Theresa Mentrup, M.A.

Research interests
Political and Legal Anthropology, Humanitarianism, Human-Environment-Relations, Indigeneity, Social Movements, Organizational Research, (Post)Colonialism

Research areas
Brazil / South America, Europe


PhD project

Quem Cuida? [Who cares?] – Transfer and implementation of state care in the aftermath of the ›Brumadinho dam disaster‹ (Minas Gerais / Brazil) [working title]

After the rupture of the tailings dam of an iron ore mine belonging to the mining company Vale, near Brumadinho in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais on January 25, 2019, the Brazilian government finds itself in a problematic double role: On the one hand, the state favors multinational companies like Vale through its neoliberal economic policy, but, on the other hand, it also has a certain duty towards its citizens – especially in the face of such a catastrophe. Beyond financial sanctions, and charges against the Group and TÜV Süd as the responsible testing company, the case has, above all, led to an ongoing, controversial debate about not only the consequences and risks of intensive resource extraction, but also the role of the state and its responsibilities. The humanitarian and ecological consequences of the event have mobilized a large number of (inter)national actors; the consequences of the dam burst, thus, go far beyond mourning for relatives and fears of compensation payments on the ground.

Against the background of conceptual impulses from the field of the "anthropology of disaster" and debates on "humanitarianism" and "care", the present project examines the possibilities of political action constituted by the moment of "crisis". By placing the 'state of emergency' at the theoretical center of the investigation of the consequences of the dam burst in Brumadinho, the project aims to highlight the significance of global connections in the face of their collapse along the "frictions" (Tsing 2005) of extractive economies. The project is, thus, dedicated to the highly specific articulation made possible by the disaster, which allows the Brazilian government to realize and assert itself as a caring state. Questions of the structural organization and implementation of state rescue operations and aid at various levels are at issue, as well as the overarching governmental logics expressed and enabled by the 'state of emergency'.