Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity

Gottingen, Germany

Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity

Gottingen, Germany
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Udupa S.,Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity
Communication, Culture and Critique | Year: 2016

This article explores the case of right-wing Hindu nationalist volunteers in India, to turn a critical eye on a digital practice that has become prominent on new media in India in recent times—the assembling of facts, figures, and treatises as an ideological exercise by the net-savvy “nonexperts.” Using qualitative methods, I argue that this practice of online archiving constitutes a distinct politics of history-making. I show how archiving-as-history-making is pertinent especially for religion's interface with cyberspace and the varied ways in which online users participate in religious politics. Online archiving for religious politics offers a sobering, and even troubling, picture of the digital commons, and unsettles some of the universalist claims underlying much celebrated user-generated content. © 2015 International Communication Association


News Article | December 16, 2015
Site: www.nature.com

After civil war broke out in Syria, Mohammad Khamis lost his parents and his home — but not his dream of becoming a scientist. In July 2013, he boarded a flight from Damascus, where he had studied electrical engineering, to Egypt. In Alexandria, he paid traffickers about €5,000 (US$5,500) for a boat passage to Europe. The 9-day voyage to the Italian island of Lampedusa, on an unseaworthy sloop with 100 other desperate refugees, was a nightmare of fear, vomit and thirst. Two years later, Khamis, now 22, is attending classes in maths, physics and chemistry at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) in Germany, where he sought asylum in August 2013 and was last year accepted as a war refugee. “There is no future for me in Syria,” he says on a cold December day in Munich. “I would like to stay here to study and find a good research job. My dream is to discover something new.” Social scientists studying the flow of refugees into Germany want to discover something themselves: how many of the incoming people are, like Khamis, well-qualified, motivated and eager to learn — a boon for the economy. These migration researchers say that Germany has become a case study in the difficulties of suddenly integrating a large group of culturally diverse foreigners into a society; the nation has registered nearly one million asylum-seekers this year, more than half of them from Syria. It is the highest such influx in Western Europe. After a short-lived wave of hospitality in September, when chancellor Angela Merkel promised that Germany would be a welcoming host to the persecuted, many citizens and some right-leaning politicians have begun to voice concerns, painting a picture of a Muslim-dominated parallel society of poorly trained recipients of social welfare. Research may be able to counter the rising tide of xenophobia and aid the urgent process of resettling refugees by revealing more about migrants’ skills and cultural values, says David Schiefer, a Berlin-based psychologist with a German advisory body on migration and integration who is planning interviews with refugees. “We need to give these people a voice,” he says. With about half of the newcomers under 25 years of age, Germany’s higher-education and science systems have a particular obligation — and the well-funded capacity — to help, say researchers. “Science has a responsibility to help tackle the huge integration challenge ahead,” says Alexander Kurz, head of human resources at the Fraunhofer Society in Munich, which runs centres for applied research. “There is great readiness among our staff of 25,000 scientists from 100 nations to provide mentorship and practical help.” Reliable data on refugees’ qualifications and backgrounds are lacking. “We’re poking around in the fog,” says Ludger Wößmann, a director of the Ifo Center for the Economics of Education in Munich. International assessments of 15-year-olds suggest that up to two-thirds of Syrian refugee students might lack basic reading, writing and maths skills, he says. German industrial groups say that the large majority of migrants have minimal skills and poor language abilities, making them hardly employable. But these assumptions are ill-informed, says Steven Vertovec, director of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen. In fact, the newcomers are probably as diverse as German society at large, he says. “There are many highly educated, secularized people among the Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans who are seeking asylum here.” Vertovec is leading a study in Lower Saxony in northern Germany that aims to interview asylum-seekers to examine their needs and aspirations, as well as to uncover best practices for responding to refugees. The goal is to produce practical guidelines for city workers and volunteer social workers in asylum-seeker camps on how to work with groups of migrants who may differ enormously in age, religion, language and education status. “Successful integration requires a nuanced understanding of migrants’ backgrounds and values,” he says. Students such as Khamis (who officially has ‘guest’ status at TUM; he is not yet formally enrolled in Germany’s university system) are not an uncommon sight in the country’s university lecture halls. TUM has about 100 guest students; across the country, there are a few thousand. To help universities to cope with the influx, the government in November approved an extra €100 million for student counselling, language training and stipends. On 11 December, Germany’s main research-funding agency, the DFG, encouraged grant holders to consider hiring refugee scientists in their research. DFG-funded scientists whose work would benefit from the participation of qualified academics or PhD students among the refugees are free to submit supplemental proposals for ‘guest funding’, said DFG president Peter Strohschneider. In a strategy paper seen by Nature, a group from seven Max Planck institutes, in response to a call for research ideas by the society’s president, Martin Stratmann, has outlined a variety of research needs around humanitarian migration, from international law and human-rights issues to health and gender studies. Marie-Claire Foblets, director of the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle, plans to ask a culturally diverse group of refugees — including guest students at the University of Halle-Wittenberg — for accounts of their lives and experiences. Other questions, such as those concerning refugees’ citizenship and civil rights, the potential lure of extremism, and the fate of children who might be staying with radicalized parents, will require the involvement of law experts, criminologists, educators and others, she says. Khamis, for one, is happy to write up the story of his life for research. Having passed German-language tests, he hopes to enrol at the university next term as a regular student. “Germany has been good to me,” he says. “Now that my life can start again I do hope that I can give something back.”


