Höstens seminarieserie arrangeras av Mark Graham, Asta Vonderau, Johan Lindquist och Erik Olsson. Listan uppdateras kontinuerligt.


Research seminar

September 4, 13.00–14.30, B600
Manuela Bojadzijev, Professor of Globalised Cultures, Leuphana University Lüneburg

“I am worried about integration, everything else is logistics”. Logistical Borderscapes, Migration, Mobilities

Logistics as one way of organising and governing circulation of commodities, capital and data across the globe has received great interest in critical studies on globalisation in recent years. Logistics, so these studies demonstrate, shape our everyday lives. In this talk I investigate, by drawing on various collective research efforts that I took part in, in how far a logistical gaze can be useful to understand how migration and human mobilities are organised and governed today. To us, especially after the summer of migration 2015, this approach seemed particularly effective in order to integrate different dimensions which are more than often kept separate in migration studies: mobile labour, changing regulations of migration, digital technologies and platforms, and the wrested freedom of movement. My talk will investigate in how far we can use a logistical gaze to understand the changing patterns of a European border and migration regime, introduce a study on the growing impact of placement agencies in relation to refugees in Germany, and take the self-organised logistics of migrants into account. By introducing different instantiations I intend to provide a panorama of logistical borderscapes that govern migration, and how migrants navigate in them.

Manuela Bojadzijev is a Professor of Globalised Cultures at the Department of Sociology and Cultural Organization at the Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany. She is also a member of an Executive Board of Berlin Institute for Migration and Integration Studies at Humboldt-University, Berlin.


Research seminar

September 11, 14.00–16.00, Aulan, Kräftriket 4A
Jack Linchuan Qiu, Professor, School of Journalism and Communication, Chinese University of Hong Kong

Goodbye iSlave: Rethinking Smartphone, Activism, and Chinese Labor

In his new book Goodbye iSlave: A Manifesto for Digital Abolition (U of Illinois Press, 2016), Jack Qiu contends that features of enslavement have crept into the digital media industries, leading to the worsening of labor conditions along the assembly line and in the data mine, creating “a generation of iSlaves trapped in a global economic system that relies upon and studiously ignores their oppression”. How can people fight back, start a new abolition movement, using not only conventional tools of activism including body politics but also the same digital media instruments such as the smartphone? Drawing from his fieldwork in China, lessons from history, and studies of contemporary campaigns against Foxconn (the world’s largest electronics manufacturer) and Apple, Qiu shall argue that the expansion of slave systems is always accompanied by endeavors of antislavery when the exploited resist the powers that be, when citizens join the struggle to set humanity free. Although digital abolition at its present stage is still inchoate, it is undoubtedly an important first step. Its long-term implication shall not be underestimated. iSlaves have nothing to lose but their chains; they have a world to win.

Jack Linchuan Qiu is professor at the School of Journalism and Communication, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he serves as deputy director of the C-Centre (Centre for Chinese Media and Comparative Communication Research). His publications include World’s Factory in the Information Era 信息时代的世界工厂 (Guangxi Normal University Press, 2013), Working-Class Network Society (MIT Press, 2009), Mobile Communication and Society (co-authored, MIT Press, 2006), some of which have been translated into German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Korean. He is on the editorial boards of 12 international academic journals and is Associate Editor for Journal of Communication. He also works with grassroots NGOs and provides consultancy services for international organizations.

Organised together with Forum for Asian Studies, Stockholm University and the Department of Asian, Middle Eastern and Turkish Studies, Stockholm University.


Research seminar

September 18, 13.00–14.30, B600
Gustav Peebles, Associate Professor of Anthropology, The New School

Seeking the Sanctuary: Gibraltar, Offshore Finance, and Revisiting an Ancient Tradition

Walking its thoroughfares, relaxing in its squares, or waiting endlessly to cross its supposedly open border, a visitor to the tiny sovereignty of Gibraltar could be forgiven for sensing that they had stepped through the looking glass. Perhaps this results from its transparent mimicry of a quaint English village, while still sitting perched on the southern tip of Iberia, with Morocco looming in the distance. Or, perhaps its permanent liminal administrative status also contributes to this feeling. While one critic calls it a “mere glorified county council” and still part of the UK, Gibraltar itself has exercised its sovereign powers to contend directly with the European Union over tax law (this will, of course, change if Brexit occurs, but that cannot detain us here). This paper will contend that one of the clearest ways to make sense of Gibraltar’s odd status is through the lens of “sanctuary law.” Paradoxically, we must see its sleepy and placid urban space as a function of Gibraltar’s position as a node in a vast and turbulent financial world. In other words, there is an intense infrastructural labor that produces its placidity, so that it can attract capital from far-flung locales of instability. As sanctuary, it is designed to stand as a sovereign exception from the standard rules of the global marketplace, a characteristic it shares with many other ex-British island colonies. To make its case, this paper begins by discussing the history of sanctuary law, then moves on to make the case that offshore finance appears to be its latest (unnoticed) incarnation.

Gustav Peebles is an Associate Professor of Liberal Studies and Global Studies, Special Advisor to the Provost, Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs at The New School, New York, USA.


CEIFO seminar

September 25, 13.00–14.30, B600
Zachary Whyte, Post-Doc, University of Copenhagen

New neighbours: Local outcomes of asylum centres in rural communities in Denmark

Asylum centres in rural areas are an increasingly common mode of managing asylum seekers in Denmark. However, the meaning and consequence of this kind of migration to rural settings has not been much studied in the literature, which has tended to focus on cosmopolitan and urban cases. The rural placement of the asylum centers are of course significant for asylum seekers, but they also can have important consequences for the local communities in which they are placed. This in turn fundamentally shapes the possibilities for interaction between asylum seekers and local communities.

In a context of increased urban migration and general demographic shifts in the Danish countryside, the arrival of asylum seekers and the various jobs deriving from their presence become profoundly significant for local communities, both financially and socially. Asylum centers in rural Denmark are commonly placed in buildings that formerly housed key welfare institutions, like schools and retirement homes. For local communities, the arrival of asylum seekers in these buildings thus underscores the way in which they see the state retreating from them, but also presents new possibilities.

Based on an ethnographic study at three separate rural sites, this paper examines the meanings and consequences of asylum centres for local Danish communities. Focusing on moral and economic exchanges, we argue that local community and neighbourliness are profoundly affected by the presence of asylum centres, just as asylum seekers’ possibilities for taking up alternate social positions (e.g. customer, football player, pupil) may be expanded. This ties in with a markedly pragmatic local approach to neighboring asylum centers, which contrasts with the significantly ideological cast of national debates on asylum. In general, the local communities we have studied looked for pragmatic, rather than ideological, ways forward from their situation of demographic and economic crisis. However, while civil society mobilisation and volunteerism may foster increased contact between locals and asylum seekers, local reactions may equally be shaped by practices of rejection or isolation. While co-existence in the harmonious sense between local Danes and asylum seekers is thus not necessarily given, the physical presence of asylum centres may nevertheless shape and reshape the social lives of locals and thus condition the possibilities for asylum seekers’ everyday lives.

Zachary Whyte is an anthropologist working with asylum seekers and refugees in Denmark and Europe. He is interested in the intersections of transnationality, state practices, uncertainty and everyday life. He wrote his DPhil (University of Oxford) drawing on a year’s ethnographic fieldwork at a Danish asylum centre, and completed a post.doc. (University of Copenhagen) examining refugees’ experiences at Danish language schools. He has since pursued numerous academic and advisory projects working with asylum seekers and refugees, local communities, as well as state, municipal, private and civil society actors. He will be starting a collaborative research project on mobility in and of asylum centers in Denmark at Advanced Migration Studies, University of Copenhagen this fall.



Research seminar

October 2, 13.00–14.30, B600
Martin Saxer, PhD, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

Curation at Large

In this talk, I suggest the notion of curation as a way to think about large scale development schemes in the highlands of Asia. Curation, in this context, has nothing to do with the work of a museum curator, it rather takes the term in its original meaning of curare – to cure. On the one hand, to cure means to heal, to remedy, to make better. On the other hand, to cure also means to cleanse or to preserve, in the sense of preventing a raw substance from rotting and infecting its surroundings. Curational interventions, I argue, aim at rendering ideology (broadly understood) into experience by creating environments conducive to this end. My use of the term curation does not depict state interventions and development schemes in the rosy language of their “public transcripts”, as James Scott would say. The stories to tell are neither nice nor rosy. A curational intervention is not devoid of power; it is itself a relation of power.

I take the idea of curation – the product of collective thinking in a series of workshops on materiality and connectivity at LMU Munich – to revisit my own research in Tibet, Nepal and Tajikistan over the past decade. The cases and stories I follow include Soviet provisioning of the Pamirs, the ongoing Chinese projects of heritage making and building socialist new villages, and the “landscape approach” adopted by a Kathmandu based development organisation.

Martin Saxer is the principle investigator of the ERC-funded research project Remoteness & Connectivity: Highland Asia in the World (www.highlandasia.net). Martin was a Clarendon scholar at Oxford and received his doctorate in 2010. He was a postdoc at the Asia Research Institute in Singapore and a Marie Curie Research Fellow at LMU Munich. He conducted extensive fieldwork in Siberia, Tibet and Nepal since 2003, directed two feature length documentary films and runs a visual ethnography blog.

Organised together with Forum for Asian Studies, Stockholm University.


Research seminar

October 9, 13.00–14.30, B600
Jaron Harambam, PhD candidate, Centre for Rotterdam Cultural Sociology (CROCUS), Department of Sociology, Erasmus University Rotterdam

'The Truth is Out There': Conspiracy Theories in an Age of Epistemic Instability

Conspiracy theories are extremely popular: millions of people in the western world no longer trust epistemic authorities (such as science, media and politics) and resort to conspiracy theories to account for what “actually” happens out there. Conspiracy theories are formulated about the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and in Paris, but also feature in popular culture: films, books and TV- series like The Matrix, The Da Vinci Code, or The X-Files. Although conspiracy culture is increasingly at the center of our western societies, our sociological understanding of it remains limited by its consistent pathologization in and outside academia. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in the Dutch conspiracy milieu and following a cultural sociological approach, I will explain in this lecture what contemporary conspiracy theories are about, which people are involved in the milieu, what they believe and what they actually do with these ideas in their everyday lives. In conclusion, I will sociologically explain why so many people have affinity with conspiracy theories nowadays.

Jaron Harambam works at the Rotterdam Centre for Cultural Sociology of the Erasmus University Rotterdam and will defend his PhD thesis on conspiracy culture in the Netherlands in October 2017. Jaron was a Visiting Fellow at Northwestern University near Chicago, US (2015) and he has published on conspiracy culture, digital culture and online games in international journals like Cultural Sociology (2016), Public Understanding of Science (2015), Information, Communication and Society (2013) and European Journal of Cultural Studies (2011). He is editor of the Dutch peer-reviewed journal Sociologie where he co-edited a special issue on actor-network theory (2014).


CEIFO seminar

October 11, 10.00–12.00, B600 NB Wednesday!
Hilde Lidén, Research Professor, Institute for Social Research, Olso

Barn, transnasjonal migrasjon og hverdagsintegrering

Forelesningen vil ta opp to temaer: Det første temaet handler om migrasjon som familieprosjekt. Hensikten er å vise hvordan familien muliggjør migrasjon, og hvordan migrasjon former familierelasjoner. Familieforpliktelser motiverer migrasjon, mens familieorganisering og slektskapsnettverk skaper betingelser for mobilitet. Migrasjon vil på sin side påvirke familierelasjoner bl.a. ved å endre hierarkiske relasjoner og maktforhold innad i familiene. Jeg vil diskutere dette med utgangspunkt i tre fortellinger som omfatter ulike migrasjonsformer; arbeidsmigrasjon, enslige mindreårige asylsøkere og familiegjenforening.

