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

ZANTHRO Working Papers

ZANTHRO Working Paper No 14

Tara Bate

Beyond the human in pastoral ethnographies: A photographic essay (PDF, 20 MB)

In a pastoral ecosystem, the roles of herders, herd animals and the environment are intertwined, interdependent and mutually constitutive. Yet the latter two are often only deemed good to “think with”, as “hapless bearers of symbolic projection” (Latour 2005, 10): animals and the environment, defined as bound and distinct entities, are too often made a part of ethnographies only to better understand the human beings whose livelihoods and cultures they support, as props to a human backdrop. With the new “animal turn” in academia, anthropology as a discipline that is etymologically concerned with human beings is trying to redefine itself.


ZANTHRO Working Paper No 13

Banhishikha Ghosh

Peripheral Outlaws: Resistance and Agency amongst ‘Criminal’ Groups in Colonial India (PDF, 879 KB)

The notion of ‘criminal tribe’ - a pejorative term - was introduced in colonial India to control and punish certain ‘dangerous classes’ of the Indigenous population who were mobile, as the British associated mobility with criminality. Commencing from around 1865, one can discern deliberations amongst variegated subdivisions of colonial bureaucracy regarding the conceptualization of the idea of ‘criminal tribes’, targeting the livelihoods of so-called ‘bandit groups’ and gender nonconforming communities. These deliberations encompassed a variety of subjects and materialized in the inception of the Criminal Tribes Act (CTA) in 1871.


ZANTHRO Working Paper No 12

Nicole Ahoya

Not (yet) a mother – Dealing with involuntary childlessness in Kenya (PDF, 12 MB)

“Thank you for giving us a child” or “ Ni mtoto yetu, Mungu akubariki” (Swahili: “It is our child, God bless you”) are expressions I heard many times when I lived with my Swiss-Kenyan daughter in Kenya in 2009. My interest in infertility arose when I experienced the value of having children and how becoming and being a mother significantly changed my role as a woman in Kenya. How would it be to live involuntarily without a child in Kenya, I wondered. This working paper draws on the life story of Syokau, a woman struggling with infertility.



ZANTHRO Working Paper No 11

Francesca Rickli, Maria-Theres Schuler und Raphael Schwere (eds.)

Field School as a Method – Three Essays on Disability and Technology in Uganda (PDF, 1 MB)

“I think that you can only really understand what anthropology is about through your own research.” This statement of one participant of the Department of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies (ISEK) field school in Uganda in Summer 2017 points to what we aim for with this volume: to understand and use the field school as a valuable method of teaching and learning. Having been part of a field school both as students and six years later as supervisors showed us how a field school can be an eye-opening method of teaching and learning.


ZANTHRO Working Paper No 10

Caroline Grillot

When Bees Travel – Social and Economic Challenges of Chinese Transhumant Beekeepers (PDF, 18 MB)

Bee decline, beekeepers’ concerns over the use of pesticides affecting colonies, rising honey prices, and dramatic perspectives on the future of humanity as a direct consequence of food production disturbance are topics frequently portrayed in the international media and social networks. Angry and desperate beekeepers are shown to defend their bees’ health, their professional activities and their practices. Amongst the grievances heard in Europe, the unfair competition of imported honey puts even more pressure on an economic sector that struggles to survive under the current ecological upheavals. This is where China appears on stage.


ZANTHRO Working Paper No 9

Heinz Käufeler

Aura und Skandal des Exotischen – Unzeitgemässe Bemerkungen zur Entzauberung der Ethnologie (PDF, 1 MB)

Die Ethnologie ist mit dem Exotischen eng und unmittelbar verstrickt, durch ihren Ursprung und Werdegang, durch ihr Feld und ihren Fokus. Letzteres gilt zwar offensichtlich nur noch partiell, die genealogische Verbindung ist jedoch weiterhin überaus mächtig. Dies zeigt sich unter anderem daran, dass immer dann, wenn eine weitere Öffentlichkeit überhaupt Notiz von Ethnologie oder Ethnologischem nimmt, sie dies unvermeidlich mit spezifisch exotischen Vorstellungen und entsprechenden Erwartungen tut.


ZANTHRO Working Paper No 8

Lena Kaufmann

Staying Behind, Moving On – Women, Technology and Migration in Contemporary Rural China (PDF, 3 MB)

In the People’s Republic of China (PRC), more than one sixth of the population is currently on the move. This corresponds to one third of Chinese farmers, most of whom migrate to major cities on China’s east coast. Thus, already by the early 2000s, at least one member of every rural household on average was working away from their farm (Huang and Rozelle 2009, 22). In most of these households the middle generation has left. Meanwhile, the grandparents – notably elderly women – remain in the countryside caring for both the grandchildren and the fields. This situation of heavy rural outmigration has contributed to what is commonly called the ‘feminisation of agriculture’ in China.


ZANTHRO Working Paper No 7

Tabea Grob

Sharing Economy – Zwischen Ökonomisierung des Sozialen und Sozialisierung der Ökonomie (PDF, 2 MB)

Seit 2008 und in der Schweiz verstärkt seit 2013 ist der Begriff Sharing Economy omnipräsent: die Erfolgsmodelle Uber und Airbnb werben mit dem Begriff, Medien lösen Diskussionen über die Vor- und Nachteile des Teilens aus und im alltäglichen Leben trifft man auf Angebote zum Teilen von Autos, Arbeitsplätzen und Akkuschraubern. Dabei ist die Sharing Economy an sich nichts Neues, man denke nur an das Teilen von Kleidern unter Geschwistern, an die Allmenden in den Alpenregionen oder an die geteilten Landwirtschaftsmaschinen unter LandwirtInnen. Weshalb also wird von einer neuen Art des Teilens gesprochen?


