Vienna Working Papers in Ethnography 09

Title
Balcony, Door, Shutter. Baroque heritage as materiality and biography in Stone Town, Zanzibar.
Author
Pamila Gupta
Language
English
Publication Year
2019
Pages
27

Abstract
This paper takes three material objects-balcony, door, and shutter- as a window onto three cultural heritage projects in the making in contemporary Stone Town, Zanzibar. I begin by exploring the baroque as a form of architecture, knowledge resource, and potential analytic entry point into Zanzibar's heritage and its folding into the present. I then offer a set of baroque portraits of three contemporary heritage practitioners in Stone Town: Javed Jafferji, Said El-Geithy, and Rohit Oza. Each is involved in developing a different site: a boutique hotel, a museum, and a photography studio, respectively. Based on three recent field visits to Stone Town (2012, 2015, 2018), I suggest new ways to address the politics of cultural heritage making in Zanzibar, and a method of understanding its place-ness through the materiality of objects and ideas of the baroque.

vwpe09.pdf

Vienna Working Papers in Ethnography 08

Title
Doing and undoing difference through childcare. A case from a Viennese kindergarten.
Author
Anna Ellmer
Language
English
Publication Year
2018
Pages
34
Abstract
In recent years, both ‘integration’ and ‘diversity’ have become catchwords of policies and expert discourses concerning daycare institutions in Austria. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, this working paper examines how kindergarten staff translate competing invocations of equality and difference into pedagogical practices within a largely state-financed kindergarten in Vienna, Austria. By tracing how the staff’s perception of a five-year-old boy changed in association with their idea that his sister was forced into marriage, my analysis illustrates how ethnic and religious labels are situationally foregrounded and silenced. In this process, constructions of cultural difference both merge and compete with other categories like age, gender and race, as well as ideals of professionalism and psychologically-informed conceptions of crisis. While the paper reflects how ascriptions of difference change over time, it also shows how hierarchies are reproduced throughout this process, continuously normalising a child’s experiences of marginalisation. It illustrates that an approach to care practices as morally charged and potentially ambivalent processes of ‘doing’ and ‘undoing differences’ contributes productively to a perspective on care as social organisation.

vwpe08.pdf

Vienna Working Papers in Ethnography 07

Title
‘Let them be screwed by the Troika!’ Blame, shame and ambivalent pro-Troika social critique in Greece.
Author
Andreas Streinzer
Language
English
Publication Year
2018
Pages
27
Abstract
This working paper discusses pro-Troika social critiques in everyday life in Greece. Based on ethnographic fieldwork (2014-2017) conducted in the town of Volos, on the eastern shore of mainland Greece, this paper traces largely unanalysed forms of widespread critique. As literature has more extensively covered opposition and resistance to the restructuring of the Greek state and economy under the austerity regime, this focus allows for a nuanced analysis of social reactions to current processes of neoliberal restructuring. I argue that the perspective adopted must not only take into account power relations and overlapping moral frameworks but also refrain from strategic essentialisations of power and resistance. My analytical focus in this paper is on ‘ambivalence’, as a way to understand the complexity of moral orders and to capture the contradictions and dilemmas my interlocutors routinely accommodate, as they navigate economic hardship. This perspective on social critique and ambivalence is important in two ways – 1) theoretically – as it refuses power binaries and instead refocuses on hegemony and ambivalence in the analysis of moral orders in capitalism; 2) ethnographically – to complement and contrast the current emphasis on resistance and solidarity in the anthropological literature on the Greek crisis.

vwpe07.pdf

Vienna Working Papers in Ethnography 06

Title
On categorising. Doing and undoing ‘refugees’ in the aftermath of large-scale displacement
Author
Andrea Behrends
Language
English
Publication Year
2018
Pages
31
Abstract
After more than a decade of intervention the UN refugee agency is preparing its exit from the Chad-Sudan borderlands. So far, about 200.000 people live in the twelve still existing camps on the Chadian side of the border. While the camp dwellers do not feel it safe enough to return to their Sudanese home villages and towns, this paper takes the “integration”-measures taken up by the organization, in orchestration with the Chadian state, as a starting point to study the relations of people inside and outside the camp. Based on recent studies that focus the “contingency of social belonging” (Hirschauer 2014) or “emplacement” in migration studies (Glick Schiller and Çağlar 2015, Bjarnesen and Vigh 2016), the author highlights the interplay of knowledge and practice to “un/do” differences in the interrelated use and translation of human categorizations as processes that influence lives in uncertain circumstances. Two examples of undoing the category of “refugee” are in the foreground, one concerns the attempts at “mixing” the refugee camp dwellers with the surrounding villagers, and the other a process of biometric registration to change the camp dwellers’ status from “refugees” to “refugee citizens.” Although both procedures follow stringent rules, they equally stand for contingency of everyday practice, on the side of institutions and their addressees.

vwpe06.pdf

Vienna Working Papers in Ethnography 05

Title
Reworking State Boundaries through Care: 'Peasant Friends', 'Greedy Entrepreneurs' and 'Corrupt Officials' in an 'Alternative' Food Network in China
Author
Christof Lammer
Language
English
Publication Year
2017
Pages
29

Abstract
Agro-food studies has interpreted ‘alternative’ food movements in ‘the West’ as expressing a shift in governance from ‘state’ to ‘civil society’. This working paper shows how the state is entangled in an ‘alternative’ food network in China. While one might be tempted to judge this food initiative as ‘less alternative’ and as a sign of a ‘weak civil society’ in ‘the East’, this would merely reproduce the dominant ‘Western’ self-image. Instead, I focus on the role of the state, which has thus far largely been neglected. This not only allows new insights into how the ‘alternativeness’ of food networks is constituted, but shows us that this process transforms the state as well. Rather than presupposing ‘the state’ and ‘civil society’ to be distinct entities, I join anthropological approaches to state and care, proposing analyses of how actors in food networks rework state boundaries through performances and negotiations of care. With concern over food safety growing in China, some urban middle-class consumers seek to care for their families by sourcing ‘ecological’ food through networks with producers, struggling to construct a suitable realm of care separate from ‘the state’. Building on ethnographic fieldwork in a self-declared ‘ecological village’ in Sichuan Province, I spotlight figures that appear in narratives about food safety: the ‘peasant friend’, the ‘greedy entrepreneur’ and the ‘corrupt official’. I show how actors are identified with — or try to distance themselves from — these figures and how these enactments of state images shape the state as well as the food network.

vwpe05.pdf

Vienna Working Papers in Ethnography 04

Title
Pathways of a relational anthropology. Ethnographic insights into kinship and state.
Author
Tatjana Thelen
Language
German
Publication Year
2015
Pages
27

Abstract
This working paper is based on my inaugural lecture of the same title held on 27 October 2014 at the University of Vienna, in which I argue for a new relational anthropology. After a brief overview of the development of the relational perspective two ethnographic examples follow on the co-production of kinship and state. Both examples demonstrate the relational research practice as well as the starting point of investigations of relational practices that ultimately allows for a new view on the conceptual level. As the differentiation of kinship and political organisation is central to western self-representation, it lends itself especially well to trace the consequences of a binary construction for local as well as scientific discourses. This combination of methodological and theoretical orientation distinguishes relational anthropology from similar approaches in the neighbouring disciplines.

vwpe04.pdf

Vienna Working Papers in Ethnography 03

Title
Claims of descent: race and science in contemporary South Africa
Author
Katharina Schramm
Language
English
Publication Year
2014
Pages
26

Abstract
This paper is concerned with the question of how to ethnographically account for race as a complex knowledge formation and political reality. I focus on South Africa which occupies a special place in global scientific debates on race and human origins - historically as well as presently.
From the early twentieth century onwards, paleoanthropology, physical anthropology and genetics were preoccupied with the study of indigenous populations in order to draw general conclusions on human evolution and biological differences (and hierarchies) between groups. These genealogies of knowledge resonate in various ways in contemporary research. At the same time, the bureaucratic and “culturally” defined race classification of apartheid heavily relied on common-sense notions of race and this has contributed to their ongoing persistence. While not fully congruent with each other, these “cultural” and “biological” classification practices are nevertheless closely intertwined. In the post-apartheid society it is therefore not enough to say that race is socially constructed or a mere biological fiction in order to subvert its ongoing political and epistemological power. I argue that we need to rather problematize race itself as a polyvalent phenomenon. In order to do so, I discuss the relationship between epistemic objects (human remains, casts and DNA), classificatory violence and the politics of memory by which different actors perform race, while articulating their claims of descent and political subjectivities in contemporary South Africa.

vwpe03.pdf

Vienna Working Papers in Ethnography 02

Title
Where theory work is done in the production of contemporary anthropological fieldwork and how it might be accessible in intermediate forms of reception in ethnography
Author
George Marcus
Language
English
Publication Year
2014
Pages
24

Abstract
Through suggesting how theoretical/concept work develops in the various ways that research programmes manifest themselves in contemporary social/cultural anthropology, this paper argues that theory work is an integral part of ethnographic method and the fieldwork process. It is more about work undertaken inside of fieldwork than a 'professional society' activity that surrounds or results from fieldwork at a distance.  This is in turn an effect of the increasingly collaborative and mobile strategies of fieldwork, which move among many micro-publics. Therefore, this paper encourages the creation of more open forms and new media for the reception and construction of theory and analytic work instead of the previous lonely confines of fieldwork communication, and reflects on this issue as a current problem of method. Fieldwork requires patience, but theory work requires more churn inside it.

vwpe02.pdf

Vienna Working Papers in Ethnography 01

Title
Making work talk – an ethnographic approach
Author
Gerd Spittler
Language
German
Publication Year
2014
Pages
31

Abstract
There is often a wide gulf between the way we talk about work and the real practice of work. Which are the most helpful methodological approaches and what is the role of interviews and discussions? A semantic study of the lexical field for "work" in different languages constitutes a common approach, but the insights this can bring are limited. More helpful is the analysis of whole interviews and texts, but this also gives only a partial understanding of actual work practices. Such linguistic approaches need to be complemented by other methods, especially observation and participant observation. Four ethnographic case studies are presented which illustrate this combination of methods: ethnographic interviews and participant observation of the work of a waitress (Spradley), conversations by and with Columbian peasants (Gudeman and Rivera), ethnomethodological studies of interactions with photocopiers (Suchman and Orr), and thick participation among Tuareg herders (Spittler). Apart from the methodological approach to studying work, there is also the question of how to present research results in a text (writing culture). This is difficult in the case of such a mundane topic as work, which generally has nothing very exciting to offer. How it can succeed is shown by the example of the Marienthal study (Jahoda, Lazarsfeld, Zeisel).

vwpe01.pdf