Publications 2021

Alber, Erdmute and Thelen, Tatjana: Politics and Kinship. A Reader.

Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

Politics and Kinship: A Reader offers a unique overview of the entanglement of these two categories in both theoretical debates and everyday practices. The two, despite many challenges, are often thought to have become separated during the process of modernisation. Tracing how this notion of separation becomes idealised and translated into various contexts, this book sheds light on its epistemological limitations. Combining otherwise-distinct lines of discussion within political anthropology and kinship studies, the selection of texts covers a broad range of intersecting topics that range from military strategy, DNA testing, and child fostering, to practices of kinning the state.

Beginning with the study of politics, the first part of this volume looks at how its separation from kinship came to be considered a ‘modern’ phenomenon, with significant consequences. The second part starts from kinship, showing how it was made into a separate and apolitical field – an idea that would soon travel and be translated globally into policies. The third part turns to reproductions through various transmissions and future-making projects. Overall, the volume offers a fundamental critique of the epistemological separation of politics and kinship, and its shortcomings for teaching and research. Featuring contributions from a broad range of regional, temporal and theoretical backgrounds, it allows for critical engagement with knowledge production about the entanglement of politics and kinship.

The different traditions and contemporary approaches represented make this book an essential resource for researchers, instructors and students of anthropology.

Erdmute Alber & Tatjana Thelen

Thelen, Tatjana and Ellmer, Anna: Care. Staat, Familie und die Konstruktion von Differenz.

In: Familie im Kontext kindheits- und sozialpädagogischer Institutionen, edited by Sektion Sozialpädagogik und Pädagogik der frühen Kindheit, 41-53. Weinheim: Beltz Juventa.

Die Autorinnen nehmen aus ethnologischer Perspektive in ihrem Beitrag in den Blick, wie vor dem Hintergrund soziohistorischer und staatlicher Regulierungen die institutionelle Herstellung von normativer Familialität als Rahmung elterlicher Sorgepraktiken hergestellt wird und welche Effekte sozialer Ungleichheit damit einhergehen.

Nach einer Einführung in den theoretischen Rahmen von (un-)doing difference sowie dessen Entfaltung nicht nur auf interaktionaler Ebene, sondern auch auf institutioneller und gesellschaftlicher Ebene, wird an zwei ethnografisch untersuchten Fällen die sozialstaatliche Differenzkonstruktion von Familien im Kindergarten und in der Sozialen Arbeit in ihren multiplen, sich wechselseitig bedingenden Formen aufgezeigt. Deutlich wird, wie Imaginationen von Verwandtschaft, die sich von der eigenen an der Kleinfamilie orientierten Idee von Verwandtschaft unterscheiden, zu defizitären Zuschreibungen gegenüber Familien bzw. einzelnen Mitgliedern von Familien führen und wie diese sich auch intergenerational reproduzieren.

Tatjana Thelen & Anna Ellmer

Rajković, Ivan. FIAT Automobiles Serbia. The Split Moral Economy of Public-Private Partnerships.

In: Moral Economy at Work: Ethnographic Investigations in Eurasia, edited by Lale Yalçın-Heckmann, 135-155. New York/Oxford: Berghahn Books.

Traditionally, the concept of moral economy has been used to grasp the obligations that bind states, employers and workers. But how neoliberal bureaucracies balance their old social responsibilities with their new role of mediating transnational capital,  remains unknown. This chapter explores popular expectations around FIAT Automobiles Serbia, a public-private partnership shared between the FIAT-Chrysler  corporation and a post-Yugoslav state. To cheapen its work costs, FIAT has moved manufacture of its new model to Serbia, appropriating the former Zastava factory in exchange for concessions and tax reliefs. Initially angered with new Italian bosses and mass layoffs that ensued, local workers soon learned that no preferential treatment could be expected from a foreign private company. Instead, they doubled their expectations of the Serbian state, demanding even bigger concessions to keep FIAT in town. Public-private partnerships thus not only distribute gains to the private and risks to the public sphere, as is commonly argued. Instead, they create a dual moral economy which projects paternalism onto the state, while relieving capital of its social dues.

Ivan Rajković

Thelen, Tatjana. Care As Belonging, Difference, and Inequality.

In: Oxford Reseach Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021.

The topic of care has inspired a vast and complex body of research covering a wide range of practices. As an open-ended process, it is generally directed at fulfilling recognized needs and involves at least one giving and one receiving side. Although care has mostly positive connotations in everyday usage, giving or receiving it can also be a negative experience or express domination.

Care evolves through complex arrangements of different actors, institutions, and technical devices and at the same time transforms them. As human needs are not a given, the process of care involves negotiations about who deserves to receive it and on what grounds, as well as who should provide it. Because care is so deeply implicated in articulating and mediating different moralities, it becomes central to constructions and classifications of difference. In this way, care extends far beyond intimate relations and is engrained in processes that establish belonging as well as various forms of inequality. Researching care in intimate settings as well as in public sectors enables bridging various communities of care and grasping how the distribution of care not only mirrors inequalities but contributes to their (re)production or even intensification.

Tatjana Thelen

Dubois, Vincent. Contrôler les assistés. Genèses et usages d’un mot d’ordre.

Paris: Raisons d’Agir, 2021 (April).

Contrôler les assistés s’est imposé à partir des années 1990 en France comme un mot d’ordre politique, bureaucratique et moral. Jamais les bénéficiaires d’aides sociales, et parmi eux les plus précaires, n’avaient été aussi rigoureusement surveillés, ni leurs illégalismes ou leurs erreurs si sévèrement sanctionnés. Cette spirale rigoriste à l’égard des assistés a plusieurs facettes : des leaders politiques qui pourfendent la fraude sociale et qui parviennent à stigmatiser leurs contradicteurs comme naïfs ou complices ; des administrations qui surenchérissent dans des technologies de contrôle toujours plus performantes ; une division du travail bureaucratique qui déréalise et déshumanise le traitement des cas ; le fonctionnement interne de commissions où la clémence est toujours plus difficile à défendre que la sévérité ; le point d’honneur professionnel du contrôleur de la caisse locale qui traquer la moindre erreur au nom de l’exactitude des dossiers. Tout comme la dénonciation des « faux chômeurs » sert désormais la critique des « dérives » d’un État-providence qu’il s’agit de réformer en faveur de la « responsabilité individuelle », le contrôle et la lutte contre la fraude sont devenus un mode de gouvernement des pauvres. Ils illustrent un nouveau modèle d’administration des populations par l’État qui allie le « management des risques » au néo-paternalisme.

Vincent Dubois

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