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Photo of Dr Jan-Jonathan Bock

Dr Jan-Jonathan Bock

Junior Research Fellow, Woolf Institute

Research Associate, St Edmund's College
Honorary Research Associate, Peterhouse



Jan joined the Institute as a Junior Research Fellow in May 2015. He is conducting research for the Trust project in Berlin and Rome, investigating how crises are experienced and narrativised. Jan analyses the impact of crisis perceptions on trust in the state and in public institutions, on the one hand, and on practices of intercultural community life and solidarity, on the other. The project also explores Paris and London.

Between July 2015 and June 2016, Jan conducted research in Germany. In Berlin, Jan worked predominantly with initiatives responding to the so-called refugee crisis, which began to dominate public life in Germany in the summer of 2015, when up to 10,000 people fleeing war and poverty entered the country each day. An important part of his research in the city concerned how local and national authorities responded to the challenge and to declining trust in state institutions to manage public life. He has also explored the Pegida movement in Dresden – an anti-establishment, anti-Islam platform that came into existence in 2014 – and researched how a small town community responded to the arrival of large numbers of refugee strangers in the northern German Harz Mountains. Jan is interested in how perceptions of state failure impact on local social relations and community life in a country whose citizens hold traditionally strong beliefs in the effective management by public institutions. He has written about his research in Berlin’s multicultural Neukölln district for the Woolf blog.

In June 2016, Jan moved on to Rome, where he is working with faith-based integration projects for refugees whose asylum applications have been granted, and with grassroots initiatives supporting African migrants travelling under the state radar from the south of Italy on to France and Germany. The second focus of his work in Rome regards the success of the anti-establishment protest platform Movimento Cinque Stelle (Five Star Movement). In June 2016, the Movement won the municipal elections for the mayor of Rome and attained a large majority in the city council. The Movement’s rapid success – it was founded only a few years ago – depends in large part on the profound distrust many Romans have towards their local institutions, plagued by corruption and organised crime. Jan is interested in the ways in which the Movement’s revolutionary practice of web-based participatory democracy negotiates the constraints of institutionalised politics, and in the notions of citizenship that motivate the supporters and activists who seek to reconnect Italians with their public institutions.

Before joining the Woolf Institute, Jan was a doctoral student at the University of Cambridge, Division of Social Anthropology. His thesis explored the aftermath of an earthquake that hit the Italian city of L'Aquila in April 2009. Jan analysed the social and cultural repercussions of the disaster, and explored emergent practices of local citizenship as dimensions of recovery efforts. He conducted ethnographic research in L'Aquila between January 2012 and May 2013, following earthquake survivors in their attempts to reconstitute themselves as subjects with political agency wielding control over their lives in the wake of a disenfranchising government intervention.

He has presented his research at major international conferences, and has published articles based on his doctoral thesis. Jan is preparing a monograph based on his thesis, and is editing a couple of books on citizenship during austerity and on cultural difference in Germany. At the Division of Social Anthropology, Jan has supervised students in The Anthropology of Cities and Space; Political Economy and Social Transformations; and The Anthropology of Europe. He has supervised undergraduate dissertations in Social Anthropology and Sociology.

Building on his study of disaster experiences and emergency interventions in post-earthquake L’Aquila, at the Woolf Institute, Jan examines how citizens experience their capacity for political participation and cross-cultural solidarity during an era perceived as a major crisis.


Journal Articles and Book Chapters (peer-reviewed)

2016 ‘Approaching Utopia Pragmatically: Artistic Spaces and Community-Making in Post-Earthquake L’Aquila’, Cadernos de Arte e Antropologia, Vol 5 (1): 97-115

2016 ‘Rejecting or Remaking Democratic Practices? Experiences during Times of Crisis in Italy’, in J Cook, N Long, and H Moore (eds.) The State We’re In: Reflections on Democracy’s Troubles, Oxford: Berghahn

2017 ‘The Second Earthquake - How the Italian State Generated Hope and Uncertainty in post-Disaster L’Aquila, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (March 2017 issue)

2017 ‘Citizenship, Community, and Solidarity at the End of the Welfare State’, in Austerity, Community Action, and the Future of Citizenship in Europe (edited by S Cohen, J-J Bock, and C Fuhr), Bristol: Policy Press (first author, with S Cohen)

