André Thiemann

Research Interests
Moral Economies, Anthropology of the State, Anthropology of Post-socialism, (In)equality, Social Security, Social Networks, Local Welfare States, Extended-Case Method, Spatial Theory and Global-Local Relations

Research Area(s)
Western Africa - Nigeria, Eastern Europe - Serbia

Wissenschaftliches Netzwerk: Sozialfürsorge und Gesundheit in Ost- und Südosteuropa im langen 20. Jahrhundert - Andre Thiemann


André Thiemann came to the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in 2009 as a member of the Volkswagen Foundation-funded research group ‘Local State and Social Security in Rural Hungary, Romania and Serbia’. His supervisors were Keebet von Benda-Beckmann (Prof. Emeritus, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and former head of the Project Group Legal Pluralism at the MPI) and Tatjana Thelen (lead researcher of the research group and University Professor of Methods in the Social Sciences at the University of Vienna). He is currently a fellow at the ZIF Research Group ‘Kinship and Politcs: Rethinking a Conceptual Split and its Epistemological Implications in the Social Sciences’, based at Bielefeld University (until July 2017).

Thiemann conducted long-term fieldwork in central Serbia between July 2009 and November 2010. He has returned yearly for fieldwork and has further developed his expertise in the political and economic dynamics of the post-Yugoslavia space in general and in Serbia in particular. He defended his dissertation, State Relations: Local State and Social Security in Central Serbia, in June 2016 with highest honours (summa cum laude).

In his thesis, Thiemann addresses central questions of the anthropology of the state at the intersection of the fields of political economy and social security. He ethnographically examines local state relations in a region of central Serbia that is characterized by both rural and urban communities. He defines the local state not as bounded, but as a grounded, concrete, and complex network of relations from the sub-local to the transnational scales of the state. Everyday practices related to welfare, care, social security, and the infrastructure necessary to provide such services comprise the matters of concern that are valued by state actors, demanded of local state formations by citizens, and are principal drains on state budgetary resources. Infrastructure work represents the material promises, hopes for the future, and (dis)trust people have of the state. Welfare and care embody the dialectics of inclusion and exclusion, belonging, and shifting solidarities. Thiemann’s relational approach to the local state along four axes – embeddedness, boundary work, relational modalities, and strategic selectivity – opens a critical vista on the concrete, complex processes of state construction, reproduction, and transformation.

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