CARAM - Centre for Anthropological Research on Affect and Materiality

Department of Languages and Cultures



Conference: Restitution of Colonial Collections in Europe: Possibilities, Challenges, Dilemmas - 2-3 December 2019

TAPAS/Thinking About the PASt and Centre for Anthropological Research on Affect and Materiality (CARAM) are proud to announce this conference on the restitution of colonial collections in Europe, taking place on December 2 and 3, 2019 in Ghent.  

Following the recent repatriation of human remains from Germany to the Namibian and Australian governments and French president Emmanuel Macron’s statement that the return of African objects in French museums is a ‘priority’, claims for the restitution of colonial acquisitions have gained momentum in Europe. Various social and cultural groups as well as states demand the return of human remains, archives and cultural objects in colonial collections to which they claim cultural, religious, historical or biological affinity. Yet many museums, collectors and governments continue to wrestle with restitution demands, often lacking a clear vision on the best way forward or resorting to defensive discourses. These include a legalist reasoning in which states and ethnographic museums today cannot be held accountable for crimes committed so long ago, referring to the high scientific or market value of the acquired objects or following a statist reasoning in which only claims by ‘nation states’ are valued as legitimate. This conference wants to particularly explore such motivations and the implicit philosophical convictions that underpin many restitution-claims and responses to them. More information on the venue and the full programme follows soon! 

Organising Committee

Prof. Dr. Berber Bevernage (TAPAS, INTH, UGent) 

Dra. Marie-Gabrielle Verbergt (TAPAS, INTH, UGent)

Dra. Eline Mestdagh (TAPAS, INTH, UGent)

Dr. Hugo De Block (CARAM, UGent)

Prof. dr. Sarah Van Beurden (CARAM, UGent)

Dr. Hein Van Hee (CARAM, UGent)

Conference: Afterlives: Rethinking the Politics of Loss and Demise - 7 June 2019

Keynote speaker: Prof. Nancy Rose Hunt (University of Florida)

With: Kinda Chaib, Bryonny Goodwin-Hawkins, Çiçek İlengiz, Rachel Lehr, Ruth Mandel, Adeline Masquelier, Chris Moffat, Tanja Petrović, Erol Sağlam, Marlene Schäfers

Ghent University, Campus Aula

Afterlives appear in manifold ways. From deceased ancestors and celebrated martyrs, over decaying ruins and material remains, to past ideologies and bygone moral orders: even after their actual life time, persons, things and ideas often retain a presence in the here-and-now, posing vital questions about time, justice and social order. This interdisciplinary, one-day symposium seeks to explore how, when and why afterlives become activated, where they draw their potency from and how they constitute social and political communities.

Much popular discourse and scholarly thought has approached the lingering presence of the past in the here-and-now through the notion of memory. As a concept, however, memory remains problematically tied to an understanding of temporality as linear progression within a frame of secular immanence. By contrast, in this symposium we want to investigate afterlife as a concept that brings into view manifestations of the past that defy linear imaginations of time, question the prevalence of this-worldly presence and become articulated through complex human-non-human assemblages.

Contributions will explore how afterlives are made and unmade through material and immaterial means and how their affective and sensual reverberations shape social and political worlds. We are particularly interested in how afterlives, as they draw death, loss and demise into the present, raise potentially troubling questions about social justice and retribution, engendering fields of intense political contestation. By investigating how afterlives exert claims on the living in this way and to what effect, our aim is to rethink the politics of loss and demise beyond the strictures of this-worldly presentism.

If you would like to attend please register until May 31st by sending an e-mail to Registration fees are 15€ (regular) and 10€ (students), covering lunch and coffee.

Prof. Hunt's keynote speech is open to the public, free of charge and does not require registration.


9:00-9:15 Welcome and coffee

Pleitlokaal, Universiteitstraat 4

9:15-10:45 Panel I: The afterlives of labour, ecology and the colony

Pleitlokaal, Universiteitstraat 4

Chair: Prof. Berber Bevernage (Ghent University)

Adeline Masquelier (Tulane University/Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies)
Of Djinns and Schoolgirls: Possession, Ecological Thought, and the Burden of the Past in Niger

Bryonny Goodwin-Hawkins (Aberystwyth University)
The Railroad to Nowhere and the Ghosts of EU Funding Past

Chris Moffat (Queen Mary University of London)
Anticolonial Afterlives and the Politics of Inheritance 

10:45-11:15 Coffee Break

11:15-12:45 Panel II: Performing and narrating afterlives

Pleitlokaal, Universiteitstraat 4

Chair: Prof. Katrien Pype (KU Leuven)

