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Dr. Jonas Bens


Freie Universität Berlin

Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology

CRC 1171 "Affective Societies"

Research Fellow

Sub-Project A06: "Contested Property"

Habelschwerdter Allee 45
Room JK 30/204
14195 Berlin

Office hours

Please contact via e-mail.


2020. Habilitation (submitted) in Anthropology, FU Berlin

2015. PhD (Dr. phil) in Anthropology, RFWU Bonn.

2013. State Examination in Law (Dipl.-Jur.), RFWU Bonn.

2012. Magister Artium (M.A.) in Anthropology, RFWU Bonn.

2004-2012. Studies in Anthropology of the Americas, Systematic Theology, and Law at Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn.

Academic Career

since 2019. Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Project A-06, Collaborative Research Center "Affective Societies" (DFG-SFB 1171), Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Freie Universität Berlin.

2016-2017. Associated Researcher, Van Vollenhoven Institute for Law, Governance and Development, University of Leiden Law School.

2015-2019. Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Project B-04, Collaborative Research Center "Affective Societies" (DFG-SFB 1171), Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Freie Universität Berlin.

2014-2015. Visiting Research Fellow, Department of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

2013-2014. Assistant Researcher and Lecturer, Institute of Archaeology and Cultural Anthropology, Department of Anthropology of the Americas, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn.


2020. Anthropology of Religion (lecture), Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, FU Berlin.

2020. Indigeneity in the Americas (seminar), Institute of Anthropology, University of Göttingen.

2019/20. Economy and Social Relations (seminar), Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, FU Berlin

2019/20. Marx/Engels (seminar), Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, FU Berlin

2018/19. Topics and Theories of Social and Cultural Anthropology (seminar), Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, FU Berlin

2018/19. Reading Gramsci (seminar), Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, FU Berlin

2017/18. Legal Anthropology (seminar), Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, FU Berlin

2017/18. Archeaology and Anthropology: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (seminar), Institute of Archaeology and Cultural Anthropology, RFWU Bonn

2017. Marxism and Anthropology (seminar), Insitute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, FU Berlin 

2016. The Situation of Refugees in Berlin (field school), Insitute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Freie Universität Berlin (Coordination and Co-supervision of the Research Group "Voluntary Work in an NGO Supporting Refugees in Berlin“, field school supervisor: Prof. Dr. Olaf Zenker)

2013. Postcolonial Feminism (seminar), Institute of Archaeology and Cultural Anthropology, RFWU Bonn

2012/12. Anthropology of Globalization and Ethnicity (tutorium), Institute of Archaeology and Cultural Anthropology, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

Research Interests

Political Anthropology / Legal Anthropology
Neo-/Post-/Colonial Governance; Indigeneity; Legal Pluralism; Law and Language; Transitional Justice; Affect and Emotion in Law and Politics; Property; Trans-/Nationalism; History and Anthropology.

Research Areas

East Africa, Indigenous America
Uganda, Tanzania, USA

Ongoing Research Projects

Contested Property: Affect and Emotion in Transcultural Normative Conflicts about Ethnographic Collections in the Humboldt Forum
Zeitraum: 2019-2023
Rolle: PostDoc researcher
Förderung: German Research Foundation (DFG-SFB 1171)

Negotiating International Criminal Law: A Courtroom Ethnography of Trial Performance at the International Criminal Court
Time: 2019-2022
Rolle: International Collaborator / Work-Package-Supervisor
Funding: Academy of Finland (Suomen Akatemia)

Completed Research Projects

Sentiments of Justice and Transitional Justice: Affective Transculturality in Proceedings of the International Criminal Court
Time: since 2015
Role: PostDoc researcher
Funding: German Research Foundation (DFG-SFB 1171)

Inventing the Indigneous in Court: Sovereignty and Culture in Indigenous Rights Doctrine in the Americas
Time: 2012-2015
Role: PhD researcher
Funding: Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation

The Term 'Ethnic Origin' in German Anti-Discrimination Laws
Time: 2011-2012
Role: M.A. candidate


2021 The Sentimental Court: The Affective Life of International Criminal Justice (Manuscript)

2020 The Indigenous Paradox: Rights, Sovereignty and Culture in the Americas. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

