Vernacular Humanitarianisms

Social Anthropology/Anthropologie sociale Volume 31 Issue 1
Table of Contents


Special Issue: Vernacular Humanitarianisms
Vernacular Humanitarianisms: An Introduction
Čarna Brković

‘Every Person Counts’: The Problem of Scale in Everyday Humanitarianism
Anne-Meike Fechter

The Desire to Help: Vernacular Humanitarian Imaginaries in China
Jiazhi Fengjiang

The Anti-Politics of Inclusion: Citizen Engagement with Newcomers in Norway
María Hernández-Carretero

Religious Nationalism, Strategic Detachment and the Politics of Vernacular Humanitarianism in Post-War Sri Lanka
Tom Widger

Encountering Compassion: Venezuelan Migrants and Emerging Forms of Humanitarianism in Colombia
Jan Grill

Afterword: Humanitarianism, Between Situated Universality and Interventionist Universalism
Didier Fassin

Book Reviews


Negotiating Social Relations in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Negotiating Social Relations in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Edited by Stef Jansen, Carna Brkovic, and Vanja Celebicic

2016, Routledge


Exploring recent configurations of social relations in post-socialist, post-war, post-Yugoslav Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), this collection of ethnographic research turns an analytical lens on questions of sociality.

Contributions based on long-term, in-depth research projects explore how people in different parts of BiH make and remake social relations and outline how their practices of sociality relate to donor-set priorities and formal human rights provisions.

The book explores the socio-political concerns which have emerged within BiH, incites interdisciplinary conversations and sheds critical light on ways of engaging with these concerns and discusses forms of sociality, politics and agency which remain largely absent from the official political discourse and practice of local and foreign actors.

The commentaries of specialists who have studied BiH in different ways – sociologists, politicologists, historians – explicitly situate the contribution of ethnographic work in the country.

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Book review “Negotiating Social Relations in Bosnia and Herzegovina“, Reana Senjković, Südosteuropa, 2017

Managing Ambiguity

Managing Ambiguity

How clientelism, citizenship, and power shape personhood in Bosnia and Herzegovina

2017, Berghahn Books


Why do people turn to personal connections to get things done? Exploring the role of favors in social welfare systems in postwar, postsocialist Bosnia and Herzegovina, this volume provides a new theoretical angle on links between ambiguity and power. It demonstrates that favors were not an instrumental tactic of survival, nor a way to reproduce oneself as a moral person. Instead, favors enabled the insertion of personal compassion into the heart of the organization of welfare.

Managing Ambiguity follows how neoliberal insistence on local community, flexibility, and self-responsibility was translated into clientelist modes of relating and back, and how this fostered a specific mode of power.

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EASA members can get 25% discount when purchasing this title directly from the publisher.


Reviews of “Managing Ambiguity”:

“Using the book by Brkovic, that follows the tradition of challenging the unidimensional view of clientelism in Bosnia and Herzegovina, this essay provides the Philippine case as contrast and comparison. … Brković’s book provides a new lens of analysis by looking at clientelism through personhood and agency as power. The contribution of the book on the discourse of clientelism can deepen the understanding of Philippine politics because it encourages an analysis that looks at the exercise of democracy through personhood, agency, and informal institutions.”  Bandung. Journal of the Global South

Special issue “In the Name of the Daughter: Anthropology of Gender in Montenegro”

“In the Name of the Daughter – Anthropology of Gender in Montenegro”, published as open access, edited by Čarna Brković, special issue of the journal “Comparative Southeast European Studies”

“The thematic section ‘In the Name of the Daughter’ argues that we can understand gendered practices in Montenegro, such as sex-selective abortion, only if we consider the complicated ways in which material and economic processes become intertwined with social and cultural logics, simultaneously reinforcing old stereotypes while creating new spaces for action and change. The special issue presented here suggests that the practice of gender in Montenegro is predicated on specific kinship and property relationships, which it also perpetuates, and that women in the country are neither as oppressed nor as free as they might seem from a liberal feminist perspective. Anyone pondering how to articulate criticism and how to encourage change to gendered practices in Montenegro should take into account how possibilities for individual as well as collective action are shaped by kinship relationality, inheritance expectations, and state and public policy on gender.”

edited by Čarna Brković, DOI:


Special issue “Grassroots responses to mass migration in Europe”

Special issue of the journal Intersections. East European Journal of Society and Politics “Grassroots responses to mass migration in Europe”, co-edited by Čarna Brković, Antonio De Lauri, and Sabine Hess

2015 has not only seen a mass flight movement but also an explosion of helping hands of various kinds, by migrant networks, spontaneous volunteers, civil associations, local NGOs, and so forth mitigating the unfolding ‘migration reception crisis’. A conspicuous body of research focusing on such grassroots responses to mass migration, the role of volunteers and activism has been emerging since (Feischmidt at al., 2018; McGee & Pelham, 2018; Rozakou, 2017; Sandri, 2017; Sutter, 2020). This literature has emphasized important aspects of the broad migration receiving apparatus, which is not only constituted by governmental and inter-governmental actors but also by these practices of humanitarianism from below producing highly ambivalent and complex assemblage of power, hierarchies and moral entanglements.

The papers in this special issue illustrate the complexities of finding the right vocabulary— both descriptive and analytical—to explain how people living across Europe have responded to the recent shifts in the EU border regime. This thematic issue contributes to the ongoing lively debates on the relationship between humanitarianism, solidarity, and human rights in Europe. It does so by approaching the concept of ‘grassroots’ critically and from an ethnographic perspective.

Table of Contents


Grassroots responses to mass migration in Europe: Introduction

by Čarna Brković, Antonio De Lauri, and Sabine Hess


Grassroots responses to mass migration in Europe

The temporality of humanitarianism: Provincializing everyday volunteer practices at European borders

by Synnøve Kristine Nepstad Bendixsen and Marie Sandberg



Guessing games with target groups: Securing a livelihood by supporting refugees in a hostile environment

by Lieke van der Veer



Between supporting and reporting: Grassroots textual responses to the pushbacks at the fringes of EU

by Marijana Hameršak



The black holes of Lesbos. Life and death at Moria camp: Border violence, asylum, and racisms at the edge of postcolonial Europe

by Edgar Córdova Morales


Research Note

Mapping the field of turbulent changes around the issue of migration in Poland

by Grzegorz Piotrowski


Book Review

Elżbieta Drążkiewicz (2020) Institutionalised dreams: The art of managing foreign aid. New York and Oxford: Berghahn. 248 pages.

by Ildikó Zakariás



Are anti-immigrant attitudes the Holy Grail of populists? A comparative analysis of attitudes towards immigrants, values, and political populism in Europe

by Vera Messing and Bence Ságvári



Counter-movement at a critical juncture: A neo-Polanyian interpretation of the rise of the illiberal Right in Poland

by Sławomir Czech and Maciej Kassner



The Human embryo: Mapping patients’ ethical decisions in Hungary

by Lilla Vicsek, Judit Sándor, and Zsófia Bauer




Intersections. East European Journal of Society and Politics (Intersections.EEJSP) is a peer-reviewed, open access journal focusing on social sciences (broadly understood) and promoting comparative thinking on Eastern and Central European societies in a global context. Founded by the Centre for Social Sciences of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and published currently by Centre for Social Sciences in Budapest, Intersections.EEJSP provides an international forum for scholars coming from and/or working on the region.