Hanna Nieber

A Picture of Hanna Nieber. She smiles into the camera.

I am interested in conceptual entanglements of how to think, do, and write the world.

Amidst indeterminacies, multiplicities, and ambiguities, people make sense of their lives and the cosmos in various ways. These ways are entangled, become dis-entangled and re-entangled – and include our practices as (social) scientists. To me, this is fascinating. It propels the development of my projects within the disciplinary triangle of African studies, the study of religion, and anthropology.

Following up from the research of my Master thesis for which I analyzed a conversation between a healer and a jinn in Zanzibar, I wrote my dissertation about Qur’anic verses that are washed off and ingested as medicine (Swahili: “kombe”). The production of ethnographic text about writtenness which was undone incited me to write a “diffractive ethnography” in which writing the ethnography became part of the writtenness I investigated.

For my new project, I attend to the sky’s script and engage with the scientific discipline of astronomy, which has recently been introduced to Madagascar. This project allows me to investigate the care for science in a postcolonial world of global entanglements and planetary concerns for the Anthropocene. It also allows me to think about the relations between earth and outer space, entailing processes of boundary making and affective intimacies with the night sky. Finally, it allows me to query what astronomy has to offer to anthropology and ethnographic writing.

Currently, I am a postdoc fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology.

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