Link: Globalization in the Margins Research Network


Link: Globalization in the Margins Research Network –

Globalization phenomena have by now become popular topics of research, often focused on the huge cosmopolitan centers of the world: ‘global cities’ such as London, New York, Paris and Tokyo. Such phenomena, however, also occur in peripheral places – rural areas often seen as sites of ‘authenticity’ and as loci of ‘cultural heritage’, where people use local dialects and practice time-tested customs in almost any aspect of life. Studies in Africa and China, but also in non-metropolitan areas in Western Europe, have shown that even such supposedly pristine and untouched cultural zones are now shot through with the same patterns of dynamic blending and rapid innovation as those observed in the global cities. Dialects are changing quickly into new ones, and cultural practices become commodities offered to global tourism. Yet, these cultural instruments simultaneously remain firmly local as emblems of local authenticity and as continuations of tradition.

Rather than seeing this as an aberration or an exception, we intend to study these seemingly paradoxical processes as a crucial theoretical and methodological challenge, capable of telling us some important things about culture, identity, heritage and globalization in general. That means: we will engage with such phenomena as a way into fundamental questions in folklore, dialectology and culture studies. Thus, we intend to extract the broad theoretical and methodological significance of such seemingly marginal phenomena.

Visit and Lecture by John Comaroff – „Ethnicity, Inc. Revisited“

by: Caren Bergs, M.A., University of Göttingen

From November 10 to November 15, 2013, the Interdisciplinary Research Unit on the Constitution of Cultural Property hosted Professor John Comaroff, Hugh K. Foster Professor of African and African American Studies and of Anthropology/ Oppenheimer Research Fellow in African Studies (Harvard University), for intellectual exchange and a public lecture on “Ethnicity, Inc. Revisited“.

On the occasion of his visit, the entire team, collectively and individually, had plenty of opportunity to discuss their research projects in depth with Prof Comaroff who left us all in an energized and motivated state, ready to tackle the remaining months of our research time.

Professor Comaroff’s visit to Göttingen concluded with his public lecture which picked up main points from the widely received work Ethnicity, Inc. (2009), co-authored with Jean Comaroff. In an anecdote during the lecture he noted that “Ethnicity, Inc.“ had at one point even became mandatory reading for the employees of the largest South African company based on ethnicity, Bafokeng, Inc. – which had formerly been researched by him and Jean.

Professor Comaroff’s lecture aimed to recap, expand and update „Ethnicity, Inc.“ In 2000, the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) formed a corporation to invest in mining, forestry, industry and tourism. The idea behind this was to empower their peoples by „usher[ing] their rural chiefdoms into the world of global business,“ because the political fight for constitutional recognition had been focused upon too long. Comaroff then went on query the extent to which the future of ethnicity would lie in ethno-futures and entering the market place. In doing so, the binary of rural „traditional“ culture and urban Africa would be made to collapse.

Heritage, Comaroff pointed out, is alienable identity: its objects and objectifications may be consumed by others and sold on a market. To have culture to sell means having a presence in the world. This he illustrated with the rise of ethno-businesses in South Africa, with their cultural products being in high demand. The idea behind empowerment is constituted here with access to markets, material benefits and a people selling its “essential own” – as a brand. Selling culture challenges tried and not so true dichotomies such as tourist performances endangering or replacing “authentic“ traditions.

To Comaroff, politics and economics appear far more interlinked today, He stressed that the context in which culture, identity and politics are embedded, i.e. the nation-state, is changing. Coming from the “fiction of homogeneity” upon which European polities were founded, we now find ourselves in an age of acceptance of heterodox nationhood – a “cultural diversity within a civic order composed of universal citizens”. More than for Africa, this holds true for Europe with its nation-states born of European “colonial fantasy”. In African polities it is an essential right, in the pursuit of collective interest, to be different. Cultural identity, Comaroff stressed, “has become, simultaneously, a function of elective self-production and ascriptive biology”. Culture therefore congeals into a “genetically-endowed intellectual property”, becomes a form of capital and can be sold for profit.

