Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Zurich began in 1886, when the medical doctor and Central America researcher Dr. Otto Stoll acquired his habilitation for the field of anthropology. He was a founding member of the Ethnographic Society of Zürich and became the first director of the ‘Ethnographic Collection’ (‘Sammlung für Völkerkunde’). In 1891 he was appointed as chair of the geography department.
The Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology and the Ethnographic Museum were founded in 1971, and with this anthropology became an independent subject. Prof. Dr. Lorenz Löffler was appointed as chair of the department. The first director and professor of the Ethnographic Museum was Prof. Dr. Karl Henking.
The Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology was developed strongly under Prof. Dr. Lorenz Löffler (1971-1995). The thematic areas he promoted were economic anthropology and ecology, political and legal anthropology, kinship, gender studies, ethno-psychoanalysis, the anthropology of social movements and ethnicity, and development anthropology.
On the First of January 2014, the Department of Cultural Studies, the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology and the Ethnographic Museum joined forces to form the Department for Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies (ISEK).
Am 01.01.2014 haben sich das Institut für Populäre Kulturen, das Ethnologische Seminar und das Völkerkundemuseum zum Institut für Sozialanthropologie und Empirische Kulturwissenschaft (ISEK) zusammengeschlossen.
Since August 2014, ISEK – Social and Cultural Anthropology has had four professorial chairs: Prof. Dr. Peter Finke, Prof. Dr. Mareile Flitsch, Prof. Dr. Annuska Derks and Prof. Dr. Johannes Quack. These four chairs are advancing ISEK with avant-garde research and innovative teaching. Regionally, Asia is an important focus, but classes are also taught and research is also done in other regions, including Europe.