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Intimate Uncertainties. Precarious Life and Moral Economy across European Borders

English title Intimate Uncertainties. Precarious Life and Moral Economy across European Borders
Applicant Strasser Sabine
Number 149368
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Institut für Sozialanthropologie Philosophisch-historische Fakultät Universität Bern
Institution of higher education University of Berne - BE
Main discipline Ethnology
Start/End 01.02.2014 - 31.07.2017
Approved amount 613'670.00
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Keywords (6)

artificial reproduction technology; migrant deaths; precarity; organ transplantation; border regime; moral economy

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Zunehmend treffen Menschen in prekären Situationen höchst problematische Entscheidungen, um elementare Bedürfnisse durch intime Begegnungen auf der jeweils anderen Seite der Schengen-Grenze zu erfüllen. Drei ethnographische Forschungen zeigen Nöte, Werte und Gefühle in Bezug auf Intimitäten zwischen Fremden.
Lay summary

Im Fokus des Projekts stehen drei Gruppen von AkteurInnen: MigrantInnen und Flüchtlinge, die trotz der rigiden europäischen Grenzpolitik das Risiko des lebensgefährlichen Grenzübertrittes auf sich nehmen; Leberkranke PatientInnen in Deutschland, deren Suche nach einem gesunden Organ sie über die EU-Grenzen hinaus führt; und russische Eizellenspenderinnen oder Leihmütter, die Paaren aus der EU den Kinderwunsch erfüllen.

Fragen von Geburt, Leben und Tod verorten diese Personen in einem intimen Beziehungsgeflecht, das geprägt wird von Aspekten der Moral, Prekarität, Ungleichheit und Intimität. Die Hoffnungen und Wünsche dieser Menschen sind unterschiedlich, alle sehen sich jedoch gezwungen, ihr Leben und das Leben anderer zu riskieren. Die Forschung wird untersuchen, wie diese „intimen Ungewissheiten“ bedingt und legitimiert werden. Intimität wird hierfür als ein Feld der Macht begriffen. Eine Macht, die nicht nur das Intime formt und kontrolliert, sondern es auch dem Bereich des Verborgenen und des Privaten entreisst.

Das Projekt möchte einen Beitrag zum noch wenig erforschten Bereich der Anthropologie der Moral sowie zu interdisziplinären Debatten über Grenzregime, Leben/Tod, Gefühle und Globalisierung leisten. Die Ethnographien thematisieren intime Beziehungen zwischen Fremden, die für den europäischen Kontext in den folgenden Jahren von steigender Relevanz sein werden.

 

 

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 18.12.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Leihmutterschaft in der Ukraine: Aufstieg – und Fall? – eines lukrativen internationalen Marktes
SieglVeronika (2019), Leihmutterschaft in der Ukraine: Aufstieg – und Fall? – eines lukrativen internationalen Marktes, in Ukraine Analysen, 211, 8-13.
Transnational moralities: the politics of ir/responsibility of and against the EU border regime
Perl Gerhild, Strasser Sabine (2018), Transnational moralities: the politics of ir/responsibility of and against the EU border regime, in Identities, 25(5), 507-523.
Confined Live(r)s: Self-Infliction and Arbitrary Survival in the German Transplant System
Rehsmann Julia (2018), Confined Live(r)s: Self-Infliction and Arbitrary Survival in the German Transplant System, in Anthropological Journal of European Cultures, 27(2), 45-64.
Lethal Borders and the Translocal Politics of ‘Ordinary People’
Perl Gerhild (2018), Lethal Borders and the Translocal Politics of ‘Ordinary People’, in Anthropological Journal of European Cultures, 27(2), 85-104.
The Ultimate Argument. Evoking the Affective Powers of ‘Happiness’ in Commercial Surrogacy
Siegl Veronika (2018), The Ultimate Argument. Evoking the Affective Powers of ‘Happiness’ in Commercial Surrogacy, in Anthropological Journal of European Cultures, 27(2), 1-21.
Exciting Waiting: Exploring Liver Transplantation in Germany
RehsmannJulia (2018), Exciting Waiting: Exploring Liver Transplantation in Germany, in Medicine Anthropology Theory, n. pag..
Aligning the Affective Body. Commercial Surrogacy in Moscow and the Emotional Labour of "Nastraivatsya"
SieglVeronika (2018), Aligning the Affective Body. Commercial Surrogacy in Moscow and the Emotional Labour of "Nastraivatsya", in Tsantsa. Journal of the Swiss Anthropological Association, 23, 63-72.
Fighting Hydra: The Uncertainties of Waiting for a Liver Transplant
Rehsmann Julia (2017), Fighting Hydra: The Uncertainties of Waiting for a Liver Transplant, in Tsantsa, 22, 47-56.
Uncertain Belongings. Absent mourning, burial, and post-mortem repatriations at the external border of the EU in Spain
Perl Gerhild (2017), Uncertain Belongings. Absent mourning, burial, and post-mortem repatriations at the external border of the EU in Spain, in Hunter Alistair, Soom Ammann Eva (ed.), Routledge, London, 00.
Uncertain Belongings. Absent mourning, burial, and post-mortem repatriations at the external border of the EU in Spain
Perl Gerhild (2016), Uncertain Belongings. Absent mourning, burial, and post-mortem repatriations at the external border of the EU in Spain, in Journal of Intercultural Studies, 195-209.
Märkte der guten Hoffnung. Leihmutterschaft, Arbeit und körperliche Kommodifizierung in Russland
Siegl Veronika (2015), Märkte der guten Hoffnung. Leihmutterschaft, Arbeit und körperliche Kommodifizierung in Russland, in Prokla. Zeitschrift für kritische Sozialwissenschaft, 178, 99-115.
Dancing through the Perfect Storm: Encountering Illness and Death in the Field and Beyond
RehsmannJulia, Dancing through the Perfect Storm: Encountering Illness and Death in the Field and Beyond, in Stodulka Thomas (ed.), Springer, New York, n. pag..
Lists in Flux, Lives on Hold? Technologies of Waiting in Liver Transplant Medicine
RehsmannJulia, Lists in Flux, Lives on Hold? Technologies of Waiting in Liver Transplant Medicine, in Vindrola-Padros Bruno, Vindrola-Padros Cecilia, Lee-Crossett Kyle (ed.), Berghahn, New York, Oxford, n. pag..

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
NCCR on the move, University of Neuchatel Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
University of Manchester Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
University of Liverpool Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Higher School of Economics, Moscow Russia (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Research Infrastructure
Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology Austria (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
- Exchange of personnel
LMU München Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
University of Southampton Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
University of Bern Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Tampere Finland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Anthropology Research Seminar Individual talk Dangerous Surrogates, Secret Economies and the Politics of Motherhood in Russia 11.12.2018 Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Bern, Switzerland Siegl Veronika;
SEG-SSE-SAA Annual Meeting: Knowledge (Trans) Formations in Anthropology Talk given at a conference 'Research assistants' and the composition of the ethnographic text. 22.11.2018 Zürich, Switzerland Perl Gerhild;
German Anthropological Association: Zugehörigkeiten: Affektive, moralische und politische Praxen in einer vernetzten Welt Talk given at a conference On the Mediterranean as an event. The after-life of deceased migrants in the Spanish-Moroccan borderlands 06.10.2018 Berlin, Germany Perl Gerhild;
Séminaire Mort(s) et migration. Individual talk Absent Presences: On the im/mobility and imaginaries of the dead and disappeared at the Strait of Gibraltar 28.05.2018 Paris, LESC , France Perl Gerhild;
Phil.-hist. Forschungstag Talk given at a conference Making a Living by Making Life 30.04.2018 Bern, Switzerland Siegl Veronika;
Biennial conference of the German Anthropological Association (GAA/DGV) “Zugehörigkeiten: Affektive, moralische und politische Praxen in einer vernetzten Welt,” Talk given at a conference Lists in Flux, Lives on Hold? Understanding the Accessibility to, and Exclusion from, Transplant Medicine 05.10.2017 Berlin, Germany Rehsmann Julia;
Present Challenges of Gender Studies Talk given at a conference Anleitung zum Glücklichsein. Die affektiven Ökonomien trans-/nationaler Leihmutterschaft 29.09.2017 Köln, Germany Siegl Veronika;
Research Symposium “Organs, Tissues, Contexts: Politics and Practices in the Era of Transplant Medicine” Talk given at a conference Incisive Decisions: The Politics of Waiting Lists in Germany 22.09.2017 Liverpool, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Rehsmann Julia;
4th Contemporary Drug Problems Conference “Making Alcohol and Other Drug Realities” Talk given at a conference Confined Live(r)s: Alcohol and the Ethics of Lists and Limits 24.08.2017 Helsinki, Finland Rehsmann Julia;
EASA Medical Anthropology Network, 2017 Biennial Conference Network Meeting "Bodies in Transition — Power, Knowledge and Medical Anthropology" Talk given at a conference Chronic Live(r)s: Temporal and Existential Uncertainties in Liver Transplant Medicine. 05.07.2017 Lisbon, Portugal Rehsmann Julia;
CDAS Conference: Death at the Margins of the State Talk given at a conference The shipwreck of Rota. Moralities of violent death in the Spanish-Moroccan borderlands 09.06.2017 Bath, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Perl Gerhild;
Annual Conference of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) Talk given at a conference Between stasis and movement: Remembering and imagining multilocality in a migrant’s detention centre in Spain. 16.11.2016 Minneapolis, United States of America Perl Gerhild;
International Workshop „Moral struggles in and around markets“ Talk given at a conference Paid labour or compensated gifting? Exploring the moral and emotional dimensions in transnational surrogacy 12.11.2016 Neuchâtel, Switzerland Siegl Veronika;
Revisiting Borders and Boundaries. Gendered Politics and Experiences of Migrant Inclusion and Exclusion Talk given at a conference Politeness of the oppressed: solidarity, humanitarianism and gender in Western Turkey (Aegean Area) 03.11.2016 Neuchatel, Switzerland Strasser Sabine;
Synthesising Transnationalism: Bridging Concepts and Moving Critique Talk given at a conference Transnational Moralities. Death and moral responsibility across the Mediterranean 23.09.2016 University of Vienna, Austria Strasser Sabine; Perl Gerhild;
14th EASA Bi-annual Conference “Anthropological Legacies and Human Futures” Talk given at a conference The Manifold Sites of Information: Managing Uncertainties and Responsibilities in Transplant Medicine 20.07.2016 Milano, Italy Rehsmann Julia;
23rd International Conference of Europeanists, Resilient Europe? Philadelphia Talk given at a conference Precarious protection: on the multiple meanings of the “refugee crisis“ in Turkey 16.04.2016 Philadelphia, United States of America Strasser Sabine;
International Workshop “Gender, Justice and the political economy of the cross-border fertility industry” Talk given at a conference ‘Doing it business-style?’ The Moral and Emotional Work in Surrogacy 08.04.2016 Wien, Austria Siegl Veronika;
Podiumsdiskussion "Streitfall Leihmutterschaft. Transnationale Reproduktionsmärkte, Rechte und Handlungsmacht" Talk given at a conference Doing it business-style 09.12.2015 Universität Basel, Switzerland Siegl Veronika;
Maynooth University, weekly seminar and CREOLE teaching exchange Individual talk Transnational Morality. The Politics of Death and Responsibility Across the Mediterranean, Lecture at the University of Maynooth 07.12.2015 Maynooth, Ireland Strasser Sabine;
SEG-SSE-Annual Meeting “Global Capitalism and the Challenge of Well-Being in the World Talk given at a conference Moralities of Infertility. Intended Parents’ Perspectives on Surrogacy in Russia and Ukraine 14.11.2015 Bern, Switzerland Siegl Veronika;
SEG-SSE-Annual Meeting “Global Capitalism and the Challenge of Well-Being in the World Talk given at a conference Restless bodies: Post-mortem mobility and uncertain belongings in the Spanish-Moroccan borderlands. 12.11.2015 Bern, Switzerland Perl Gerhild;
International Workshop “The ART of reproducing difference. Discussing (in)equality in the context of reproductive travel” Talk given at a conference Negotiating Power – Managing Uncertainty. Intended Parents’ Perspectives on Surrogacy in Russia and Ukraine 29.10.2015 Bern, Switzerland Siegl Veronika;
German Anthropological Association, Plenary session, invited lecture Individual talk Bedrohlicher Schutz. Effekte der „Flüchtlingskrise“ in der Südosttürkei 02.10.2015 University of Marburg, Germany Strasser Sabine;
7th InASEA Congress, keynote Individual talk The crisis effect: global moral obligations, peripheral governors and the figure of the abusing migrant 19.09.2015 Kadir Has university, Turkey Strasser Sabine;
EASA Biannual Conference in Tallinn Talk given at a conference Under suspicious eyes: surveillance states, security zones and ethnographic fieldwork 31.08.2015 University of Talinn, Estonia Strasser Sabine;
International Research Seminar in Sociology Individual talk Altruistic Pragmatism. Social understandings of surrogate motherhood in Russia 23.06.2015 Higher School of Economics, Moskau, Russia Siegl Veronika;
Das Mittelmeer und der Tod. Mediterrane Mobilitat und Sepulkrarkultur Talk given at a conference Uncertain Belongings. Tod, Bestattung und Repatriierung an der EU-Außengrenze in Spanien 18.06.2015 Bochum, Germany Perl Gerhild;
Body Discourses / Body Politics and Agency Talk given at a conference Neoliberal markets, free choices and the imagination of the East. Discussing surrogate motherhood in Russia 06.02.2015 Universität Wien, Austria Siegl Veronika;
Synthesising Transnationalism: Bridging Concepts and Moving Critique Talk given at a conference Transnational Moralities. Death and moral responsibility across the Mediterranean 29.10.2014 Bern, Switzerland Strasser Sabine; Perl Gerhild;
7th InASEA Congress, Istanbul Talk given at a conference Localising Moralities: Economy, Intimacy and Sociality in SEE 20.09.2014 Kader Has University, Turkey Strasser Sabine;


Self-organised

Title Date Place
Intimate Uncertainties: Existential Crises, Moral Consequences and Feminist Interventions Across Borders 26.01.2017 Ueberstorf, Switzerland
The relationship between agency and structure. From classical theories to contemporary debates” 06.09.2016 Basel, Switzerland
Entangled in Moralities: Studying Morals and Ethical Subjects Across Borders 24.02.2016 Bern, Switzerland

Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
Politik des Mitgefühls. Von Ungleichheit und Solidarität in der sozialen Arbeit, Keynote lecture at the 25th anniversary of the Beratungszentrum für Migrantinnen und Migranten Talk 03.12.2015 Vienna, Austria Strasser Sabine;
Warten auf das Spenderorgan: Existenzielle Unsicherheiten und emotionale Ambivalenzen Talk 21.11.2015 Leipzig, Germany Rehsmann Julia;
Wislikofer Gespräche Talk 01.06.2015 Wislikofen, Switzerland Strasser Sabine;


Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Print (books, brochures, leaflets) hope Western Switzerland German-speaking Switzerland International 2018
Talks/events/exhibitions hope - Buchvorstellung und Lesung International 2018
Talks/events/exhibitions hope – Buchvorstellung und Lesung (mit Sarah Hildebrand und Driss El Hadj) Western Switzerland 2018
Talks/events/exhibitions hope – Buchvorstellung und Lesung (mit Sarah Hildebrand) International 2018
New media (web, blogs, podcasts, news feeds etc.) The Presence of Absence in Surrogate Homes Allegra Laboratory International 2018
Talks/events/exhibitions Zehn Monate Rhaeto-Romanic Switzerland 2018
Media relations: print media, online media Wissenschaft hat einen schweren Stand Horizonte German-speaking Switzerland 2017
Media relations: print media, online media Feminismus und Leihmutterschaft. Ein Plädoyer für das Aushalten und Anerkennen von Widersprüchen aep-Informationen. Feministische Zeitschrift für Politik und Gesellschaft International 2016
Media relations: radio, television Leihmutterschaft und Familismus Radio Rabe, Sendung "Polyphon" German-speaking Switzerland 2016
Media relations: print media, online media Versuch einer Antwort. Reflexionen über einen Forschungsaufenthalt an der Grenze. Unipress German-speaking Switzerland 2015

Awards

Title Year
Barbara-Lischetti-Preis, Universität Bern 2018
Fakultätspreis der phil.-hist. Fakultät, Universität Bern 2018
Doc.Mobility, SNSF 2017
Doc.Mobility, SNSF 2017

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
175228 The shipwreck of Rota. Moralities of violent death in the Spanish-Moroccan borderlands 01.10.2017 Doc.Mobility
175223 The Liver's Time: Temporality and Precarity in Liver Transplant Medicine 01.09.2017 Doc.Mobility

Abstract

This research project will focus on the precarious and moral obligations involved in the intimate relations of people who cross Schengen borders. At the core of this research project are people whose inmost craving for a better life can only be satisfied on the other side of these borders. This is the case for three growing groups of actors that we intend to focus upon: migrants who die while trying to penetrate the European Union, European patients receiving organs from non-European donors, and prospective European parents resorting to non-European egg donors and/or surrogate mothers to procreate. All of these actors put their own lives and other people’s lives at risk in order to fulfill their own intimate desires. Their endeavors - however disparate - all encompass radical decisions against the backdrop of what we call intimate uncertainties. It is our contention that the current border regime of the European Union creates unprecedented settings of uncertainty shaping the intimate as a new site of power. We will analyze how this takes place on a transnational scale inside and outside of Schengen borders. We argue that intimacies are contested sites of power because they play out shifting tensions and encompass dichotomous spheres: security and freedom, life and death, private and public, local and global. Following Zygmunt Bauman, Judith Butler and Didier Fassin, we believe that these fluctuating intimate relations are deeply entangled with global moral obligations. In a globalizing world, precarity - as both inherent to our human condition and politically and economically defined - creates new social inequalities and urgently calls for a growing moral responsibility. The moral economy - as defined by Fassin as the government of emotions, norms and values - pertains this global responsibility. By means of three ethnographic studies, we will investigate the current context of global uncertainty and trace how the actors we are interested in negotiate, facilitate and constrain intimate desires, anxieties and values in new ways. Sub-project A addresses the lethality of EU border management in Andalusia (Spain) by looking at the migrants who die when they cross the border. The aim is to explore how new technologies of power and governance engender new moralities - understood as emotional and moral justifications of social practices, such as border control, the treatment of bodies, burial, and the cultural and political ways of remembrance, including grieving processes. This project addresses these moral assemblages and tackles the intimate experiences involved with migrant death. Sub-project B sheds light on the circumstances surrounding Germany’s transplant system and its ambivalences that causes people to cross EU borders to receive transplants. Under study will be the transnational interrelations of patients, surgeons and donors at three levels: states governing, clinics practicing and individuals intimately experiencing organ transplants. This sub-project focuses on precarity and moral obligations involved when patients face serious health problems, as well as the practices of moralities when a part of the body is exchanged from one person to the other. The study of these precarious lives on the threshold of life and death will contribute to a deeper understanding of the moral economy across EU borders. Sub-project C focuses on the perspectives and experiences of egg donors and surrogates in Russia. Since the mid-2000s, Russia has been evolving into a popular destination for so-called “fertility travellers” from the European Union and the global North. This ethnographic study will investigate the (intimate) encounters of different actors (donors/surrogates, medics, intermediaries) taking part in circuits of transnational reproduction. Prospective parents and donors/surrogates are conceptualized as in a state of precariousness, as both parties walk a fine line between coercion and free choice, creating life and taking risks by following their desires and needs.
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