2019 The Politics of Affective Societies: An Interdisciplinary Essay. Bielefeld: Transcript. (co-authored with Aletta Diefenbach, Thomas John, Antje Kahl, Hauke Lehmann, Matthias Lüthjohann, Friederike Oberkrome, Hans Roth, Gabriel Scheidecker, Gerhard Thonhauser, Nur Yasemin Ural, Dina Wahba, Robert Walter-Jochum, and Ragip M. Zik)

2013 Ethnie als Rechtsbegriff: Kulturanthropologische Problembeschreibungen zum Allgemeinen Gleichbehandlungsgesetz. [Ethic Origin as a Legal Category: Anthropologcial Reflections on the German Anti-Discrimination Law] Aachen: Shaker.

Edited Volumes / Special Issue

2018 Who is Afraid of Official Law? Reconnecting Anthropological and Sociological Traditions in Ethnographic Legal Studies. Special Issue of the Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unoffical Law 50(3) (co-edited with Larissa Vetters)

2017 Gerechtigkeitsgefühle: Zur affektiven und emotionalen Legitimität von Normen.  [Sentiments of Justice: The Affective and Emotional Legitimacy of Normative Orders] Bielefeld: Transcript. (co-edited with Olaf Zenker).

2014 Fußball. Macht. Politik. Interdisziplinäre Perspektiven auf Fußball und Gesellschaft.  [Football, Power, Politics: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Football and Society]  Bielefeld: Transcript. (co-edited with Susanne Kleinfeld and Karoline Noack).

Journal Articles

2018 Ethnographic Legal Studies: Reconnecting Anthropological and Sociological Traditions. Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law. 50(3): 239-254. (verfasst mit Larissa Vetters)

2018 The Courtroom as an Affective Arrangement: Analysing Atmospheres in Courtroom Ethnography. Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law 50(3): 336-355.

2018 Sentimentalizing Persons and Things: Creating Normative Arrangements of Bodies Through Courtroom Talk. Journal of Legal Anthropology 2(1): 72-91

2018 When the Cherokees Became Indigenous: Cherokee Nation v. Georgia and its Paradoxical Legalities. Ethnohistory 65(2): 247-267.

2017 Indonesia and the 'Conflictual Consensus': A Discursive Perspective on Indonesian Democracy. Critical Asian Studies 49(2): 139-162. (co-authored with Timo Duile)

2016 Anthropology and the Law: Historicising the Epistemological DivideInternational Journal of Law in Context 12(3): 235-252.

Book Chapters (Selection)

2020 Transitional Justice Atmospheres: The Role of Space and Affect in the International Criminal Court's Outreach Efforts in Northern Uganda. In: Normative Spaces and Legal Dynamics in Africa, Katrin Seidel und Hatem Ellisie (Hg.): London: Routledge.

2019 Hassrede als Völkerrechtsverbrechen: Zum Problem der normativen Kausalität beim affektiven Sprechen [Hate speech as a crime of international law: On the problem of normative causality and affective speech] In Hass/Literatur: Literatur- und kulturwissenschaftliche Beiträge zu einer Theorie- und Diskursgeschichte [Hate/Literature: Literature Studies and Cultural Studies Contributions to a History of Theory and Discourse], Robert Walter Jochum and Jürgen Brokhoff (eds.): 193-207. Bielefeld: Transcript.

2019 Political Affect. In: Affective Societies: Key Concepts, Jan Slaby and Christian von Scheve (eds.): 340-351. London: Routledge. (co-authored with Jan Slaby).

2019 Sentiment. In: Affective Societies: Key Concepts, Jan Slaby and Christian von Scheve (eds.): 96-106. London: Routledge. (co-authored with Olaf Zenker).

2019 The Ethnography of Discourse Practices: Talk, Performance, and Affect in the Time Machine. In: Analyzing Affective Societies: Methods and Methodologies, Antje Kahl (ed.): 199-213. London: Routledge.

2019 Affective Images and the Political Trial. In: Image Testimonies: Witnessing in Times of Social Media, Kerstin Schankweiler, Verena Straub and Tobias Wendl (eds.): 30-43. London: Routledge

2017 Gerechtigkeitsgefühle und die Legitimität des Internationalen Strafgerichtshofs in Norduganda [Sentiments of Justice and the Legitimacy of the Interantional Criminal Court in Northern Uganda] In: Gerechtigkeitsgefühle: Zur affektiven und emotionalen Legitimität von Normen [Sentiments of Justice: The Affective and Emotional Legitimacy of Normative Orders], Jonas Bens und Olaf Zenker (eds.): 214-241. Bielefeld: Transcript.

