Historically, anthropologists have studied people’s livelihoods and social identifications by examining how they are shaped by culturally conditioned goals as well as by social norms and policies. Mainstream approaches towards the study of policy focus on the ‘problems’ policies are designed to address and on how to bridge the bemoaned gap between theory and practice. The adoption of an anthropological perspective turns both the policies themselves and people’s livelihoods into objects of study. This entails a broader project of cultural, political and economic analysis by focusing on the processes which connect policies, livelihoods, cultural meanings, categories of people and institutions. It requires paying attention to the workings of governmentality and to relations of power and inequality. Through which processes, for example, are different sections of the population categorized into groups (youth, migrants, minorities and others)? In what ways do people respond to public policies and to the concerns of everyday life?
The research group Governance, Policies, Livelihoods, addresses these kinds of questions by focusing on: 1) the elaboration and implementation of policies; 2) the complex power relations between people and institutions; 3) the production and contestation of discourses regarding social rights and obligations; 4) identity politics; 5) cultural representations of idealized lifestyles. The main focus of these studies is on areas such as family, health, social work, consumption, work, security and crime, gender, justice and human rights. Research results also feed into public engagement initiatives to provide fresh insights for policy development and adjustment.