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ISEK - Department of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies Social and Cultural Anthropology

Monographs, Edited Volumes and Special Editions


Maria-Theres Schuler: Disability and Aid. An Ethnography of Logics and Practices of Distribution in a Ugandan Refugee Camp. Leiden: Brill 2024

At a time when rights are increasingly placed on the humanitarian agenda, this book provides a unique ethnographic account of the dynamics of aid to disabled people in a Ugandan refugee camp. By unraveling the complexities of social, material and institutional interdependencies, the author invites us to rethink conventional notions of dependence and vulnerability. Exploring issues of personhood as they relate to the exchange of material goods and care, the book offers a thought-provoking perspective on the seemingly promising shift towards a rights-based approach. A compelling read for anyone seeking to reshape the humanitarian agenda.

Maria-Theres Schuler, Ph.D. (2018) in Social Anthropology at the University of Zürich, currently writes as a journalist on global inequality, corporate responsibility and social movements with a focus on African countries.

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Florence Graezer Bideau and Peter Bille Larsen (eds.): Governing Heritage and Creativity: Frictions, Avenues, and Questions. Siracusa: LetteraVentidue 2023

Heritage governance encompasses explicit and implicit creative practices. Our anthropological approach views creativity as a social and cultural phenomenon, not just an individual process. This publication aims to diversify how creativity is addressed in governance by exploring various vernacular and re-creative practices. It highlights new questions and decision-making often absent in official descriptions and norms. Rather than framing debates in a simplistic choice between authenticity and change, this book deves into the multi-dimensional aspects of creativity and governance, spanning aesthetics, politics, sustainability, economics, materials, infrastructure, and spatial dimensions.

Flyer (PNG, 2 MB)

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Emanuel Schaeublin: Divine Money. Islam, Zakat, and Giving in Palestine. Bloomington: Indiana University Press 2023

Zakat giving or mutual aid is a sacred practice in Islam. Where government and public safety nets fail, zakat serves as a form of social security in Muslim communities. In Divine Money, Emanuel Schaeublin shows how zakat institutions and direct zakat donations function in contemporary Palestine. Based on his ethnographic fieldwork in the city of Nablus, Schaeublin traces zakat flows as they provide critical support to households living under military rule and security surveillance. In the neighborhoods of Nablus, the Islamic tradition shapes public life. Many enact simple gifts of money of food as an expression of God's generosity and justice. How do such invocations of the divine enable people to negotiate responsibilities and tensions arising from differences in wealth in Palestinian society? What is the role of zakat in confronting political repression and economic instability?

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Peter Finke: Qazaq Pastoralists in Western Mongolia Institutional Change, Economic Diversification and Social Stratification. London, New York: Routledge 2023

Taking the case of Qazaq Pastoralists in Western Mongolia, this book looks at the universal human requirement to balance individual flexibility and strategies designed to make a living with the social expectations that impose particular rules of conduct but also enable mutual trust and cooperation to emerge.

Pastoralists in Western Mongolia have experienced dramatic changes in recent decades, including the dismantling of the socialist economy, a series of natural disasters, and an emigration of roughly half of the local Qazaq minority to the newly independent state of Qazaqstan. Four aspects illustrate the chances and challenges that people face. First is the emergence of the market as the dominant mode of production and exchange, a thorny way full of uncertainties. Second is the individual household and its adaptation to the new economic system, creating new opportunities as well as precarities, and resulting in rapid social stratification. Thirdly, patterns of pastoral land allocation highlight problems of collective action and institutional fragmentation in the wake of a retreating state apparatus. Finally, social networks of mutual support and cooperation constitute a key component of pastoral livelihood but are under great pressure due to short time horizons and a lack of trust.

The first longitudinal analysis of the Qazaqs in Mongolia in English and a contribution to anthropological theories on human adaptability and decision-making, economic and social inequalities, institutional change and the difficulty of deriving at cooperative solutions, this book will be a standard work and of interest to academics in the field of Central Asian Studies, Anthropology, Human Geography and Development Studies.

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Thomas Stodulka, Anita von Poser, Gabriel Scheidecker und Jonas Bens (Hrsg.): Anthropologie der Emotionen. Affektive Dynamiken in Kultur und Gesellschaft. Berlin: Reimer 2023

Dieses Buch ist eine Einladung an Sozial- und Kulturanthropolog:innen, affine und affizierte Kolleg:innen, sich weiterhin im Zentrum der interdisziplinären Emotions- und Affektforschung zu positionieren. Die hier versammelten Beiträge stellen disziplinäre Trennungen in Frage: insbesondere den gefühlten Gegensatz zwischen gesellschaftlich hegemonialen Disziplinen (Psychologie, Psychiatrie, Neurowissenschaften, Biologie) und den eher performativen, diskursiven und narrativen Affect Studies an den kritischen Rändern der Wissenschaft (Sozial- und Kulturanthropologie, Kulturwissenschaften, Literaturwissenschaft, Linguistik, Performance Studies, Philosophie, Soziologie). Dieses Buch positioniert die Sozial- und Kulturanthropologie als interdisziplinäres Paradigma, das auf Sozial-, Geistes- und Kunstwissenschaften zurückgreift und Naturwissenschaften nicht per se ausschließt.

