When it comes to explaining failures of bureaucratic procedures in non-western countries, corruption or "traditional" kinship networks are brought forward. In opposition to this the idea of modern statehood refers to administrative techniques such as enumeration and statistics, which are regarded as homogenous and transnationally adaptable. On the basis of an exemplary field study I am aiming to go beyond this scientifically constituted dichotomy of statehood and its deviances and thereby intend to show that deviations in the conduct of bureaucratic procedures will not necessarily derive from a prevalence of immorality or contradicting "traditional" interaction patterns. Instead I will focus on impacts of cultural practices as constituted by an inseparable conflation and interdependence between "modern" statehood, "traditional" practices and representations of deviations.

Part of this study will therefore include a 10-month field stay, during which, on the basis of participant observation, I will analyse everyday interaction in a settlement of Birhor "Tribe". The Birhor themselves number 10,000 people residing in communities of around 60 members mainly in Orissa and Jharkhand in India. They have no central institutions to build a Birhor identity, but, among other things, can be identified by their common oral language Birhori, by specialised knowledge in their "traditional" occupation of rope-making with a forest fibre and also by monkey hunting by means of nets. Following vague anthropological criteria, the Birhor have been classified as a "Primitive Tribal Group" and due to this classification are eligible for governmental development work. In these local contexts I will identify interaction strategies related to economic access, which can be seen in close connection to the idea of "modern" statehood. For example, it is regarded as a "traditional" strategy of Birhor "Tribe" to vent off anger in a drunken state in order to demand entitlements. However, the power of this strategy in connection to welfare benefits is partly based on wittingly creating an obvious opposition to the administrative conduct. As part of localized visions of statehood I see the reference frame of the ideal bureaucrat as well as of an imagined mafia don and I will therefore furthermore estimate the ambivalent consequences of referring to these perceptions within everyday interaction.

On the whole - using approaches from the humanities to offer a fresh insight into incidents and negotiations regarding economic access - the aim is to contribute to hypothesis-building on issues of development work in general by attracting attention to impacts of everyday interactions on the basis of a field stay.


2008. Die Birhor: Ethnographie und die Folgen: Ein indischer Stamm im Spiegel kolonialer und postkolonialer Beschreibungen. Heidelberg: Draupadi.

2008. book review. Martin Kunz: Mahasweta Devi. Indische Schriftstellerin und Menschenrechtlerin. Heidelberg: Draupadi. 2006. 216 pp. Paideuma 54. (accepted)

2008. book review. Tina Otten: Heilung durch Rituale. Vom Umgang mit Krankheit bei den Ronā im Hochland Orissas. Berlin: Lit Verlag. 2006. 421 pp. Paideuma 54. (accepted)

2007. Hausgott, Hexengift und Staatlichkeit: Eine narrative Ethnographie zu einer Malariabehandlung bei den Birhor in Indien. Paideuma 53: 127 - 144.

(paper given at the AG Medical Anthropology, Ruprecht-Karls-University Heidelberg, January 2005)

2006. „Tribal" Representations: infliction and mitigation of social suffering. Man in Society 16: 17-27.

2006. „Zum Tanze": Eine ethnographische Erzählung über den indischen ‚Stamm' der Birhor. Journal Ethnologie. 5/06.


2005. Enduring Endangerments: constructing the Birhor „Tribe", development officers and anthropologists from early twentieth-century colonial India to the present. In: Huggan, Graham und Stephan Klasen (Eds.) 2005, Perspectives on Endangerment. Leipzig: Olms, S. 71-82.

(paper given at the international conference Perspectives on Endangerment, Tutzing/ Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, November 2003)

So far unpublished, important papers:

Administering Development: ethnographic queries into governmental office culture and the Birhor „Tribe" of India, IIAS Fellow Symposium, Leiden, May 2008

„Shouting Out": a cultural practice of „tribal" development. International Conference Anthropology in India Today: Postmodernism and Globalism in Perspective, Utkal University, Bhubaneswar, December 2007

„Alkoholkulturen" und biomedizinische Behandlung: Das Beispiel des indischen „Stammes" der Birhor, 19. Fachkonferenz Ethnomedizin: Ethnologie und Medizin im Dialog, Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg, October 2006

„Shy, Happy and Innocent People": do colonial representations matter for postcolonial Birhor „Tribe"?, Panel „Tribes" of Mind? Exploring, Contesting and Redefining Notions of Tribe, 19th European Conference on Modern South Asian Studies, International Institute for Asian Studies, Leiden, June 2006

Negotiation of Technological Commodities in a ‚Tribal' Village, Konferenz Postcolonial Studies: Modernisation, Technology and Cultural Conflict, Universität Stuttgart, July 2003