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SIEF2017 13th Congress: Göttingen, Germany
26-30 March 2017


Sunday 26 March

17:50-20:00: Opening and Keynote I
Hall 011, ZHG (Zentrales Hörsaalgebäude), Platz der Göttinger Sieben 5

Refugee Republic – a digital installation
Dirk Jan Visser/Jan Rothuizen (Amsterdam)

Short abstract: Refugee Republic is an interactive documentary about the daily life of the inhabitants of Domiz Camp, Iraq, a place that hosts over 64,000 Kurdish-Syrian refugees. In a combination of different media forms the project displays an alternative to the visualization of refugees in mass media.

Long abstract and biography +

Long abstract

Refugee Republic is an interactive documentary that allows the visitor to explore and in a way experience a glimpse of everyday life in Domiz Camp, northern Iraq/Kurdistan. Domiz Camp initially provided shelter for about 64,000 predominantly Kurdish-Syrian refugees, but as the number of refugees grew the camp transformed into a makeshift town where people live and work, go to school, start a business, get married, argue and have fun. And despite the imagination and visualization of refugees in the mass media, their world in a camp is often not all that much different from yours and mine. People fall in love, neighbours bicker with each other about noise pollution and teenagers dream of becoming a player at FC Barcelona. Refugee Republic is a collaboration between visual artist Jan Rothuizen, journalist Martijn van Tol and photographer / filmmaker Dirk Jan Visser, who, together with web developer Aart Jan van der Linden, brought to life the inhabitants and places of Domiz Camp in a multidimensional mix of different media forms. In combining ‘subjective’ observations such as drawings with ‘objective’ journalistic methods as texts, photographs and film clips, the visitor can scroll through audio-visual narratives, wander through drawings enriched with soundscapes, and meet some of its residents. Like Ahmad, who skips school to look after his bird stall; or the busy circumcision doctor Shixmous, mechanic Mahmoud, or Fatma, a teenager who dreams of becoming a singer by posting videos on Youtube.

Dirk-Jan Visser (1978 | Assen – the Netherlands) is a visual storyteller based in the Netherlands. Collaborating with creative minds from different backgrounds, he tells independent stories with a strong visual narrative. His publishing platforms vary – mainstream media to books; interactive documentaries to exhibitions – as long as the form serves the story. His latest publications include OFFSIDE (2012), a book and travelling exhibition on the situation in Nagorno Karabach; Refugee republic (2014), an interactive multimedia platform showcasing daily life in a refugee camp in Northern Iraq which was awarded with the Dutch Design Award and is currently on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York; and De Asielzoekmachine (The Asylum Seekers Machine, 2016), an interactive documentary that examined Dutch policy on asylum seekers in the Netherlands. De Asielzoekmachine was nominated for a Gouden Kalf at the Dutch Film Festival. Besides his documentary work, Dirk-Jan is one of the initiators and owners of Atelier aan de Middendijk a small farmhouse in northern Netherlands, which has served as a base for artists to create new work in relation to the inspiring surroundings.

Discussants: Thomas Hylland Eriksen (University of Oslo), Kay Turner (New York University, President American Folklore Society), Hatice Pinar Senoguz (Philipp Schwartz Fellow at the Institute of Cultural Anthropology/European Ethnology, Göttingen)

ModeratorValdimar Hafstein, President of SIEF


Monday 27 March

14:30-15:30: Keynote 2
Hall 011, ZHG (Zentrales Hörsaalgebäude), Platz der Göttinger Sieben 5

Familial persons in dark times
João de Pina-Cabral (School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent)

Short abstract: Dark times are upon us once again in the Europe of ‘austerity’. In Southern Portugal, the globalised iPhone generation is subjected to high rates of permanent unemployment, to ‘working poverty’, to a significant decline in citizenship rights, and ultimately to the tragic fate of having to emigrate. They have a future, yet they are denied the means of working towards its improvement.

Long abstract and biography +

Long abstract

Dark times are upon us once again in the Europe of ‘austerity’. In Vila Nova (Southern Portugal), the new generation of young adults faces a world where they are subjected to high rates of permanent unemployment, to ‘working poverty’ (salaries are generally inferior to the cost of living), to a significant decline in citizenship rights, and ultimately to the tragic fate of having to emigrate to Central Europe to take up jobs for which they are often overqualified. They are culturally globalised, being generally speakers of English, yet they feel deeply betrayed by the European Union and the bankers who control it. They have a future, yet they are denied the means of working towards its improvement. The big city (Lisbon) is the one door to success; everyone tries it at least once. However, due to the twists of fate, about half of each cohort remains bound by a sense of co-responsibility to the home environment. Owing to population decrease over the past decades most of them do have somewhere to live. Furthermore, as rates of divorce remain very high and professional investment is blocked, there is an increased emotional attachment to the extended family and childhood friends. Oddly as it main seem, therefore, this iPhone generation is encouraged by austerity to experience a deep sense of localism. The one certainty they have is their belonging to a family and to a town, where their relatives and their friends get together to support them in the inevitable moments of personal crisis. These young folk are familial persons in the sense that family and place conjugate in the constitution of who they are; as Heidegger would have put it, for them, being-in-place is being-with-others.

