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Date: Wed, 21 Nov 2007 00:56:08 -0500
From: "Angela Jancius" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: [URBANTH-L]
 CFP: Who Cares ... and How? An Anthropological Inquiry into Support
 (MPI, Halle/Saale, Germany)
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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 Anthropology, Halle, Germany, to discuss and develop
anthropological approaches to the study of social support.


"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 populations 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 the "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 state 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 example.

Social support has received attention mainly from sociologists and
psychologists, 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
discontinuities between support and other kinds of transactions. As a
broad frame for our anthropological 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 top-down 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.
Anthropological 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 another.

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

Markus Schlecker, e-mail: [log in to unmask]
Friederike Fleischer, e-mail: [log in to unmask]


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