Prof. Dr. Heath Cabot

Summer Semester 2018

Prof. Dr. Heath Cabot (University of Pittsburgh)

Hosts: Prof. Dr. Heike Drotbohm, Prof. Dr. Thomas Bierschenk (Department of Ethnology)

Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburgh, Heath Cabot is considered one of the most important humanitarian experts worldwide. As part of her doctorate (University of California, Santa Cruz, 2010), she conducted field research on issues of political asylum in Greece for 22 months. She examined how aid facilities for asylum seekers and refugees negotiate different dimensions of Greek, European, and global affiliation. She is currently working on a new research project funded by the Fulbright Foundation on the precarization of civil rights in Greece, where local living environments are being permanently changed by European austerity policies. Empirically, her focus here is on pharmacies and local health care clinics offering solidarity and medical services to the elderly, the unemployed, immigrants, and other needy groups. The focus is on the misunderstandings and conflicts that are articulated in the face of supposedly ‘universal rights’ and the social conventions that would provide a basis for mutual recognition and tolerance. Heath Cabot's research has been supported by a number of high-profile fellowships, such as the Fulbright Foundation, the Wenner-Grenn Foundation, and the Charlotte W. Newcombe Dissertation Fellowship. She was a member of the Advisory Board of the Aegean Observatory for the Refugee and Migration Crisis at the University of the Aegean and a member of the board of the Greek Council for Refugees. Since 2015 she is co-editor of the renowned journal Political and Legal Anthropology Review (PoLAR).

As part of the guest professorship, the intercultural moment of encounter of the humanitarianism and the contained interplay between media images and 'culture' was the focus of attention. When refugee helpers, lawyers, social workers, doctors, psychologists, volunteers, activists, migrants, and refugees come together and look for solutions, they generally work with essentialist and hierarchical ideas about the diversity and the ability of cultures with different origins to interact. Culture is understood by the actors, but often also through media mediation and scientific analysis, as a static property of the actors who bring it into the interaction situation, as it were, and thus is considered a conditional factor of the 'humanitarian encounter'. While actors and media 'culture' in these interactions thus understood emerge as a pre-existent leading difference, one could also ask the question - which was pursued in the context of this guest professorship - how cultural difference in the everyday encounter is not just repeatedly produced, but also dissolved. Perceived cultural difference would then not be a conditional factor of humanitarian interaction, but a possible dynamic result of these interactions and the negotiations taking place therein.

In addition to numerous articles and academic writings, Heath Cabot has also published her PhD thesis entitled On the Doorstep of Europe: Asylum and Citizenship in Greece (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014 [Ethnography of Political Violence Series]).

Prof. Cabot participated in three courses, gave a lecture, organized a workshop with the hosts (“The State, Anthropology and the South: bringing different networks and research into traditional dialogue”). With regard to research, she participated on the preparation of the third-party application “Sorted neediness, Human differentiation in contact zones of solidary action” (Prof. Heike Drotbohm).