Cultural anthropologist Carna Brkovic on "getting things done" in Eastern Europe

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Cultural anthropologist Carna Brkovic. Publicity photo
Cultural anthropologist Carna Brkovic. Publicity photo

On Thursday, October 18, at 18.00 cultural anthropologist Carna Brkovic will give a public talk "Informality, Clientelism, Patronage, Favours: Anthropological Theories on Getting Things Done". The event will take place at the Conference Centre (Level -1), National Library of Latvia.

The talk will take place in the framework of the international conference "Tracing informality in Southeast and Northeast Europe: Anthropological perspectives". The event is organized by the Social Anthropology Program of Riga Stradiņš University in collaboration with the Latvian Association of Anthropologists and the National Library of Latvia, and with the support of the Baltic-German University Liaison Office.

About the talk:

In dominant political and developmental discourses, Eastern Europe is a region where people usually do things in a veering way. Indeed, many people in former Yugoslav countries pursue personal contacts so as to access healthcare or social benefits, all the while complaining about it. How can we understand this? How can we translate the need to engage in veering practices into English: is it a form of patronage or clientelism? An instance of informality? A pursuit of favours?

At stake is not just terminological nuancing – these words are embedded into separate bodies of literature and political debates, with very little conversation between them. Choosing a particular English word to describe these veering practices also means making particular epistemological and political choices.

In this talk the lecturer will discuss several anthropological theories on how people get things done in a veering way. She will argue that any attempt to understand informality in Eastern Europe should approach it as a contemporary practice that is often linked to global processes, rather than as an "ill" firmly located within a particular country. Instead of seeing Eastern Europe as catching up with the West, we could think of it as a region that points to possible global futures – the politics of life are increasingly becoming regulated through personal favors, informal kindness, and a patron’s care, both in the East and the West. This has serious implications for contemporary understandings of citizenship.

Carna Brkovic is a lecturer in Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology at the University of Goettingen, Germany. She is the author of "Managing Ambiguity: How Clientelism, Citizenship, and Power Shape Personhood in Bosnia and Herzegovina" (Berghahn 2017) and a co-editor of "Negotiating Social Relations in Bosnia and Herzegovina" (Routledge 2016).

Event language: English
Entrance: free

This project of the Baltic-German University Liaison Office is supported by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) with funds from the Foreign Office of the Federal Republic Germany.


Contact information:
Ieva Puzo