Kinda Chaib (PSL / Ecole Normale Supérieure)
The presence of martyrs: A theatre play in South Lebanon

Marlene Schäfers (Ghent University) 
Pain, words and rubble: Narrating the afterlives of Kurdish martyrs 

Ruth Mandel (University College London), Rachel Lehr (University of Colorado Boulder)
The many afterlives of Stolpersteine

12:45-13:45 Lunch

13:45-15:15 Keynote 
Facultaire Raadzaal, Volderstraat 3

Shrunken or Supple Lives? Milieu, Laboratory, Pathology and Near Catastrophe in African Zones

Prof. Nancy Rose Hunt (University of Florida)

What to do with disaster or catastrophe? It is important to attend to afterlives following critical events, though also dodge aftermath talk and traumatic framings. While returning to Maurice Blanchot on writing the disaster, I will consider Georges Canguilhem on the often fine line between an already threatened lifeand one lived with suppleness in relation to a milieu, laboratory, or shrunken milieu. My reflections will reconsider afterlives following terrible violence in colonial Congo (per A Nervous State), while gesturing toward new work on war and madness within migratory and securitizing contexts in Africa since the 1990s.

15:15-15:45 Coffee break

15:45-17:15 Panel III: Intimate afterlives: Loss and mourning

Facultaire Raadzaal, Volderstraat 3

Chair: Prof. Koenraad Stroeken (Ghent University)

Çiçek İlengiz (Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin)
Engaging with Loss through Holy-Madness: The Case of Şeywuşen (Hüseyin Tatar 1930-1994), Dersim/Turkey

Tanja Petrović (Institute of Culture and Memory Studies ZRC SAZU, Ljubljana)
Impossible friendships and possible futures: The Afterlife of Male Bonding in the Yugoslav Military Service

Erol Sağlam (Stockholm University)
When Your Own Home is Haunted: Collective Memory, Remembrance, and Treasure Hunts in Contemporary Turkey

17:15-17:30 Wrap Up

***CARAM Spring lecture*** - Thursday 25 April 2019, 17:00-18:30

Prof. Michael Taussig (Columbia University): The Metamorphic Sublime

Venue: Lecture Hall E, Campus Boekentoren, Jozef Plateaustraat 22, 9000 Gent

In the Age of Trump, the dark surrealism of ecological devastation, the re-enchantment of nature as the negative sacred, Facebook, state surveillance, and the cunning of what Deleuze and Guattari called “the war machine,” reality has evolved into metamorphic sublimity. In the words of science fiction writer, William Burroughs, “Nothing is true. Everything is permitted.” All of which calls for a counter-shamanic practice aligned with a Green New Deal that I refer to as the Mastery of Non-Mastery.

Michael Taussig is an anthropologist known for his provocative ethnographic studies and unconventional style as an academic. He was born in Australia and later studied medicine at the University of Sydney. He earned a PhD in anthropology at the London School of Economics. He is currently a professor of anthropology at Columbia University in New York and at The European Graduate School / EGS in Switzerland. In spite of his numerous publications in his field, especially in medical anthropology, he is most acclaimed for his commentaries on Karl Marx and Walter Benjamin, especially in relation to the idea of commodity fetishism. Michael Taussig is the author of the following books: Palma Africana (2018), The Corn Wolf (2015), Beauty and the Beast (2012), I Swear I Saw This: Drawings in Fieldwork Notebooks, Namely My Own (2011), What Color is the Sacred? (2009), Walter Benjamin’s Grave (2006), My Cocaine Museum (2004), Law in a Lawless Land: Diary of a Limpieza in a Colombian Town (2003), Defacement (1999), Magic of the State (1997), Mimesis and Alterity: A Particular History of the Senses (1993), The Nervous System (1992), Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man: A Study in Terror and Healing (1987), and The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America (1980).