João de Pina-Cabral is Professor of Social Anthropology at the School of Anthropology and Conservation of the University of Kent and Research Professor at the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon. He was President of the Portuguese Association of Anthropology and of the European Association of Social Anthropologists. His principal academic publications in English are Sons of Adam, Daughters of Eve: The peasant worldview of the Alto Minho (Clarendon Press 1986), Between China and Europe: Person, Culture and Emotion in Macao (LSE Monographs, Berg 2002) and World: An Anthropological Examination (HAU Books 2017). He was co-editor of Elites (Berg 2000), On the margins of religion (Berghahn 2008), and The Challenge of Epistemology (Berghahn 2011).

Moderator: Moritz Ege (University of Göttingen)


16:00-17:00: Young Scholar Prize lecture
Hall 011, ZHG (Zentrales Hörsaalgebäude), Platz der Göttinger Sieben 5

Trauma and the Politics of Memory of the Uruguayan Dictatorship
Lorenzo D’Orsi


Tuesday 28 March

14:30-15:30: Keynote 3
Hall 011, ZHG (Zentrales Hörsaalgebäude), Platz der Göttinger Sieben 5

Andrew Omoding: dwelling in artwork
Trevor Marchand (SOAS)

Short abstract: Marchand explores the ways that artist Andrew Omoding creates relations between otherwise disparate things, drawing them together into new constellations of meaning that are forever becoming, without fixed starting points or conclusions. Findings suggest how we come to dwell in practices that afford safety and the possibility for total immersion of self.

Long abstract and biography +

Long abstract

Andrew is a prolific London-based artist who attends studio practice one day a week with a regular cohort of fellow artists. It is there, immersed in bricolage, sewing and storytelling that he establishes safe distance from the harassment he is regularly subject to as a person with special needs and escapes the monotony of everyday life in sheltered housing. In the studio, Andrew builds community and makes home. Andrew enters into direct partnership with his materials, allowing their sensible properties to guide his exploratory gestures and fingerwork. In stitching and suturing multiple layers of cloth, cord, ribbon and other found items, he transforms flat canvases into spectacular, undulating topographies of colour and texture that invite touch, handling and meditation from viewers. Snags are smoothly absorbed into the rhythm and tempo of Andrew’s work. Satisfying proportion, subtle balance, even distribution, and structural – almost architectural – solidity emerge without need for prior planning, sketches or modelling. He often narrates storybooks that hang alongside or are stitched onto the “tables”, “beds”, “apartment flats”, “cocoons” and “dance floors” that he makes. The stories, he says, bring comfort to the moms, dads, and children that populate his artworks. This presentation examines the ways that this artist creates relations between otherwise disparate things, drawing them together into new constellations of meaning that are forever becoming, without fixed starting points or conclusions. Ultimately, the presentation explores how we, as humans, come to dwell in practices that afford safety and the possibility for total immersion of self.

Trevor Marchand was born in Montreal, Quebec. He is Emeritus Professor of Social Anthropology at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London, and is recipient of the Royal Anthropological Institute’s Rivers Memorial Medal (2014). He was trained as an architect (McGill), received a PhD in anthropology (SOAS), and qualified as a fine woodworker at London’s Building Crafts College (2007). During the past 25 years, Marchand has conducted fieldwork with craftspeople in Nigeria, Yemen, Mali, and London. His research has been supported by grants from the British Academy, the Economic & Social Research Council, SOAS, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, and the Canadian International Development Agency. His books include Architectural Heritage of Yemen (2017), Craftwork as Problem Solving (2016), Making Knowledge (2010), The Masons of Djenné (2009), Knowledge in Practice (2009, with K. Kresse), and Minaret Building and Apprenticeship in Yemen (2001). Marchand’s documentary films include The Art of Andrew Omoding (2016), The Intelligent Hand (2015), Masons of Djenné (2013), and Future of Mud (2007, with S. Vogel). He has curated exhibitions for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History (Mud Masons of Mali, 2013 – present), the Royal Institute of British Architects (Djenné: African City of Mud, 2010), and the Brunei Gallery in London (Architectural Heritage of Yemen, 2017). Marchand’s forthcoming monograph is titled The Pursuit of Pleasurable Work. The motivation behind his research is to challenge popular ideas about the value and intelligence of skilled craftsmanship.