Lopez P.J.,Dartmouth College | Bhungalia L.,Ohio State University | Newhouse L.S.,Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity
Environment and Planning A | Year: 2015

Violence and humanitarianism are conventionally understood to be in opposition to one another. And yet, humanitarianism is also deeply entangled with violence—not only in tending to the after effects of human or natural catastrophe, but, at times, also (re)producing and perpetuating ongoing conditions of violence. Taking up Weizman's notion critiquing “lesser evil” solutions to human suffering, we extend the exploration of humanitarian interventions to the structural and symbolic violences enacted through the institutions, mechanisms, instruments, and “moral technologies” that are mobilized in the governance of people and spaces deemed in “need.” At the same time we attend to the thresholds within humanitarian forms of engagement where slippage into assaultive violence condenses—often through the spatial policing of circulation, the drive toward legibility, and/or opaque processes of conditional vetting. These moments and spaces shed light on the multiple, hierarchical visions of humanity that animate humanitarianism. © 2015, © The Author(s) 2015.


Gandhi A.,Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity | Gandhi A.,University of Amsterdam
Ethnography | Year: 2012

This article is a study of Delhi's monkey-catchers, municipal contractors who trap and relocate simians. I examine their perspectives, as well as those of planners and residents. Parallel but competing dispositions vis-à-vis monkeys - fascination and repulsion, piousness and annoyance - are detailed. In so doing, the article addresses the following themes: purification and displacement, the neighbour and stranger, multi-species cohabitation, planning and modernization, and the circulation of gift and sin. Three interwoven arguments bear on studies of modernity, urban governance, and post-humanism. First, Indian cities are not becoming irreversibly bourgeois and sanitized; humans engage in varied ways with monkeys and are complicit in their presence, by ritually gifting food. The logic of the gift vies with the desire to cleanse; a supernatural current animates the modernist city. Second, studies of bureaucratic power often presume coherence and efficiency. In contrast, I illustrate official ambivalence to cleansing, as well as structural constraints and makeshift arrangements that conspire against the master plan. Third, I question post-humanist and multi-species theories that seek to transcend Western ontology. The monkey-catchers' porous taxonomy for human-animal differences affirms human primacy as much as it dissolves dichotomies. © The Author(s) 2012 Reprints and permissions: sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav.


Petermann S.,Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity
Urban Studies | Year: 2014

This article investigates consequences of spatial contexts on interethnic contact. Despite the acknowledged integrative effects of pleasant interethnic relationships, several unresolved issues remain in this research field: investigations at two contextual levels simultaneously-i.e. neighbourhood and municipality levels; investigations of several contextual characteristics simultaneously, e.g. ethnic concentration, physical contact opportunities, population size; investigations on different kinds of interethnic contact, for example, contact with neighbours, with friends or in general. The present study contributes to these issues by analysing interethnic contact from a native's perspective using a German nation-wide dataset. A considerably high proportion of Germans (72 per cent) have contact with foreigners in at least one out of four measured types. Ethnic concentration is the strongest contextual predictor for all kinds of interethnic contact. Physical contact opportunities in the immediate neighbourhood foster interethnic contact in the neighbourhood only, while municipality size mostly diminishes interethnic contact. © 2013 Urban Studies Journal Limited.


