Prof. Dr. Mirco Göpfert

Phone: +49 69/798-33078
E-Mail: goepfert (at) em.uni-frankfurt.de
Room: IG 557
Office hours: Thursdays 1-2 pm or by appointment (contact per E-Mail)

Personal data

Mirco Göpfert is professor for social and cultural anthropology. He received his Ph.D. in anthropology from the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in 2014 and taught at the University of Konstanz before coming to the Goethe University in 2018.



Main research interests

  • Anthropology of the state and bureaucratic practice
  • Violence and security, crime and punishment
  • Power, resistance and aesthetics
  • Humour as political and epistemological practice

Main theoretical interests

  • Practice theory
  • Phenomenological approaches in anthropology
  • Heuristic and methodology of ethnographic research

Main regional interests

  • West Africa, particularly Ghana und Niger
  • Iran

Empirical research

  • 3 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Ghana (2006)
  • 20 Monate Feldforschung in Niger (2008-2014)
  • 10 Monate Feldforschung in Iran (2015-2018)

Publications

2020 Policing the Frontier: An Ethnography of Two Worlds in Niger. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. (forthcoming)
2017 Police in Africa: The Street Level View (Edited with Jan Beek, Olly Owen and Jonny Steinberg). London: Hurst Publishers.
2016 Repairing the law: the search for justice in the Nigerien gendarmerieTheoretical Criminology 20(4): 446–461.
2016 Surveillance in Niger: gendarmes and the problem of "seeing things"African Studies Review 59(2): 39-57.
2015 Travelling police: the potential for change in the wake of police reform in West Africa (with Jan Beek). Social Anthropology/Anthropologie Sociale 23(4): 465-479.
2015 Ethnographische Überlegungen zu Polizeiarbeit in Niger: Geschichten hören, verstehen und schreibenPaideuma. Mitteilungen zur Kulturkunde 61: 237-255.
2015 Travelling police: the potential for change in the wake of police reform in West Africa (with Jan Beek). Social Anthropology/Anthropologie Sociale 23(4): 465-479.
2015 Ethnographische Überlegungen zu Polizeiarbeit in Niger: Geschichten hören, verstehen und schreibenPaideuma. Mitteilungen zur Kulturkunde 61: 237-255.
2013 State violence specialists in West Africa (with Jan Beek). Sociologus 63(1-2): 103-124.
2013 Police violence in West Africa: perpetrators’ and ethnographers’ dilemmas (with Jan Beek). Ethnography 14(4): 477-500.
2013 Bureaucratic aesthetics: report writing in the Nigerien gendarmerieAmerican Ethnologist 40(2): 324-334.
2013 Disziplin und Kreativität an ghanaischen Internatsschulen (with Andrea Noll). Frankfurt: Brandes & Apsel Verlag.
2012 Security in Niamey: an anthropological perspective on policing and an act of terrorism in NigerJournal of Modern African Studies 50(1): 53-74

Research projects

Dissonance | Resonance | Tipping Points: The Heuristic und Practice of Humour in Comparative Perspective
[since 2019; initial funding granted by GRADE and ZIAF]
The aim of this project is a comparative ethnography of humorous practice. Starting from three case studies, the project explores the heuristic and practice of humour Dakar, Tehran and Berlin.

Cartooning in Iran
[since 2015]
This project explores the graphic practice of cartooning (and caricaturing) in Iran. I try to make sense of it as a craft (including technical skills and its materiality) and as a mode of producing knowledge about the world (considering the openness and ambiguity of these drawings). Empirically this project thus focusses on (a) the lifeworlds in which cartoons are produced, (b) the skills, techniques and materiality of cartooning and (c) the contexts of visualisation and publication.

Boundary work: Police in West Africa
[DFG, 2011-2014, with Jan Beek; directed by Carola Lentz]
West Africa’s police are usually regarded as a dysfunctional state institution, both in popular and scholarly discourses. Representing the state´s monopoly on the legitimate use of force and thus expected to be politically neutral, the police are often criticized as institutionally not autonomous. The research project analyses the autonomy of police institutions at the level of everyday police practices. West African police work in an environment of low legitimacy is faced with competing non-state policing organizations and depends on superordinate or coordinate state institutions. Police practices have adapted to these conditions and therefore have come to terms with permanent informal interference by non-police actors, in some cases using the situation to their advantage by outsourcing certain police tasks. Despite these adaptations, police officers still aim to partially preserve the autonomy of their institution. The project analyses this ambivalent boundary work in which police and civil actors constantly adjust, redraw or preserve the boundary distinguishing them in everyday interactions.


Team

Lisa Schrimpf (student assistant)
Carolin Schulz (student assistant | "Dissonance|Resonance|Tipping Points")
Dr. Cassis Kilian (project team | "Dissonance|Resonance|Tipping Points")
Stella Dietrich, B.A. (project team | "Dissonance|Resonance|Tipping Points")
Tamara Gupper, B.A. (project team | "Dissonance|Resonance|Tipping Points")
Dr. Maryam Dezhamkhooy (Humboldt-Fellow, July to December 2019)