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Leberecht Funk , Gabriel Scheidecker , Bambi L. Chapin , Wiebke J. Schmidt , Christine El Ouardani and Nandita Chaudhary: Feeding, Bonding, and the Formation of Social Relationships. Ethnographic Challenges to Attachment Theory and Early Childhood Interventions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2023

This Element explores multi-faceted linkages between feeding and relationship formation based on ethnographic case studies in Morocco, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, and Costa Rica. Research demonstrates that there are many culturally valued ways of feeding children, contradicting the idea of a single universally optimal feeding standard. It demonstrates further that in many parts of the world, feeding plays a central role in bonding and relationship formation, something largely overlooked in current developmental theories. Analysis shows that feeding contributes to relationship formation through what we call proximal, transactional, and distal dimensions. This Element argues that feeding practices can lead to qualitatively distinct forms of relationships. It has important theoretical and practical implications, calling for the expansion of attachment theory to include feeding and body-centered caregiving and significant changes to global interventions currently based on 'responsive feeding.'

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Wahyu Kuncoro, Annuska Derks, Olivia Killias and Agung Wicaksono (eds.): Work and Daily Life in Indonesia. Department of Anthropology UGM and ISEK-Department of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies UZH 2023

The Covid-19 pandemic has profoundly affected the work and life of people across the world. Yet, not everyone was affected in the same way. The pandemic not only deepened existing inequalities but also gave rise to new forms. This collection of student essays addresses the multitude of ways that the pandemic has transformed – and continues to transform – the daily work lives of people in and around Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The publication is an output from the third edition of the International Summer School “Southeast Asia in Motion”, held at Gadjah Mada University in the summer of 2022, and attended by 39 students from Indonesia, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and Switzerland.

Zur Publikation auf der Website der Universitas Gadjah Mada



Kathrin Eitel: Recycling Infrastructures in Cambodia. Circularity, Waste, and Urban Life in Phnom Penh. London and New York: Routledge 2022

This book examines the recycling infrastructure in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. It considers the circular flows of waste and practices through ‘infracycles’, maintenance practices that tinker with the social and capitalist order, and postcolonial ways of doing politics that co-constitute predominant waste fantasies from which naturecultures ooze out, shaping urban life in their own way.

In this context, socially marginalized waste pickers contest the capitalist system by creating tropes about freedom, labor autonomy, and the will to survive. In this regard, they are also meddling about a new social order that represents the fine line Cambodia is sashaying between tradition and modernity. Waste fantasies that are a result of environmental problematizations, however, perpetuate postcolonial ways of doing politics by exuding notions of waste as detached from its sociocultural context. But ultimately, waste slips through the cracks of these dominant imaginaries and global waste reduction models enacting new versions of what waste and the city is, providing opportunities for another future waste policy.

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Christine Schenk, Banu Gökarıksel and Negar Elodie Behzadi (2022) Security, violence, and mobility. The embodied and everyday politics of negotiating Muslim femininities. Special Issue. Political Geography 94: 102597.

Cover Political Geography

This special issue investigates the politics of Muslim women's everyday and embodied negotiations of who they are as Muslims and as women in Europe and South Asia where they are a minority and subjected to heightened scrutiny. Collectively, the articles contribute to feminist geopolitics (Dowler & Sharp, 2001, 2011; Massaro & Williams, 2013) by examining how the discourses and strategies that target Muslim women - as victims, terrorists, or enemies - enable the production of nations, territory, and borders. The articles analyze how Muslim women position themselves in relation to the state, law, and society and how they negotiate, navigate, or contest the exclusion, territorialization, and securitization of their bodies and lives. Together, the set of articles in this special issue suggest that being a Muslim woman, in these minority contexts, is constantly subject to negotiations around representations and experiences of security, violence, and mobility.

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Sarah Turner, Annuska Derks and Jean-François Rousseau (eds.): Fragrant Frontier: Global Spice Entanglements from the Sino-Vietnamese Uplands. Copenhagen, NIAS Press, 2022

Since its inception over two millennia ago, the spice trade has connected and transformed the environments, politics, cultures, and cuisines of vastly different societies around the world. The ‘magical’ qualities of spices mean they offer more than a mere food flavoring, often evoking memories of childhood events or specific festivals. Although spices are frequently found in our kitchen cupboards, how they get there has something of a mythical allure. In this ethnographically rich and insightful study, the authors embark on a journey of demystification that starts in the Sino-Vietnamese uplands with three spices – star anise, black cardamom, and cassia (cinnamon) – and ends on dining tables across the globe. This book foregrounds the experiences of ethnic minority farmers cultivating these spices, highlighting nuanced entanglements among livelihoods, environment, ethnic identity, and external pressures, as well as other factors at play. It then investigates the complex commodity chains that move and transform these spices from upland smallholdings and forests in this frontier to global markets, mapping the flows of spices, identifying the numerous actors involved, and teasing out critical power imbalances. Finally, it focuses on value-creation and the commoditization of these spices across a spectrum of people and places. This rich and carefully integrated volume offers new insights into upland frontier livelihoods and the ongoing implications of the contemporary agrarian transition. Moreover, it bridges the gap in our knowledge regarding how these specific spices, cultivated for centuries in the mountainous Sino-Vietnamese uplands, become everyday ingredients in Global North food, cosmetics, and medicines. Links to online resources, including story maps, provide further insights and visual highlights.

