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

Thomas Laely

Thomas Laely, Dr.

  • Associated researcher
+41 79 609 76 58

Research interests

Museum anthropology / museum studies, museums in and on Africa. Political anthropology, state and governance. Anthropology, art and visual culture.

Research area

Sub-Saharan Africa, interlacustrine states of the Great Lakes area (Burundi, Rwanda, East Congo / Kivu, Uganda)

Short bio

Thomas Laely is a cultural anthropologist with a focus on museology, political anthropology and African studies. He has been the Deputy Director of the Ethnographic Museum at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, from 2010 up to 2019. In previous years he was active in international arts promotion, 1994 – 2010, establishing and directing the International Department of the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia. Currently, he is concentrating on issues of the history and perspectives of ethnological museums, particularly the exploration of new practices of collaboration between cultural history museums in Europe and Africa.


2019 Towards Mutuality in International Museum Cooperation: Reflections on a Swiss-Ugandan cooperative museum project, together with Marc Meyer, Amon Mugume, Raphael Schwere. In: Stedelijk Studies, issue 8, 2019, Amsterdam.
2018 Museum Cooperation between Africa and Europe. A New Field for Museum Studies, with Meyer, Marc, Schwere, Raphael (eds.). Bielefeld & Kampala: transcript-Verlag & Fountain Publications, 242 p.
2017 Das Museum als ethnologische Methode? Zeitgeschuldete Betrachtungen. In: Hahn, Hans-Peter (Hrg). Ethnologie und Weltkulturenmuseum. Positionen für eine offene Weltsicht, pp. 175-219, Berlin: Vergangenheitsverlag.
2016 Collecting, Revisiting, Reappraising – Restituting? The Schinz Collection of the Ethnographic Museum at the University of Zurich. In: Collet, Dominik, Füssel, Marian & Roy MacLeod (eds). The University of Things. Theory – History – Practice, pp. 57-70. Jahrbuch für Europäische Wissenschaftskultur, Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Vlg.
2014 Milch in Afrika – Kalebasse und Tetra Pak, gemeinsam mit Gagliardi, L. & R. Schwere. In: Flitsch, M. et al. (Hrg). 2014. Trinkkultur – Kultgetränk. Sulgen: Benteli, pp. 58-95. (engl. Ausgabe: Milk in Africa – Gourd and Tetrapak, together with L. Gagliardi & R. Schwere. 2014. Benteli, pp. 58-95).
1997 Peasants, Local Communities, and Central Power in Burundi. In: The Journal of Modern African Studies, Vol. 35, No. 4, December 1997, pp. 695-716. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.