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In April 2020 Ursula Rao joined the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle as Director of the new Department ‘Anthropology of Politics and Governance’ and will lead the department full time from 1 September 2020 onwards. She came from Leipzig University, where she has headed the Department of Anthropology for the last eight years.
Biao Xiang also accepted a directorship at the Max Planck Institute in April 2020. Xiang will head the new Department ‘Anthropology of Economic Experimentation’. During the transition from his position as Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Oxford, he will initially join the MPI on a part-time basis. Starting in September 2021 he will head his department full-time. more

In early March, life as we knew it underwent a dramatic change for many Europeans, and with it our understanding of ourselves and our world. As we watched the alarming scenes in the media of hopelessly overwhelmed hospitals in northern Italy, desperate appeals for help from medical workers, and convoys of vehicles transporting the dead, we collectively were forced to recognize that we were in the middle of a pandemic. The mysterious new coronavirus and the lockdown of society that it brought with it was no longer – as in the preceding months – merely something happening far away in China. For many, the circulating images from Italy solidified the awareness that COVID-19 was already among us and that it represented a more substantial danger than a passing outbreak of the flu. And with this recognition, things started happening at an unprecedented speed. In rapid succession, public life and economic activities were brought to a standstill, borders were closed, and freedom of movement was reduced to a minimum. Suddenly many things that people had until a few days ago considered a fundamental part of life as a citizen in a liberal democracy could no longer be taken for granted. Even the most ordinary forms of daily mobility – working at one’s job, commuting via public transportation, going shopping, visiting friends and family – were suddenly laden with complex bureaucratic and moral constraints. more

The corona crisis does not affect all people to the same degree. This much is clear. But little is known about how exactly marginalized groups are experiencing and coping with the pandemic, and what consequences the contact restrictions have for them. First-hand insight into these challenges comes from Luisa Schneider in the Department ‘Law & Anthropology’ at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, who has been observing the daily lives of homeless people for the last 14 months. Drawing on her experience with the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, she has helped to ensure continued assistance and new aid offerings for unhoused people during the crisis. more

The impact of the corona pandemic can be felt everywhere: it has affected nature, social life, the economy – and even our language. For in the search for the right words to capture the global outbreak, we turn to the same metaphors again and again: the crisis acts like a “microscope” or a “developing bath”, and sometimes it is even given the attributes of an “accelerant”. This imagery is meant to convey one thing: since the emergence of this virus, something is becoming visible that was previously less obvious. But what exactly is that something? How has the virus changed our view of the world and what is it that we suddenly see so clearly? Anthropologists are experts at answering just such questions. For their research makes them exceptionally good at looking closely at society and precisely identifying what they have seen. In the two blogs of the MPI numerous texts have been posted during the past weeks with reflections on the current crisis. And new posts continue to be written. more

An EU-funded project entitled “Vulnerabilities under the Global Protection Regime: How Does the Law Assess, Address, Shape and Produce the Vulnerabilities of the Protection Seekers?” (VULNER) has been launched at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology (MPI). Funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 Work Programme and the Canadian Research Council SSHRC/CRSH, the VULNER project has a budget of €3.2 million for a period of 3 years. Combining analysis of the legal and policy framework on migration with empirical case studies, VULNER will examine how nine countries in Europe, North America, Africa, and the Middle East address the vulnerabilities affecting migrants. more

On 19 and 20 February 2020, a workshop was organized at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology to launch the VULNER research project. Discussions centred on the key methodologies and concepts that will support the implementation phase of the project. more

On 12 March 2020 the crisis management committee of the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology decided upon the following measures, which will provisionally remain in force until 30 April 2020. more

From 11 to 13 December 2019 a conference entitled “Work, Ethics and Freedom” took place at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology (MPI). Using case studies, social anthropologists, sociologists, and legal scholars explored what is understood as “work” today and what rational, emotional, moral, and even spiritual dimensions work can have in various contexts. This was the first conference of the Max-Cam Centre (Max Planck – Cambridge Centre for Ethics, Economy and Social Change). more

Günther Schlee, Director emeritus at the MPI for Social Anthropology , on February 11, 2020 has taken up a professorship for Social Anthropology at the Arba Minch University, Ethiopia. The position is sponsored by the United Nations Development Program, UNDP. more

Dr. Kirsten Endres, Research Group Leader in the Department ‘Resilience and Transformation in Eurasia’ at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, has been appointed as a distinguished affiliated professor (apl. Prof.) at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg in recognition of her accomplishments in research and teaching at the university. more

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