Comaroff also noted the importance of legal instruments, as difference turns into a subject for legal actions. Hence “Ethnicity, Inc.” is a mixture of the commodification of culture, legal actions over cultural identity, the “displacement of the politics into the domain of jurisprudence” and the dissolving binary of rural and urban culture(s).

This is not a new phenomenon, as Comaroff showed by evoking the examples of the Pomo Indians, who went from being two homeless Native American families to being an ethnic group with a casino license, and Maryann Martin who opened a gaming house on the grounds of being the only member of the ethnic group of the Augustine Cahuilla Indians. The creation of ethno-businesses in the USA is mostly financed with the capital of non-Native Americans. Another point of interest is the proclaimed sovereignty of the state and its laws. Native American identity usually begins with a land claim, as “territory” is a major principle of sovereignty. The emergence of the prototypical Native American ethno-business depended on the recognition of legal sovereignty. Cultural identity is then incidental to these corporations. Only in few cases an ethnic group turns local knowledge into a brand from which arises an ethnic corporation, as is the case with the Pueblo of Sandoval, New Mexico, and their brand of “Hopi Blue” corn.

In recent times, the UN and the WIPO have come to recognize the “inherent” rights of indigenous peoples to their tangible and intangible cultural property. This has led to the acceleration of processes of incorporation. Comaroff told the story of the San/Bushmen in the Kalahari desert who were severly suppressed under colonialism and the San’s knowledge of the hoodia cactus which can stave off hunger and thirst. In 1963, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) of South Africa became interested in the cactus and its effects; from then on word spread about the cactus as a hope for the alleviation of obesity without side effects. The bioactive component was patented under label P57 in 1997 and subsequently licensed to the British company Phytopharm and then to Pfizer – all under the impression that the San were extinct. An NGO representing the rights of the San was formed and protested against this case of biopiracy. This led to a profit-sharing agreement between Phytopharm and the San. The San “identity” has since gone through a reanimation, stimulated by the assertion of intellectual property coupled with a land claim. Today, the San are an ethno-corporation while their “identity” is debated by academics.

The major example in Comaroff’s talk was Bafokeng, Inc. which gained wealth with platinum and whose corporate history goes back to sage decisions made by one Bafokeng king in the nineteenth century. Buying land to protect it from white settlers and hence establishing the Bafokeng as a corporate, private owner, the terrain was defended from seizure. Today, Bafokeng Inc. is a nation of 300,000 shareholders and is involved in a complex network of companies yielding some $100 million per year. Comaroff noted that the success in turning Bafokeng Inc. into a hugely successful nation/business is accompanied by a lack of Bafokeng cultural identity.

The strategies of the Bafokeng, the San and Native Americans groups in the USA have several points in common: genealogical membership in their respective ethnic group; sovereignty vis-à-vis the nation state through incorporation based on land claims; and a reliance on ”lawfare” to crystallize or reproduce the sociological entity within which cultural identity is taken to inhere.

To Comaroff “Ethnicity, Inc.” is a “world-historical phenomenon in the making” with many roots in nation states’ search to distinguish themselves through unique cultures. “The ethnically-defined peoples” have taken ethnicity into the global sphere. As such, “Ethnicity, Inc.” is an important subject for anthropological research.

For further reading::
Comaroff, John L. and Jean (2009): Ethnicity, Inc. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Continuation of the lecture series “Kultur als Eigentum?”, winter semester 2013/14

The lecture series of the interdisciplinary research unit 772 “The Constitution of Cultural Property” will be continued starting October 31, 2013.

Winter semester 2013–14; Location: Lecture hall PH12, Archäologisches Institut (Institute for Archaeology), Nikolausberger Weg 15; Time: 18:15 Uhr bis 19:45 Uhr

Please note that all presentations will be held in German, with the exception of Prof. Dr. Comaroff’s presentation on November 14, which will be held in English.

