Forschungsschwerpunkt: Anthropologie des Staates

Law and order in urban India

Prof. Julia Eckert

Studying everyday policing in Mumbai, I analyses police interpretations of law and the multifaceted social, economic and political relations that such interpretation is embedded in. I thereby trace the negotiations of rights, norms of justice and authority that occur in everyday interactions between citizens and state officials, as well as among state officials themselves. I am particularly interested in how security legislation has come to define the limits of legitimate political articulation.

Contested claims: The Debate between State, Sami Parliament and Local Organizations about Fjordal Resources in Northern Norway

Angelika Lätsch

Nach dem drastischen Rückgang der Dorschbestände durch Überfischung in den letzten Jahrzehnten wurde in 1990 erstmals eine Fahrzeugquote in der Fischerei eingeführt. Als Konsequenz davon wurden viele Kleinfischer in Nord-Norwegen, vor allem Fischer samischen Ursprungs, von der Fischerei ausgeschlossen. Das vorliegende Forschungsprojekt beschreibt den Kampf der norwegischen Küstensami, unter anderem über ihren Urvolksstatus, die Fischereirechte zurückzuerlangen. Dabei spielt die Identität als Gruppe eine entscheidende Rolle.


Prof. Julia Eckert, Simon Affolter M.A., David Loher M.A., Lic. rer. soc. Simone Affolter

In contemporary European border regimes, border control practices are no longer restricted to the proper geo-politcal border, but relocated and deterritorialised. Nonetheless, undocumented migration towards Europe persists. Unsurprisingly, migrants as mobile subjects exercise their transnational mobility and continue to cross borders. Although not part of the EU, Switzerland is integrated in manifold ways in and part of these European border regimes. Taking the relocation and deterritorialisation of borders as a starting point, the project studies three exemplary modes of doing borders in relocated and deterritorialised border regimes. 

The first subproject studies the externalisation of border regimes in the transnational space of mobility between Tunisia and Switzerland. In particular, it focuses on the negotiation of so-called voluntary return migration. 

The second subproject analyses internalised border control practices. It studies camps for asylum seekers in Switzerland and reads them as border zones within the state. It asks how power relations are inscribed in everyday interactions between officials and rejected asylum seekers.

The research of the third subproject focuses on the persisting permeability of the border in the European border regime. It analyses the governance of seasonal labour migration of undocumented migrants from Eastern and South-eastern Europe in the agricultural sector of Switzerland. 

The multi-perspective approach allows to grasp the complexity of the European border regime. It provides in theory and empirical data new insights into the interdependencies between undocumented migrants’ transnational social spaces and border control practices.

Link to the Project

Law in Protest: Transnational Struggles for Corporate Liability

Prof. Julia Eckert, Angela Lindt M.A.

Negative impacts on the environment and on the livelihood of local populations caused by transnational corporations (TNCs) operating in the so-called Global South have become a politically contested issue. Holding the companies involved or their employees legally liable has often been difficult because of jurisdictional or governance obstacles. Regardless the difficult legal situation, there are worldwide growing attempts to bring TNCs to court for violations of human rights or for serious environmental damages. By referring to a transnational discourse of human rights and by using international narratives of law and justice, local protest groups make use of law as an instrument to legitimize their claims and to gain international support for their struggles. In most of the court cases social movements, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and transnational networks of human rights lawyers play a major role. These networks often include not only European cause lawyers and the concerned plaintiffs in the operation area of the defendant TNC, but also link plaintiff groups, local NGOs and lawyers of independent court cases in different countries.
A considerable gap in research exists concerning how advocacy organisations and local plaintiffs influence each other with respect to normative evaluation, political goals and litigation strategies. The project “Law in Protest: Transnational Struggles for Corporate Liability” enquires into these changes, examining the normative change born from these litigation processes both among local plaintiffs and in the legal norms adopted to litigate against TNCs. Our project assumes that lawsuits and the practices of “case-making” are social processes that, on the one hand, reflect existing power relations between actors involved, but, on the other hand, provide space for negotiations about norms, interpretations and goals.
By conducting empirical ethnographic research on the work of lawyers and human rights activists in different settings and places, the overarching aim of the project is to find out whether the strategic application of national law leads to normative - legal as well as social - change. We content that by a) enquiring into the evolving strategies of local plaintiffs using national laws against TNCs, b) the strategic litigation of cause lawyering by transnational legal NGOs, and c) the relationships between these different actors involved in the court cases we can gain insights into the normative changes occurring at these different levels. We will analyse the practice of strategic litigation applied by cause lawyers in Germany and the United Kingdom (subproject A) as well as by social movements and local NGOs in Peru (subproject B). We investigate how local protest movements and international law firms introduce transnational discourses of human rights and social justice into individual national court cases with the intent to enforce social and political change on the local level. By studying these transnational human rights networks in the field of corporate liability, the project deals with a key issue of contemporary social anthropology.