Univ.-Prof. Dr. Čarna Brković

Professor of Cultural Anthropology/European Ethnology
Robert Schittko Copyright
Robert Schittko Copyright

Research focus

  • Political imagination
  • Cultural anthropology of humanitarianism, borders, refugee camps
  • Clientelism, favour, gifts
  • Nationalism, the state, policy
  • Gender and sexuality
  • Histories of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Europe


Čarna Brković has been a Professor of Cultural Anthropology/European Ethnology at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz since 2023. After completing her Bachelor's degree in European Ethnology at the University of Belgrade and her PhD in Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester, she taught at the University of Göttingen and the University of Regensburg. She was also a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Advanced Studies at the Central European University.

Her work focuses on inequalities, power, social complexity, and ambiguity. At the center of her research interests is the development of concepts that help to understand how people of different social status in Europe pursue their projects for a good life.

She is currently completing a book manuscript tentatively titled "Realigning Humanitarianism: Worldmaking from Yugoslav Socialism to Neoliberal Capitalism in the Balkans." This is an account of how Red Cross humanitarians in Montenegro pursued worldmaking differently within the Non-Aligned Movement and, forty years later, during the Europeanization process. Realigning humanitarianism in the Balkans meant changing the vision of the world advocated by this organization away from the imaginary produced during the Non-Aligned Movement and toward the one epitomized in the liberal humanitarian tradition. Looking at local humanitarian staff outside the West/Global North, the book explores links between morality and imagination.

She is the PI on a research project called Redistributive Imaginaries, which is part of a consortium of five European universities that won CHANSE funding to investigate new redistributive imaginaries in Europe.

Her monograph Managing Ambiguity is an ethnographic study of how neoliberal reforms in healthcare and social welfare in Bosnia and Herzegovina encouraged clientelism. The book shows how the neoliberal emphasis on local community and self-responsibility was translated into clientelist modes of relating and back. It also ethnographically demonstrates that some people managed to get into official political positions by managing ambiguity between social welfare as a civic right and a personal gift.

In her research, (South) Eastern Europe is perceived as a region that poses unexpected theoretical challenges to conventional directions of cultural anthropological analysis. She takes a deeply critical stance towards hegemonic notions of the region as a copycat of theories developed elsewhere - in former colonial centers or their peripheries. To counter such ideas, she tests and develops concepts that reflect the ethnographic realities of the region and contribute to understanding socio-political entanglements around the world.

Professor Brković welcomes doctoral students interested in what has been happening with political imagination after the fall of socialism in Europe and elsewhere, especially in humanitarianism, activism, gender, and sexuality.


Research projects

ReDigIm: Redistributive Imaginaries: Digitalisation, culture, and prosocial contribution (PI)


Publications (selection)

2024     Disappointment and awkwardness as ugly feelings. Humanitarian affect in a “Global East"Focaal 98: 47-63.

2024     (ed.) Troubling Gender. Anthropological Perspectives on Gender Politics in/of EuropeBerliner Blätter 88, co-edited with Beate Binder, Sabine Hess, Marion Näser-Lather, and Ronda Ramm.

2023       (ed.) “Vernacular Humanitarianisms”. Social Anthropology 31(1).

2022       Postsocialist Mediterranean: Scalar Gaze, Moral Self, and Relational Labor of Favors in Eastern Europe. Focaal: Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology 92(1): 82-97.

2021      (ed.)“In the Name of the Daughter. Anthropology of Gender in Montenegro”. Comparative Southeast European Studies 69(1).

2021      Minority Sexualities, Kinship, and Non-Autological Freedom in Montenegro. Social Anthropology 29(2): 387-403.

2020      European Anthropology as a Fortuitous Incident? Reflections on the Sustainability of the Field. Anthropological Journal of European Cultures 29(2): 31-48.

2019       Preference for censure: Yugoslav film and paradoxes of visibility after the Cold War. Terrain. Anthropologie und Sciences Humaines.

2018      Epistemological Eclecticism: Difference and the “Other” in the Balkans and Beyond. Anthropological Theory 18(1): 106–128.

2017      Managing Ambiguity: How Clientelism, Citizenship, and Power Shape Personhood in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Berghahn.

2016     Negotiating Social Relations in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Semiperipheral Entanglements. New York: Routledge, co-edited with Stef Jansen and Vanja Celebicic.

2016     Scaling Humanitarianism: Humanitarian Actions in a Bosnian Town. Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology 81(1): 99–124. (Won SIEF Young Scholar Prize)


  1. Fachkolloquium Kulturanthropologie/Europäische Ethnologie
    Instructor: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Carna Brkovic; Tetyana Delzeit
  2. MA K. Kolloquium (2019)
    Instructor: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Carna Brkovic
  3. MA PrS. Thematische Hinführung zum Projekt und Präsentation der Ergebnisse: Dezentrierung des Humanitarismus – blockfreie Interventionen in den Debatten des Roten Kreuzes in den 1970er Jahren
    Instructor: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Carna Brkovic
  4. MA Ü. Datenerhebung (Modul V): Dezentrierung des Humanitarismus – blockfreie Interventionen in den Debatten des Roten Kreuzes in den 1970er Jahren
    Instructor: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Carna Brkovic
  5. VL. Grundlagen der Kulturanthropologie/Volkskunde (Sommer)
    Instructor: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Carna Brkovic

SoSe 2024