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Dr. Melina C. Kalfelis

Kalfelis180x180 Dr. Melina C. Kalfelis

Short Bio

Melina C. Kalfelis is working as a fellow at the “Africa Multiple” Cluster, where she is currently developing her postdoc project on morality, governance and justice in West African security fields. More generally Melina’s research interests include politics and work, transnationalism, civil society, law, ethics, as well as philosophical anthropology and multi-sited ethnography. She worked as a research fellow in the Collaborative Research Centre “Discourses of Weakness and Resource Regimes” at the Goethe-University Frankfurt, where she finished her dissertation on lifeworlds of NGO-actors in Burkina Faso, transnational cooperation and poverty concepts in the language of Mooré. In the meantime she co-developed several events, the last one being a dissemination workshop in Ouagadougou in November 2018 with the title "L’Avenir des ONG en Afrique de l’Ouest". Recently, she led several workshops on ethnographic fieldwork, security and vigilantism in the Sahel in Hamburg and Würzburg. From February to August 2019 Melina worked as a visiting scholar at the German Institute for Global and Area Studies, where she co-developed a GIGA Talk on the Sahel crises and contributed to the topic as a panelist. She presently publishes her dissertation with Campus, co-edits the book “NGOs&Lifeworlds in Africa” with Berghahn and writes an article for a special issue in the Journal of Intervention and State Building. Besides, Melina works as a photographer and filmmaker. In February 2019 her second documentary film “NGO Crossroads” (40 min., with Andrej Wagner) had its premiere at the FESPACO Festival in Ouagadougou, which deals with two NGO-partnerships in Burkina Faso.

Selected Publications

To access the lecture by Dr. Kalfelis, please click here.


Project Description

"Moral Twilight. Security and Law at the Margins of Weak Statehood and International Human Rights in West Africa"

The project is affiliated to the research section “moralities” and examines controversies in regards to claims of moral authority, justice and security in a transnational perspective. Her main goal is to research security and legal practices in moral grey zones and to develop new methodological and epistemological approaches to study the margins of legality and legitimacy beyond a Eurocentric perspective. While one part of her research investigates moral negotiations in panels and forums on the Sahel crises in Europe and Africa, the main focus of the project is on forms of extra-legal governance established by the self-defence groups “Koglweogo” in Burkina Faso. First insights from the field point to the conclusion that the different levels of the respective multi-sited field relate to each other via multiple moral and social controversies on what is (un)ethical and just in the name of security. These relations mainly appear through questions of lawfulness, righteousness and security provision, some of which challenge the normative model of the nation-state. The project therefore not only analyses how knowledges and practices are truncated, ignored or tabooed as morally incompatible – for example in relation to human rights. An overarching ambition of the project is also to take citizens’ decade-long experiences of arbitrariness and paralysis of state institutions as a starting point and provide new understandings about multi-layered legal provisions in West Africa.

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