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: