Henig, David

Charitable Economies and the Ethics of Immediacy in Postwar Bosnia-Herzegovina


David Henig's (University of Kent) talk was held in the framework of the Prisma Ukraïna Workshop on 8 January 2018 at the Forum Transregionale Studien Berlin.

The workshop was convened by Iuliia Buyskykh (Visting Prisma Ukraïna Fellow / National Institute of Ukrainian Studies).

David Henig’s presentation considers the question of religious intersections between Christianity and Islam as primarily an ethnographic question. Following Mittermaier’s work on charitable giving and voluntarism, it examines ‘ethics of immediacy’ emerging from situations and practices during which ‘a common ground’ is imagined and diverse social actors are mobilized to enact and make sense of it. In the context of soup kitchens in postwar Bosnia-Herzegovina, ‘ethics of immediacy’ designates a movement and conversation across ethical traditions towards problems of social injustice, redistribution, and care.

The presentation focuses on the vernacular notion of ‘merhamet’ (mercy) that Bosnians of diverse backgrounds associate with human qualities, affective registers, and aesthetics of action to act good-heartedly in the world. This is also the case of a Franciscan soup kitchen situated in a religiously ‘mixed’ town that feeds anyone who is living precariously, relying in turn on the generosity of those able to give, articulated in the idiom of merhamet/ being merhametli (good-heartedness, mercifulness). This case study of the ethics of immediacy as an actually existing form and practice of common ground offers a historically and ethnographically sensitive way of engaging with some recent work on the anthropology of Christianity and of Islam.

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