[URBANTH-L] CFP: Who Cares ... and How? An Anthropological Inquiry into Support (MPI, Halle/Saale, Germany)

Angela Jancius jancius at ohio.edu
Wed Nov 21 00:56:08 EST 2007

Call for Papers: Who cares ... and how? An anthropological inquiry into 
(Halle/Saale / Deutschland)

Call for Abstracts Deadline: Deadline: 30. November 2007

The Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Department II, invites 
participants to a
conference from the 3 - 5 July 2008 at the Max Planck Institute for Social 
Halle, Germany, to discuss and develop anthropological approaches to the 
study of social


"Who cares ... and how? An anthropological inquiry into support"
3 - 5 July 2008

Organisers: Markus Schlecker and Friederike Fleischer
Venue: Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle/Saale, Germany

Ethnographic accounts of life under state socialism offer an instructive 
case of human
ingenuity in the face of pervasive shortage. The 'supplier state' that 
sought to monopolise
channels of support in many cases failed to do so thereby facilitating the 
role of personal
networks of support. In fact, the latter came to permeate the state to such 
a degree that it
became a resource in itself, to be distributed through these networks. Yet 
the supplier state
also provided a sense of stability and security, of guaranteed, however 
insufficient, supplies.
For the last two decades, whether in Eastern Europe, China or Vietnam, many 
have painfully
experienced the erosion of this basic sense of being looked after 'from 
cradle to grave'.
Today, the welfare states of late industrial nations in Europe and North 
America are also
undergoing far-reaching reforms. There, high levels of unemployment, ageing 
and cuts in social benefits also erode a sense of stability and security. To 
what extent is the
market here an alternative to personal networks? Clearly, one can observe 
"commoditisation of support", as part of an ever expanding service economy. 
This is not
limited to Europe and North America but can also be seen elsewhere. As a 
consequence, in
many parts of the world the social gap between those who can afford 'support 
for money' and
those who cannot is widening.

As anthropologists, we are interested in people's inventiveness in 
organising support and
the meanings they afford these practices. What can we learn from places 
where there is no
welfare state? How are notions and moral concepts of support acted out in 
daily life? What
kinds of sources and resources of support are mobilised? Support can mean a 
providing for child care or old age, but also a friend offering words of 
consolation, relatives
lending money, a citizen donating blood, a deity protecting a village or a 
group of elderly
offering sociability. Is support always necessarily serious business? Can 
support not be
organised through play? Local notions and modalities of support will also 
reflect and shape
ideas of the person and its efficacy. The ideal of individual self-reliance 
in the West is but one

Social support has received attention mainly from sociologists and 
especially in health studies and social network analyses. In anthropology, 
it has featured only
marginally and tended to be conceptualised as simply a form of transaction. 
It is one major
aim of this conference to examine and account for the continuities and 
between support and other kinds of transactions. As a broad frame for our 
enquiry into support, we suggest three terms: paternalism, mutuality and 
charity. These are
meant primarily as guidance for contributors. In a given setting, any or all 
three of these
modalities may be at play. Our first term, 'paternalism', makes reference to 
systems of support, be it a bureaucratic welfare state or a locally 
operating racketeering
group. Apart from paternalism, we suggest 'mutuality', where support occurs 
within less or
not hierarchically structured relationships. Finally, 'charity' is intended 
to capture those forms
of support that are locally considered 'interest-free'. Participants are 
invited to engage
critically with these terms and probe their utility.

The issue of support often arises in the context of dramatic life events. 
studies of life histories, social memory and temporality promise to be one 
important field
here. But legal anthropology, as for instance Keebet and Franz von 
Benda-Beckmann have
shown, can also be a productive perspective on social support. And of course 
the discipline's
long-standing interest in gift exchange seems essential for any study of the 
giving and
receiving of support. These three domains of inquiry in anthropology are not 
meant to be
exhaustive. We invite contributions from a wide range of regional and 
thematic areas in
anthropology so as to initiate a creative dialogue where anthropological 
knowledge and
models from one domain can help to shed light on issues of support in 

Please submit an abstract of not more than 200 words by 30th November 2007 
at the latest

Markus Schlecker, e-mail: schlecker at eth.mpg.de
Friederike Fleischer, e-mail: fleischer at eth.mpg.de

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