ZANTHRO Working Paper No 6

K. Zeynep Sarıaslan

(Un)politicising Awareness – Gender Projects and the State in Southeast Turkey (PDF, 554 KB)

“Jump in, Zeynep!” Aliye said, from the front seat of a truck and with a big smile on her face. It was a few days after she started to wear a headscarf following the abolishment of the headscarf ban for civil servants. Her completely new look was strange to my eyes, but I was starting to get used to it. We were heading to the “awareness workshop” that she was coordinating as part of a larger gender project. Aliye seemed proud of arranging the vehicle and the driver, which were necessary because the workshop was going to take place in a far-off neighbourhood on the outskirts of the city.


ZANTHRO Working Paper No 5

Thomas Hylland Eriksen

Follow the Money – Competing Knowledge Regimes in an Overheated City (PDF, 1 MB)

During fieldwork in Gladstone, an industrial town in Queensland, I was sometimes asked who paid for my research. Had I responded that it was funded by a mining company, or the powerful Ports Corporation, I would have lost credibility in the eyes of my local collaborators. Some of them even confessed that although they still trusted science, they no longer trusted scientists. Most of the local conflicts in Gladstone concern the relationship between residents and powerful economic agents. In the era of ‘fake news’, ‘alternative facts’ and widespread revolt against the elites (including the intellectual elites), the Australian contexts illuminated here speak to wider issues.


ZANTHRO Working Paper No 4

Tanja Luchsinger

Quieres tarjeta? – Ethnografie eines Wi-Fi Hotspots in Havanna, Kuba (PDF, 7 MB)

Unternimmt man einen Spaziergang durch Havanna, so passiert es einem dieser Tage öfter, dass man vor einem Hotel, in einem Park oder an einer Strasse auf eine Ansammlung von Menschen trifft, die mit Tablets, Smartphones oder Laptops beschäftigt sind; Bilder, die im globalen Norden zum Alltag gehören. Doch in Kuba, einem Land, in dem Internetnutzung mit mobilem Datenvolumen kaum mehr als einen unerfüllten Traum darstellt, ist dieses Bild etwas Besonderes, denn es bedeutet, dass es an diesem Ort Wi-Fi geben muss. Etwas Unsichtbares wie das Internet wird durch diese kleinen Menschenansammlungen plötzlich im Raum sichtbar.


ZANTHRO Working Paper No 3

Nadja Kempter

Because it’s dirty! – Über den alltäglichen Gebrauch der dirty kitchen und Schmutzvorstellungen in den Philippinen (PDF, 15 MB)

Zu Beginn meines Aufenthaltes auf Bohol hatte ich mit einem Tricycle-Fahrer ein typisches Gespräch über meine Forschung. Ihm war zu Ohren gekommen, dass ich in Bohol Recherchen für meine Bachelor-Arbeit mache und ich erzählte ihm, dass ich die dirty kitchen untersuchen würde. Nach einem kurzen Schweigen brach der Fahrer in Gelächter aus. Er fragte mich, ob das mein Ernst sei und ob ich wirklich sechs Wochen hier verbringe, nur um die dirty kitchen zu untersuchen. Etwas perplex versuchte ich zu erklären, dass es in der Schweiz so etwas wie eine dirty kitchen nicht gäbe.


ZANTHRO Working Paper No 2

Sandra Kurfürst

From cheap commodity to prestige item – Hanoians longing for clean and safe vegetables (PDF, 11 MB)

Access to food, water, shelter and air are major preconditions for living in the city, like anywhere else. They constitute what Parnell and Pieterse (2010: 148) in their discussion of the ‘right to the city’ refer to as ‘basic or 1st generation human rights’. However, particularly the first right of access to food has only recently moved into the analytical focus of urban studies (Morgan, 2015). The ‘urban food question’ (Morgan, 2015) is often linked to the topics of food deserts (e.g. Weatherspoon et al., 2015; Whelan et al., 2002) and food security (e.g. Barthel et al., 2015; Crush, 2014; Morgan, 2015). The former frequently being linked to the cities of the Global North and the latter to cities of the Global South.


ZANTHRO Working Paper No 1

Annuska Derks und Olivia Killias (Hrsg.)

Tamilische Flüchtlinge, philippinische Ehefrauen, chinesische Touristen – Sozialfiguren asiatischer Migration in der Schweiz (PDF, 13 MB)

„The migrant has become the political figure of our time“, schreibt Thomas Nail (2015, Klappentext) in seiner Analyse kontemporärer Migration. Ständig kategorisiert und häufig problematisiert, ist die Gestalt des Migranten in heutigen Debatten über Nation, Gesellschaft und Globalisierung kaum wegzudenken. Die Brisanz des Themas Migration zeigt sich in der täglichen Berichterstattung zu Zuwanderung und Flucht, in den Chancen und Ängsten, die damit verbunden werden, sowie in den politischen Interventionen, die beabsichtigen, Migration zu steuern oder gar ganz zu stoppen.