Perspectives from the periphery
Martijn Koster, cultural anthropology researcher
The way in which urban dwellers in low-income neighbourhoods view and interact with the state is often examined from the perspective of the state. Within political anthropology and urban studies, this stance is often perceived as an alternative form of citizenship, or as informal politics or protest. However, these descriptions may contribute to greater inequality, because they portray the politics of these urban dwellers as being ‘inferior’ or as simply going ‘against the state’. Martijn Koster’s research project counters this by developing a new theory of politics that draws on perspectives from the periphery.
The researchers aim to carry out an ethnographic study of the politics of the periphery in three domains: governance, electoral politics and activism. As a consequence, they will primarily be looking at the politics surrounding housing. They will compare this in low-income neighbourhoods in three Latin American cities: Medellín (Colombia), Santiago de Cuba (Cuba) and Recife (Brazil). This region is renowned for its urban poverty, the critical challenges that surround housing and a wide range of relationships between the state and the urban periphery.
Medieval social norms
Sven Meeder, historian
Many of the surviving medieval Western texts were written or commissioned by members of the elite or the clergy. As a result, they often give a limited and distorted image of the opinions of ordinary people. In order to gain insight into medieval ideas about social norms, historian Sven Meeder will examine collections of canon law (lines of ecclesiastical or religious texts) in an innovative way.
The manuscripts of canonical collections that he will examine focus not only on religious and ecclesiastical laws, but also touch on social, moral, political and economic issues. Medieval scholars compiled these types of collections by electing to copy or not copy specific texts and by copying specific combinations of these texts. As a result of this process, these combinations of rules (canons) provide insight into the views on social norms and societal ideals from that period. Meeder examines canons in order to gain a better understanding of what people thought about such social issues as economic inequality, murder and theft, social hierarchies, sexual behaviour and gender relations.
In addition to the well-known ‘major’ canonical collections, the researcher also studies so-called canonical florilegia: these are short moral texts that were probably used in local communities that were primarily home to a lay population. Gathering the information from large numbers of manuscripts and collections and putting it into a smart database will provide insight into how social ideas were spread and how they changed between around 500 and 1200 CE.
The ERC Consolidator Grant is designed to support researchers at the stage in which they aim to set up their own independent research team and research programme. The ERC Grant is worth two million euros.