Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology and The Ethnographic Collection


Titelbild GISCA8

GISCA No. 8, 2016

master thesis

Matthew Fennessy

"Marriage, Modernity and 'Manner': A Burmese-Buddhist Woman's Agency in Contemporary Yangon, Myanmar: An Ethnopgraphic Portrait"

Despite a resurgence of academic interest in Myanmar since the "opening" in 2011, little research exists on the growing urban middle-class, and even less on women. This paper is an ethnographic portrait of Chan Chan, a "modern", unmarried 33-year-old middle-class Burmese-Buddhist woman living in contemporary Yangon. I examine how she conceives of agency, and produces herself as an agent. I then analyse how she seeks to carve out agentive spaces for herself while performing "appropriate" femininity from typically subordinate positions. To do this, I examine her practice in pursuit of her projects: in relation to me, to her parents, in her desire to marry, in her imaginations of a husband, and in her pursuit of a better rebirth. Contextualising Chan Chan as a subject in broader societal discourses, this paper throws light on how woman like her do life in contemporary Myanmar, in a time when established discourses on women‘s "high-status" are being increasingly challenged.


GISCA No. 7, 2016

Annika Witte

"Uncertain Blessings: Imagining a Future Petro-state in Uganda"

In this paper, I argue that even though oil production in Uganda has not yet started, the oil is already relevant in its anticipation. In its “not-yet” state, the oil has gained a discursive presence in politics, media and civil society. I analyse the visions of the future that are created in this oil talk. The government paints a picture of a bright future, in which oil is a blessing to all, while civil society portrays oil as a shadow looming over Uganda. Despite this difference, I show that all the visions refer to the resource curse: Oil can either be a blessing or a curse. I understand the resource curse discourse as a form of risk communication. I propose that for people in the oil regions knowledge of the resource curse as a risk increases existing feelings of uncertainty with regard to the oil. The paper is based on 15 months of fieldwork in Uganda between 2012 and 2015.

GISCA 6 Deckblatt

GISCA No. 6, 2016

bachelor thesis

Kirsten Dohmwirth

"Alterssicherung in der Kommune Niederkaufungen: Eine Betrachtung anhand des Gabentauschkonzeptes"

Starting from the issue of growth-neutral social security as postulated by the degrowth movement this bachelor thesis explores the old-age provision of the commune Niederkaufungen. Apart from the common security system this specific old-age provision relies on elements like common economy, collective work, dependable relationships, egalitarian structures and strong value orientation.By means of classical concepts of economic anthropology such as gift, exchange, sharing,reciprocity and redistribution (particularly based on Mauss and Sahlins) the thesis describes ethnographically dynamics that have been found in the commune. It is shown that the gift exchange is a undamental principle of this consensus-based community.The old-age provision, as well as the communitarian arrangement system as a whole, bases on permanent and often conflictual negotiations that are shaped by processes of giving and taking. Solidarity-based self-organization is worth to be discussed both as an addition to the common contract-based security system and as an element of degrowth-orientated security systems.


GISCA No. 5, 2016

Julia Vorhölter

"Word Wars - Competing Interpretations of the Armed Conflict between the LRA and the NRM Government in Northern Uganda (1986-2006)"

This working paper analyses how representations of the war between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Ugandan government have evolved and changed over the past decades. I argue that one can discern and compare two more or less coherent discourses: a fairly uncritical and largely pro-government discourse which lays its primary focus on the LRA, its violence and seeming irrationality, and a counter discourse which tries to look beyond the LRA and which is highly critical of the Ugandan government’s involvement in the war. The analysis shows how complex social realities (like wars), are ordered into coherent (but often competing) narratives over time.


GISCA No. 4, 2016

master thesis

Johanna Kühn

"Gendered Agency - Das Engagement der Frauen von MachsomWatch in Israel und dem Westjordanland"

The members of the Israeli women-only organization MachsomWatch express their protest against the Israeli military presence in the West Bank by witnessing and reporting on the occurrences at the military checkpoints. Thus, the women are predominantly facing men, whether male soldiers or male members of private security and military companies. By analyzing ethnographic data gathered in Israel and at the military checkpoints in the West Bank, the author argues that shared constructions about the genders ‘woman’ and ‘man’ are the basis for a certain gendered agency of the women of MachsomWatch. Being categorized as a ‘woman’ – a gender category discursively associated with consensus and the civil sphere of society instead of violence and military related to the category ‘man’ – enables and closes certain forms of acting at the checkpoints. Thus, the author’s research not only confirms existing studies about the organization, stating the importance of gender for the organization’s activities, but also shows the ambiguities and limitations of the gendered agency of the women of MachsomWatch.


GISCA No. 3, 2016

bachelor thesis

Tom Scheunemann

"Die Hybridität der Nation": Narrative Strategien der Gruppenbildung in Iraqi Kurdistan aus der Perspektive von Homi K. Bhabha"

This paper aims at the analysis of the complexity of nationalistic narratives. By applying Homi K. Bhabha’s theoretical concepts on the history of the Iraqi Kurds, it focuses on the surprising successes of nationalistic constructions and their inherent fragility. By employing Bhabha’s concepts of Difference, Hybridity, Mimicry and Third Space this paper shows that the stability and the fragility of nationalistic discourses depend on each other and form the very basis for the construction of identity. Instead of reifying nationalistic rhetoric by simply repeating it, this paper aims at the core functions of these narratives. The conflict between the Iraqi government in Baghdad and the Kurdish administration is depicted as a complex process, which constantly stabilizes hybrid identities without ever succeeding to do so. This process does not presuppose the common dialectics of enemies but zooms in on the back and forth of hybrid constructions. Thus the Kurdish conflict may be understood not as a history of struggle between two coherent (national) subjects, but as a process in which the constructed nation emerges.

GISCA 2 Titelbild

GISCA No. 2, 2016

master thesis

Sophie Städing

"Rote Hochzeiten": Eine ethnologische Untersuchung kambodschanischer Heiratsbiographien aus der Zeit der Khmer Rouge"

The Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979) in Cambodia introduced a special state-ordained type of marriage. The currently circulating discourses about the weddings under Khmer Rouge mainly illustrate a one-dimensional account of the Khmer Rouge weddings as “forced marriages”. The central question this work investigates in detail, making use of Sherry Ortner’s action-theoretical approach, is what kind of “agency” the various protagonists in the context of the Khmer Rouge weddings possessed. Based on narrative interviews collected during several months of field research in Cambodia, the author enables us to gain insights into marriage biographies of affected Cambodians. She draws the conclusion that current discourses underestimate their capacity of action. The descriptions of the realities of marriage under the Khmer Rouge draw a far more complex picture of the weddings at that time. Back
then there existed – though to a varying and limited extent – opportunities of influence and action for protagonists on a local level. Both regional and local cadres of the Khmer Rouge had an important influence on the implementation of national governmental marriage policies. Women and men as well as their families possessed agency and they sought to pursue their own marriage projects.