Moderator: Monique Scheer (Ludwig-Uhland-Institut für Empirische Kulturwissenschaft, University of Tübingen)


Wednesday 29 March

14:30-15:30: Keynote 4
Hall 011, ZHG (Zentrales Hörsaalgebäude), Platz der Göttinger Sieben 5

Transnational Dwelling and Objects of Connection: An Ethnological Contribution to Critical Studies of Migration
Maja Povrzanović Frykman (Global Political Studies, Malmö University)

Short abstract: Positioned at the intersection between ethnology, migration research and studies of material culture, this paper argues for recognising the importance of objects and material practices that contribute to the constitution of transnational social fields. They may serve as palpable connections between homes located in different countries and are central to the subjective experience of continuity within transnational dwelling.

Long abstract and biography +

Long abstract

Migrants carry, send and receive things across state borders: coffee-makers and teapots, candy and spices, used and new clothes, medicine, books, and a myriad of other items of emotional or practical value. Home-made food is smuggled in overloaded suitcases, old shoes are repaired ‘back home’, kettles are travelling between the ‘here’ of residence and the ‘there’ of origin. The use of objects, products and food from one place in another indicates functioning transnational connections. Rather than ideas and discourses of identity and belonging, this paper explores objects of everyday use. They may serve as palpable connections between migrants, those who stayed behind, and homes located in different countries, and contribute to the (re)production of social ties. At the same time, ethnographic research shows that such objects facilitate familiar material practices that are central to the subjective experience of continuity within transnational dwelling. These are things to hold on to, they help migrants to overcome segregation between distant homes. The sense of self may be dependent on a particular object being in place, which thereby becomes a place of home. But it is not only a matter of embodied memories and sensory recollections; the sense of ‘being yourself in your own home’ is achieved by practical engagement with objects. Ethnological insights into the practices of transnational dwelling challenge the clear-cut conceptualisations of mobility and stability, of absence and presence, of ‘here’ and ‘there’. The ways some objects appear as material layers of transnational social fields depend on the specific intersections of economy, geography, and biography that are seldom fully contained in migrant categories pertaining to work, study, family, and asylum, or in the ethnic grouping of migrants. Empirical attention to personal engagements with the materiality of transnational dwelling can be opened up for theoretical contributions to critical studies of migration. Investigating the everyday objects of transnational connection rather than prioritising the markers of ethnic identity may help to destabilise the dominant ways migrants are thought of in terms of difference.

Maja Povrzanović Frykman is professor of ethnology and teaches at the Department of Global Political Studies, Malmö University, Sweden. She is also participating in research projects at Agderforskning, Kristiansand, Norway, teaching in the PhD programme in Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Zagreb, and coordinating the IMISCOE research group TRANSMIG - Transnational Practices in Migration. Her main research interests are war-related experiences, refugee- and labour migration, diaspora, transnational practices, highly skilled migrants, place, ethnicity, affect, and material culture. She recently completed two projects on the well-being of highly skilled labour migrants in Sweden and Norway and is currently engaged in two projects involving refugees, entitled ‘Exploring Integration as Emplaced Practice’ (RFFAGDER, at Agderforskning), and ‘Museums as Arenas for Integration – New Perspectives and Methods of Inclusion’ (AMIF, at Malmö Institute for Studies of Migration, Diversity and Welfare - MIM, Malmö University). Her recent publications include two co-edited volumes: Sensitive Objects: Affect and Material Culture (2016, Nordic Academic Press) and Migration, Transnationalism and Development in South-East Europe and the Black Sea Region (2017, Routledge). For more details see http://forskning.mah.se/id/immafr.

Moderator: Sabine Hess (University of Göttingen)


16:00-18:30: Closing event
The Assembly Hall on the Wilhelmsplatz/ Aula am Wilhelmsplatz, Wilhelmsplatz 1

Dwellings and Dwindlings
Hermann Bausinger (University of Tübingen, Germany)

How to meet the everyday needs of ‚dwindlings‘ (that is, above all, extremely old persons) has become a topic of private conversations and political discussions, but only rarely has this been focused on in cultural research. Working with historical as well as ethnographic approaches, however, one may question and challenge the widely held opinion that emotional attention toward the aged is declining and neglect is on the rise. The talk will critically look at the development of housing conditions and argue that – on a scale wavering between idleness and commitment – the needle tips in favor of a new valuation of protecting habit.

Hermann Bausinger is professor emeritus of Empirische Kulturwissenschaft (historical and cultural anthropology) at the University of Tübingen, Germany. Best known internationally for his monograph Folk Cultural in a World of Technology (German original 1961, engl. translation 1990), his contribution to transform the field of Volkskunde in the post-war decades had lasting and productive repercussions to the present. In addition to critical, theoretical contributions he has written on a wide array of topics, ranging from narrative research to transforming traditions, often characterized by close observations of everyday life.  He has consistently also written for a broader reading public, and participated in regional scholarly endeavors. He served as president of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Volkskunde as well as editor of the Deutsche Zeitschrift für Volkskunde.

Concluding Perspectives on “Ways of Dwelling”
with Beate Binder (Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany) and Walter Leimgruber (University of Basel, Switzerland)

Moderator: Regina Bendix (University of Göttingen).