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Viadrina Institute for European Studies (IFES)


Previous courses at the European University Viadrina

Disappearance, Anthropocene, Abandonment. Languages of Social Devastation.

A series of diverse but convergent studies point out at the limitation of conventional categories of the social sciences when tryingto account for present phenomena of social catastrophe or devastation. What these diagnoses share is the perception that certaincontemporary social phenomena of exclusion, exception, or marginalization are not temporary or accidental anymore but becomestructural and permanent. In these interpretations notions that used to be considered the basis of modern liberal citizenshipregimes – like the individual rights holder, the nation-state, or even society– seem not to be entirely adequate for grasping theruined landscapes of late capitalism. Rather, this disadjustment may reveal their exhaustion. In this context, the alliances orcollaborations between humans and non-humans and the consequent imbrication of the social, the natural and the technologicalworlds are brought to the fore. For some, this de-centering of central modern categories goes hand in hand with a decenteringof the Western and/or Eurocentric anthropocentric assumptions for apprehending the world, and with the concomitant call foralternative epistemologies. In the seminar we will read this mostly recent literature and discuss its implications for the cultural andsocial sciences as well as its teachings with regard to the political present.

Mobility, Culture, and Society

Cultures and societies have always been mobile. However, since the 20th century mobility seems to have turned into a central feature of social life and a key to understand a globalized world. What does that mean for social, cultural, urban, and work life? How does our mobile everyday affect subjectivities? How can mobility as a concept help us grasp the singularities of the present? After an introduction into the logics of mobility and sedentarism, the seminar will study from the perspective of cultural sociology the increasing interest in movement and circulation after the industrial revolution and their impact on the daily life, especially with regard to the emerging urban environments, discussing also examples from the visual arts. We will then focus on particular problems of mobility with relation to the transformation of the repressive paradigms from a ‘disciplinary society’ with its spaces of enclosure (Foucault) into a ‘society of control’ (Deleuze) that emphasizes navigations and derives. We will discuss the consolidation of speed as a conceptual political category (Virilio), the effects of mobility on aspects like work life (Sennett), consumption and lifestyle (Reckwitz), and the everyday (Crary). We will engage with the emergence of differentiated global mobility regimes in relation to migration and border policies and close with a reflection on the relation of nomadism and mobility to intellectual production and academic life.

Sociology of Violence

What is violence and how can it be grasped sociologically? After an introduction to the various definitions of violence and their theoretical approaches, the double sessions are devoted to specific thematic complexes of violence research from a sociological perspective. These include questions about the actors of violence and the (legitimate) monopoly of violence by the state; the interrelationships of modernity, civilization and violence; the relationship between violence and bureaucracy and forms of indirect or "mediated" perpetration; the entanglements of colonial, patriarchal and gender-based violence, as well as violent acts in connection with resistance, emancipating or revolutionary processes. The seminar will question violence as a possible expression of social power relations, which can manifest itself not only in spectacular incidents but also in everyday actions. Beyond event-related approaches that focus on outbreaks of violence, we will discuss concepts such as structural, slow and silent violence. In addition to the definitions of violence associated with physical suffering, we will also discuss concepts such as cultural, symbolic, and epistemic violence. Finally, questions of the representation of violence and the possibilities of overcoming or dissolving violence will be discussed.

The Refugee: A European Construction?

Cases of forced displacement of populations have taken place all through the history across the globe. However, it is in a particular context in twentieth century’s Europe, that ‘the refugee’ emerges as a specific social figure and a legal category. The seminar studies the evolution of the figure of the refugee since the emergence of a consciousness of the phenomenon of forced displacement at the end of nineteenth century, through its gradual codification in treaties and techniques for managing displaced populations, particularly after World War II, until the more recent arrivals of asylum seekers to Europe since 2015. We will analyse the consequences derived from the definition of the 1951 UN Convention for the Protection of Refugees in terms of the social representations of asylum seekers in mainstream European societies. We will study the conceptual and practical problems posed by the differentiation between ‘legitimate’ refugees and ‘non legitimate’ migrants and explore their affinities with other figures of social exclusion or vulnerability. Focusing on the genealogy of the category will allow us to dismantle the idea that refugees are a universal figure and study it, instead, as an historical construct, the origin and product of the necessities of the time and place in which the category was codified.

Biometric controls in the EU: political and cultural implications

Biometric technologies have become increasingly the object of experimentation and use in the EU for border surveillance and control. While this fast development is difficult to monitor by both civil society and social scientists, it is posing a series of challenges not only in terms of data protection and privacy rights, but also concerning the assumptions and consequences for the definition of the human. What definitions of the border, of the persons crossing it and of the human body are at stake? What kind of subjectivities do they imply, reinforce or reproduce?

European Agency for the operational management of large-scale IT systems in the area of freedom, security and justice (EULISA). 2015. Smart Borders Pilot Project. Report on the technical conclusions of the Pilot (online).
Lodge, Juliet. 2010. Developing Biometrics in the EU. Policy Department C. European Parliament. (online).
Magnet, Shoshana Amielle. 2011. When Biometrics fail. Gender, Race, and the Technology of Identity. Durham, Duke University Press.
Torpey, John. 2000. The Invention of the Passport. Surveillance, Citizenship and the State. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Past courses

Theses supervision