You can watch Taussig's lecture here

Specialist doctoral course: How to Study Affect? Anthropological Engagements with Materiality (2018-2019)

Organising committee

Prof. Rozita Dimova (Ghent Centre for Slavic and East-European Studies / Centre for Anthropological Research on Affect and Materiality)

Dr. Carine Plancke (Centre for Research on Culture and Gender / Centre for Anthropological Research on Affect and Materiality)

Dr. Marlene Schäfers (Middle East and North Africa Research Group / Centre for Anthropological Research on Affect and Materiality)

Prof. Koen Stroeken (Centre for Anthropological Research on Affect and Materiality)

Scientific committee

Prof. Ann Heirman (Ghent Centre for Buddhist Studies, Ghent University)

Prof. Iman Lechkar (Expertisecentrum Gender, Diversiteit en Intersectionaliteit, VUB)

Prof. Chia Longman (Centre for Research on Culture and Gender, Ghent University)

Prof. Sasha Newell (Laboratoire d’anthropologie des mondes contemporains, ULB)

Prof. Chris Parker (Middle East and North Africa Research Group, Ghent University)

Prof. Dr. Katrien Pype (Institute for Anthropological Research on Africa, KU Leuven)


Over the last two decades, affect has become a key concept in the humanities and social sciences in order to address experiences that defy capture through dominant modes of representation. The so-called ‘affective turn’ seeks to overcome dualistic divisions between body and mind, the social and the material, the human and the non-human by focusing on different bodies’ capacity to affect and be affected. The course will introduce PhD students to this cutting-edge scholarship, which opens new pathways for describing and theorizing the role of embodied feelings, sentiments and intensities in cultural, social, and political life. Affect theory has been critiqued, however, for being overly abstract and vague, remaining confined to a highly specific jargon. How, then, to study affect? This course proposes anthropological engagements with materiality through ethnographic research methods as a fruitful avenue for exploring the pathways and workings of affect in empirical and grounded ways.


The course will consist of four public lectures and four masterclasses by prominent scholars who have extensively engaged with the topic of affect. Students will prepare reading assignments before each masterclass. During the masterclass, the lecturers will discuss the readings in exchange with students. Each student will choose one masterclass for giving a presentation on their own PhD research and on how they have dealt with or intend to deal with the topics of affect and materiality.


The course is open to PhD students from a variety of disciplines (including anthropology, area studies, geography, history, economics, sociology, political studies, gender studies, education). No prior knowledge is requested.


Session 1: 8 November 2018 - Affect, landscape and the politics of heritage - Prof. Joost Fontein, Respondent: Prof. Katrien Pype (KU Leuven)

Venue: Faculty Room, Campus Boekentoren, Blandijnberg 2, 9000 Gent

Joost Fontein is a Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Johannesburg. He did his doctoral fieldwork in southern Zimbabwe, exploring the political materialities of land and water and the politics of heritage and landscape in the context of ongoing contests over sovereignty, belonging and the reconfiguration of postcolonial stateness. His thesis won the ASA UK Audrey Richards Prize and a monograph entitled The Silence of Great Zimbabwe: Contested Landscapes & the Power of Heritage was released by UCL Press in 2006. More recently, he published the book Remaking Mutirikwi: Landscape, Water and Belonging in Southern Zimbabwe (Boydell & Brewer Ltd, 2015). Currently, he is involved in collaborative research exploring the affective presence and emotive materiality of human remains. With Cara Krmpotich and John Harries, he edited a special issue on this topic in the Journal of Material Culture.

10.00-12.30: Masterclass: Bones, bodies and human substances: Towards an understanding of the politics of human corporeality

14:00-16:00: Public lecture: Damming Mutirikwi: Planning, perception and imagination in late Colonial Rhodesia

This lecture draws from a chapter in my 2015 book, Remaking Mutirikwi. It comes from archival research on the building of the Mutirikwi (Kyle) dam on the Mutirikwi river in Masvingo (then Victoria) district in the late 1950s. It begins by focusing on the debates of the 1950s about which dams (Popotekwe, Kyle and Bangala) to build on the Mutirikwi river system. Engaging with Ingold’s efforts to close the gap between imagining and perceiving landscape - what I term the materialities of imagination - it explores how minute material engagements with the affordances of soil, topography and hydrology were caught up in the divergent demands of local white Rhodesians (residents of Fort Victoria) and the lowveld sugar industries downstream in Chiredzi, who had all long been lobbying, for very different reasons, for a dam on that river system. 

Session 2: 7-8 February 2019 - Decay and meaninglessness: Intersections of affect and temporality - Dr. Martin Demant Frederiksen, Respondent: Prof. Sasha Newell (ULB)

Venue: Room 160.015, Campus Boekentoren, Blandijnberg 2, 9000 Gent

Martin Demant Frederiksen is postdoctoral fellow at the Department for Social Anthropology at the University of Oslo. His research interests concern questions of disengagement among youth and the role of decay, meaninglessness and the existence of Nothing in social life. Related research interests and areas include nihilism, crime and corruption, urban development and infrastructures, time and materiality. He has conducted ethnographic research in the Republic of Georgia since 2006, mainly in the cities of Batumi, Ambrolauri and Tbilisi, and more recently in Bulgaria and Croatia. Currently he is working on a comparative monograph about vacancy and transcience in southeastern Europe. His book Young Men, Time, and Boredom in the Republic of Georgia was published in 2013 by Temple University Press.

