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

Peter Finke

Peter Finke, Prof. Dr.

  • Professor
  • Vice-Dean for Study Affairs Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
+41 44 635 22 33
Room number
AND 5.22

Research interests

Economic anthropology, institutional analysis, transformation processes, precarity and opportunity, pastoral nomadism and rural development, cognitive anthropology, identity, migration

Regional specialisation

Central and Inner Asia, Middle East, post-socialist societies

Short biography

I am an economic anthropologist specialising in Central and Inner Asia where I have conducted extensive fieldwork since the early 1990s. My particular interest is on the changes that affected people in the region with the transformation of the socialist systems and the way they have adapted to the new uncertainties in a globalising world. Other projects deal with transnational migration movements within and beyond the region as well as with identity patterns and their changes in the course of national state-building schemes. In my most recent collaborative project, I try to investigate the impacts a series of economic booms and crises have in one particular region of Qazaqstan, Zheti-Suw, and how the costs and benefits of these are distributed within society.

For a list of completed and on-going research projects visit the chair website

I hold a MA in Social Anthropology and Central Asian Studies from Free University Berlin (1994) and PhD from the University of Cologne (1999) with a dissertation on the transforming world of pastoralists in western Mongolia. This was followed by a post-doctoral thesis (Habilitation) at the University of Leipzig (2006) on identity patters and inter-ethnic relationships in Uzbekistan. From 2000 until 2006, I was a senior fellow and later head of the research group on Central Asia at the Max Planck Institute of Social Anthropology in Halle. Between 2002 and 2003 he was a visiting professor at the University of New Hampshire, USA and from 2004 to 2006 at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey. Beside this, I taught at various other universities in Europe and Asia including, Cologne, Bonn, Leipzig, Halle, Almaty, Taldyqorgan, Semey, Öskemen, and Tomsk.

From 2009-2014, I have been director of the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology and from 2014-2020 co-director of the Department of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies at the University of Zurich. Since 2021, I serve as a Vice-Dean for Study Affairs at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. I have also been a long-term member of the University Research Priority Program „Asia and Europe“. From 2009-2010 I have been president of Central Eurasian Studies Society (CESS), and from 2012-2017 of the Swiss Anthropological Association (SEG-SSE). I am also, since 2013, co-director of the Centre for Anthropological Studies on Central Asia (CASCA). Between 2012 and 2020 I was editor of Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, the eldest still existing journal of our discipline. Currently, I am editor of two book series on Economic and Social Transformations in Central and Inner Asia (Routledge) and Culture and Society in Eurasia (Berghahn).

Office hours

Please arrange office hours via email (and feel free to drop by if you see me around)