AGM 2019: Europe, knowledge politics and bureaucracy: anthropological perspectives


The EASA AGM and Seminar will take place on 28th and 29th October in Brussels at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Laboratoire d'Anthropologie des Mondes Contemporains.
Campus du Solbosch, Institut de Sociologie (batiment S), Janne Room (15ème niveau), 44 avenue Jeanne, 1050 Bruxelles

The AGM will take place at 14:00 on 28th - read the agenda .

The seminar focuses on the Anthropology of Bureaucracy/Policy and is an opportunity to reflect and discuss from an anthropological point of view the dynamics and processes that take place within European institutions in Brussels. Angela Liberatore, head of ERC Social Sciences will participate in the the seminar and share her experiences with us.

The main aim is to initiate a conversation to critically assess how European Union (EU) institutions have intervened in, and helped to shape, both research practices and research results in Europe within the last thirty years. Drawing on anthropological approaches, the seminar will take advantage of being held in Brussels in order to bring policy makers of the European Commission and funding agencies implied in the EU policy on research to the table. The intention is to provide a two-way street: presentations by anthropologists on their understanding of the EU’s research agenda and its implementation, and commentaries from policy makers about what they were hoping to achieve. This will be an opportunity for anthropologists to engage with the institutions that have provided both much of the funding and the policies that have shaped academic research in Europe, for good or for bad.

Timetable of seminar and AGM

Monday 28/10

09:15 Introduction: Sarah Green (EASA President), Sasha Newell (LAMC Director)

This roundtable will begin the day through drawing on the expertise of several anthropologists who have addressed questions that are key to the workings of the European Union and its policies. The overall aim will be to give a sense of how anthropological approaches can contribute to the ongoing debates that are both generated by, and affecting, the working of the EU.
Alexandra Oanca is a specialist on concepts and policies involving European cultural heritage, and particularly the European Capital of Culture program. See below for an abstract of her presentation for the round table.
Cris Shore has spent many years on the anthropology of policy and bureaucracy, and has written extensively about the European Union and EU policy.
Noel Salazar, a former President of EASA, is an expert in concepts of (im)mobility and questions of cosmopolitanism and relations between the global-local nexus.
Manuela Boatcă, the discussant for this roundtable, is a specialist on postcolonialism and the traces that Europe has left around the globe in terms of structures, ideologies, laws, and particularly in terms of inequalities.
Noel Salazar (University of Leuven)
Cris Shore (Goldsmiths, University of London)
Alexandra Oanca (University of Leuven/University of Hull)
Chair: Sarah Green (University of Helsinki) Discussant: Manuela Boatcă (Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg)

11:00-11:30 Coffee/tea

11:30-13:00 Panel 1: The EUropean Law, Bureaucracy and Governance of Anthropology: authorship & ethics in big projects

In May 2018, the European Union (EU) introduced the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), with the aim of increasing transparency in data processing and enhancing the rights of data subjects. Within anthropology, concerns have been raised about how the new legislation will affect ethnographic fieldwork and whether the laws contradict with the discipline’s core tenets. To address these questions, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) hosted an event, entitled ‘Is Anthropology Legal?’, bringing together researchers and data managers to begin a dialogue about the future of anthropological work in the context of the GDPR. Discussions touched ethics, data processing, anonymisation practices and archiving research, all of which could impact future funding for anthropological research both in the EU and originating from it. Issues often, at their core, hinged on anthropology’s future relationship with the public and the emerging ethical responsibilities that this entails. In this paper, I report and reflect not only on the event and on the possible implications for anthropological research ethics committees primarily structured for medical – rather than social scientific – research. within a climate of increasing governance but also on my own experiences conducting applied anthropological research within England’s National Health Service (NHS), which involves navigating.