Overview of presentations:

Thursday, October 31, 2013
Contested Collections. Cultural heritage and the art trade in conflict?
Anne Splettstößer, MA, Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology and Alper Tasdelen, MA, Institute for International Law, Göttingen

Thursday, November 14, 2013
Ethnicity Inc. Revisited
Prof. Dr. John Comaroff, Department of African and American Studies, Harvard University, Cambridge, USA

Thursday, November 21, 2013
Doing UNESCO-Landscapes. Negotiation and valorisation of the cultural landscapes Erzgebirge and Mapungubwe
Caren Bergs, MA und Arnika Peselmann, MA, Institute for Cultural Anthropology/European Ethnology, Göttingen

Thursday, November 28, 2013
Identity and contributions to the common pool
Prof. Dr. Kilian Bizer and Matthias Lankau, MA, Chair of Economic Policy and SME Research, Göttingen

Thursday, December 5, 2013
Culture as special heritage? Indigenous groups between marginalisation and empowerment in Indonesia
Prof. Dr. Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin and Serena Müller, MA, Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology, Göttingen

Thursday, January 9, 2014
Golden Age Angkor: cultural heritage and national unity in Cambodia
Prof. Dr. Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin and Aditya Eggert, MA, Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology, Göttingen

Thursday, January 23, 2014
Which role does ‘justice’ play in discourses surrounding cultural property?
Dr. Stefan Groth, Institute for Cultural Anthropology/European Ethnology, Göttingen

Thursday, February 6, 2014
Property and heritage, culture and value
Prof. Dr. Regina Bendix, Institute for Cultural Anthropology/European Ethnology, Göttingen

Tagung “Körper-Technologien”

12. Juli bis 14. Juli 2013
Tagungsorte: Holbornsches Haus und Alte SUB, Göttingen (bitte Tagungsprogramm beachten)

Vorbereitungsgruppe des Instituts für Kulturanthropologie/Europäische Ethnologie, Göttingen: Katrin Amelang, Christine Hämmerling, Sabine Hess, Nora Kühnert, Anna-Carolina Vogel, Nadine Wagener-Böck

Vorbereitungsgruppe des Instituts für Europäische Ethnologie, HU Berlin: Sven Bergmann, Beate Binder, Friedrich von Bose, Nadine Heymann, Anika Keinz, Martina Klausner, Michi Knecht, Alik Mazukatow, Kelly Mulvaney

Willkommen bei „Körper-Technologien“, der 14. Arbeitstagung der Kommission Frauen- und Geschlechterforschung in der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Volkskunde (dgv)
Institut für Kulturanthropologie/Europäische Ethnologie, Universität Göttingen

Unter dem Tagungstitel „Körper-Technologien – Ethnografische und gendertheoretische Perspektiven auf die Refigurationen des Körperlichen“ diskutiert die Kommission Frauen- und Geschlechterforschung Fragen zum Zusammenhang von Körperlichkeit und Geschlecht sowie deren Wechselverhältnis mit anderen Dimensionen der Macht. Ziel ist es, anhand von Beispielen vielfältiger – historischer wie gegenwärtiger – Körperpraktiken alte und neue Konzeptionalisierungen der Volkskunde_Europäischen Ethnologie_Kulturanthropologie zu sichten und nach den Potenzialen und Grenzen ethnografischer wie kulturanalytischer Ansätze zu fragen.

Das Tagungsprogramm ist hier verfügbar. Anmeldungen bis zum 30.06.2013 erbeten. Weitere Informationen u.a. zu Tagungsgebühren hier Homepage der Tagung.

Workshop: Taste | Power | Tradition – Geographical Indications as Cultural Property

Location: Fürstenzimmer (Schloss Hohentübingen) | Burgsteige 11 (Schloss), 72070 Tübingen April 4–5, 2013

Organized by Achim Spiller, Bernhard Tschofen, Sarah May and Katia Laura Sidali.