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Yasmine Berriane, Annuska Derks, Aymon Kreil, Dorothea Lüddeckens (eds.): Methodological Approaches to Societies in Transformation: How to Make Sense of Change. Palgrave MacMillan, 2021

This open access book provides methodological devices and analytical frameworks for the study of societies in transformation. It explores a central paradox in the study of change: making sense of change requires long-term perspectives on societal transformations and on the different ways people experience social change, whereas the research carried out to study change is necessarily limited to a relatively short space of time. This volume offers a range of methodological responses to this challenge by paying attention to the complex entanglement of qualitative research and the metanarratives generally used to account for change. Each chapter is based on a concrete case study from different parts of the world and tackles a diversity of topics, analytical approaches, and data collection methods. The contributors' innovative solutions provide valuable tools and techniques for all those interested in the study of change.

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Annuska Derks, Andreas Isler, Willemijn de Jong, Heinz Käufeler (Hrsg.): Gewundene Wege einer undisziplinierten Disziplin. 50 Jahre Ethnologie in Zürich. Zürich: ISEK-Ethnologie 2021

Ein bunter Strauss von Beiträgen, gesammelt entlang der gewundenen Wege der Zürcher Ethnologie des vergangenen halben Jahrhunderts: Beobachtungen, Fakten, Anekdoten, Eindrücke und Erinnerungen einer grossen Zahl von Autorinnen und Autoren aus fünf Jahrzehnten voller Veränderungen, die das Ethnologische Seminar der Universität Zürich und später das ISEK-Ethnologie prägten: von den Nachwehen der Turbulenzen von „1968“ über die „Zürcher Unruhen“ anfangs der 1980er und die Herausforderungen der 1990er Jahre bis zu den curricular und verwaltungstechnisch einschneidenden Bologna-Reformen 2004 und 2019, und schliesslich zu der gezwungenen Neu-Erfindung der ethnologischen Forschung im Zuge der Corona-Pandemie.

Es wurde dabei keine Vollständigkeit angestrebt und keine ethnohistorische oder wissenssoziologische Tiefenstudie des Instituts angelegt, aber verschiedenartige, durch Ort und Geschichte zusammenhängende Schlaglichter auf die Zürcher Ethnologie geworfen, auf Diversität und Vielfalt von Perspektiven, die diese schwer zu bändigende und deshalb eben „undisziplinierte“ Disziplin von früher, heute und im Blick auf die Zukunft auf spannende und lebendige Weise, vielstimmig und selbstreflexiv, abbilden.

224 Seiten, 34 Abbildungen, CHF 15.00. Bestellung bitte beim Empfang des Völkerkundemuseums

PDF-Download: Zurich Open Repository and Archive (ZORA)


Willemijn de Jong, Eriko Aoki, John Clammer (eds.): Arts in the Margins of World Encounters. Wilmington, Delaware: Vernon Press 2021

Arts in the Margins of World Encounters presents original contributions that deal with artworks of differently marginalized people–such as ethnic minorities, refugees, immigrants, disabled people, and descendants of slaves–, a wide variety of art forms–like lay figures, textiles, paintings, poems, museum exhibits and theatre performances–, and original data based on committed, long-term fieldwork and/or archival research in Brazil, Martinique, Rwanda, India, Indonesia, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. The volume develops theoretical approaches inspired by innovative theorists and is based on currently debated analytical categories including the ethnographic turn in contemporary art, polycentric aesthetics, and aesthetic cannibalization, among others. This collection also incorporates fascinating and intriguing contemporary cases, but with solid theoretical arguments and grounds.

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Lena Kaufmann: Rural-Urban Migration and Agro-Technological Change in Post-Reform  China. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press 2021

How do rural Chinese households deal with the conflicting pressures of migrating into cities to work as well as staying at home to preserve their fields? This is particularly challenging for rice farmers, because paddy fields have to be cultivated continuously to retain their soil quality and value. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork and written sources, Rural-Urban Migration and Agro-Technological Change in Post-Reform China describes farming households' strategic solutions to this predicament. It shows how, in light of rural-urban migration and agro-technological change, they manage to sustain both migration and farming. It innovatively conceives rural households as part of a larger farming community of practice that spans both staying and migrating household members and their material world. Focusing on one exemplary resource - paddy fields - it argues that socio-technical resources are key factors in understanding migration flows and migrant-home relations. Overall, this book provides rare insights into the rural side of migration and farmers' knowledge and agency.

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Annuska Derks and Minh T.N. Nguyen (eds.): Beyond the State? The moral turn of development in Southeast Asia. South East Asia Research 28(1). 2020.

Special issue:






Aterianus-Owanga, Alice, Olivia Killias & Virginie Milliot (eds.). 2020. Hip-hop monde(s)., no. 40.

Né il y a plus de trente ans dans les ghettos noirs américains, le hip-hop s’est progressivement détaché de son premier contexte d’émergence et a circulé d’un bout à l’autre de la planète. Ce numéro vise à comprendre les conditions d’émergence, les modalités d’appropriation et les circuits de diffusion de cette forme culturelle globalisée. Dossier coordonnée par Alice Aterianus-Owanga, Olivia Killias et Virginie Milliot:



Schulz, Mascha and Julian Kuttig (eds.) 2020. Ethnographic Perspectives on the State in Bangladesh, Contributions to Indian Sociology: 54(2): 125-151.

