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Winter 2023-24 | After Lunch Lecture | 60 Minutes in Ethnography, Theory, Anthropology

Winter 2023/24
60 Minutes on ... ‘Crises, Sensing and sensemaking’

Wednesday, 14.00-15.15 h in the Department's Library

organized by Nina ter Laan, Carla Tiefenbacher and Martin Zillinger in Co-operation with the CRC “Media of Co-operation”

For students who want their attendance accredited (via the “Laufzettel”), please contact Annika Benz: a.benz@uni-koeln.de

This Lecture Series will explore dynamics of sensing and sense making, in situations of social and environmental crises.

The increasing spread of sensor technologies across a wide set of contexts restructures forms of perception, sensing and knowledge making. Sensors measure movements in the city, record air quality, temperatures and energy consumption, control production and logistics processes in interaction with algorithms and learning systems, track the behavior and well-being of people, recognize people in images and video recordings or re-organize (digital) terrains. Sensor data, their collection, analysis, and integration with other data formats, and their interaction with various forms of practice are constitutive not only of sensing, but also of sense making.

 In this series of talks, we are interested in forms of sensing and sense making vis-à-vis major dynamics of socio-political and environmental crises in and beyond the Mediterranean, in particular (1) mobility and related border regimes, (2) growing environmental crises and their (non)management, and (3) forms of social mobilization (activism) and their control.

 All three areas are characterized by specific forms of socio-technical sensing and the engagement with it - sense making. Both are distributed among multiple actors, including humans, machines, and the environment itself. Sensor media are becoming increasingly ubiquitous, and come with a number of ethical and political challenges – such as the erosion of privacy, new forms of surveillance, and socio-technical spread of prejudices and various forms of biases. They are often perceived as both – a driving force behind and a possible solution to different forms of social, political, technical and environmental crises.  

 The invited international guests will explore Sensing and Sense Making praxeologically – and thus in its various guises, forms and formats. Part I will investigate forms of sense making in the context of deadly borders regimes, in hazardous environments and as part of social activism. Part II will look at the challenges and opportunities of ethnographic research and public interventions to engage with situations of crises and collaborative knowledge production.

Programme  - October 2023

11.10.2023 | Khalid Mouna (Moulay Ismail University, Meknès, Morocco) |
When the margins produce their sound. Drug users in Tangier, Morocco.

Khalid Mouna's biographic profile

Khalid Mouna is an anthropologist, professor at Moulay Ismail University of Meknes. He is professor at the Master “Crossing the Mediterranean: towards Investment and Integration (MIM)” at the University of Ca’Foscari in Venice, and has been a Visiting Professor for the IISMM Chair at EHESS Paris, and at the University Paul Valery Montpellier III, and Porto University etc. He is a member of the scientific committee of the review Espace-Temps and the review FuoriLuog. His research publications focus on cannabis, social changes, migrations, and post-Arab Spring-social mobilization. He is the author of two books on the Rif region: Le bled du kif. Economy and power at the Ketama of Rif, Paris, Ibis Press, 2010 and Identity of the margin. Anthropological Approach of the Rif, Brussels, Peter Lang, 2018. He co-edited the book: Moroccan Lands. In the footsteps of researchers from here and elsewhere, La Croisée des Chemins, Casablanca, CJB / CNRS (Publication Award AUF) 2017. He has lead several international research programs, and is a member of many European research programs.

18.10.2023 | Johara Berriane (University of the Bundeswehr Munich,Germany) | Religious Place, Presence, and Sense-Making in African Migrant Trajectories within and beyond Morocco

This talk is also a keynote of the DiaMiGo Autumn Research Academy. Location: Dozierendenzimmer, Main Building.


