"Objects of Knowledge. Reflections on Anthropological Ways of Seeing"

8 November 201422 February 2015
GRASSI Museum of Ethnography in Leipzig
Opening Hours: daily between 10am and 6pm, closed on Mondays.

  D3 6265 800

Old things displayed in new ways provoke us to see them through fresh eyes. The forthcoming exhibition "Objects of Knowledge. Reflections on Anthropological Ways of Seeing" opens up debates about the past and the future of anthropological collections by showing ethnographic objects from around the world in unusual constellations. Through provocative displays, it invites visitors to sensually engage with the products of human creativity, and prompts reflections on typical ways of seeing and understanding.

How do anthropologists address objects? Which questions do they direct at them and which answers do they get? The exhibition experiments with a series of object arrangements to consider these issues. By contextualizing and re-contextualizing objects, the display explores different aspects of their biographies. The installations demonstrate how the neighborhood of other objects impacts on the meaning of things, and it explores the narratives that emerge through particular ways of sorting and exhibiting.

Two fundamentally opposing principles organize the layout. In the first room, a variety of similar objects are sorted according to typical anthropological categories such as form, function and geographic origin. The juxtaposition of a huge number of comparable objects creates fascinating insights into the unity and difference of global material culture. It reflects more broadly on theories about the tension between the unity of humankind and the varieties of cultural expressions. The second room shows a few select valuable objects. They stand alone and invite the visitor to engage with their power and to consume them in an aesthetic manner. At some distance from the art pieces the visitor encounters other matters, texts, and narratives. They contextualize these objects and elaborate their roles as ritual matters and commodities, stolen objects and memorabilia, identity markers and mediums of dispute.

Taken together, the exhibition articulates numerous tensions, for example, between abundance and emptiness, art and culture, unity and difference, order and disorder, silence and liveliness. The opposites demarcate fields that structure the reception of culture – both in popular and academic discourse.

The exhibition marks the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Institute of Anthropology (founded as Institut für Völkerkunde) at the University in Leipzig. Its first director, Karl Weule, was also director of the GRASSI Museum of Anthropology in Leipzig and made important contributions towards the professionalization of anthropology in Germany. His passion was material culture. His approach shapes some of the exhibition's key questions: How could the academic discipline of anthropology and its theories help sort and understand the many objects collected from around the world? And what could we learn from the systematic study of these objects about other cultures and the human condition?

The exhibition takes up this spirit of cooperation between the University discipline and the Museum. It is organized as collaboration between the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (State Art Collections Dresden), the GRASSI Museum für Völkerkunde zu Leipzig (GRASSI Museum of Ethnography) and the Institute of Anthropology of the University of Leipzig. It brings together different knowledge traditions and thus reflects current debates relevant to both academia and museums: the meaning of material culture; the link between art and ethnography; practices of collecting and displaying and global power relations.


Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, Issue 139 (2014)

Guest Editor: Ursula Rao


What are the tasks of anthropologycover? And what are the challenges for the future? We have asked these questions on the occasion of the 100 year anniversary celebration of the Institute of Anthropology in Leipzig. The founding of the Institute on 1 November 1914 marked the beginning of anthropology as an academic discipline in Germany.
In this special issue we wish to look ahead and examine how some of the core concerns of the discipline are reconfigured in contemporary debates. What are new ways of navigating between universal theory and culture relativism, between ethnography and theory? We consider this question by paying particular attention also to German debates, which are undergoing rapid globalization. We study cultural encounters. This includes reflecting on our own positon in inter-cultural communications and transnational fields, in our roles as ethnographers and professionals. This special issue discusses what we learned during encounters with research subjects, international colleagues and co-professionals.