Approaching the 50th anniversary of the Bangladeshi state, this special issue aims to explore the contemporary imaginations and manifestations of state power, public order, notions of popular sovereignty, bureaucracy, state/society relations and electoral practices in Bangladesh. By engaging with existing debates, we attempt to sharpen our analysis of the distinct features that characterise Bangladesh and explore possible continuities within South Asia. How do we explain the seeming disparity between widespread disillusionment with party politics and state practices on the one hand, and high levels of politicization of major sectors of society on the other? What role do moral orders, imaginations of the state or citizenship, and different power structures play in this context? Our focus on research-based, ethnographically informed papers allows us to highlight local dynamics, imaginations and material manifestations of what has been called the ‘state effect’. Although this collection assembles articles with the explicit regional focus on Bangladesh, we hope that its spatial and historical situatedness will prove useful for comparative debates and thus contribute to pushing forward and refining the general ongoing and much-needed conceptual debates on ‘the state’.

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Stefan Binder: Total Atheism.  Secular activism and the politics of difference in South India. New York: Berghahn 2020

Exploring lived atheism in the South Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, this book offers a unique insight into India’s rapidly transforming multi-religious society. It explores the social, cultural, and aesthetic challenges faced by a movement of secular activists in their endeavors to establish atheism as a practical and comprehensive way of life. On the basis of original ethnographic material and engaged conceptual analysis, Total Atheism develops an alternative to Eurocentric accounts of secularity and critically revisits central themes of South Asian scholarship from the hitherto marginalized vantage point of radically secular and explicitly irreligious atheists in India.

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Clémence Jullien: Du bidonville à l'hôpital. Nouveaux enjeux de la maternité au Rajasthan. Paris: Éditions de la Maison des sciences de l'homme 2019

La santé de la reproduction constitue un sujet d'inquiétude d’actualité en Inde : les taux de mortalité sont encore élevés, les pratiques d’avortements sélectifs féminins se poursuivent et l’accroissement démographique reste difficile à juguler. L’ouvrage suit l’anthropologue, des bidonvilles – où une ONG œuvre à la santé materno-infantile – à un hôpital public de la ville de Jaipur, au Rajasthan. À partir d’une enquête ethnographique de près d’un an et demi, l’auteure montre en quoi les programmes de santé censés garantir l’accès aux soins obstétriques renforcent les stéréotypes et les inégalités socio-économiques qui pèsent sur les bénéficiaires les plus vulnérables. Au croisement d’enjeux politiques, démographiques et socioreligieux, la santé de la reproduction apparaît comme un domaine éminemment sensible et politisé qui cristallise les tensions sociales (classe, caste) et le communautarisme hindou-musulman, au nom du progrès et des intérêts de la nation.

Parution livre-Du bidonville à l'hôpital (PDF, 266 KB)

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Emilia Roza Sulek: Trading Caterpillar Fungus in Tibet. When Economic Boom Hits Rural Area. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press 2019

When the demand for, and prices of caterpillar fungus (Ophiocordyceps sinensis, ‘the Himalayan Viagra’, long a part of traditional Chinese medicine) soared, the pastoralists of Golok on the Tibetan plateau where the fungus is endemic dug up, dried and sold the fungus to traders. In the process, these yak and sheep farmers, used to living on the edge of subsistence, became wealthy beyond their imagination. Trading Caterpillar Fungus in Tibet: When Economic Boom Hits Rural Area tells the story of what they do with the money they earned from gathering and trading caterpillar fungus, and what this money does to them, revealing a sophistication few outsiders would credit them for.

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Johannes Quack, Cora Schuh and Susanne Kind: The Diversity of Nonreligion. Normativities and Contested Relations. London and New York: Routledge 2019

This book explores the relational dynamic of religious and nonreligious positions as well as the tensions between competing modes of nonreligion. Across the globe, individuals and communities are seeking to distinguish themselves in different ways from religion as they take on an identity unaffiliated to any particular faith. The resulting diversity of nonreligion has until recently been largely ignored in academia.

Conceptually, the book advances a relational approach to nonreligion, which is inspired by Pierre Bourdieu’s field theory. It also offers further analytical distinctions that help to identify and delineate different modes of nonreligion with respect to actors’ values, objectives, and their relations with relevant religious others. The significance of this conceptual frame is illustrated by three empirical studies, on organized humanism in Sweden, atheism and freethought in the Philippines, and secular politics in the Netherlands. These studies analyze the normativities and changing positions of different groups against the background of both institutionalized religious practice and changing religious fields more generally.

This is a fascinating exploration of how nonreligion and secularities are developing across the world. It complements existing approaches to the study of religion, secularity, and secularism and will, therefore, be of great value to scholars of religious studies as well as the anthropology, history, and sociology of religion more generally.

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Georg Winterberger and Esther Tenberg (Eds.): Current Myanmar Studies. Aung San Suu Kyi, Muslims in Arakan, and Economic Insecurity. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2019

Myanmar shifted into the centre of international attention in 2011, when the new civilian government took over. Enormous media scrutiny began in 2017 and 2018 after the outbreak of violence between Muslim and Buddhist population groups. This book brings together papers presented at the Myanmar Conference 2017, the annual gathering of German-speaking Myanmar scholars. It contains articles concerned with the major issues currently facing development in Myanmar. Topics explored here include Muslims in Arakan (widely known as Rohingya) and how they became foreigners in Myanmar; the economic perspective of everyday life on one side and governmental planning on the other side; Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of the country, and the various challenges she faces as a female politician; and an ethnographic note on how textile production can look in the hinterland of Shan State.

