Rethinking shattered fields: power and belonging in sites of crisis

Claudia Liebelt (Bayreuth University)
Alexander Koensler (University of Perugia)
Dr. Ursula Rao
Start time:
26 August, 2010 at 11:30
Session slots:


It becomes increasingly clear that multiple dislocations and new forms of power and control are a characterising element of present neoliberal conditions. 'Devasted lives' (Bauman) are the experiences of those who survive, not in a place that gives them the feeling of belonging and a basis for decent living, but in sites of crisis that exist somewhere beneath, often beyond the publicly visible. With anthropologists doing research on illegalised migrants, the urban poor, as well as many other spaces constructed as external to the normative social order, they enter zones set apart from publicity, removed from visibility, put under a taboo, and/or simply "no go areas" for persons unauthorised. Since the notion of locality became problematic for both 'field subjects' and fieldworkers, contemporary ethnography is seeking approaches that reach beyond conventional fieldwork based on sedentarist assumptions. Concepts such as Agambens 'exceptional states', Foucault's 'heterotopias', Tsing's 'zones of friction' are applied in ethnographies that challenge the idea that belonging is constituted through place, privileging transnational partial connections, mobilities or processes of reterritorialization. In our workshop, we invite ethnographic studies that investigate live realities of people in shattered social spaces. What are the theoretical and methodological implications of studying sites of crisis? What does this mean for the ethic relation between the fieldworker and its subjects? What are the strategies applied by ethnographers in order to gain access to such critical environments? How can we extend classical fieldwork methodologies in order to understand the contemporary situation?