Within a multidisciplinary perspective on Geographical Indications (GI) the workshop will cover a broad range of topics such as origin and tradition, specialties’ protection and marketing, and the creation and conservation of culinary heritage. With such discourse different questions arise, different methods become important, and different approaches are needed.

Focus will be placed on the interrelations between terroir and culinary heritage, and the categories of space and place will
need to be considered in discussion of the specification of a product by its spatial origin. Here, local tradition and knowledge, and their transmission and instrumentalization, become especially important. These discussions raise questions such as:
How are taste and place connected? Which implicit knowledge is instrumentalized and sold with a GI-product? Where can
effects of the product’s ennobling in status of culinary heritage be found?

Particular emphasis will be placed on the effects of GI-processes within a conservation-constitution perspective. This emphasis raises another series of questions. How do products and regional awareness change? Are there influences on the market chances or on trust in the EU-instrument? Which differences have to be detected between regions with established or relatively new protection systems?

Discussing a European legal instrument, our workshop aims at detecting governance structures which underpin the GI-system as well as meta-cultural practices of transnational GI-regimes. What kind of interests and conflicts emerge? How does the establishment of GIs diverge between actors, regions, and countries? Which effects on culture and economy are tangible? How do claims to common right and common good complement the GI’s exclusive character?

In an effort to support multidisciplinary discussion, dialogue, and active participation, the presentations will be held for no longer than 20 minutes. We hope to encourage all those attending to contribute to the joint discussion.

The prelimary program is available here. If you wish to participate in the workshop, we kindly ask you to register with Sarah May.

Workshop: “Can sex be heritage? A thought experiment”, December 11, 2012

Workshop: “Can sex be heritage? A thought experiment”

by: Prof. Dr. Ellen Hertz, Université de Neuchâtel
Venue: Kulturwissenschaftliches Zentrum 1.610
Date: December 10, 2012 from 12 to 16 pm

One of the most thoroughly coded and meaningful things that human beings do and have traditionally done with their bodies must be sex. Sexual practices involve narratives, rituals, performance, beliefs about nature and the universe and skills, and yet nowhere in the intangible cultural heritage registers does one find them valorized or even mentioned. Why not? Is this just Puritanism, or does making bodies into heritage involve desexualizing them (or are these actually the same thing)? In this presentation, I would like to examine the rare examples or analogies I could find to see what they tell us about the ICH heritage regime’s techniques for disappearing sex.

Public lecture “Sex, lies and heritage. Gender equality vs. cultural diversity, round three”, December 10, 2012

Public lecture “Sex, lies and heritage. Gender equality vs. cultural diversity, round three”, December 10, 2012

by: Prof. Dr. Ellen Hertz, Université de Neuchâtel
Venue: Zentrales Hörsaalgebäude 003
Date: December 10, 2012

At first viewing, it is difficult to view the UNESCO-driven desire to safeguard intangible cultural heritage (“ICH”) and promote cultural diversity as anything but laudable. However, as many have pointed out before me, the preservation of what has been called “traditional culture” raises a number of issues for another excessively laudable series of U.N.-based initiatives: covenants designed to guarantee what have been labeled as “universal human rights”. This is particularly true, it seems to me, when it comes to gender equality, and notably the 1979 U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Gender differentiation is central in innumerable ways to all cultures, and discrimination, either explicit or implicit, often follows. Gender differentiation can take forms ranging from sex-based dress codes during rituals, to exclusion of women (or men) from certain areas of traditional knowledge, to the baring of women from certain trades or forms of cultural ownership, not to mention forms of bodily transformation such as excision that are clearly off-limits for heritage preservation efforts.
The state parties responsible for drafting the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of ICH were aware of these issues, and UNESCO even convened a working group that meet to produce specific recommendations on the subject. However, though the discussions were extremely interesting and sophisticated, they seem to have done more to illuminate problems at hand than to propose solutions. The guidelines and binding recommendations that were to have come from this work have not been issued or circulated. Indeed, the entire discussion seems to have disappeared from the UNESCO vitrine, and raising it today seems almost indecorous.
This paper is based on interviews with experts involved in these debates. It seeks to understand how the issue of gender inequality has been exited from the public sphere, and how it is handled in “private”, in the negotiations around specific propositions of ICH that reach the Paris office and the Intergovernmental Committee who screen UNESCO’s lists of ICH. It asks how UNESCO officials have in pragmatic ways “solved” a problem that I argue is fundamentally unsolvable if we respect the terms of the respective normative frameworks on the Conventions. I conclude by offering some suggestions as to a more productive framing of the problem of gender equality in a world where women disproportionately bear the burden of symbolizing and maintaining “cultural diversity”, and where the cause of sex equality is brandished by states for geopolitical aims.