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Clémence Jullien, Bertrand Lefebvre & Fabien Provost eds.: Hospitals in South Asia. Health Policies, Care Practices. Paris: EHESS, Purushartha 2019

By bringing together researchers from different disciplines (social anthropology, geography, psychology, sociology), this volume presents an up-to-date panorama of the transformations that hospitals in South Asia have undergone, drawing on the plurality of practices, norms and care facilities that are specific to this region.

From maternity and childcare to psychiatry, from the public to the private sector, from India to Pakistan, the different contributions reflect the emergence of new aspirations among patients and caregivers. While identifying the development of innovative standards and practices in hospitals, these contributions show how the relationship between caregivers and patients has been reconfigured.

Given the multiplicity of the fields presented, this volume is also an opportunity to examine more broadly the transformations in the role of the State, the persistence of social, religious and inter-caste tensions, and lastly the circulation of health care models between global and local.


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Rivka Syd Eisner: Performing Remembering: Women's Memories of War in Vietnam. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan/Springer 2018

This book explores the performances and politics of memory among a group of women war veterans in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Through ethnographic, oral history-based research, it connects the veterans’ wartime histories, memory politics, performance practices, recollections of imprisonment and torture, and social activism with broader questions of how to understand and attend to continuing transgenerational violence and trauma. With an extensive introduction and subsequent chapters devoted to in-depth analysis of four women’s remarkable life stories, the book explores the performance and performativity of culture; ethnographic oral history practice; personal, collective, and (trans)cultural memory; and the politics of postwar trauma, witnessing, and redress. Through the veterans’ dynamic practices of prospective remembering, 'pain-taking', and enduring optimism, it offers new insights into matrices of performance vital to the shared work of social transformation. It will appeal to readers interested in performance studies, memory studies, gender studies, Vietnamese studies, and oral history.

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Olivia Killias: Follow the Maid. Domestic Worker Migration in and from Indonesia. Copenhagen, NIAS Press 2018

This fascinating study unveils the workings of the Indonesian migration regime, one that sends hundreds of thousands of women abroad as domestic workers each year. Drawing on extended ethnographic research since 2007, the book literally follows migrant women from a matrilocal village in upland Central Java, women who actively place themselves in a position to enter the migration pipeline, knowing that their lives abroad will be hard and even dangerous, and that staying in the village is an option. From recruitment by local brokers to the ‘training’ received in secluded camps in Jakarta, employment in gated middle-class homes within Indonesia and in Malaysia and back home again, Olivia Killias tracks the moral, social, economic and legal processes by which women are turned into ‘maids’. The author’s analysis uncovers the colonial genealogies of contemporary domestic worker migration and demonstrates that, ironically, the legalization of the migration industry does not automatically improve the situation of the women in its care. Rather, Killias unmasks the gendered moralizing discourses on ‘illegal’ migration and ‘trafficking’ as legitimizing indentured labour and constraining migrant mobility. By exploring the workings of the Indonesian state’s overseas legal labour migration regime for migrants, she brings the reader directly into the nerve-racking lives of migrant village women, and reveals the richness and ambiguity of their experiences, going beyond stereotypical representations of them as ‘victims of trafficking’.

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Stefan Leins: Stories of Capitalism: Inside the Role of Financial Analysts. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press 2018

The financial crisis and the recession that followed caught many people off guard, including experts in the financial sector whose jobs involve predicting market fluctuations. Financial analysis offices in most international banks are supposed to forecast the rise or fall of stock prices, the success or failure of investment products, and even the growth or decline of entire national economies. And yet their predictions are heavily disputed. How do they make their forecasts—and do those forecasts have any actual value?

Building on recent developments in the social studies of finance, Stories of Capitalism provides the first ethnography of financial analysis. Drawing on two years of fieldwork in a Swiss bank, Stefan Leins argues that financial analysts construct stories of possible economic futures, presenting them as coherent and grounded in expert research and analysis. In so doing, they establish a role for themselves—not necessarily by laying bare empirically verifiable trends but rather by presenting the market as something that makes sense and is worth investing in. Stories of Capitalism is a nuanced look at how banks continue to boost investment—even in unstable markets—and a rare insider’s look into the often opaque financial practices that shape the global economy.

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Philipp Schröder: Bishkek Boys. Neighbourhood Youth and Urban Change in Kyrgyzstan’s Capital. New York, Berghahn 2017

In this pioneering ethnographic study of identity and integration, author Philipp Schröder explores urban change in Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek from the vantage point of the male youth living in one neighbourhood. Touching on topics including authority, violence, social and imaginary geographies, interethnic relations, friendship, and competing notions of belonging to the city, Bishkek Boys offers unique insights into how post-Socialist economic liberalization, rural-urban migration and ethnic nationalism have reshaped social relations among young males who come of age in this Central Asian urban environment.