West and Central African migration towards Morocco has been mainly analyzed as the effect of the regions’ role as Europe’s southern ‘frontier zone’ and zone of ‘transit’ or ‘waiting’ for migrants heading Europe. While looking at the interrelations of migration and religion, this paper will challenge this Eurocentric perspective and re-center the analysis on the South-South dynamics of African migration to Morocco. On the one hand, the paper will show how religious sites and the spaces connected with them shape multidirectional migration practices and life experiences in Morocco and beyond. On the other hand, it will describe how West and Central African mobile people shape and transform Morocco’s religious sites and landscapes. In other words, it will question the intersections of religious and migration infrastructures and describe the religious place-, presence- and sense-making in African migrant trajectories to and beyond Morocco. The talk will be based on ethnographic research conducted in a Muslim Tidjani shrine in Fès and in charismatic house churches in Rabat and Casablanca.

 Johara Berriane's biographic profile

Johara Berriane has been Professor of Flight, Migration and Social Mobility at the University of the Bundeswehr since 1 March 2023. After studying anthropology, political science and Islamic studies in Freiburg i. Brsg. and Paris, she obtained her phD in 2014 in Berlin with a dissertation on the trans-Saharan entanglements und mobilities in connection with the Sufi order of the Tidjaniyya. She was then a visiting researcher at the International Migration Institute in Oxford and the Zentrum Moderner Orient in Berlin, as well as a research fellow at the Chaire d'études africaines comparées of the Ecole d'économie et de gouvernance in Rabat. She later researched and taught in Dakar as part of the transnational research group on the bureaucratization of African societies initiated by the German Historical Institute Paris and the Centre de recherche sur les politiques sociales. Most recently, she was a researcher and co-leader of the research focus "Mobility, Migrations, Reconfiguration of Spaces" at the Centre Marc Bloch in Berlin and taught at the Humboldt University Berlin. She has conducted field research in Morocco, Mali, Senegal, and Côte d'Ivoire.

Programme - November 2023

08.11.2023 | Massimiliano Mollona (Università di Bologna) |
Between Art, Activism and Anthropology. An exploration of artistic practices as militant research.


The talk discusses ethnographic fieldwork as a process of sense making in the broader acception, that is of making sense of an increasingly complex and contested world, in which the practice of research and that of activism tend to overlap with unforeseeable consequences.  I discuss particularly the relevance of art practices for an ethnographic engagement at the threshold between pedagogy and activism.

Massimiliano Mollona's biographic profile:

Massimiliano Mollona’s main research focus is on labour, class, and post-capitalism. His work experiments at the intersection between anthropology and socially engaged art, both through scholarly contributions, and through practical engagement with the art world, such as collaborative film projects; directorship of the Athens Biennale and the Bergen Assembly and the founding of the Institute of Radical Imagination, a collective of social centres, curators, museums, and artists operating at the intersection of art and social activism. Mollona is leading the project Cinema as Assembly, a collaboration with major European museums and international scholars on cinema as tool of political gathering across indigenous locales in the global south; with anthropologist James Clifford he is working on Impossible Realism, and with artist Dora Garcia, on the ‘unartist’ as part of his project on communist art.

(click here for more personal details)

14.11.2023  | Filmclub 813 e.V. in co-operation with Juan Pablo Aris Escarcena (Universidad de Sevilla) | Film Screening and Discussion "Solidarity Crime"

Time: 19:30Uhr Location Kino in der BRÜCKE, Hahnenstr. 6, 50667 Köln


Solidarity Crime. The borders of democracy denounces the systematic policy of human rights violations against migrants and all those who have shown solidarity with them. The documentary presents their stories through interviews with migrants (at the borders of 14 cities and in 5 European countries) and with those who have been punished and continue to be prosecuted for facilitating - without any material gain - the entry, transit or stay of irregular migrants. Migrants have been criminalized for years; and for more than a decade, people who stand up for their rights have also been considered "solidarity criminals." But aren't these people among the more than 500 million European citizens the ones who best represent the fundamental values of the Union: Solidarity, respect for human dignity, defense of human rights?

Followed by a discussion with director Juan Pablo Aris Escarcena.

A cooperation of Filmclub 813 e.V. with the Mediterranean Liminalities Lab at the Institute of Ethnology of the University of Cologne.

Juan Pablo Aris Escarcena's biographic profile

Juan Pablo Aris Escarcena holds a PhD in Social Anthropology, specialised in migration studies with a focus on the bordering process of the European Union, the sociocultural implications of the EU migration policy, the construction of the regulatory framework for European borders within the European Union, and the impact, assimilations, and resistances at different levels in the face of this regulatory process. He has developed ethnographic fieldwork applying audio-visual sociology on the southern border of Spain; in several refugee camps, in the northwest of mainland Greece; in Calais and the northern region of France; in Ventimiglia, Schengen internal border between France and Italy; in southern Italy.

In collaboration with the filmmaker Nicolás Braguinsky, he has directed and produced the multi-awarded documentary film “Solidarity Crime: The Borders of Democracy”. The results of his work have been published in four languages, in several well-known scientific journals and books.

15.11.2023 | Juan Pablo Aris Escarcena (Sevilla) | Sensing and Sensemaking across Borders – Spain/Morocco: Borderscapes & humanitarian detention: Conflict & cooperation between securitarian and humanitarian actors.


Over the past two decades, humanitarian actors have become increasingly important in border management and, in particular, in the containment/detention of migrants. Since the conceptualisation of humanitarianism and humanitarian borders (Walters, 2011), much attention has been paid to the practices of humanitarian actors and their progressive imbrication in border regimes, analysing how practices are configured, how forms of knowledge (knowledge-power) are consolidated, or how these humanitarian actors interact with migrants.

While initial scholarly analysis of humanitarianism focused on what can be called professional humanitarianism (Fassin, 2011; Malkki, 1996; Ticktin, 2014), authors have progressively paid increasing attention to volunteering and volunteer involvement in humanitarianism, in most cases to extol it as a counterweight to the securitarian collusion of humanitarian organisations (Rozakou, 2012; Sandri, 2018) or as an element that in itself enhances the 'subversive' character of humanitarian action (Maya, 2022; Vandevoordt, 2019). This celebration of the relevance of volunteering has also been countered by critical voices reflecting on the capacities and limitations of volunteering to change the dynamics of governance (Theodossopoulos, 2016, 2020) and even focusing on how anthropology itself has contributed to (and benefited from) this voluntarism to access a new object of study (refugees) (Cabot, 2019).

In order to analyse the role of humanitarian actors in European borderscapes, we take as a starting point the central element of the dynamics of domination: the (in)mobilisation of migrants. By humanitarian detention, we mean all practices aimed at blocking migration projects through practices other than classic punitive detention, including a wide variety of forms of containment: forced, non-formal, indirect, and even through the redirection of mobility. In the face of these detention processes, humanitarian actors participate in multiple ways, assuming attitudes and developing actions that range from frontal opposition to direct collaboration and the enforcement of detention. In this paper we will look at the ways in which collaboration and active participation in humanitarian detention; while the documentary "Solidarity Crime: the borders of democracy" and the subsequent discussion will focus on the practices of opposition and resistance of humanitarian actors in the face of the dynamics of humanitarian detention.

Juan Pablo Aris Escarcena's biographic profile

Juan Pablo Aris Escarcena holds a PhD in Social Anthropology, specialised in migration studies with a focus on the bordering process of the European Union, the sociocultural implications of the EU migration policy, the construction of the regulatory framework for European borders within the European Union, and the impact, assimilations, and resistances at different levels in the face of this regulatory process. He has developed ethnographic fieldwork applying audio-visual sociology on the southern border of Spain; in several refugee camps, in the northwest of mainland Greece; in Calais and the northern region of France; in Ventimiglia, Schengen internal border between France and Italy; in southern Italy.

In collaboration with the filmmaker Nicolás Braguinsky, he has directed and produced the multi-awarded documentary film “Solidarity Crime: The Borders of Democracy”. The results of his work have been published in four languages, in several well-known scientific journals and books.

29.11.2023 Munira Khayyat (NYU Abu Dhabi) | A landscape of War


What worlds take root in war? This talk takes us to the southern border of Lebanon where resistant ecologies thrive amid perennial gusts of war. In frontline villages, armed invasions, indiscriminate bombings, and scattered landmines have become the conditions within which everyday life is waged. Here, multi-species partnerships such as tobacco-farming and goat-herding carry life through seasons of destruction. Neither green-tinged utopia nor total devastation, these survival collectives make life possible within an insistently deadly region. Sourcing an anthropology of war from where it is lived decolonizes distant theories of war and brings to light creative practices forged in the midst of ongoing devastation. Like other unlivable worlds of the Anthropocene, war is a place where life must go on.