2017 ‘Social Activism, Belonging, and Citizenship in a Period of Crisis’, in Austerity, Community Action, and the Future of Citizenship in Europe (edited by S Cohen, J-J Bock, and C Fuhr), Bristol: Policy Press (second author, with S Cohen)

2018 ‘Introduction: Newcomers, Nationhood, and Negotiating Belonging in Germany’, in Germany’s Differences: Newcomers, Nationhood, and Negotiating Belonging (edited by J-J Bock and S Macdonald), Oxford & New York: Berghahn Books (first author, with S Macdonald)

2018 ‘Localizing Cultural Difference in Berlin’s Refugee Church and Dresden’s Pegida Movement’, in Germany’s Differences: Newcomers, Nationhood, and Negotiating Belonging (edited by J-J Bock and S Macdonald), Oxford & New York: Berghahn Books

Forthcoming ‘State Failure and Political Polarisation in Germany’s Refugee Crisis’, International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society

Forthcoming ‘Camps for those that mustn’t exist: transitory migrants and the absent state in Italy’ in I Katz, D Martin and C Minca (eds.) Camp Geographies Today: Contemporary Spatialities of a Modern Political Technology, London: Routledge

Books and Edited Volumes

2017 Austerity, Community Action, and the Future of Citizenship in Europe, co-editor (with Shana Cohen and Christina Fuhr), Bristol: Policy Press

2018 Germany’s Differences: Newcomers, Nationhood, and Negotiating Belonging, co-editor (with Sharon Macdonald), Oxford & New York: Berghahn Books

In preparation Citizens Without  City - Destruction and Despair in Berlusconi’s Italy, Bloomington: Indiana University Press (proposal accepted, manuscript submission in spring 2017)

Academic Conferences, Papers, Presentations

March 2017 Conference Paper: ‘Diversity at the Heart of Christianity: Catholic Management of Migration and Multiculturalism in Rome’, SIEF Congress, Göttingen

December 2016 Invited Presentation:  ‘Hospitality or Catastrophe? Refugees, Polarisation, and Crisis Experiences in Germany’, University of Rome (Tor Vergata)

September 2016 Conference Paper: ‘Refugees in the Countryside: Engagement and Global Suffering in the Harz Mountains, Germany’, Royal Geographical Society (RGS) Annual International Conference, London

July 2016 Conference Paper: ‘Migrants in the Mountains: Experiencing Difference in a German Refugee Shelter’, European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) Biennial Conference, Milan

April 2016 Workshop Paper: ‘Negotiating Difference Through Emergent Publics: Berlin’s Refugee Church and the Pegida Movement in Dresden’, at the ‘Experiencing Differences and Diversities in Contemporary Germany’ Workshop, Institute for European Ethnology, Humboldt University, Berlin

April 2016 Organiser: ‘Experiencing Differences and Diversities in Contemporary Germany’, Academic Workshop by the Woolf Institute/Institute for European Ethnology, Humboldt University, Berlin

February 2016 Invited Presentation: ‘Crisis in Berlin and Paris: Diversity, Culture, and the Good Life’, St Edmund’s College/Woolf Institute Research Seminar, University of Cambridge

June 2015 Conference Paper: ‘Pragmatic Utopias and Community-Making in Post-Earthquake L’Aquila’, International Society for Ethnology and Folklore (SIEF) Biennial Congress, Zagreb, Croatia

April 2015 Invited Presentation: ‘L’Aquila’s Earthquake Trial: Tensions between Science and Society’, Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction, University College London

December 2014 Organiser: ‘Who Declares the End of Emergency? Temporalities of Precariousness after Extreme Events’, Panel at American Anthropological Association (AAA) Annual Meeting, Washington DC

December 2014 Conference Paper: ‘Diverse Temporalities, Misconceptions, and Estrangement – Complicated Lives in Post-Disaster L’Aquila’, American Anthropological Association (AAA) Annual Meeting, Washington DC

November 2014 Invited Presentation: ‘Social Change and Activism in Italy’, Peterhouse Theory Group, Peterhouse, University of Cambridge

June 2014 Conference Paper: ‘Negotiating City Spaces – (Re)Constructing the Past and the Future in Post-Earthquake L’Aquila’, City Centric Symposium ‘Inventing Urban Modernity’, King’s College London

February 2014 Invited Presentation: ‘Italian Disaster Politics and New Precariousness – Transformations in the City of L’Aquila after the 20009 Earthquake’, Cambridge University Social Anthropology Society, University of Cambridge

November 2013 Conference Paper: ‘Disaster, Political Spectacle, and the Disappearance of the Social – Transformations in the City of L’Aquila after its Earthquake’, American Anthropological Association (AAA) Annual Meeting, Chicago

September 2013 Invited Presentation: ‘L’Aquila’s Earthquake Trial: Tensions between Science and Society’, University of Stavanger, Norway

April 2013 Workshop Paper: ‘Rejecting or Remaking Democracy – Experiences during Times of Crisis in Italy’, at the ‘Post-Democracies’ Workshop, Division of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge

November 2012 Conference Paper: ‘Democracy During Times of Crisis in Italy’, American Anthropological Association (AAA) Annual Meeting, San Francisco

Public Engagement

December 2016 Consulting: German Federal Agency for Civic Education (Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung), internal workshop on populism and anti-establishment sentiment in Germany, Berlin

November 2016 Article: ‘Urban activists are forging diverse communities in a divided Europe - here’s how’, The Conversation, https://theconversation.com/urban-activists-are-forging-diverse-communities-in-a-divided-europe-heres-how-69171 (with S Cohen and S Everett)

October 2016 Article: Transitanti Migrants and Paradoxical Statehood in Italy, Woolf Institute Blog, https://woolfinstitute.wordpress.com/2016/10/17/transitanti/

September 2016 Panellist: Deutsche Bank and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung ‘Thinking about Germany’ (Denk ich an Deutschland) conference, Berlin, discussing the origins of rightwing anti-migration and anti-establishment protest in East Germany

May 2016 Consulting: Alfred-Herrhausen-Gesellschaft, invited expert for a workshop on the long-term legacy of the refugee crisis on German society, Berlin

May 2016 Article: ‘German Struggles with Diversity’, Woolf Institute Blog, https://woolfinstitute.blog/2016/05/05/german-struggles-with-diversity/

January 2016 Article: ‘Refugees Experience Diversity through Local Museums’, Woolf Institute Blog, https://woolfinstitute.wordpress.com/2016/01/18/refugees-experience-diversity-through-local-museums/

December 2015 Article: ‘An Experimental Approach to Integration’, Neukoellner, http://www.neukoellner.net/alltag-anarchie/an-experimental-approach-to-integration/

November 2015 Policy Paper: Commissioned by German Vice Chancellor and Social Democratic Party leader, Sigmar Gabriel, on trust in institutions and the production of stability in culturally diverse, democratic societies

October 2015  Article: ‘Candyfloss for Refugees’, King’s Review, http://kingsreview.co.uk/magazine/theblog/2015/10/22/candyfloss-for-refugees/

September 2015 Article: ‘Refugees in Germany: Learning from Berlin?’, Woolf Institute Blog, https://woolfinstitute.wordpress.com/2015/09/21/refugees-in-germany-learning-from-berlin/

October 2014 Article: ‘Intimacy, Love, and the Body – Rethinking Helmut Newton’s Photography’, King’s Review, http://kingsreview.co.uk/magazine/blog/2014/10/04/intimacy-love-and-the-body-rethinking-helmut-newtons-photography/

April 2013 Public Talk: ‘The Role of Memory in Human Life’ (Il ruolo della memoria nella vita umana), commemoration event of L’Aquila Earthquake, L’Aquila, Italy

April 2013 Public Talk: ‘Science on Trial. What happened in L’Aquila?’ (Wissenschaft vor Gericht. Was war los in L’Aquila?), Bad Harzburg, Germany

December 2011 Public Talk: ‘The L’Aquila Earthquake – Social Challenges in the Wake of Natural Disasters’ (Das Erdbeben von L’Aquila – Soziale Herausforderungen nach Naturkatastrophen), Bad Harzburg, Germany

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