Det andre temaet jeg vil ta opp er «hverdagsintegrering». Jeg vil her utdype forståelser av sosiale og kulturelle endringsprosesser som barn og familier gjennomgår ved migrasjon. eksemplene henter jeg fra en studie om Barn i utlandet som beskriver utfordringer for minoritetsbarn under lengre utenlandsopphold hos slektninger (Lidén mfl. 2014). Når barn forflytter seg mellom ulike oppvekstomgivelser, vil det kreve vesentlig innsats fra barnets side å tilpasse seg nye rutiner og sosiale og kulturelle koder. De møter spesifikke forventninger til seg ut fra alder og kjønn. Det er blikket utenfra, som barna i studien formidler i møtet med «hjemlandet», som på en informativ måte får fram skiftene i forventninger, mellom samfunn, og mellom familie- og utdanningsinstitusjoner. Min interesse ligger særlig i hvordan selvforståelse og formasjon av selvet formes av skiftene og av hverdagserfaringene.

Seminar will be held in Norwegian.

Kontakt och anmälan: Daniel Hedlund, daniel.hedlund@buv.su.se

Läs mer om Stockholms universitets satsning på forskning om barn, migration, integration.


Research seminar (film screening and discussion)

October 16, 13.00–14.30, B600
Paula Uimonen, Associate Professor, Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University

Efuru@50. A celebration of Flora Nwapa, pioneer of African women literature

In 1966 Flora Nwapa published Efuru, the first internationally published novel by an African woman writer. 50 years later, the novel was celebrated in 5 cities across Nigeria: Lagos, Maiduguri, Abuja, Enugu and Owerri. This documentary film captures Efuru@50, with keynotes, papers, dramas and quizzes. Eloquent statements by well-known writers and leading scholars are combined with live performances of dance, drama and poetry. The Efuru@50 event shows the continued relevance of Flora Nwapa’s efforts to portray the strengths of African womanhood, while challenging oppressive patriarchal structures. The film features distinguished writers like Zaynab Alkali, Bolanle Awe and Akachi Ezeigbo as well as Flora Nwapa's children Ejine Nzeribe, Uzoma Nwakuche, and Amede Nzeribe. Their reflections show the lasting legacy of Flora Nwapa and Efuru on African women writers in their efforts to empower women. The film is based on ethnographic research by Paula Uimonen, digital anthropologist at Stockholm University, Sweden. It builds on her research on African Women Writers, which is part of a research program on World Literatures coordinated by Stockholm University (see http://worldlit.se). Filmed in Nigeria, the documentary was produced by Paula Uimonen and Yaki Bozi in Tanzania (2017). For more information see www.womenwriters.one. Screening of the film (29 minutes) will be followed by a discussion on the use of film in collaborative anthropological research, from practicalities to ethics.

Paula Uimonen specializes in digital anthropology and anthropology of art, visual culture, media and globalization.


CEIFO seminar

October 23, 13.00–14.30, B600
Maryam Adjam, PhD, the Nordic Museum, Stockholm

Memory traces: the Poetics of History

Focusing on the memories of Estonian refugees fleeing to Sweden in the wake of World War II, I will in this seminar talk about the concepts of memory space and history within the framework of the escape as a historical master narrative. Following the research participants to the sites of their memories in Estonia and Sweden today, raised two questions: what constitutes a lived memory space, and how is history defined within it?

Using Walter Benjamin’s concept of montage as radical remembering and its dialectical relation to history, I argue that embodied memories shape their own space: a space not always defined by historical master narratives, but rather a searching space constantly generating new constellations of memory fragments. Dealing with the politics of place and representations, these memories are constantly loaded and unloaded with meaning. Yet the space of lived memory is not always a creation of meaning. Walking around, searching for traces, a memory space confronts the place and maps its own geography. It turns to a spatial and temporal flow, which intertwines place and experience, and erases the past and the present as homogeneous categories. It reveals a living space of memory, rather than a memorial space of representations.