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Georg Winterberger: Myanmar. Durch die Linse der Menschen. Through the lens of people. Petersberg, Michael Imhof Verlag 2017

Wie sehen die Bewohnerinnen und Bewohner von Myanmar ihr Land? Was aus ihrem Alltag werden sie uns zeigen? Mit solchen Fragen im Gepäck reiste der Autor Georg Winterberger nach Südostasien ins Goldene Land. Bei diesem Projekt standen aber nicht die Pagoden und die Sehenswürdigkeiten des Landes im Zentrum. Nein, die Menschen sollen uns ihr Land selbst zeigen - aus ihrer Sicht sozusagen: durch die Linse der Bewohnerinnen und Bewohner. Dazu erhielten über zwanzig Personen eine Olympus PEN E-PL6 für bis zu drei Wochen, sie fingen ihren Alltag für uns ein: Freunde beim Chinlone Spiel (abendliches Ballspiel), ein Zeitungsverkäufer in den Strassen Yangons, Menschen beim Essen, die Jugend beim Baden, die Farben der Märkte, Bilder von Pilgerreisen zu religiösen Orten, ein altes Ochsengespann, ein Schreiner bei der Arbeit, die Fischer auf hoher See und Taxifahrer beim Warten auf weitere Kundschaft. Entstanden ist so ein wunderschöner Einblick ins Leben von Myanmar etwas abseits der Sehenswürdigkeiten.

Zu bestellen direkt über den Autor oder beim Michael Imhof Verlag

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Esther Horat: Trading in Uncertainty. Entrepreneurship, Morality and Trust in a Vietnamese Textile-Handling Village. Cham: Springer International Publishing AG 2017

This book is an ethnographic case study, based on first hand observation, of family businesses in the northern Vietnamese village of Ninh Hiệp along the Red River Delta, which became a major hub for textiles in the wake of the country’s shift towards market socialism. The author explores how the traders experience, negotiate and react to a marketization process that is markedly shaped by the state’s morally ambivalent governance, and which can be thus characterised as an admixture of socialist and neoliberal ideologies.

How are traders shaping the political economy of Vietnam? How has the labour force changed as textile-handling has become an increasingly profitable undertaking? Horat explores the relationships between traders and local authorities, as well as changing ideas of masculinity and femininity. Focusing on the redevelopment of the market landscape and the increasing share of private ownership that have given rise to great uncertainty, this book provides a well-timed inquiry into current debates of economic development in a uniquely shaped market environment.

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Johannes Quack und Cora Schuh (Eds.): Religious Indifference. New Perspectives From Studies on Secularization and Nonreligion. Cham: Springer International Publishing AG 2017

This book provides a conceptually and empirically rich introduction to religious indifference on the basis of original anthropological, historical and sociological research.

Religious indifference is a central category for understanding contemporary societies, and a controversial one. For some scholars, a growing religious indifference indicates a dramatic decline in religiosity and epitomizes the endpoint of secularization processes. Others view it as an indicator of moral apathy and philosophical nihilism, whilst yet others see it as paving the way for new forms of political tolerance and solidarity. 

This volume describes and analyses the symbolic power of religious indifference and the conceptual contestations surrounding it. Detailed case studies cover anthropological and qualitative data from the UK, Germany, Estonia, the USA, Canada, and India analyse large quantitative data sets, and provide philosophical-literary inquiries into the phenomenon. They highlight how, for different actors and agendas, religious indifference can constitute an objective or a challenge. Pursuing a relational approach to non-religion, the book conceptualizes religious indifference in its interrelatedness with religion as well as more avowed forms of non-religion.

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Shirin Naef: Kinship, law and religion. An anthropological study of assisted
reproductive technologies in Iran. Tübingen: Narr Francke Attempto Verlag GmbH+Co. KG 2017

 Since the first IVF birth in 1990, the Iranian medical community has not only given full support to the use and development of assisted reproduc­tive technology but has aided the emergence of a powerful, locally-trained body of medical practitioners and biomedical researchers. At the same time, from a religious point of view, most Shia legal authorities – diffe­rences of opinion notwithstanding – have taken a relatively permissive view and generally support assisted reproductive technology, including procedures that involve egg, sperm and embryo donation as well as sur­rogacy arrangements under certain conditions. An examination of the so­cial, legal and ethical aspects of the development and implementation of these technologies in Iran is the subject of this book. It is based on a combination of extensive ethnographic research and textual analysis of important academic and religious seminary publications in Iran, from Shia jurisprudence (fiqh) and Persian histories to the analysis of laws and verdicts.

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Alessandra Pellegrini Calderón: Beyond Indigeneity. Coca Growing and the Emergence of a New Middle Class in Bolivia. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press 2016

In Bolivia, the discourse on indigenous peoples intensified in the last few decades, culminating in the election of Evo Morales as president in 2005. Indigenous people are portrayed by the Morales government as modest, communitarian, humble, poor, anti-capitalist, and economically marginalized. In his 2006 inaugural speech, Morales famously described indigenous people as “the moral reserve of humanity.” His rhetoric has reached all levels of society, most notably via the new political constitution of 2009. This constitution initiated a new regime of considerable ethnic character by defining thirty-six indigenous nations and languages.

Beyond Indigeneity offers new analysis into indigenous identity and social mobility that changes the discourse in Latin American social anthropology. Author Alessandra Pellegrini Calderón points out that Morales’s presidency has led to heightened publicity of coca issues and an intensification of indigeneity discourse, echoing a global trend of increased recognition of indigenous people’s claim. The “living well” attitude (vivir bien) enshrined in the new political constitution is generally represented as an indigenous way of life, one based on harmony and reciprocity, in sharp contrast to the capitalist logic of “living better” that is based on accumulation and expansion.

In this ethnography, Pellegrini explores the positioning of coca growers in Bolivia and their reluctance to embrace the politics of indigeneity by rejecting the “indigenous peoples’ slot,” even while they emerge as a new middle class. By staying in a space between ethnic categories and also between social classes, the coca growers break with the traditional model of social mobility in Latin America and create new forms of political positioning that challenge the dominant culturalist framework about indigeneity and peasants.

This book was also published in Spanish under the title "Mas allá de la indigeneidad".

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Eva Keller: Beyond the Lens of Conservation. Malagasy and Swiss Imaginations of One Another. New York, Oxford: Berghahn 2015

In der heutigen Zeit wird ja alles kreuz und quer über die Welt gekarrt, verschifft und geflogen. In unseren Supermärkten gibt's im Dezember Litchis aus Madagaskar, und die Menschen in Madagaskar benutzen leere Nestlé-Kondensmilch-Büchsen, um auf Märkten überall im Land Nahrungsmittel "zu wägen", d.h. man kauft immer so-und-so-viele Nestlé-Büchsen voll Reis, Linsen, Mais ... Jedoch sind nicht nur Dinge quer über die ganze Welt unterwegs, sondern auch Weltanschauungen, Werte und Visionen. Eine der heute wichtigsten globalen Visionen ist der Naturschutz, der zu unzähligen Projekten auf der ganzen Welt führt. Ein solches Projekt ist der Masoala Nationalpark im Nordosten Madagaskars, verwaltet von der madagassischen Behörde (und einer amerikanischen NGO) und tatkräftig unterstützt vom Zürcher Zoo.
Die zentrale Frage, der ich in meinem Buch nachgehe ist die: Bedeutet die Kooperation zwischen Naturschutzakteuren in der Schweiz und in Madagaskar auch, dass dank dieses Projektes eine Verbindung entstanden ist zwischen den Menschen, die an diesen beiden weit voneinander entfernten Orten leben? Stellt die Vision des Naturschutzes eine Brücke zwischen ihnen dar? Um diese Frage zu beantworten, beleuchte ich den Masoala Nationalpark aus zweierlei Perspektiven: einerseits aus der Sicht der Besucher/innen der Masoala Halle im Zürcher Zoo (inklusive Schulklassen jeden Alters), und andererseits aus der Sicht der Bauern, die am Rande des Parks in Masoala leben. Was sehen die Menschen in der Schweiz, was sehen die Menschen in Madagaskar, wenn sie auf das Naturschutzprojekt in Masoala blicken? Gibt es eine gemeinsame Sicht? Die Antwort ist leider nein. Denn aus der Sicht derjenigen, die durch die Brille des Naturschutzes von der Schweiz nach Masoala blicken, erscheinen die Menschen dort als unwissend und defizitär. Aus der Sicht derjenigen, die durch die Brille der madagassischen Kultur auf den Park blicken, erscheinen diejenigen, die den Park unterstützen, als ihnen feindlich gesinnt. Ich komme sogar zum Schluss, dass das Masoala-Naturschutzprojekt die Kluft zwischen den Menschen in der Schweiz und in Madagaskar vergrössert, anstatt sie durch eine geteilte Vision miteinander zu verbinden. Die kaputte Brücke auf der Titelseite symbolisiert dies.

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Georg Winterberger: Ethnographie des Spitals Manyemen. Eine Untersuchung zur Nutzersicht bezüglich Qualität der Pflege in Kamerun. Münster: Monsenstein und Vannerdat (MV Wissenschaft) 2015

Das zentralafrikanische Spital Manyemen wurde 1954 von der Basler Mission gegründet. Es liegt abseits der Städte im Südwesten von Kamerun und war dafür ausgelegt, die rurale Bevölkerung medizinisch zu versorgen. Heute kann die Bevölkerung dank der steigenden Mobilität auch andere Spitäler aufsuchen. Diese Forschung wurde 2008 zu einer Zeit durchgeführt, in der das Spital mit einem kontinuierlichen Rückgang der Patientenzahlen zu kämpfen hatte. Für mission 21 und die Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, den Betreiberinnen des Spitals, hat der Autor eine Forschung zur Qualität der Pflege des Spitals Manyemen durchgeführt. Im Zentrum standen die Benutzerinnen! und Benutzer des Spitals: Wie bewerten sie die Qualität des Spitals? Wie reagieren sie auf Krankheiten und welche Bedürfnisse haben sie? Entstanden ist eine Ethnographie dieses Spitals, die holistisch das Spital und seine Benutzerinnen und Benutzer beschreibt.



Harish Naraindas, Johannes Quack, and William S. Sax (eds.): Asymmetrical Conversations. Contestations, Circumventions, and the Blurring of Therapeutic Boundaries. Epistemologies of Healing, Volume 14. New York, Oxford: Berghahn Books 2014

Ideas about health are reinforced by institutions and their corresponding practices, such as donning a patient’s gown in a hospital or prostrating before a healing shrine. Even though we are socialized into regarding such ideologies as “natural” and unproblematic, we sometimes seek to bypass, circumvent, or even transcend the dominant ideologies of our cultures as they are manifested in the institutions of health care. The contributors to this volume describe such contestations and circumventions of health ideologies, and the blurring of therapeutic boundaries, on the basis of case studies from India, the South Asian Diaspora, and Europe, focusing on relations between body, mind, and spirit in a variety of situations. The result is not always the “live and let live” medical pluralism that is described in the literature.