Munira Khayyat's biographic profile

Munira Khayyat teaches anthropology at New York University Abu Dhabi. She is the author of A Landscape of War: Ecologies of Resistance and Survival in South Lebanon (University of California Press 2022). Her writing has appeared in American Ethnologist, Public Culture, JMEWS, Cultural Anthropology, Anthropology News, HAU and a number of edited volumes. Khayyat was a Member of the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton (2018-19). Before joining NYUAD in 2023, she taught at the American University in Cairo and the American University of Beirut. She holds a PhD in Cultural Anthropology from Columbia University.

Programme - December 2023

06.12.2023 Giovanni Gugg (Université Paris-Nanterre) | Magmatic lives around Vesuvius (Naples). Risk, scotomization and urban crisis


Vesuvius (an active volcano in southern Italy) is known worldwide for the destruction of Herculaneum and Pompeii following its eruption in 79 AD. However, in the last century, the area surrounding the volcano has been extensively urbanised, with 700,000 people now living in the highest-risk zone alone. Based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork, Gugg analyses the collective response to volcanic risk developed locally by the inhabitants of Vesuvius in terms of 'scotomisation', a defence mechanism that allows them to distance themselves from a possible element of anxiety. Scotomization is a particular pragmatic form of sensemaking, which captures the quality of a community-wide response to a contemporary sense of risk perceived as an ongoing condition of society.

For Gugg, it is possible to understand the local point of view of apparently distracted living in a place that involves risk-taking, but this implies processes of reworking and reformulating historicisation and spatialisation. To capture this point of view, Gugg conducted a 'walking type of interview', observed and described a place, and gathered participants' attitudes and knowledge through their simultaneous embodied interactions with him and the local environment, all against the backdrop of historically produced narratives about the material and symbolic devastation of the community.

Giovanni Gugg’s biographic profile (Nov. 2023)

Giovanni Gugg is PhD in Cultural Anthropology and lecturer in Urban Anthropology at the Department of Engineering of the University “Federico II” of Naples (Italy). He is currently a research fellow at the LESC (Laboratoire d’Ethnologie et de Sociologie Comparative) of the University Paris-Nanterre (France) for the international project “Ruling on Nature. Animals and Environment before the Law”. He is also a consultant for the ISSNOVA Foundation (Institute for Sustainable Society and Innovation), with which he deals with “safety culture” at an Italian and European level for the CORE project (sCience& human factOr for Resilient society).

Giovanni collaborated with the University of Colorado for the project “Covid-19 and Viral Violence”; with the LAPCOS (Laboratoire d’Anthropologie et de Psychologie Cognitives et Sociales) of the University Côte d’Azur in Nice (France); with the University “Jean Monnet” in Saint-Etienne (France) for the Erasmus Mundus Dyclam+ masters; with the University Babeş-Bolyai in Cluj (Romania).

His studies concern the relationship between human communities and their environment, especially when it comes to territories at risk. In particular, he has conducted a long ethnography in the red zone of the Vesuvius volcano to understand the motivations that residents give themselves for staying in such a dangerous area. He has also studied the cultural responses after earthquakes and other disasters. He is interested in communication and dissemination, like thematic exhibitions and museums or, more recently, radio and podcasts.

His most recent publications include:

  1.  “Crisi e riti della contemporaneità. Antropologia ed emergenze sanitarie, belliche e climatiche”, Edizioni Museo Pasqualino, Palermo, 2023. In italian.

  2.  “La lunga durata delle emergenze” (ed. by G. Gugg, E. Dall’Ò e I. Falconieri), monographic number of the italian academic review “Antropologia”, vol. 9, n. 2, june 2022, Università di Milano “Bicocca”. In italian.

  3.  “Ordinary Life in the Shadow of Vesuvius: Surviving the Announced Catastrophe”, in “Extraordinary Risks, Ordinary Lives. Logics of Precariousness in Everyday Contexts” (ed. by Beata Świtek, Allen Abramson, H. Swee, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2022. In english.

  4.  “Mon espace vécu. Une cartographie des témoignages de quarantaine pendant le confinement en Italie : une analyse géo-anthropologique” (with F. De Pascale), in «Cycnos» (monographic number of the french academic review, ed. by Charlie Galibert and Christine Bonardi), Nice, 2022. In french.

  5.  “Guarire un vulcano, guarire gli umani. Elaborazioni del rischio ecologico e sanitario alle pendici del Vesuvio”, in “Antropologia Medica” (italian academic review), 2021. In italian.


Programme - January 2024

10.01.2024 | Francis Pope (University of Birmingham, United Kingdom) | Air of the Anthropocene: Citizen Science and Air Quality Action | CANCELLED DUE TO ILLNESS


Professor Francis Pope will give an overview of his work on air pollution. In particular, he will discuss the approaches taken within the ‘A Systems Approach to Air Pollution’ (ASAP) project that brings researchers in air pollution, urban planning, economic geography, public health, social sciences, and development studies to provide frameworks for improved air quality management.  Thus far, the ASAP approach has been used in the UK, East Africa, India, and North Macedonia. Urban air pollution is a pressing and multi-sectoral development challenge, representing a major health, economic and social threat to cities of the global north and south. Air pollution is difficult to solve because it is a consequence of how we live our lives and how we power our economies. It is also easy to ignore. The talk will investigate the power of interdisciplinary collaboration and the interaction between art and science for moving scientific research into societal impact.

Francis Pope's biographic profile

Professor Francis Pope from the University of Birmingham, UK,  is an expert on the causes and effects of climate change, air pollution and resilient cities. He generates and synthesises evidence from multiple disciplines, including the natural, medical, and social sciences, to understand how climate change and air pollution affect human health and how they relate to urban development. 



17.01.2024 | Erella Grassiani (University of Amsterdam, Netherlands) | The Tree as Weapon: (non) state securitization of trees in the Negev/Naqab


Trees are significant for their economic, environmental, and spiritual value, and for the way they symbolize people’s rootedness to the earth. They green our surroundings, and more importantly, they are the lungs of our earth. The momentum of this environmental awareness, however, can also have a darker, less visible side. States and non-state organizations promote tree planting as an environmental or economic “magic bullet,” aiding nationalist political agendas by “greenwashing” them (de Freitas Netto et al. 2020). Because of their significance for people, trees can become powerful political tools for both state and non-state actors. In this presentation, Erella Grassiana will look at trees as part of Israeli securitization and extend the notion of securitization to include the planting of/planning for trees in efforts of continued Judaization of the Negev/Al Naqab. While Israel is known for attaching a powerful symbolism to tree planting (Braverman 2009; Long 2005) representing the rootedness of the Jewish people in the “Promised Land,” both settler movements and the Israeli state are also involved in tree-related politics for so-called security reasons and to gain control over land. Here I will scrutinize the planting of forests, as part of such a securitization quest, before they come into existence. I will ask what powers, ideologies, and actors are involved in its planning and how complex state-non-state entanglements, which include mostly extreme right Zionist actors, are involved here.

Erella Grassiani's biographic profile

Erella Grassiani (She/Her) is an Associate Professor at the Department of Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam. Her research interests include militarism, security, and politics of trees (arboreal nationalism), with research done foremost in Israel/Palestine. She is the author of Soldiering under Occupation: Processes of Numbing among Israeli Soldiers in the Al-Aqsa Intifada (2013 Berghahn Books). She has further co-edited Security Blurs: The Politics of Plural Security Provision (2019 Routledge) and The Entanglements of Ethnographic Fieldwork in a Violent World (2023 Routledge). She is the Editor-in-Chief of Conflict and Society: Advances in Research.

31.01.2024 | Christelle Gramaglia (University of Montpellier/ UMR-GEAU, France) | Collaborative Sensing of Industrial Pollution in the Gulf of Fos (Marseille) - A Return to Common Sense?



Christelle Gramaglia's biographic profile