My analysis focuses on the tensions between remembering as a dialogue with history and memory’s ongoing acts of embodied experience. The position of in-betweenness appears in these stories of escape, not as a state of in-between home and away, past and present, but rather as an ongoing space-making process between different modes and layers of memory. This is a process aware of the constant changes in the understandings of history and personal experiences, intertwining these new interpretations with embodied memory and thereby constantly adding new layers of experience to it. Memory’s tracing illuminates a memory poetics of the mean-while and the in-between, which refuses historical closure.

Maryam Adjam is an ethnologist, currently based at the Nordic Museum in Stockholm. Her research interest includes the fields of memory studies, urban studies and research on international migration. Using sensory ethnography and visual anthropology as methodologies she has been focusing on practices of remembrance in relation to experiences of war and migration. She holds a PhD in ethnology from Center for Baltic and East European Studies at Södertörn University.


Research seminar

October 30, 13.00–14.30, B600
Daniel Bodén, PhD, Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology, Uppsala University

Understanding the "Robot Revolution" - Avenues in the Study of Automation

Central to modernity is the belief in technology as a revolutionary force. Following this, technological inventions are often imbued with certain anticipations. For instance: Ever since the launch of the first electronic data processing machines in the 1950s, automation has served as a cornerstone for countless visions of the future. As charged as it is with both hopes and fears, one such vision is the myth of the ever so impending “robot revolution”, simultaneously foreshadowing both human enslavement or liberation.

“Will the world be run by robots?” or “will the liberation from tedious work and drudgery labour finally facilitate the realisation of untapped human capacities?” Regardless of what, the robot revolution has in the last sixty years of public discourse seemed inevitable. Following the conference Tekniken och morgondagens samhälle in 1955, Prime Minister Tage Erlander announced the “strong sense of the necessity to set our minds to the era of automation […]” – an announcement which, as a distant echo again surfaced as the minister for strategic development Kristina Persson – whilst in 2015 having assembled a new “robot group” assigned with the task to prepare Sweden for further automation – announced that “we have no choice” but to adapt to the future of robotics.

Is the pending robot revolution really inevitable? And how can the process of automation be both liberating and enslaving? This talk will explore different empirical and theoretical avenues through which such fabulous and contradictory anticipations could be understood. It departs from the notion of the myth as a “socially symbolic act”, and traces its symbolic contradictions to the lived experience of ongoing socio-material, and infrastructural changes of late-modern everyday life, such as the rationalisation of labour processes by means of electronic data processing, the subsequent establishment of new organizational and managerial forms, and the emergence of new workplace subjectivities.

Daniel Bodén is a PhD in ethnology at the Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology in Uppsala. His research positions itself between anthropology of organizations and economic history, and concerns questions about labour, technology and social change from historical as well as contemporary perspectives – often with a focus on diachronic processes. In 2016, he defended his thesis entitled Systemmänniskan - en studie om människan, automationen och det senmoderna förnuftet, and has since written articles on the relationship between fiction and science and on the technological infrastructure of emotional labour.



Research seminar

November 6, 13.00–14.30, B600
Lotta Björklund Larsen, Research Fellow, Department of Thematic Studies - Technology and Social Change, Linköping University

WHAT tax morale? A moral anthropological stance on a Swedish Cooperative Compliance project

The Swedish Tax Agency aims to make taxpayers pay ‘the right tax’, not necessarily the maximum tax, in order to increase trust in its taxation practices. One way to work towards this goal is to work pro-actively with taxpayers introducing so-called cooperative compliance initiative. These ‘modern, efficient and successful’ ways of working are in fashion among OECD members’ revenue authorities and the idea is also being ‘exported’ to developing countries. However, the Swedish version of this initiative was met with strong resistance offering various rationales and very few taxpayers participate. How can we understand this resistance given the good standing the Agency has among the taxpayers it serves?

In order to illuminate on the contradiction between a ‘successful’ Agency and the ‘failure’ of this initiative, this paper explores what a moral anthropological stance on what the ‘right tax’ means in a cooperative compliance project in Sweden. I borrow from Didier Fassin’s moral anthropological approach. It is not a moralizing account but an examination of moral reasoning among all stakeholders on the Swedish tax arena deciding on how these taxpayers’ ‘right tax’ should be decided.

Lotta Björklund Larsen holds a PhD degree in Social Anthropology from Stockholm University in 2010. Her thesis, “Illegal yet Licit”, addressed how a group of people create meaning with their purchases of undeclared work and thereby define their relationship with the Swedish society. The thesis raised questions about the taxation of services, at the intersection between the private and the public. She continues to explore this border, now by looking at the factors that make certain transactions subject to taxation and others not.


Research seminar

November 13, 13.00–14.30, B600
Felix Ackermann, Research Fellow, German Historical Institute, Warsaw

Infrastructuring, Statehood and Urban Planning. Temporal dilemmas of the Lithuanian post-nuclear town of Visaginas

The present city of Visaginas was founded as Sniečkus (in the name of the First Secretary of the Lithuanian Communist Party) in 1975. Soviet planners designed it to serve as the satellite town to the nuclear power plant of Ignalina. Already 16 years later the Soviet Union disintegrated and the reactor became a state facility of the new independent Republic of Lithuania. The town continued to be a crucial infrastructure to serve the two reactors producing electric energy for the wider region. Visaginas hosted builders, engineers and other staff needed to maintain the nuclear power plant. In exchange it received electricity and heat for almost free. It was only another 13 years later, when the first reactor was shut down as a result of negotiations with European Commission about Lithuania’s entry into the European Union. As the decommissioning of Ignalina nuclear plant is a long term project scheduled until 2029 and worth 3,5 billion euros, an important layer of governance moved from the national capital of Vilnius to Brussels. This threefold change of statehood, however, did not change the composition of the experts actually running the power plant, most of them trained in Soviet Russia.

Together with my colleagues of the Laboratory of Critical Urbanism at the European Humanities University in Vilnius (a Belarusian university in Lithuanian exile) I investigated the links between the changing layers of statehood, transformation of the city as infrastructure and new practices of citizens’ participation in urban planning processes. We aimed to gain a better understanding of how the inhabitants of Visaginas anticipate their own future after the shutdown of the nuclear plant. My talk will explore various ways of state driven infrastructuring and draw on the Laboratory of Critical Urbanism attempts to experiment with collaborative methods while investigating “Sources of Urbanity” in a post-nuclear city.

Felix Ackermann works as a research fellow (postdoc) at the German Historical Institute in Warsaw. He is a historian and anthropologist trained in cultural and political studies at European University Viadrina and London School of Economics and Political Science. Before his current employment he worked as the head of the Geschichtswerkstatt Europa funding program at the Institute for Applied History in Frankfurt (Oder) and as an associate professor for Applied Humanities at European Humanities University in Vilnius.  Felix is co-editor of the Mapping Post-Socialist Urban Spaces book series published by the Laboratory of Critical Urbanism at Vilnius Art Academy. 


CEIFO seminar

November 20, 13.00–14.30, B600
Daniel Hedlund, Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Child and Youth Studies, Stockholm University

Guardianship (godmanskap) for unaccompanied migrant minors

In my postdoctoral project I focus on how the institution of guardianship (godmanskap) works for unaccompanied minors using interview data and participant observation. I also address two questions currently under debate in Swedish policy circles; whether unaccompanied minors should remain within the current institution of guardianship or whether the care for unaccompanied minors should be transferred to other areas of Social Services (socialtjänsten), leading to what some have termed a “professionalisation” of guardianship.

These discussions appear related to recurring demands for better training of case officers at the Swedish Migration Agency (SMA; Migrationsverket) and to improve their competence in addressing children’s particular needs.

I have also continued to analyse data from the SMA, work that was initiated during my PhD candidature. By utilising one calendar year of SMA decisions, I investigate how case officers respond to different types of asylum claims from unaccompanied minors to increase the knowledge of the asylum application process, in particular how evidence assessment is done and how it can influence outcomes.

At this seminar I will present some preliminary results and the design of the different studies I am working on. My ambition is to connect and integrate these studies using a legal evolutionary approach, in order to contribute to discussions about the trajectory of child politics and policy in Sweden.

Daniel Hedlund is a Postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Child and Youth Studies, Stockholm University. This position is funded via the Human Science Area initiative Children, Migration, Integration (CMI). Daniel is also a law graduate with experience of working at several public authorities, including the SMA, before entering the PhD program at Stockholm University.



CEIFO seminar

December 4, 13.00–14.30, B600
Karen Fog Olwig, Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen

Biometric and Socially Contingent Family Relations: Family Reunification among Somali Refugees in Denmark

During the past two decades it has become common practice internationally to require biometric verification of family relations, when refugees and migrants applying for family reunification have no, or no “credible”, documents that can prove the claimed family relationships. Biometric technologies treat individuals’ family as a nuclear unit that can be proved bio-genetically. Thus, they involve DNA analysis of parents and children to determine whether they have the proper genetic relationship, as well as bone scannings of children and x-rays of their teeth to assess whether their biological age grants them a legal right to be part of the family. This understanding of family relations could not be further from current anthropological thinking which emphasizes the wide variety and contingency of family ties, the often complicated and ambiguous relationship between social norms and actual family practices, and the vital importance of distinguishing between genetic-biological information and social identities when ascertaining the nature of family relations. Indeed, the biometric approach seems to serve primarily the bureaucratic need to establish firm, easy-to-follow policies, rather than the right of refugees to “respect for family life,” as stated in article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights. My ongoing ethnographic research on family reunification among refugees in Denmark confirms that it is, in many ways, deeply problematic to define family life in terms of a unit of individuals who can be identified biometrically. But the research also suggests that adopting a more fluid, socially contingent conception of family life, as the basis of family reunification, generates another set of problems. In this paper I will discuss these issues, drawing on my research on Somali family reunification in Denmark.

Karen Fog Olwig is a professor at the Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen. She has published extensively on migration, particularly in a Caribbean and Danish context, and is currently engaged in a major research project, “Biometric Border Worlds Technologies, bodies and identities on the move,” that examines the development, use and experience of biometric technologies in border control. Her sub-project focuses on the role of biometric technologies in refugees’ family unification in a Danish context.


Research seminar

December 11, 13.00–14.30, B600
Jens Adam, Institut für Europäische Ethnologie, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin 

“Modes of assembling”: comparative ethnography in political fields

In my talk I will present and contrast empirical material from two quite different fields – Germany’s transnational cultural policy interventions in “conflict zones” in the Middle East and Southeastern Europe on the one hand; civic initiatives for urban regeneration on the other hand – to contribute to ongoing discussions about possible future developments of an “Anthropology of Policy” (Shore & Wright 1997; Shore, Wright & Però 2011). In this line of research “policies” have been conceived as “processes of contestation”, in the course of which key concepts of societal/political life are debated, confirmed or realigned. Simultaneously “policies” can be understood as “processes of assembling” that connect a high variety of actors, resources, materialities, sites or narratives and contribute hereby to the preconfiguration of future political debates, fields and dynamics. Against this background the question if different “modes of assembling” can be identified as main driving force or underlying rationality of a given policy process has not sufficiently been discussed so far. In my paper I will propose to differentiate between different such “modes” based on their temporalities, the capabitites they mobilise and the effects they evoke. Drawing on ethnographic case studies I will argue that a focus on “modes of assembling” can contribute to a better understanding of the respective creative and regulative power emerging in the trajectories of a policy as well as to an analysis of currently emerging futures.