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Peter Finke: Variations on Uzbek Identity. Strategic Choices, Cognitive Schemas and Political Constraints in Identification Processes. Integration and conflict studies Volume 7. New York, Oxford: Berghahn Books 2014

Throughout its history the concept of “Uzbekness,” or more generally of a Turkic-speaking sedentary population, has continuously attracted members of other groups to join, as being Uzbek promises opportunities to enlarge ones social network. Accession is comparatively easy, as Uzbekness is grounded in a cultural model of territoriality, rather than genealogy, as the basis for social attachments. It acknowledges regional variation and the possibility of membership by voluntary decision. Therefore, the boundaries of being Uzbek vary almost by definition, incorporating elements of local languages, cultural patterns and social organization. This book combines an historical analysis with thorough ethnographic field research, looking at differences in the conceptualization of group boundaries and the social practices they entail. It does so by analysing decision-making processes by Uzbeks on the individual as well as cognitive level and the political configurations that surround them.

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Werner M. Egli: The Sunuwar of Nepal and their Sense of Communication. A Study in the Culture, Psychology and Shamanism of a Himalayan People. Reihe: Asien: Forschung und Wissenschaft/LIT Studies on Asia. Berlin, Münster, Wien, Zürich, London: LIT Verlag 2014

This detailed study on one among the many indigenous peoples of Nepal is based on more than twenty years of ethnographic research. It starts with an account of the Sunuwar's indigenous notion of culture (mukdum) as expressed in social practice. With reference to specific social fields a model of the Sunuwar person, mainly used to grasp deviations from the ideal way of life, is analysed in the perspective of Cultural Psychology and the Anthropology of the Senses. The study concludes with an analysis of healing rituals, showing that their effect simultaneously results from the ancestral atmosphere produced by the shaman and a kind of domination-free discussion among the ritual participants mainly taking place in the pauses of the ritual. Thus, the shamanic ritual is interpreted as a kind of legal mediation.

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Ulrich Berner und Johannes Quack (Hg.): Religion und Kritik in der Moderne. Reihe: Religionen in der pluralen Welt, Band 9. Berlin: LIT-Verlag 2012

Seit den Attentaten des 11. September 2001 und in den Debatten um die “Neuen Atheisten” verfestigte sich eine vereinfachte Gegenüberstellung von Religion und (rationaler) Kritik. Demgegenüber betont dieser Band die Vielschichtigkeit von Religionskritik. Er umfasst eine Zeitspanne von der Frühen Neuzeit bis zur Gegenwart und diskutiert exemplarisch Gemeinsamkeiten und Unterschiede von Religionskritiken in den Kulturräumen Nord- und Südamerika, Europa, Indien und China. Hierbei wird nicht nur die beeindruckende Vielfältigkeit der Kritikformen an Religion(en) aufgezeigt. Die Beiträge vergleichen auch methodische und theoretische Zugänge zum Thema Religion und Kritik in der Moderne.

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Johannes Quack: Disenchanting India. Organized Rationalism and Criticism of Religion in India. New York: Oxford University Press 2012

In academic no less than popular thought, India is frequently represented as the quintessential land of religion. Disenchanting India qualifies this representation through an analysis of the contemporary Indian rationalist organisations (those that affirm the values and attitudes of atheism, humanism or free-thinking).To understand the genesis of organised rationalism in India the book addresses the rationalists’ emphasis on maintaining links to atheism and materialism in ancient India and outlines their strong ties to the intellectual currents of modern European history. At the heart of Disenchanting India lies an ethnography of the organisation “Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti” (Organisation for the Eradication of Superstition) based in Maharashtra. This account describes the organization’s efforts to promote a scientific temper and combat the beliefs and practices it regards as superstitious. It also includes an analysis of rationalism in the day to day lives of its members and in relation to the organization’s controversial position within Indian society.The book outlines the distinguishing characteristics of this organisation through a depiction of the rationalists’ specific “mode of unbelief” in comparison to “modes of religiosity”. Alongside a critical engagement with the work of Max Weber and Charles Taylor, the theoretical discussion of modes of unbelief further provides an original basis for comparative studies of similar movements in a trans-cultural perspective. Finally, Disenchanting India can be situated within the contemporary debates about the nature of rationalism in Indian intellectual life and cultural politics. It thereby engages with debates that are as crucial for Anthropology and Religious Studies as they are for Post-colonial Studies, Sociology and History.

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Johannes Quack, William Sax and Jan Weinhold (eds.): The Problem of Ritual Efficacy. New York: Oxford University Press 2010

How do rituals work? Although this is one of the first questions that people everywhere ask about rituals, little has been written explicitly on the topic. In The Problem of Ritual Efficacy, nine scholars address this issue, ranging across the fields of history, anthropology, medicine, and biblical studies.
For “modern” people, the very notion of ritual efficacy is suspicious because rituals are widely thought of as merely symbolic or expressive, so that – by definition – they cannot be efficacious. Nevertheless people in many cultures assume that rituals do indeed “work,” and when we take a closer look at who makes claims for ritual efficacy (and who disputes such claims), we learn a great deal about the social and historical contexts of such debates. Moving from the pre-modern era-in which the notion of ritual efficacy was not particularly controversial-into the skeptical present, the authors address a set of debates between positivists, natural scientists, and religious skeptics on the one side, and interpretive social scientists, phenomenologists, and religious believers on the other. Some contributors advance a particular theory of ritual efficacy while others ask whether the question makes any sense at all.
This path-breaking interdisciplinary collection will be of interest to readers in anthropology, history, religious studies, humanities and the social sciences broadly defined, and makes an important contribution to the larger conversation about what ritual does and why it matters to think about such things.

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