2017 Gerechtigkeitsgefühle: Eine Einführung [Sentiments of Justice: An Introduction]. In: Gerechtigkeitsgefühle: Zur affektiven und emotionalen Legitimität von Normen [Sentiments of Justice: The Affective and Emotional Legitimacy of Normative Orders], Jonas Bens and Olaf Zenker (eds.): 11-35. Bielefeld: Transcript. (co-authored with Olaf Zenker)

Book Reviews / Replies

2020 Vitalism and Its Discontents: Use and Misuse of the Energy Metaphor in Affect and Emotion Research. Global Discourse 10(1): 37-40.

2018 Mark Goodale, Anthropology and Law: A Critical Introduction, New York University Press, 2017, 290 Seiten, ISBN 9781479895519, 35,00 $Zeitschrift für Rechtssoziologie 38(1): 140-143.

2017 #Review: Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Rightallegralaboratory.net, 14 June 2017.

2017 Affekte, Emotionen und politische Theorie jenseits des Staates: Eine Rezension von Brigitte Bargetz’ Ambivalenzen des Alltags [Affects, Emotions and Political Theory Beyond the State: A Review of Brigitte Bargetz' Ambivlenzen des Alltags]. affective-societies.de, 25 April 2017.

2017 Antje Gunsenheimer / Ute Schüren: Amerika vor der europäischen Eroberungsehepunkte 17 (2017) No.3.

Blogposts / Interviews

2019 Zum Grundproblem von Ethnographie und Kolonialismus: Einige Gedanken zu zwei Ausstellungen im Berliner Haus der Kulturen der Welt. boasblogs.org: How to move on with Humboldt's legacy?, 11.12.2019.

2019 Trapattoni, Özdemir und jetzt Greta Thunberg: Wutreden - Gefühlsausbruch oder Rhetorik?Jonas Bens im Interview mit Hendrik Plaß von Radio Bremen über aktuelle Ereignisse und 'Wutreden'. Dienstag, den 24.09.2019, 17:10 Uhr, Bremen 4.

2018 Der politische Strafprozess als Affekt-Regulations-Maschine [The polticial trial as an affect-regulation-machine], affective-societies.de, 03.09.2018.

2018 Affekt, Emotionen und das Politische - Eine Themenreihe [Affect, Emotion, and Politics - A Themed Thread], affective-societies.de, 02.07.2018.

2018 Gleiches Recht für alle? Ein Doppelinterview zum Verhältnis von Indigenenrechten und allgemeinen Menschenrechten [Equal right(s) for all?: A double-interview on indigenous rights and universal human rights]. In: Matices - Zeitschrift für Lateinamerika, Spanien und Portugal, vol. 94, www.matices-magazin.de.

2017 Zwischen den Stühlen: Der Fachverband der Ethnolog*innen diskutiert über das Humboldt Forum [Between the cracks: The German anthropological association discusses the Humboldt Forum]. Blog “How to move on with Humboldt’s legacy: Rethinking Ethnographic Collections”. blog.uni-koeln.de/gssc-humboldt.

2016 Reaching Out: Screening a War Crimes Trial in Northern Ugandaaffective-societies.de, 10 December 2016.

2016 Donald Trump in Uganda, or: how we wanted to talk about Dominic Ongwen and ended up talking about Donald Trumpaffective-societies.de, 31 October 2016 (co-authored with Leonie Benker, also in a German version).

Online Working Papers

2017 Rhetoriken der Sentimentalisierung und die Zerstörung von Weltkulturerbe vor dem Internationalen Strafgerichtshof [Rhetorics of Sentimentalizing and the Destruction of Cultural Heritage at the International Criminal Court]. GISCA Occasional Papers, No. 13. Göttingen: Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology.

2017 Sentimentalizing and Legal Language: Affect and Emotion in Courtroom Talk. Working Paper SFB 1171 Affective Societies, No. 04/17.