Here, the Equal Opportunity Unit will introduce projects with a pioneering approach to gender justice, the reconciliation of work and family obligations, and diversity. We will include events, workshops, seminars, and research projects. The projects are headed by students, researchers, and administrative and technological staff. The Equal Opportunity Unit supports all projects through the Equal Opportunity Fund or the Women’s Advancement Fund.
Refugee Law Clinic
Universität Hamburg student volunteers provide legal advice to refugees.
The Refugee Law Clinic (RLC) is a student initiative founded in 2014. It is run from the Faculty of Law at Universität Hamburg. The project aims to provide easily accessible information and advice for people with refugee backgrounds. This is not intended for representation in court, but to provide targeted information about the German legal system. The Refugee Law Clinic introduces itself in the interview below:
Can you briefly outline the work of the Refugee Law Clinic?
Every fall, about 20–30 students begin a one-year training process to be able to work at the clinic. The courses on gender and diversity, which make up an established part of the curriculum, are funded by the Equal Opportunity Fund of Universität Hamburg. Our advising office offers consultations multiple times in the week at a range of locations in collaboration with cooperation partners on subjects like the asylum procedure, family reunification, and securing residency permits. In response to the most recent crises, we introduced a special ad hoc Afghanistan consultation in the fall of 2021; we are currently training our advisers on the specific issues for those fleeing Ukraine; and we are working closely with other actors in the supporting community.
What are the project’s exact goals?
Our goal is to provide accessible legal advice for people who are especially vulnerable due to their flight and whose access to justice is particularly difficult. The RLC #knowyourrights provides informational lectures for refugees on legal matters and can provide input on a range of migration-related themes on request. We see ourselves as a training project that combines theory and practice. We also want to advance migration law, which has not yet been firmly established in legal education in Hamburg despite its practical relevance.
How did the Refugee Law Clinic come to be?
The RLC Hamburg was founded in 2014 by 2 students, Katharina Leithoff and Fiona Schönbohm, in response to the refugee protection crisis that began in the “long summer of migration” in 2014 and the years that followed.
Why is the subject so important?
The subject is and remains close to our hearts—with every increase in the number of arrivals, refugee rights are scaled back and more strictly enforced, with “unjust” results in current legal practice. The current reaction to the war in Ukraine is an absolute exception. Our goal remains to support refugees in enforcing their (limited) rights, as the most essential requirement for accessing one’s rights is to know that they exist in the first place. We also want to contribute to developing a critical understanding of the law by confronting our participants with the realities of law in practice, and to feed this back into society through public events and contributions.
These questions, posed by the Equal Opportunity Unit were answered by Mailin Loock and Jara Al-Ali. The RLC’s gender and diversity courses are funded by the Equal Opportunity Fund of Universität Hamburg. Find out more about the work of the Refugee Law Clinic.
Körper-Territorien obdach- und wohnungloser Frauen*
Image: Dr. Katharina Schmidt
Dr. Katharina Schmidt from the Critical Geographies of Global Inequalities working group in the Faculty of Mathematics, Informatics and Natural Sciences is researching homelessness, among other topics. A workshop took place in the summer of 2021 as part of the project Körper-Territorien obdach- und wohnungloser Frauen* to provide women* affected by homelessness with a space to share their experiences and to network. In this interview, Katharina Schmidt explains how the project came to be, what body-territory mapping is all about, and why research into homelessness among women* is so important.
Can you outline your project briefly?
The project links with research topics that are part of my doctoral dissertation on the geographies of homelessness. It looks at the actual physical experiences of urban homelessness, with a focus on the knowledge and emotional geographies of homeless women*. Under the title Creating Body-Maps Together, I conducted a workshop with homeless women*, in which we mapped so-called body-territories. In the spirit of “sharing is caring” and “the personal is political,” the workshop began by creating a collective knowledge of the body, and moving on to creating opportunities to network and discuss social and political challenges and structures for homeless women*.
How did the project come to be?
The project is in cooperation with the women’s network of the homeless persons’ self-representation council (Selbstvertretung wohnungsloser Menschen e.V.), with the intention of providing space for encounters and exchanges between and for homeless women*. That was important, because spaces for homeless women* which are not dominated by men, or bound by institutional (charitable, institutional, etc.) conditions, are rare outside of mainstream aid or political structures.
Why did you choose these research methods, that is, the mapping of body-territories, and what exactly does it mean?
The mapping of body-territories is founded in the Latin American debates around cuerpo-território, which are based on decolonial and indigenous feminist perspectives and practices. In these debates, the body is seen as a territory in itself, but also part of social, political, economic, historical, and natural processes. Body-territories can be mapped using large format drawings, collages, or sketches to trace and visually display the locations and relationships between emotional and physical spaces. I chose this approach to display and better investigate precisely this interplay between the bodies of homeless women* and their relationship with the urban context in Germany.
Why is the subject of homeless women*, and research into them, so important?
The daily needs and experiences of homeless women* have been and still are overlooked in research and in practice. This is due, among other things, to a broad and culturally rooted stigma against the homeless. Discrimination in urban spaces, in public and private institutions, in relationships or in political representation leaves its marks both on and within the bodies of homeless women*. These are not just individual, but structural. In Germany, we lack fundamental research into the question of homelessness, particularly from an intersectional perspective. I am hoping that my work can contribute to ameliorating this.
The workshop is funded by the Women’s Advancement Fund from the Equal Opportunity Unit. More information on Dr. Katharina Schmidt’s research.
SEX.SEX.SEX. Kulturwissenschaftliche Höhepunkte und Abgründe—33rd student conference of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Empirische Kulturwissenschaft (German association of empirical cultural studies)
The 33rd student conference of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Empirsche Kulturwissenschaft took place at Universität Hamburg from 13 to 16 May 2021. The conference focused on different ways of thinking about sex, gender, the body, and sexuality under the motto Sex. Sex. Sex.
The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Empirische Kulturwissenschaft (formerly the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Volkskunde) hosts an annual student conference on various topics at different universities. In 2020, the conference was scheduled to take place at the Institute for Anthropological Studies in Culture and History and Universität Hamburg. Due to the pandemic, the 33rd student conference (titled “Sex. Sex. Sex.”) took place digitally.
The organizers—bachelor’s and master’s students at the Institute for Anthropological Studies in Culture and History and the departmental student representative committee for empirical cultural studies—designed the conference around cultural study perspectives on sexualities, sex and gender, queer cultures, and the body. Seven interdisciplinary panels with individual talks by students, workshops, and performances provided insight into current and completed research projects on both historical and contemporary topics. Conference participants also discussed the further development of methods and cultural study approaches to learn how to understand different cultures and how their insights could lead to societal change.
How did it all begin? When the organizational team realized that the student conference last focused on sex and gender 25 years ago, they quickly agreed that, this year, it should focus on the topic again so as to reflect on the issues of negotiation, materiality, physicality, and inequality. The conference’s core areas focused on the interweaving of sex and gender with identity, morality and ethics, pathology and health, labor, institutions and politics, and technology and aesthetics. Furthermore, the conference topics were designed to emphasize interdisciplinary perspectives, link theoretical and empirical findings, and consider changes and cultural transformation.
“It was important to the organizational team to enable students at all levels to present their term papers and theses. In addition to making fields of research and lines of inquiry visible, another goal of the conference was to sensitize us to the complexity of daily life and to discover which intersectional, decolonial, and historicizing approaches we need to understand it,” said Manual Bolz, a master’s student in empirical cultural studies and part of the 10-person organizational team. See the conference program for more insights into the conference topics.
The 450-plus registrations reveal the conference’s relevance and appeal. In lively discussions, speakers and participants focused on the poles of emotionalizing and moralizing discourses related to sexuality in everyday life while using the methods, theories, and knowledge of cultural studies to approach them.
To make conference findings accessible to the larger public, the organizational team and students from other universities are planning a conference catalog for the 33rd student conference, scheduled for publication in the Hamburger Journal für Kulturanthropologie in the late summer of 2022. There, the authors will present their exploratory questions and the completed theses on the topics of gender, the body, and sexuality, which also formed some of the panel content. The catalog is being funded by the Women’s Advancement Fund of Universität Hamburg.
See the 33rd student conference home page for more information.