Reading Course

Preparation 2020

-     Finding project members; open the application processes; introducing the project to the supervisors and asking them to choose one of their students to work with

Reading course 2020

-        Reading sessions for the students by Prof. Gopfert so as to make the students more familiar with the project different fields including four sessions:

o   The general theme, livelihood

According to the suggested articles, students discussed the meaning and examples of globalization, localization and sustainable livelihood. They argued that the label 'Third World' is not appropriate anymore (De Haan L. J., 2000). The evolution of the livelihood approach is another topic discussed in this forum and participants suggested how the approach has overcome its shortages including lack of attention to the power relations (De Haan L. J., 2012). People-oriented development perspective, stressing the active role of people in exploring opportunities and coping with changes, grabbed students' attention in their livelihood studies (De Haan L. J. & Zoomers A., 2003). The relationship between happiness and values and then both to temporality was discussed in the group, as well (Robbins J., 2015).  

o   Ecology, Anthropocene

A study by Dwivedi (2001) was suggested to the students look at the strengths and weaknesses of the 'livelihood approach' through the environmental movements in the global south. Equity and sustainability in the anthropocene (Leach M. et al., 2018) proposes an interdisciplinary conceptual framework addressing the linkage between sustainability and equity in the context of the anthropocene.

o   Alternative lifestyle

Understanding of how identities and lifestyles are expressed in public (extracted from an article by Habeck, 2008) was one of the main topics of discussions as well as the talks on the applicability of the sociological theories on lifestyle in Siberia. Lifestyle in Siberia and the Russian north (a book by Habeck J. O.) is another suggestion about the dynamic behind people's choices and needs according to which they seek to live their lives practically and to furnish them with meaning.

o   Aesthetic practices

Graffiti was discussed in the group as a mode of political response to the material and symbolic violence of neoliberal governmentality (Alexandakis Y., 2016) and students shared their experiences about graffiti in the region they live. An ethnography of writers in Alexandria (2016) was another interesting piece of the literature suggested to the students and was discussed in the group.

For more information on the reading course please see below.

Preparation in 2020: Four-part reading course with Prof. Dr. Mirco Göpfert

The foundation for future cooperation between German-Iranian tandems was laid in a four-stage reading course led by Prof. Dr. Mirco Göpfert and involving all German and Iranian students. In four 90-minute sessions, central concepts such as "sustainability", "livelihood" and "equity" were approached with the help of diverse literature of the social sciences.

For the first session, the participants deepened their understanding of the specifics of the livelihoods approach with DeHaan. It became clear that research on sustainable livelihoods needs to be thought multidimensionally, multilocally and globally. In this context, globalisation has increased the range of Sustainable Livelihoods in all corners of the earth. This does not necessarily mean that prosperity has increased, but it does mean that local development has become much more diverse than ever before. Benefiting from global opportunities often means building a multi-local livelihood. Rather than categorising people on the basis of access to land or ownership of livestock, local development is better understood by paying more attention to the ways in which they respond and the diversity of coping mechanisms they use. The students stated: the livelihood approach is people-centred (i.e. it focuses on people's actions and strategies), holistic (not sectoral) and based on the multidimensionality of (daily) life. The only thing is: the analysis of the everyday struggle of poor people to make a living shows that balance and stability are more fleeting than ever before. The participants decided to try to go beyond the local level and aim for a sensitive generalisation. Consequently, according to DeHaan, the livelihood approach should focus on two complementary research strategies: Meta-analysis and comparative research.

The second term should focus on the "ecology" cluster. With their reference to dynamic socio-ecological systems (SES), Leach et al. advertise an increase in complexity. Through this, students gained an understanding of how to draw on complex, dynamic SES and enrich them with social science and humanities perspectives on power, knowledge and morality. Central to this was the shift from seeing humans and nature as separate parts that occasionally interact, to seeing them as intertwined SES across the planet. This offers opportunities to articulate equity and sustainability within an innovative complex systems framework. A key priority for DAAD participants was to improve understanding of how the interactions between justice and sustainability unfold in different places, as experienced and understood by the people who live there. Incorporating people's own lived experiences and expertise into this research will not only deepen understanding but also help to address knowledge inequalities. But reading the texts also made it clear: there will be diverse (and changing) ideas of what constitutes a good or at least acceptable future in the Anthropocene.

In the third reading course, the participants focused on the concept of "lifestyle". With Habeck, they grasped the concept as broader topic and defined it not only as various forms of obvious consumption patterns. Bourdieu's distinction through taste played an important role here: seemingly a domain of individual choices, it actually follows socially established patterns. The individual does not usually reflect on his or her dispositions that condition such decisions. Distinction of social groups is maintained through the enactment of taste. Giddens was also consulted in this reading course: Unlike Bourdieu, Giddens strongly emphasises the need for the individual to consciously choose from many existing options: He conceptualises the self as a reflexive 'project'. The DAAD participants concluded from the open discussion of Habeck's texts: the study of lifestyles should explicitly address the norms, preferences, orientations and beliefs on the basis of which a person makes decisions about how to cope in and with life, with whom to associate and how to present him or herself in public. Lifestyle differences are shaped by gender, occupation, economic capital, symbolic capital, education, family background or family status.

The fourth date of the reading course was intended to round off the initial preparation and usher in the phase in German-Iranian tandems. With texts by Alexandrakis and Shehata/Schielke, we focused on the area of "aesthetics". At this point, fundamental reflections on writing about people were also important. Michael Jackson argues that literary writing is fundamentally a search for further horizons to satisfy "our perpetual longing to be another." (Jackson 2013: 2-3). Participants concluded: developing broader horizons of imagination requires resources, training and support. No less work is needed to constrain and direct one's imagination to fit within the moral-aesthetic horizon of, for example, a social-literary milieu. In Alexandrakis' text on graffity sprayers, the aspect of "doing the Good Life" became clear: Indeed, graffiti writing came up again and again in conversation with the interlocutors as a “commitment," “inspiration," “obsession," an “escape," and ultimately a “way of life". Through graffiti they curated the ongoing story of a public being remade. Crisis can be the starting point for narration there.