / Čar­na BrkovićSabine Hess (Insti­tut für Kul­tur­an­thro­polo­gie und Europäis­che Eth­nolo­gie, Uni­ver­sität Göt­tin­gen) / Bernd Kas­parek (Insti­tut für Europäis­che Eth­nolo­gie, Hum­boldt Uni­ver­sität zu Berlin)

Der Krieg in der Ukraine macht auch ‚Europa‘ erneut zu einem Gegen­stand öffentlich­er Diskus­sion und poli­tis­ch­er Prax­is: die Ver­schär­fung innereu­ropäis­ch­er Antag­o­nis­men und Grenzziehun­gen, die ras­ante Inte­gra­tion ein­er mil­itärischen Kom­po­nente in EU-Poli­tiken, die sukzes­sive Kap­pung langfristiger tran­skon­ti­nen­taler ökonomis­ch­er Ver­flech­tun­gen im Bere­ich der fos­silen Energie oder die Etablierung par­al­lel­er, höchst ungle­ich­er Migra­tionsregime an der östlichen EU-Außen­­gren­ze sind einige der Felder, in denen wider­sprüch­liche Refig­u­ra­tio­nen Europas aktuell deut­lich zutage treten.
Im Rah­men dieses Round­table möcht­en wir vier Schlaglichtern auf diese Entwick­lun­gen wer­fen und ins­beson­dere in ihren Kon­se­quen­zen für eine anthro­pol­o­gis­che Europäisierungs­forschung disku­tieren. Wie verän­dern sich unsere Begriffe von „Gren­ze“ und dem „Regieren“ ein­er supra­na­tionalen For­ma­tion? Was ler­nen wir über die Grund­la­gen und Mech­a­nis­men von Ein- und Auss­chlüssen in das europäis­che Pro­jekt? Und welche kri­tis­chen Per­spek­tiv­en eröff­nen sich auf diese Gegen­wart, wenn wir sie auf Basis von ethno­grafis­chen Stu­di­en zur EU-Süd­­gren­ze kontextualisieren?

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Vio­lence, Resis­tance, Dis­place­ment – War in Ukraine. Round­table and Discussion


Time: 7–9 p.m.

Loca­tion: live via Youtube

Out­raged by the bru­tal­i­ty of the Russ­ian government’s mil­i­tary inva­sion of Ukraine, this pan­el will assem­ble anthro­pol­o­gists to reflect about ways and approach­es to react to this war with the means of our dis­ci­pline. It will pro­vide a space to share our obser­va­tions and indig­na­tions, to engage with first care­ful attempts of sense-mak­ing and to debate about pos­si­ble pub­lic action. The pan­elists will focus espe­cial­ly on the fol­low­ing aspects:

  • What do we know about the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion on the ground? How does the war affect the con­di­tions of every­day and com­mu­nal life, the social fab­ric and sociopo­lit­i­cal forms in Ukraine? How can we con­tribute to doc­u­ment these con­se­quences of orga­nized violence?
  • To which extent can we draw on already elab­o­rat­ed per­spec­tives of an anthro­pol­o­gy of polit­i­cal vio­lence to address and exam­ine this ongo­ing war?
  • How does the war and its geopo­lit­i­cal reper­cus­sions chal­lenge our under­stand­ings of Europe and Euro­peaniza­tion as anthro­po­log­i­cal research fields?
  • What steps could we take to cre­ate net­works of sup­port and sol­i­dar­i­ty for Ukrain­ian colleagues?

Volodymyr Artiukh (Uni­ver­si­ty of Oxford), Eliz­a­beth C. Dunn (Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty Bloom­ing­ton), Taras Fedirko (Uni­ver­si­ty of St Andrews), Daf­na Rachok (Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty Bloom­ing­ton), Andrey Vozyanov (Euro­pean Human­i­ties Uni­ver­si­ty Vil­nius), Cather­ine Wan­ner (Penn­syl­va­nia State University)

Jens Adam (Uni­ver­si­ty of Bre­men), Čar­na Brković (Uni­ver­si­ty of Göt­tin­gen), Sabine Hess (Uni­ver­si­ty of Göt­tin­gen), DGEKW-Kom­mis­­sion “Europäisierung_​​Globalisierung: Ethno­grafien des Poli­tis­chen“, U Bre­men Excel­lence Chair Research Group „Soft Authoritarianisms



Time: 11:15–12:45

Loca­tion: Gene­va

Addi­tion­al event info: Pan­el­lists: Jens Adam, Ulrike Flad­er, Hagen Steinhauer

Pan­el at the con­fer­ence: “New Author­i­tar­i­anisms in the Con­tem­po­rary World”

Albert Hirschmann Cen­tre on Democ­ra­cy, Grad­u­ate Insti­tute Geneva

A spec­tre is haunt­ing the world – the spec­tre of new author­i­tar­i­anisms. From Brazil to Hun­gary, from Poland to the Philip­pines, from India to the Unit­ed States, a new wave of author­i­tar­i­an lead­ers, par­ties and move­ments has been under­min­ing democ­ra­cy from with­in and threat­en­ing its exis­tence. Until quite recent­ly, author­i­tar­i­an­ism was a phe­nom­e­non iden­ti­fied with the South. Today, how­ev­er, author­i­tar­i­an ide­olo­gies, move­ments, and par­ties, and the threat they pose to democ­ra­cy, are also very much a fea­ture of pol­i­tics in the West. The work­shop aims to bring togeth­er inter­est­ed grad­u­ate stu­dents and post-docs to explore this phe­nom­e­non from mul­ti­ple dis­ci­pli­nary and method­olog­i­cal perspectives.

With per­spec­tives from researchers around, this work­shop aims to share per­spec­tives on cur­rent author­i­tar­i­an regimes, the events that lead to author­i­tar­i­an­ism and the impact of the same on states. The work­shop brings spe­cif­ic exam­ples of research con­duct­ed in coun­tries around the world explor­ing the con­di­tions that fos­ter a vari­ety of author­i­tar­i­an sen­ti­ments, the links between var­i­ous  ide­olo­gies and the cur­rent sce­nario, and final­ly the strate­gies and tac­tics of these regimes. 

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Ethnog­ra­phy as Counter-Investigation?


Time: 4–6 p.m.

Loca­tion: Online, via zoom

death of a traveller

Book pre­sen­ta­tion and dis­cus­sion with Didi­er Fassin:

Death of a Trav­eller. A Counter-Inves­ti­­ga­­tion. Poli­ty 2021.

In his last book, Didi­er Fassin exam­ines a bla­tant case of police vio­lence and insti­tu­tion­al racism. A young man, belong­ing to the Trav­eller com­mu­ni­ty, fails to return to prison after a tem­po­rary release. The search oper­a­tion of a spe­cial unit of the French gen­darmerie ends with the fugi­tive shot dead on his par­ents’ farm. After­wards con­tra­dic­to­ry accounts of the fatal event are giv­en. The gen­darmerie speaks of inevitable self-defense; the fam­i­ly reports of a sequence of exag­ger­at­ed bru­tal­i­ty that cul­mi­nates in the exe­cu­tion of their rel­a­tive. Dur­ing the fol­low­ing judi­cial inves­ti­ga­tion, the family’s account is mar­gin­al­ized and even­tu­al­ly dis­re­gard­ed; the offi­cers’ ver­sion prevails.

Based on inter­views as well as a care­ful read­ing of offi­cial doc­u­ments and judi­cial reports, Didi­er Fassin car­ries out a “counter-inves­ti­­ga­­tion”. Giv­ing each ver­sion of the nar­ra­tive the same cred­it, he expos­es the incon­sis­ten­cies that the court rul­ing, final­ly dis­charg­ing the offi­cers, had ignored. As a result, Fassin coun­ters the author­i­ta­tive “judi­cial truth” with an alter­na­tive “ethno­graph­ic truth” that aims at re-open­ing a legal­ly closed sto­ry and here­by return­ing respectabil­i­ty to the vic­tim and his family.

In this online meet­ing Didi­er Fassin will dis­cuss with mem­bers of the com­mis­sion “Ethno­gra­phies of the Polit­i­cal” about the par­tic­u­lar gen­e­sis of the book, its main con­cepts, argu­ments and tex­tu­al­i­ty. A spe­cif­ic empha­sis will be put on “counter-inves­ti­­ga­­tion” as a method­ol­o­gy to inter­vene into polit­i­cal and judi­cial process­es via ethnog­ra­phy. We will explore the char­ac­ter­is­tics and poten­tials of “counter-inves­ti­­ga­­tion” in rela­tion to fur­ther approach­es and strate­gies of a Pub­lic Anthropology.

Please reg­is­ter by send­ing an email to Natasha Deasy ( You will receive a zoom-link the day before the event.

Didi­er Fassin is the James D. Wolfen­sohn Pro­fes­sor at the Insti­tute for Advanced Study in Prince­ton and a Direc­tor of Stud­ies at the École des hautes études en sci­ences sociales in Paris.

For fur­ther infor­ma­tion about the book “Death of a Trav­eller”, please con­sult this recent review (in Ger­man).

This event is orga­nized by the com­mis­sion “Europeanization_​​Globalization: Ethno­gra­phies of the Polit­i­cal” (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Empirische Kul­tur­wis­senschaft) in coop­er­a­tion with the U Bre­men Excel­lence Chair Research Group “Soft Author­i­tar­i­anisms”.

HIRSCHMAN FORUM 2022: Democ­ra­cy


Time: 6 – 8 p.m. CET

With Ste­fano Har­ney (Pro­fes­sor of Trans­ver­sal Aes­thet­ics, Acad­e­my of Media Arts, Cologne) and Shali­ni Ran­de­ria (President/​​Rector, Cen­tral Euro­pean Uni­ver­si­ty, Vien­na; Senior Vis­it­ing Fel­low, Albert Hirschman Cen­tre on Democ­ra­cy, The Grad­u­ate Insti­tute of Inter­na­tion­al and Devel­op­ment Stud­ies, Geneva)

Con­vened by Samia Hen­ni, Albert Hirschman Chair 2021/22, the Insti­tute for Advanced Study of Aix Mar­seille Uni­ver­si­ty (IMERA)

On Sur­prise and City Mak­ing. Impe­r­i­al Remains, Errat­ic Euro­peaniza­tion and the Won­ders of Urban Life in West Ukrain­ian Lviv


Loca­tion: Bal­ti­more, MD

Addi­tion­al event info: Paper by Dr. Jens Adam

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Amer­i­can Anthro­po­log­i­cal Asso­ci­a­tion Annu­al Meet­ing 2021: Truth and Responsibility

Anthro­po­log­i­cal research on con­tem­po­rary Europe has to deal with pow­er­ful epis­te­molo­gies: the ‘colo­nial divide’ between ‘Europe’ and the colo­nial ‘oth­ers’, the monop­o­liz­ing effects of the process­es of EU-inte­­gra­­tion on visions about the continent’s shape, bor­ders and future or the close link between ‘moder­ni­ty’ and ‘Europe’ are just three such epis­temic tra­di­tions that play out in polit­i­cal debates, fields of prac­tice and dai­ly life. Tak­ing the rel­e­vance of these epis­te­molo­gies for the cur­rent work­ings of pow­er into account, a crit­i­cal research on ‘Europe’ and ‘Euro­peaniza­tion’ seems indis­pens­able. But how can we do so with­out repro­duc­ing such epis­temic tra­di­tions and their hier­ar­chi­cal effects?

Based on ethno­graph­ic mate­r­i­al in Lviv (West­ern Ukraine) – a city locat­ed at a cross­ing point of dif­fer­ent ‘impe­r­i­al for­ma­tions’ (Stoler/​​McGranahan/​​Perdue 2007), right behind the EU’s cur­rent exter­nal bor­der – I will demon­strate, how these epis­te­molo­gies can be decen­tred by the ‘won­ders of urban life’. Sur­round­ed by the man­i­fold traces and remains of divers empires, nation states and polit­i­cal sys­tems, Lvi­vians have become dai­ly experts in relat­ing the stuff left behind. They still recall the unful­filled promis­es of bygone projects of urban moder­ni­ty. They take part in re-arrang­ing these remains into man­i­fold forms of con­tem­po­rary city­ness. And nav­i­gat­ing the city, they expe­ri­ence the errat­ic effects of con­tem­po­rary process­es of Euro­peaniza­tion, gen­er­at­ing new infra­struc­tures, con­nec­tions and capa­bil­i­ties as much as rup­tures, voids and ruins. The spaces in between these par­tial re-arrange­­ments and errat­ic effects invoke sur­prise as a con­sis­tent con­di­tion of city mak­ing – sur­pris­es about the dys­func­tion­al­i­ty of infra­struc­tures, about the close­ness of con­nec­tion and dis­con­nec­tion, about the co-pres­ence of revi­tal­i­sa­tion and dis­so­lu­tion, about the qual­i­ty of bygone projects of urban moder­ni­ty or about the fact that the ram­shackle mate­r­i­al struc­ture does not just collapse.

In my paper, I will take such sur­pris­es as ethno­graph­ic start­ing points to trace the simul­ta­ne­ous enact­ment and decen­tring of dom­i­nant Euro­pean epis­te­molo­gies in dai­ly prac­tices of city mak­ing. I will exam­ine how these won­ders of urban life can inform counter-nar­ra­­tives about ‘Europe’ as a muta­ble and frag­ile, inter­nal­ly diverse and glob­al­ly entan­gled formation.

Yis­ares Autumn School


8. Octo­ber 202130. Octo­ber 2021

Loca­tion: online


This nine-day inter­dis­ci­pli­nary Autumn Research School aims at map­ping the dif­fer­ent forms of extrac­tivist cap­i­tal­ism across transna­tion­al spaces and emerg­ing rela­tion­al geo­gra­phies includ­ing cur­rent devel­op­ments in finance, logis­tics and dig­i­tal economies.