inherit fellowship at HU Berlin for Christof Lammer

From April 2024 to March 2025, Christof Lammer will be researching at the Humboldt University of Berlin how kinship measurements make giant pandas a natural heritage worth protecting.

The social anthropologist Christof Lammer, postdoc assistant at the Department of Society, Knowledge & Politics at the University of Klagenfurt, was invited to a one-year fellowship at HU Berlin by the newly founded centre for advanced studies Käte Hamburger Kolleg inherit – Heritage in Transformation. There he is working on the project “Panda Heritage: Kinship Measurements and Life’s Value in Species Conservation”. In doing so, he deepens his interest in the political and economic consequences of kinship measurements and in the material production of value through information infrastructures.

What makes nature valuable and worth protecting as “heritage”? In the case of species conservation efforts, Christof assumes that kinship measurements play a central role when people decide which species and individuals should be protected – and which not.

His previous research has already shown that people measure kinship in different ways in order to decide about human belonging (e.g. citizenship), rights (e.g. inheritance, social benefits and insurance payouts) and obligations (e.g. alimony and care). Kinship is measured using overlapping and competing indicators, such as genealogical distance, lived closeness, phenotypic similarity or genetic dissimilarity.

The giant panda is a particularly interesting species for exploring how humans also employ measurements of kinship to determine origin, belonging and life’s value in species conservation. Pandas are symbol of global conservation efforts and protected as world heritage in wildlife sanctuaries, but also claimed by the People’s Republic of China as national treasure and used for so-called panda diplomacy.

For Panda Heritage, Christof analyses historical and contemporary sources of panda research and interviews involved natural scientists. The aim is to map the overlapping and competing kinship measurements that are used to delineate the panda from other species and determine its place in the evolutionary tree of life, to inform panda matchmaking to preserve genetic diversity, and habitat modelling and care practices to enable “rewilding”.

Thereby it promises insights into how seemingly unremarkable kinship measurements not only justify the protection of natural heritage but also shape conservation interventions that also affect the lives of humans and other companion species.

Panda Heritage on the inherit website:

New FWF-Project on governance through COVID-testing

The new FWF-funded project “Testing (bio) governance”  is a comparative study on how testing capacities for the SARS-CoV-2 virus were established and maintained over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic in Austria, England and the Netherlands.

The project, which is led by Erik Aarden (AAU) and involves a collaboration with Ingrid Metzler (Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences, Krems), focuses on how testing technologies were developed, implemented and made available from early 2020 onwards, creating part of the infrastructure for (national) responses to the pandemic. Beyond COVID-19, the project seeks to provide insight into the coproduction between moralities and technologies in the governance of public health.

The project will start in April 2024 and run until March 2028.


New Publication: Sociotechnical Reconfigurations of Social Policy in China

In a new article in the journal Global Social Policy, Christof Lammer examines social policy as a knowledge process and shows how the minimum livelihood guarantee (dibao) of the People’s Republic of China and its relationship to labour changes not only through human actors’ intentions but through the sociotechnical materiality of bureaucratic targeting methods.

The relationship between labour and social policy is at the heart of the social question. Scholars often treat this link as either a causal relation out there or a conceptual connection in policy makers’ minds. This article examines its sociotechnical materiality instead. Christof Lammer follows political anthropologists who ask how bureaucrats practice policy and scholars of science and technology studies who explore how social and technical aspects are interrelated in knowledge processes.

China studies has suggested that the minimum livelihood guarantee (dibao) was originally designed as a market-oriented response to transformations of labour such as mass layoffs, peasant proletarianisation and associated unrest but later revamped to only combat extreme poverty – similar to earlier forms of social assistance during the Mao era. Ethnographic insights into dibao policy in a village in Sichuan show how its designed links to labour were erased and transformed through different methods of bureaucratic targeting, as well as expectations about the bureaucratic ability to know. For a time, dibao was even integrated into alternative rural development projects aimed at decommodification.

Studying social policy as a knowledge process uncovers how its sociotechnical links to labour reconfigure it as an answer to the social question.

Lammer, Christof. 2023. “Social Policy as Knowledge Process: How Its Sociotechnical Links to Labour Reconfigure the Social Question.” Global Social Policy,

Christof Lammer is a social anthropologist and postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Science, Technology and Society Studies (STS) at the University of Klagenfurt.