The emergence of new forms of knowledge production in academia, which privilege large externally funded projects, is making new collaborations possible. However, it is also creating new forms of exploitation, precarity and hierarchy, potentially turning researchers into data gatherers. Collaboration within projects is often organised through vertical structures, with an unequal distribution of rights and responsibilities. Furthermore, the transfer of an ill-fitting science model to the human and social sciences threatens the ethical integrity and epistemological underpinnings of disciplines like anthropology that claim a particular relation to its ‘data’. While project-based research has become rapidly normalised, there are yet no collegial, discipline-specific agreements on how this type of collaboration should be managed. Following a series of consultations, these guidelines clarify the relationship between data production, data ownership and authorship in anthropology and suggest some ground rules for ensuring fair working relations within projects. While some points are specific to anthropology, others address broader issues of career development and project structure applicable across the social and natural sciences.

According to the European Research Council (ERC), 'ethical compliance is seen as pivotal to achieve real research excellence'. Therefore ERC research projects needs to go through a thorough Ethics Review Procedure and Ethics checks before and during its implementation. This paper will draw on my reflections as Principal Investigator of an ERC Starting Grant, called RIVERS (2019-2024), marked by an inductive legal anthropological approach which aims to generate an in-depth understanding of indigenous and international legal perceptions of water. RIVERS will conduct ethnographic research among indigenous communities threatened and/or affected by extractive development projects in Colombia and Nepal, many of whom are survivors of the armed conflict. RIVERS recognises that academic research is a site of epistemological and political struggle between ways of knowing of the “West” and the ways of resisting of historically discriminated and silenced “Others”. This project wants to contribute to the necessary process of decolonising research methods, and wants to support the participating indigenous people to reclaim control over their own ways of knowing, being and living. However, to what extent can or cannot European ethics procedures support this necessary academic decolonization process? This paper intends to explore pressing challenges and questions related to these ethical debates.
Chair: Mariya Ivancheva (University of Liverpool); Discussants: Cris Shore (Goldsmiths, University of London) and Joël Le Déroff (Project Adviser Ethics, ERC Executive Agency)

13:00-14:00 Lunch

14:00-16:30 AGM: read the agenda

16:30-18:00 Drinks reception

Tuesday 29/10

This will be a closed-door session to discuss EU funding and policy towards the social sciences and humanities, with discussions between EASA, the European Alliance of Social Science and Humanities (EASSH) and the Initiative for Science in Europe (ISE), given changes in the new European Commission. The aim is to share experiences and discuss possible strategies in dealing with the current challenges.
Gabi Lombardo (EASSH Director) Martin Andler (ISE President), Marco Masia (ISE Executive Coordinator)
Chair: David Mills; Discussant: Mariya Ivancheva

11:00-11:30 Coffee/tea

11:30-13:00 Panel 2: The Borders and Bordering of European Anthropological Research

This presentation will focus on the experience of the Open Learning Initiative (OLIve) program, an education program for refugees and asylum seekers funded by the Erasmus+ Social Inclusion program and what the process and experience of providing education for refugees might tell us about Europe and its borders. OLIve programs run at Central European University, the University of Vienna, the University of East London, Bard College Berlin and Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. This paper will focus mainly on the OLIve program at CEU where I work. OLIve programs offer university preparatory programs but are hampered by the way European borders impact on people with refugee status: students with ‘integration contracts’ are immobilised and unable to travel beyond a national border to attend university(or, in some cases beyond a municipal or länder border) for further study based on a territorial idea of ‘integration’ animated by culturalist and/or security concerns; and students are immobilised by university systems that insist they pay tuition fees at 3rd country national rates. Further immobilisations occur due to an approach to education access that focuses on recognising recognising equivalence - i.e. the assessment of past education qualifications in light of European qualifications (the latter are treated as the norm) to which refugees’ qualifications must be measured (and doomed to rarely quite measure up). The result is a cultivation of a colonial-tinged discourse and policies of what refugee students lack (reminiscent of Edward Said’s study of what the Oriental will alway lack before the Occident). All this is folded of course into a notion of integration that emphasises that refugees have to be made to fit, and demonstrate that they fit, into something called ‘European society’ that is simultaneously superior to and under threat, a way of life requiring defence, in relation to refugees. Studying refugees in Europe tends to reveal ruptures and fissures in the European mythology, and when studying education the situation is no different. The Erasmus+ program, designed to foster European identity and free movement, when applied to refugees points to large contradictions in the idea of Europe and reveals a space pockmarked by inequality, racialisations and a persistent coloniality.

How does anthropology fit into interdisciplinary collaboration in an ERC funded project? One of the problems that Horizon Europe set out to address was the isolation of academic disciplines from one another behind epistemic boundaries that few dared to cross. Through proactively funding projects that incorporate a multidisciplinary approach, the EU made it possible, even desirable, for specialists in different areas to speak to, work with, collaborate with, and foster networks with each other. It is worth examining how these ideals work in practice, with a specific lens on the contribution that anthropologists can make. Deploying personal experience from placement as an anthropologist within in an interdisciplinary ERC project, this paper examines the opportunities and challenges, and sometimes frustrations, of one such collaboration. Publishing, the casualisation of project labour, departmental mores, and differing methodological expectations all come up for critical evaluation. How is knowledge produced in an interdisciplinary project? What happens when bureaucratically mandated ideals are enacted in practice? Through analysing what anthropology has to offer in ERC collaborative projects, this paper provides a particular instance of how the EU’s research agenda is being implemented across disciplinary borders.

The study abroad and research opportunity aspirations among young people in Montenegro highlight a set of paradoxes: both those embedded in the higher education and research system in the country on its course to join the European Union, and also those engendered by EU study and research mobility policies and programs. Based on the ethnographic data collected in Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro, during the summer and fall of 2017, my paper examines just a couple of the ironies and ambivalences that Montenegrin students and researchers face when pursuing study and research opportunities outside the country – and in the EU particularly. My paper highlights how the search for study and research funding in which young Montenegrins engage is a highly contradictory process. That is, on the one hand, the successes of the search incite a sense of aspirational belonging to the EU and what it seems to represent. On the other hand, the failures of it, as well as the “what next” question upon the completion of a study or research period abroad also serve as a reminder of the ultimate lack of meaningful inclusion.

The paper draws on the notion of multiple and unequal Europes developed elsewhere (Boatcă 2010, 2013) in order to refer to the EU’s so-called overseas territories as “forgotten Europes” actively produced as absent from and unthinkable within EU discourse. In particular, the paper focuses on Europe’s remaining colonial possessions in the Caribbean and their corresponding geographical referent, Caribbean Europe, in order to argue that the unthinkable concept as well as reality of Caribbean Europe fundamentally challenges established understandings of Europe’s internal and external borders, sovereignty, and the modern. The paper ultimately argues that regional entanglements that have been structurally invisibilized for several centuries, as in the case of Europe’s entanglements with its colonial possessions, only acquire visibility in times of political, economic or ecological crisis. At the same time, making them an integral part of our understanding of Europe and the EU would render the current implications of Europe’s long-standing colonial entanglements both visible and legible.
Chair: Georgeta Stoica (Université de La Réunion); Discussant:  Cristiana Bastos (University of Lisbon)

13:00-14:00 Lunch

This event directly addresses one of the key funding organizations for all academic research in the European Union area at the moment, the European Research Council. Since the founding of the ERC in 2007, ERC grants rapidly became amongst the most sought-after funding for original research in the whole European region. At the same time, the success of the ERC has perhaps inevitably led to a series of critical commentaries about their management and their effects on the lives of researchers, ranging from difficulties many grant-holders experience in working through the bureaucratic procedures in managing their grants, through to difficulties experienced by researchers and others employed to work on them, which includes issues related to working conditions, academic precarity, intellectual property rights and several other issues. This round table, which brings together a key member of the ERC for anthropology, Angela Liberatore, who is head of the Social Sciences and Humanities part of the ERC, and several ERC Grant Holders, will discuss these issues and consider possible ways to address the issues raised.

Angela Liberatore (Head of Unit of Social Sciences and Humanities, ERC Executive Agency)
Cristiana Bastos (Lisbon University, ERC Advanced Grant PI)
Sarah Green (University of Helsinki, ERC Advanced Grant PI)
Bruce Kapferer (University of Bergen, ERC Advanced Grant PI)
Marina Gold (University of Bergen, ERC Advanced Grant Postdoc)
Chair: David Mills (University of Oxford)