Newhouse L.S.,Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity
Environment and Planning A | Year: 2015

This paper frames the political import of refugees' material practices in Kakuma Refugee Camp through critical reflection on Eyal Weizman's notion of the humanitarian present. To begin, I explore how the production of the refugee camp as a space of containment takes place not through a unified humanitarian calculus, but through a set of articulated practices undertaken by various actors—governments, police, aid agencies, host populations, and refugees—all of which have profoundly material manifestations. Secondly, I argue that refugees' pursuits of material well-being through semilicit and illicit means should be read as a practical material critique of the declining standards of humanitarian support. These efforts to achieve sustenance, invest in the future, and exert autonomy serve as a public reminder that humanitarian assistance fails to meet the minimum standard to ensure human existence, and that refugees aim for something more than mere survival. © 2015, © The Author(s) 2015.


Burchardt M.,Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity
Culture, Health and Sexuality | Year: 2013

In South Africa, as elsewhere in the world, responses to HIV and AIDS have been accompanied by calls to 'break the silence' and to openly talk about aspects of intimate life, otherwise considered private. These calls have been followed by the production of new bodies of knowledge about sex, and projections of transparent sexualities. In this context, the concept of counselling has taken on particular significance in terms of re-conceptualising diverse institutional sites as places of education, advice giving and moral inculcation with a view toward behavioural change. In this paper, I trace a series of processes and practices of negotiation whereby in a big church in the city of Cape Town sexuality has been rendered an object of knowledgeability and inquiry. The same processes work as conditions of possibility for the emergence of counselling practices by facilitating the circulation of concepts such as 'responsible relationships', 'responsible choices' and so on through the sites of faith-based health activism. Adopted from public health discourse, but inflected by religious idioms, these concepts allowed for the dissemination of new vocabularies of sex in which counselling is construed as a key mechanism. © 2013 Taylor & Francis.


Burchardt M.,Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity
Sociology of Health and Illness | Year: 2016

This article analyses and theorises the practice of biographical storytelling of HIV-positive AIDS activists in South Africa. Combining research in illness narratives, studies of emotions in social activism and analysis of global health institutions in Africa, I explore how biographical self-narrations are deployed to facilitate access to resources and knowledge and thus acquire material and symbolic value. I illustrate my argument through the analysis of the case of an AIDS activist who became a professional biographical storyteller. Based on the analysis which I claim to represent wider dynamics in human-rights-based health activism in the Global South, I propose the concept of narrative economies by which I mean the set of exchange relationships within which biographical self-narrations circulate and produce social value for individuals and organisations. © 2016 Foundation for the Sociology of Health and Illness.


PubMed | Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Sociology of health & illness | Year: 2016

This article analyses and theorises the practice of biographical storytelling of HIV-positive AIDS activists in South Africa. Combining research in illness narratives, studies of emotions in social activism and analysis of global health institutions in Africa, I explore how biographical self-narrations are deployed to facilitate access to resources and knowledge and thus acquire material and symbolic value. I illustrate my argument through the analysis of the case of an AIDS activist who became a professional biographical storyteller. Based on the analysis which I claim to represent wider dynamics in human-rights-based health activism in the Global South, I propose the concept of narrative economies by which I mean the set of exchange relationships within which biographical self-narrations circulate and produce social value for individuals and organisations.


PubMed | Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity
Type: | Journal: Medical anthropology quarterly | Year: 2015

Me: Were you born deaf? Kwame Osae: Yes, I was born deaf. Me: How come? You have hearing parents, right? [Being born deaf is usually linked to having deaf parents] Kwame Osae: (slightly confused) I dont know maybe because of witches. Me: Ama Korkor [Kwames younger deaf sister] told me that she was born hearing. Kwame Osae: That is not true, we were all born deaf: me, Kofi Pare, Ama Korkor, Yaa Bomo and Yaa Aketewa [i.e. his four younger deaf siblings]. I decided to confront his version with the one of Ama Korkor and I called for her attention. She was sitting a bit further in the compound where they live. I reminded her that she once told me that she was born hearing. Ama Korkor: Yes, I dont know that myself but my mother told me that I was hearing as a baby This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

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