Link: UMass Amherst Center for Heritage & Society


Link: UMass Amherst Center for Heritage & Society –

The UMass Amherst Center for Heritage and Society (CHS) is a multidisciplinary initiative to craft new approaches to heritage conservation and communication around the world. CHS offers research opportunities for scholars working in heritage related fields such as archaeology, history, environmental science, landscape architecture and regional planning, European studies, Native American Indian Studies, Afro-American Studies, Classics, legal studies, and public policy. Additionally, the Center provides undergraduate and graduate students with training and experience in heritage planning and management.

Workshop Review: Adat between state governance and self-determined indigeneity in Indonesia

Concentrating on the issues addressed in CP sub-project Cultural Heritage Between Sovereignty of Indigenous Groups, the State and International Organizations in Indonesia, this interdisciplinary workshop, organized by Prof. Dr. Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin and Serena Müller, M.A. took place on October 13 and 14th, 2012. Nearly forty participants from social anthropology and international law discussed Adat within the conference rooms of Göttingen’s historic observatory.

The program opened with introductory papers by Prof. Dr. Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin (Göttingen), Katja Göcke, LL.M. (Sydney, MPI for Comparative Public Law and International Law, Heidelberg/Göttingen University) und Maria Victoria Cabrera Ormaza, LL.M. (Göttingen). They discussed indigeneity in international declarations and conventions and in international law, enriched with ethnographic examples drawn from the various regions where Göttingen colleagues and associates are presently conducting work.

Sandra Moniaga, SH, spoke as legal expert on indigeneity in Indonesia. She connected a survey oft he legal situation and current developments with examples from the Kaneke in Western Java. As a longtime activist in the Indonesian indigneous movement, she was able to provide deep insights into the present situation and ist political background.

During the second day, adat was discussed on the basis of ethnographic examples. They ranged from Sumatra (Dr. des. Stefanie Steinebach, Göttingen, SFB 990) to Sulawesi (Dr. Karin Klenke, Göttingen, and Anna-Teresa Grumblies, M.A., Köln), Bali (Prof. Dr. Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin) and the Moluccas (Serena Müller, M.A.). The papers clarified commonalities as well as differences in the understanding of adat held by individuals and groups and illustrated the range of possibilities for indigenous agency that have evolved from international agreements. The presenters were also able to show how social structures transform or solidify in part due to these new possibilities. Adat stands for the demand for rights and claims – interpreted and used differently depending on the region. Participants discussed indigenous groups that are more egalitarian in their social organization aswell as more hierarchically organized groups. Dr. Fadjar Thufail (LIPI, Jakarta, research associate of the Göttingen Cultural Property Group) presented different types of networks established among the descendents of regional royal families. They make use of adat among other things to reclaim their former estates from the Indonesian state. Indirectly, they thus plead for the recognition of a stratified society within an Indonesian state that stands for the equality of its citizens.

The ethnographic examples dovetailed extremely well and encouraged the engaging and enriching interaction between international lawyers and social anthropologists. This was evident particularly also in the final discussion during which the different projects were brought together and scrutinized jointly from theoretical vantage points. The workshop papers will be published in a volume within the Cultural Property series of Göttingen University Press.