7 February 14.00-16.00: Public lecture: Last Resorts – Secondhand Architecture and Uncanny Valleys in Southeastern Europe

The lecture will depart from Masahiro Mori’s (1970) description of human responses to robots in which he observed that people respond positively to robots that either look barely human or completely human. But when those humanoid objects come to appear almost but not quite real, they elicit feelings of a different sort: extreme eeriness and discomfort. This, in Jasia Reichardt’s (1978) rendering of Mori’s work, is the “uncanny valley,” the revulsion that people feel in looking at a human facsimile or look-alike. But how does this principle of uncanniness apply to subjective relations to and experiences of the built environment? Drawing on ethnographic examples from Armenia, Georgia and Croatia, I will examine how senses of eeriness come to surround architectural forms that are almost, but not quite, ruins. The cases in point concern the use and re-use of modernist resorts that over time have fluctuated between potentially falling into complete decay and potentially being re-used or renovated.

8 February 10.00-12.30: Masterclass: Decay, Surfaces and Temporality​

Session 3: 28-29 March 2019 - Affect, subjectivity and the body Dr. Victor Igreja, Respondent: Prof. Koen Stroeken (UGent)

Venue: Faculty Room, Campus Boekentoren, Blandijnberg 2, 9000 Gent

Victor Igreja is Senior Lecturer of International Studies at the University of Southern Queensland and a Research Fellow at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF) and Fritz Thyssen Foundation. He did his PhD at the University of Leiden (2007) on processes of healing, reconciliation and justice in the aftermath of the Mozambican civil war. In 2008-2009 he was a fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS) where he worked on different forms of mediations of experiences of violence in Africa. Further research at the African Studies Centre led him to explore the role of post-colonial politics on processes of religious transformation in Mozambique and religious strategies of talk to convey experiences of post-colonial pain. Currently, he is part of a research project that investigates guilt as a culturally productive force. He is the author of numerous articles published in international journals such as Transcultural Psychiatry, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Social Science & Medicine, Anthropological Quarterly, Current Anthropology and International Journal of Transitional Justice.

28 March 14:00-16:00: Public Lecture: Negotiating relationships in transition: Approaches to unconventional evidence of serious violations perpetrated in famine crisis

In conflict-ridden communities, justice specialists gather evidence through factual verbal accounts and material vestiges of serious violations, perpetrated during repressive regimes and warfare, to eventually lay legal charges against alleged perpetrators. Anthropologists and sociologists also engage with similar contexts, but have included conventional bodily rituals and routinized and commemoration practices as sources of knowledge of violent pasts and struggles for historical justice, although without legal accountability intent. This article shifts the prevailing focus on repressive regimes and warfare to analyze the famine continuum and expands the conventional procedures of gathering evidence of serious violations. It shows how a contingent combination of singular bodily actions, collective imagination and negotiations, and kinship norms evolved and became instrumental in two ways: In refining contested fragments of evidence of serious violations perpetrated during the 1980s’ experiences of severe famine in Mozambique, and, in sustaining local struggles for accountability conveyed through bodily actions. The ensuing embodied accountability reshaped relationships by changing the prominence of silence and denial, exposing ordinary perpetrators of serious violations and cementing memories of the guilt in the landscape. Thus, comprehensive approaches to capture the diversity of legacies of serious violations marred by fragile evidence should not disregard the versatility of singular bodily actions, while seriously considering the multiplicity of meanings, contexts and perpetrators of serious violations and embodied accountability struggles in conflict zones.

29 March 10:00-12:30: Masterclass: Affect and imagination in breaking and remaking social relationships 

Session 4: 6 May – Affective states - Prof. Mateusz Laszczkowski, Respondent: Prof. Rozita Dimova (UGent)

Mateusz Laszczkowski is an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Warsaw. His research explores material environments and infrastructures as generative sites shaping human sociality and political dynamics. He has studied that topic through ethnographic fieldwork in urban Kazakhstan and, more recently, in Alpine Italy. He is the author of ‘City of the Future’: Built Space, Modernity, and Urban Change in Astana, and co-editor of Affective States: Entanglements, Suspensions, Suspicions (with Madeleine Reeves). His newest work on bodily affect and political resistance is forthcoming in the journal Anthropological Theory this year. 

10.00-12.30: Masterclass: Feeling the State: Affective Infrastructures of Power

Venue: Faculty Room, Campus Boekentoren, Building Blandijn, Blandijnberg 2, 9000 Gent

14:00-16:00: Public lecture: The Stuff that Kills: Material Affects and Contentious Politics in Infrastructural Conflict in Italy

What counts as contentious political action facing forces that threaten all life in a given area, including the lives of local residents, activists, police, and non-humans such as trees? Can caring for trees count? What about caring for cops? These are some questions that were raised for activists during anti-high speed rail protests in Valsusa, Italy, by data about life-threatening aerial pollution that was generated from tunnel-building. In this lecture, I examine the affective intensities of encounters with deadly materials, as well as the qualification of those affects through science and political ideology. I argue that such affectively charged encounters inspired innovative forms of action that challenged the notion – prevalent among activists and scholars alike ‑ of politics as essentially antagonistic. I thus extend the current anthropological conversation about affect and material agency as generative forces shaping the political.

Venue: Lecture Hall E, Campus Boekentoren, Jozef Plateaustraat 22, 9000 Gent

Evaluation criteria

100% attendance to all sessions (lectures and masterclasses) is required. Students choose one Masterclass for giving a presentation.

Info and registration

For further information and registration, send an email to and (before 1 November 2018)


The course is co-funded by the doctoral schools of UGent and KULeuven (Junior Researchers Support Platform - OJO).

CARAM Spring lecture - 15 May 2018, 16:00-18:00

Prof. Sasha Newell (Université Libre de Bruxelles): The Crowding of Clutter: Affective Belongings and Storage Space in U.S. Homes

Venue: Room 150.018 (5th floor), Blandijnberg 2 9000 Gent 

Building upon ethnography in the hidden spaces of U.S. homes, this paper excavates carefully concealed affective intimacies with objects. Unlike curated collections, accumulations of stored things grow and seep of their own accord in darkened corners, gradually accruing mass and inserting affective hooks into the tissue of their owners' sociality, until they burst forth into visible space in ways that threaten normative values. Those who fail to contain  such accumulations are classified as hoarders, their deviance essentialized as mental disorder, while others anxiously patrol the frontiers of ordered domestic space in hopes of keeping clutter at bay. But because stored things are often part of the non-conscious cognitive apparatus through which memory, kinship, and temporality are managed, the affective force of possessions resists both mental and material containment. 

Sasha Newell is associate professor in the Laboratoire d'Anthropologie des Mondes Contemporains at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. He is currently working on problems of storage and accumulation in U.S. society as well as cons, sorcery, and digital technology in Côte d'Ivoire. He received his PhD from Cornell University in 2003 and has taught at a wide range of institutions, including NYU, UVA, and the University of Illinois. He is author of the The Modernity Bluff: Crime, Consumption, and Citizenship in Côte d'Ivoire as well as articles on affect, pentecostalism and witchcraft, fashion, brands, hoarding, migration, social networks, theft, and informal economy. 


CARAM - meaning ‘generosity’ (karam) in Arabic - brings together researchers in the humanities and social sciences who work in the fields of materiality, affect, the body, religion and/or ethnicity. Operating from the perspective of critical area studies and versed in anthropological theory, these researchers rely on historicized ethnographic fieldwork as one of their methods. To overcome classic divides (nature and culture, body and mind, matter and idea, technology and culture, politics and religion) CARAM opts for the complementary pair of materiality and affect as research thematic. The thematic is inclusively defined. Materiality, replacing the obsolete ‘material culture’, focuses on the relation between objects and users, in light of social and cultural dynamics. To account for agency and creativity in those dynamics, affect has emerged as an interdisciplinary concept. Affect and subjectivity are not only articulated in art, religion, and ritual, but also constitute the pivot in anthropological studies of cultural identity and ethnicity.

CARAM joins the postcolonial and post-imperialist turn in critical area studies, material culture studies, and the anthropology of practices at the nexus between materiality and affect. These practices comprise among others ritual, embodiment, medicine, sensory/sensual imaginaries, (digital) technology, and power. 


If you wish to be regularly updated by e-mail about CARAM's activities and events, please communicate your e-mail address to or so that we can add you to our mailing list.




Hein Vanhee

Department of Cultural Anthropology and History - Royal Museum for Central Africa

Sarah Van Beurden

Department of African American and African Studies - Ohio State University