Urban Ethics

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Munich: Charity. A praxeological approach to practices of help under urban conditions (2018 - 2021)

To help others in voluntary programs is a currently contested topic in Germany. It connects to bigger questions of social inequality and migration, of solidarity and care. To support others presents a field for voluntary action and connects to ethical debates of good citizenship. At the same time, right populist politics criticize volunteering, especially for refugees. That forces volunteers to justify their doing, while they themselves, those who are seeking support and professionalized social workers reflect on the challenges of supporting others. These debates reflect that practices of help are in the center of a broader negotiation about power, belonging and imaginations of a just society, also on a local level: in cities. Munich is often presented as a wealthy city where people and politics care for the poor and excluded. At the same time, inhabitants increasingly problematize exclusion processes in Munich, above all regarding housing prices (see TP Munich, 1st phase) but also concerning migration politics.

The ethnographic project follows motivations, imaginations and practices of volunteers as well as of those who seek support. By applying qualitative methods like in-depth interviews and participant observation, we try to understand of relations of help better. Therefore, we chose three contrasting research fields: refugee aid, religious care and financial support. Which city society do the actors imagine in regards to the support relations? Which norms in society do they also question? We are interested in how actors deal with power hierarchies in light of the help they give, modify, distribute, receive or deny. Following a praxeological approach, we aim to gain insight in the practices that constitute relations of support as well on the level of imaginations as on the level of embodiment. The sub-project follows the analytical perspectives of the research group by focusing on the connections between ethical ambition, political mobilization and charity engagement in the specific cases as well as on subjectification processes and embodiments of support. The analytical challenge lies in further develop possible correlations between a conception of ethics as mostly imaginative and built on reflection and the idea of materialized practices and embodiments in everyday life.