Navigation auf


ISEK - Department of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies Social and Cultural Anthropology

Professorial Chair Prof. Dr. Peter Finke


Curiosity and concern are two essential premises of good anthropology: curiosity for the amazing diversity of human experience and cultural expression in the world; concern for the fact that many people lead lives full of precarity and marginalisation with little prospects to build up a sustainable future for themselves and their children. At our chair, we aim for an anthropology that utilises these two intrinsic motives and develops them towards a scientific endeavour combining fundamental research and theory building with contemporary issues in a rapidly transforming world. We do so, adopting a critical realist approach that grounds in the assumption that with the proper methods and theories we are able to uncover some of the regularities and causalities that shape our lives in a globally connected world.

Research themes and regions

Two thematic and one regional focus are defining for the work done at the chair, although they are by no means exclusive with regard to the research conducted by individual members. One focus is on Precarity and Opportunity, which looks at processes of economic and social transformations, and the way these lead to an unequal distribution of resources, chances and vulnerabilities among different groups or individual actors. The second looks at the relationship between Culture, Cognition and Society, or the way that models of and on the world are shaped by and in return shape social relations and institutional configurations.

Much of the research at our chair takes place in Central and Inner Asia, where processes of economic and social transformation are particularly pronounced and visible since the end of the socialist era. Projects are also conducted in other parts of the world, including Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. This way, we aim for a truly comparative and mutually connected approach to a global anthropology.


Currently, the following larger projects are conducted by members of the chair, or have recently been finalised:

Central Asian Law. Legal Cultures and Business Environments in Central Asia (since 2020)
HumMingBird: Enhanced migration measures from a multidimensional perspective (since 2019)
Zheti-Suw: Portrait of a Region (since 2015)
Development and Trust in Upper Mesopotamia - The social impacts of GAP (2012-2016)
Uzbek Identity: Comparative Studies Across Central Asia (since 2000)
Pastoralism in Contemporary Central Asia (since 1991)
Repatriation and Transnational Migration in Central Asia: The Case of the Qazaq Oralman (since 1991)


Peter Finke, chair
Désirée Gmür, postdoctoral researcher and lecturer
Werner Hertzog, postdoctoral researcher and lecturer
Meltem Sancak, senior lecturer and researcher
Daniela Dietz, project coordinator

Current PhD students

Dinara Abildenova
„Celebrations in Kazakhstan: The Role of Social Norms“

Mustafa Akcinar
„Understanding the Influence of the Ilisu Dam Project for local people in Hasankeyf in the context of uncertainty, risk and contingency”

Indira Alibayeva
„Ethnic Differentiation, Interethnic Relations and Conflict in Central Asia: the case of the Uzbeks in Kazakstan“

Verena La Mela 
„The role of kinship for trade relations among Uighurs in Southeastern Kazakhstan“

Zarina Mukanova
„Kinship and social identification in south-eastern Kazakhstan: The relevance of patrilineal descent in economic and social life“

Dominik Müller
„Negotiating Islam in the turkish community outside of Turkey: an anthropological perspective on Diyanet in Switzerland“

Tabea Rohner
„Women's Economic Strategies in Rural Kazakhstan: A Study of the Household in Times of Multifarious Change“

Hatice Soeylemez
„Alternative Education in Turkey“

Michelle von Dach
„Italy as a Migration Hub towards Europe“

Georg Winterberger
„Livelihood Strategies in Myanmar. How do people in Myanmar cope with the making a living within the rapid economic opening and change of the country?“

Huajing Yang
„[Tentative title] Community Interaction and Identity Attachment in Transnational Mobility Contexts, Dependent Echoing and Dynamic Transitions: A Case Study of Uzbek Communities in Germany and Social Transformation in Post-Soviet Uzbekistan“


Completed dissertation projects

Tara Bate
„ Pastoralism without Herders in Limi, Nepal “ (2023)

Annelies Kuijpers
„Suddenly You Realize You are Living in a Hidden Paradise. Branding tourist space in Halfeti Turkey (an ethnographic study on destination branding)“ (2021)

Daniela Dietz
„InDifference: Living together (apart) in a Turkish urban neighbourhood“ (2019)

Linda Kelley
„Dealing with Uncertainty: Changing Strategies, Institutions and Perceptions among Pastoralists in Western Mongolia“ (2019)

K. Zeynep Sarıaslan
„Housewives ‘in Progress’: Persistence of Turkey’s Gender Regime in the Context of Development“ (2018)

Jovana Dikovic
„Post-socialist rural development and peasantry in Serbia“ (2018)

Eliza Isabaeva
„Migration into 'Illegality' and Looking Like the State in Post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan“ (2017)

Christopher Kelley
„Building Power. Trade Union Renewal in the Changing Swiss Construction Industry“ (2017)

Esther Horat
„Market Transformation and Trade Dynamics in Northern Vietnam: The Case of Ninh Hiep“ (2016)

Stefan Leins
„Cockpits of Capitalism: An Ethnography of Financial Analysis“ (2015)

Alessandra Pellegrini
„Becoming a Peasant Middle Class: Coca Growers and the Politics of Indigeneity in the Bolivian Yungas“ (2013)

Dilyara Suleymanova
„Schooling the Sense of Belonging: Identity Politics and Educational Change in Post-Soviet Tatarstan“ (2013)

Irina Wenk
„Ancestral Domain: Land Titling and the Conjuncture of Goverment, Rights and Territory in Central Mindanao“ (2012)