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New Staff

Our department welcomes two new academic staff members this semester - Sarah Hanisch and Roberta Zavoretti. Welcome!

Interview with Sarah Hanisch

Mrs Hanisch, welcome at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology. Please, tell us a bit about yourself. Where were you before and what are your research interests?

Sarah Hanisch: I worked as a research assistant (Prae Doc) at the University of Vienna for three months and spent eight months in Lesotho and one month in China. I have taught courses on China and China-Africa relations with an anthropological focus, which is also my main research area. In my research, I deal with Chinese immigrant women in Lesotho and their relatives and friends in China. I am particularly interested in the question of how migration fits into the life's plan of the respective women.

What can the students expect with regard to your course offer?

Sarah Hanisch: This semester, I teach two courses - one for bachelor and one for master. The bachelor course is all about the thematic area China and Migration. It is mainly about reading texts. This is what I also focus on in my courses: reading and intensively discussing texts. Similar in the master course. Only here we look at the dialogue between texts from African anthropology and those from Chinese anthropology on modernity. In the next semesters, I will offer further courses on the topic of anthropology in China as well as academic working techniques from the winter semester 2018/19 on.

You just recently moved to Cologne. What do you like especially in Cologne?

Sarah Hanisch: At the moment, I haven't had much time to discover Cologne. On the weekend, I was at the Rhine promenade, which is very nice. And, of course, the friendliness of the people compared to Vienna. At the department, I like the fact that so many colleagues are working on the topic "Global South", and I am looking forward to the exchange with the colleagues and students.

Interview with Dr. Roberta Zavoretti

Preparation for Valentine's Day in China.
Preparation for Valentine's Day in China.

Mrs Zavoretti, welcome to our department. Would you tell us about some important moments in your academic carrier?

Roberta Zavoretti: I did my studies in anthropology in England between 2003 and 2010. That included a master's and a PhD degree in social anthropology at the University of London, SOAS. Before then, I already had a degree in Chinese studies, therefore I come from a mixed background. After getting my degrees at SOAS, I moved to Germany to do a postdoc at Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle Saale, where I stayed for five years. After that I moved to Berlin where I taught a little bit in mainly FU Berlin but also in Humboldt University, and then I landed here in Cologne.

What are your research interests and areas?

Roberta Zavoretti: My PhD was dealing with internal migration in China. It quite quickly moved to more traditional issues of class. My research was basically trying to figure out how much rural and urban distinction is used in China to avoid talking about class. This ended up in a publication of a book about migration and class, which came out in 2016. The book is called Rural Origins, City Lives (University of Washington Press).

After that my research moved away from migration, although it really never left it completely because it is such an important theme in urban China. I focused more on marriage – this second research topic emerged from the first one. My informants were talking about marriage all the time, so I felt I probably had to look into that more closely as it was so important to them. This is how I got interest in the study of kinship. This is a somehow unfashionable theme to study nowadays but in fact I found it particularly interesting, also because I had a previous interest in gender. I was very surprised at how my interest in class and gender could converge through the study of kinship. Therefore my postdoc looked at marriage and class mobility. Now I am following this route and hope to start a project, possibly next year, on relations that are not considered to be kinship but are not really market relations, either. There are kind of falling into a grey area. For example, something that is very spread in China, concubinage, might be one of them. The idea is to look at them as if they were closer to kinship than they are generally portrayed and see what comes out of this different point of view.

You teach two courses this semester. What they are about?

Roberta Zavoretti: One is “Class, Ethnicity and Gender in China”. This is a BA class I actually already taught in the past. The idea of this course is to pull apart the idea of China as a homogeneous nation-state. China is one of the specific cases in which the country is generally portrayed by historiography and media as a unity, as a whole. But in fact who has ever been in China may experience it as an extremely fragmented society. Hence the idea is to have a course that goes a little bit against the grain and helps the students to think the nation-state in general and China in particular as a unity that is contested and fragmented. This is why we study China through lines of division like social inequality of gender, class and ethnicity. That also involves, for example, reading key texts on post-colonialism and on poststructuralist theory. It is interesting but also leaves the students quite puzzled at the beginning, because it does not always fit with what we all learn outside the classroom.

The second class is a new course that I have designed on value production and labour. It is a bit more theoretical than the other one. The idea is to go through the main theories of value production, in particular structuralist and Marxist theories and see how they interact in ethnographic production; to see how ethnographic production either brings them together or pitches them against each another. It is designed as a Master course because it is a more theoretical and challenging, but several BA students are attending it as well.