The anthropology of the United Nations 
Christoph Brumann (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle)
Regina F. Bendix (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen)
Send message to Convenors
Wednesday 27 August, 9:00-10:45, 11:00-12:45 (UTC+0)

Short Abstract:

As the United Nation and its sub-organisations are a growing presence worldwide, we will cast an anthropological lens on their interaction with sovereign states and local populations. What dynamic unfolds between the imagined world community, nation states, universalism, and conceptions of culture?

Long Abstract

The United Nations and its many subsidiary and affiliated organisations are an increasingly tangible presence in societies the world over. As a civilising project of nation states forever falling short of their loftier, world-government goals, they are nevertheless one of the most important forces of present-day globalisation, substantially influencing the lives of many people and requiring at least a token acknowledgement even from those all set on pursuing different goals. With this panel, we therefore propose to turn an anthropological lens to the many projects pursued under the UN umbrella, such as International Criminal Court proceedings, UNESCO World Heritage designations, UN Working Group on Indigenous Issues conferences, UNICEF initiatives for children's rights, WHO immunisation campaigns, and Blue Helmet missions. How are the UN agencies and their representatives met and engaged by nation states and local populations worldwide, and how is this reflected in their strategies? Where do they deliver on their universalist goals, and where are they bound by the agendas of member states and other players? What dynamic unfolds between the global and the national here? And how is cultural difference imagined, reified and dissolved in all these bodies? Studies of on-the-ground interaction between local and UN actors, ethnographic inquiry into the global cultural layer produced in the UN agencies' meetings and memorandums, and more reflective pieces exploring the links between the imagined world community, nation states, universalism and culture are all welcome.

Accepted papers: