Past Guests and Associates

John W. Borneman

John Borneman

I am Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Program in European Politics and Society at Princeton University. I received my Ph.D. in 1989 from Harvard University, and taught at Cornell University from 1991-2001. In the past, I have been guest professor in Sweden, Norway, and France and have conducted fieldwork in Germany and Syria. From 2012-15 I was Chair of the Advisory Board of the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle. In Fall 2016 I was Guest Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies, Shimla, India. My research focuses on two sets of relationships: on the relation of the state and law to intimacy and practices of care; and on the relation of political identification, belonging, and authority to forms of justice, accountability, and regime change. I also work on questions of epistemology and knowledge in the public sphere, and on psychoanalytic understandings of the self, group formation, and political form.

My publications include Belonging in the Two Berlins: Kin, State, Nation (1992), Settling Accounts: Violence, Justice, and Accountability in Postsocialist States (1997), Syrian Episodes: Sons, Fathers, and an Anthropologist in Aleppo (2007), and I am the co-editor of Being There: The Fieldwork Encounter and The Making of Truth (2009).

My current research, in collaboration with Parvis Ghassem-Fachandi, concerns the meaning of integration of foreigners following the large entrance of refugees and migrants into Germany in 2015. The research is ethnographic and focuses on the work of “projective identification” in encounters between culturally-identified Germans and the new migrants. How do xenophilic and xenophobic public moods (Stimmungen) change and affect the play of projections? In what way does erotic conflict enter these projections? And how does the experience of this conflict intensify or modify public moods and the experience of integration? Finally, the project asks how the new migrants experience “legal certainty,” a central concept to the rule of law, and whether or not this experience contributes to the creation of a “holding environment” for them.