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Law Research Seminar Series: The Politics of Help

Venue: Birkbeck 43 Gordon Square

No booking required

The Politics of Help

Julia Eckert (University Of Bern)

Helping has fallen into disrespect. The discussion about humanitarian reason has shown how help, aid and charity establish fundamentally asymmetrical relations between helpers and recipients of help and fixes the latter in their identity as victims in need, rather than as agents of their fate. Moreover, charity has been analysed to operate at the level of symptoms, and thereby to invisibilise the structural causes of suffering. By abstracting suffering from the political relations that produce it, charity depoliticises.

However, the pertinent questions towards 'help' that a perspective of humanitarian reason has raised, make invisible the deeply political character and the transformative potentials of helping. When help tackles concrete problems, it needs to understand the nature of these problems. When helping is learning (rather than knowing), it provides a new understanding of the world. This new understanding of the world and of the social relations that produce difference and inequality can transform charity into solidarity. When helping is an expression of universalist solidarity, which recognises the political nature of inequality, it can transform giving into sharing, and helping into an obligation.

Professor Eckert will explore the emergence of the politics of help through the pro-refugee initiatives that emerged around 2015 in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

About the speaker:

Julia Eckert is Professor for Social Anthropology at the University of Bern. Her research interests are in legal anthropology, the anthropology of the modern state and of democracy; and changing notions of responsibility. She has worked on the police in urban India and the rise of Hindu-nationalist movements. Other than India, she conducted research in Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Switzerland. She has held positions at the German Institute for international pedagogical research, Frankfurt am Main, the Humboldt University, Berlin and the Free University of Berlin from where she holds a PhD. She was head of the research group 'Law against the State, or: the juridification of protest' at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle/Saale, which examined the juridification of protest and the transnationalisation of legal norms.

Law Research Seminars are held on Wednesdays at lunchtime. The seminars are free and open to the public, and a light lunch is provided. For more information please contact Dr Başak Ertür

This is a free event, however booking is required. Book your place here

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