Prof. Dr. Heike Drotbohm

Principal Investigator | Mobility and Sorting Processes

I am an anthropologist, focusing on cultural and social anthropology, and have been working for many years on social relationships, especially kinship, generational relationships, and care in transnational contexts, with a particular focus on the Caribbean Brazil, and West Africa. From a praxeological and phenomenological perspective, I am interested in the questions of what holds social structures such as family, friendship, and ethnicity together in cross-border spheres of everyday life. How do people handle the experience when former certainties of social cohesion no longer seem to exist? In my most recent research project, carried out in the Brazilian metropolis of São Paulo, I examine how newly arrived migrants perceive the city’s landscape of support, what relationships they create in it, what forms of support they receive in humanitarian and pro-migrant contact zones of support, and how this affects their subject position.

Why human differentiation?

Although many forms of help and solidarity work towards reducing social inequalities, at the same time human differentiations influence these asymmetrical interactions. I am interested in both the cognitive and administrative “sorting work” embedded in humanitarian and solidary interactions as well as the less conscious, more affective and emotional distinctions that are sometimes ignored, denied, or subverted by the actors themselves.

Foto: Stephanie Füssenich