  1. 1) William Sax: The Multiple Worlds of Ethnographic Fieldwork: A Personal Account

  2. 2) Stefanie Mauksch und Ursula Rao: Fieldwork as Dialogue. Reflections on Alternative Forms of Engagement

  3. 3) Michael Bollig und Peter Finke: Explanatory Models in Anthropology: Methodological Refinements, Cross-Cultural Comparison and Theoretical Developments

  4. 4) Michael Schnegg: Anthropology and Comparison: Methodological Challenges and Tentative Solutions

  5. 5) Thomas Bierschenk: From the Anthropology of Development to the Anthropology of Global Social Engineering

  6. 6) Sandra Calkins und Richard Rottenburg: Getting Credit for What You Write? Conventions and Techniques of Citation in German Anthropology

  7. 7) Bernhard Streck: Die Visionen der Vergangenheit. Das Leipziger Institut für Ethnologie im Spiegel seiner Veröffentlichungen

The special issue will be published in November 2014 and will be officially presented during the centenary celebration of the Institute of Anthropology in Leipzig, on the 7th of November at 4pm in the Alter Senatssaal of the University of Leipzig.



2:15 – 2:45 pm| ROOM S 102, Schillerstraße 6

DR. KATJA GEISENHAINER (University of Vienna)
„‘Eine wirkliche Pflanzstätte für die angehenden Jünger meiner Disziplin‘: 100 Jahre Leipziger Institut für Ethnologie“ (German)




4:15 – 5:15 pm| ROOM S 102, Schillerstraße 6

PROF. EM. DR. BERNHARD STRECK  (University of Leipzig)
„100 Jahre Institut für Ethnologie der Universität Leipzig“ (German)


6:00 pm | GRASSI Museum of Ethnography, Großer Vortragssaal

„Vom Wissen der Objekte. Ethnologische Konstellationen“ (German)



FRIDAY, 7th of NOVEMBER 2014

10:00 am – 12:30 pm
Lecture Hall 12, Hörsaalgebäude


PROF. DR. PATRICK EISENLOHR (Universität Göttingen)
„Die Persistenz des universalen Europas in der Wissensproduktion und die Rolle der Ethnologie“ (German)


DR. ANDREA BEHRENDS (Universität Halle)
„Gemeinsam Forschen. Die Ethnologie als 'Travelling Model' der Forschungspraxis und Theoriebildung“ (German)


PROF. DR. JULIA ECKERT (Universität Bern)
„Die Geburt der Ethnologie aus dem Geist der Tragödie“ (German)




2:00 – 3:30 pm| ROOM S 102, Schillerstraße 6

„Goodbye Anthropology? Ethnologie-Studium – und was kommt danach?" (German)



4:00 – 6:00 pmLecture Hall 12, Hörsaalgebäude


PROF. DR. MANFRED RUDERSDORF (Dekan der Fakultät GKO) (German)


PROF. DR. PETER FINKE (Herausgeber der Zeitschrift für Ethnologie) (German)




PROF. DR. URSULA RAO (Universität Leipzig) (German)


PROF. DR. BEATE SCHÜCKING (Rektorin der Universität Leipzig) (German)





DINNER* and Short Film
7:00 – 9:00 pm | ROOM S 102, Schillerstraße 6

*Contribution 35/28 (students) Euro


The Future of German Anthropology
What does the future of Anthropology hold? What are the burning issues today? Why should we study anthropology also in the next hundred years? During this symposium on the future of anthropology we will hear the keynote speeches of three established professors from German-speaking universities. They will share their views about future themes, debates and topics in German anthropology. In order to allow for a lively exchange between the public and the speakers we have opted for a format that features of three short presentations followed by an open discussion.


The symposium will take place on the 7th of November, from 10 am until 12:30 pm, in lecture hall 7, Universitätsstraße 3.


Key-note speakers:

Prof. Dr. Patrick Eisenlohr
Centre for Modern India Studies, Georg-August-University of Göttingen, Germany
Dr. Andrea Behrends
Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology, Martin-Luther-University of Halle- Wittenberg, Germany
Prof. Dr. Julia Eckert
Institute for Social Anthropology, University of Bern, Switzerland



Dr. Katharina Schramm
Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology, Martin-Luther-University of Halle- Wittenberg, Germany


Language: GERMAN


Behrens AndreaDr. Andrea Behrends (University of Halle-Wittenberg)

Andrea Behrends leads a project named Anthropological Cooperative Research on Technologies, Signification and Processes of Creative Adaption in Relation to African Oil Production, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). Furthermore, she is co-founder of an anthropological research centre in N'Djamena, Chad and is currently writing a book about "border crossings" on the border between Chad and the Sudan. Behrends works as a lecturer and visiting professor at the University of Halle-Wittenberg. Her publications analyse questions of political anthropology, conflicts, resources and globalization.


Eckert JuliaProf. Dr. Julia Eckert (University of Bern)

Julia Eckert is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Bern and her research areas are based around theories of conflict, social movements, and political anthropology. She completed her post-doctoral degree at the Martin-Luther University in Halle/Wittenberg. Her post-doctoral dissertation was titled "The Virtuous and the Wicked: Anthropological Perspectives on the Police in Mumbai". At the Max-Planck- Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle she chaired the "Law against the State" research group. This group researched the relationship between the juridification of protest and the transnationationalization of legal standards. Julia Eckert published numerous books and edited volumes in which questions of citizenship, conflict resolution and anti-terrorism are addressed, especially for the case of India.


Eisenlohr PatrickProf. Dr. Patrick Eisenlohr (University of Göttingen)
Patrick Eisenlohr teaches at the University of Göttingen. He is Professor of Society and Culture in Modern India and is director of a research group with the same name at the Centre for Modern Indian Studies (CeMIS). Eisenlohr obtained international recognition for his research in the areas of anthropology of media and linguistic anthropology. Specific topics of his research include language, religion and citizenship as well as diasporas. During his PhD at the University of Chicago he researched ethno-linguistic identity and diaspora in Mauritius. In 2004 Eisenlohr was visiting professor at the New York University and subsequently assistant professor at The Washington University in St. Louis. From 2008 until 2012 he was Professor of Cultural Anthropology at the University of Utrecht.


Finke Peter Prof. Dr. Peter Finke (University of Zürich)
In 2006 Peter Finke became Professor of Anthropology at the University of Zürich and Member of the Research group "Asia and Europe". His research interests span social theory, economic anthropology and post-socialist transformations. Currently he is editor of the German Journal of Anthropology. Peter Finke concluded his PhD on rural farmer economies in Kazakhstan and Kirgizstan at the University of Cologne. From 2000 he was a member of the Max-Planck-Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle and conducted research on collective identities in Uzbekistan. He completed his post-doctoral degree on the same subject at the University of Leipzig. Before becoming a Professor at the University of Zürich, Finke was visiting professor at the University of Hampshire and at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey.


Dr. Katja Geisenhainer (University of Vienna)

As an anthropologist and university lecturer, Katja Geisenhainer's major interest is the history of anthropology. Supported by a Lise-Meitner-Fund, she is currently researching the relationship between anthropology in Vienna and different institutions in other German-speaking countries. In her PhD dissertation, Katja Geisenhainer critically engaged with the work and legacy of the anthropologist Otto Reche. Reche was director of the Institute of Anthropology in Leipzig during the years of National Socialism and was engaged in racist phenotype research. Furthermore she addressed Reche's involvement in the Nazi atrocities by analysing the case of the Jewish anthropologist Marianne Schmidl (1890 - 1942). Her most recent publication is an anthology about Anthropology in Leipzig, which she co-edited with Bernhard Streck and Lothar Bohrmann.


Streck Bernhard

Prof. Dr. em. Bernhard Streck (University of Leipzig)

Bernhard Streck was director of the Institute of Anthropology between 1994-2010, during the difficult years after Germany's reunification. He has published extensively in the fields of history of anthropology, intercultural comparison, anthropology of religion and migration studies. His regional specializations range from the Middle East to the Northeast of Africa. In 2013 Bernhard Streck authored the book "Sterbendes Heidentum" (Dying Paganism) which compares religious belief systems, world-views and practices that existed prior to the 'religions of the book'. His most recent book describes the life of Leo Frobenius, an anthropologist, researcher and ethnographic collector in Africa. Also, he co-edited the anthology dedicated to the history of the Institute of Anthropology in Leipzig.






Annette Veit
 Tel + 49 341 97 37 220
Fax + 49 341 97 37 229
Office Hours:
10 am - 11 am
1 pm - 2 pm


Ursula Rao
 +49 341 97 37 221
Institut für Ethnologie
Schillerstraße 6
04109 Leipzig