Author: Friederike Brinker


The notion of solidarity is, in everyday life, often connected to migration and refugees. But which relationships and actions are actually described with the term is only loosely defined. Heike Drotbohm starts her article with the history of the term and the contradictory dimensions of meaning that emerged from that history. She then analyzes examples of pro-migrant activism in europe and the challenges of variations of solidarity that emerge out of compassion

Drotbohm, Heike (2022): „Solidarität“, in: Inken Bartels, Isabella Löhr, Christiane Reinecke, Philipp Schäfer, Laura Stielike (Hg.), Inventar der Migrationsbegriffe, 07.10.2022.

The article is available in german here.

Care beyond Repair

To care about and for others—that is other people, collectivities, plants, animals, or the climate—is a mundane and ubiquitous act. At some point in life, almost every human being needs to be cared for, encounters care, and eventually provides care. In anthropology, the critical notion of care provides an analytic tool for seriously considering life’s contingencies and for understanding the ways that people ascribe meaning to different kind of acts, attitudes, and values. This chapter argues that the concept’s normative dimension forms part of a cultural binarism that hierarchizes the world according to differently valued spheres of existence. Concentrating on this normativity as inherent to the notion, the chapter distinguishes three complementary empirical fields: care as (globalized) social reproduction, care as institutionalized asymmetry, and care beyond human exceptionalism. It becomes clear that care oscillates between two different perspectives, producing a particular tension. On the one hand, the care concept features a protective and conservative dimension that is congruent with the past. On the other hand, the concept incorporates a transformational dimension through its notions of development, progress, and improvement. To move beyond our own (potentially or inevitably) academic, Eurocentric, or human-centric understanding of the notion, this essay suggests moving “care beyond repair.” We can do so, first, by asking what role research plays in this differentiating ethics and, second, by identifying perspectives and positionalities that, at first glance, appear indistinct or inarticulate and hence do not confirm already-familiar categories of evaluation and distinction. Seen this way, care beyond repair draws attention to the making and unmaking of human existence.

Drotbohm, Heike 2022: Care beyond Repair. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology. New York: Oxford University Press.

The text is available in english and, in the journal "Mana", in a portuguese translation.


End of Hell? Brazil’s Election and a Community Kitchen of the MTST

On 30/10/2022, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula) of the Workers’ Party won an exceptionally close runoff election against the current far-right president of Brazil, Jair Messias Bolsonaro. For volunteers of a community kitchen (Cozinha Solidária) of the leftist Homeless Workers Movement (MTST), Lula’s victory represents an enormous relief and a hope after the long period of anxiety during the election campaign. Elena Maria Reichl describes the perspective of the kitchens volunteers in a blog post.

Reichl, Elena Maria 2022: End of Hell? Brazil´s Election and a Community Kitchen of the MTST. In: Focaalblog, available under:

Religion and Global Cultural Variation

Lecture by Ara Norenzayan
25.01.2022, 4pm
Alte Mensa, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

The world we live in is teeming with cultural diversity in beliefs, values, and preferences (cultural traits). While we know that geography, ecology, and national culture play important roles, there is conflicting views on whether religious traditions are also potential drivers of this diversity. How much of the global variability in cultural traits can be traced to religious traditions and to religious commitment?  To answer this question, cultural distances between religious groups were measured and compared to distances between nation-states and to other demographics, drawing on a global sample from the World Values Survey (88 countries, N=243,118). We find that around the world, people who affiliate with the same religious tradition and have similar levels of religious commitment share all kinds of cultural traits. Despite their heterogeneity, the “Big 5” world religions – Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism -- as well as secularism, share cultural traits that have persisted across geographical, linguistic, and political divides. I discuss some limitations on what we can infer from these findings, and conclude with thoughts on the place of religion and secularism in the cultural evolution of human societies.

The lecture will be held in english.


Posted on | Posted in Events