Research Seminar in Cultural Anthropology with Henrik Vigh

  • Date: –12:00
  • Location: Engelska parken Room 3-2028
  • Lecturer: Henrik Vigh, Centre for Global Criminology & Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen
  • Organiser: The Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology
  • Contact person: Chakad Ojani and Ana Chiritoiu
  • Seminarium

Our Other Others: Political anthropology and the defence of radical humanism

This paper critically assesses the impact of political and moral stances within contemporary political anthropology. Re-examining ideas of advocacy and the ethical within the discipline, it argues for an alternative approach that focusses on perpetration rather than victimhood, violators rather than the violated. If anthropology wants to be a discipline that works against social wrongs and suffering, then understanding the positions and perspectives of those causing it is a necessary point of departure. Yet how can we ethnographically approach people who transgress bodily, legal, and moral boundaries and why is this not more commonly done? The paper situates mainstream disciplinary ethics and highlights some of the reactions that the study of perpetrators evokes in anthropologists It shows that while there is remarkable theoretical and ethnographic nuance within the sub-discipline in terms of power and dominance, we lose our disciplinary bearing when we look at people identified as perpetrators. The paper suggests that anthropology engages more fully in the study of perpetration and approaches the issue by clarifying how such (mis)dynamics are anchored within shared social worlds and historical becoming. It calls upon us to expand our anthropological attention and curiosity beyond what might be morally comfortable.

Henrik Vigh is a political anthropologist with a special focus on conflict, crime, and conflict. He is currently the Director of the Centre for Global Criminology at the University of Copenhagen and a professor at the same university’s Department of Anthropology. He has conducted research in Guinea-Bissau for more than two decades and has published amply on civil war, migration, and criminology.