Dissertationen / PhD Projects

Désirée Kumpf

A Multispecies Study of Indian Tea Plantations

Desiree Kumpf

Monocultures are often imagined as the opposite of (and adversary to) biodiversity. Biodiversity, in turn, is said to be a healthy and original state of ecological conviviality. The history of colonial plantations is thus often told as the loss of biodiverse jungles in favour of lucrative mono-crops. The observation that the tea plantations I studied in Assam, Darjeeling, and the Nilgiri mountains are in fact socially and ecologically diverse spaces led me to re-examine these categories. In my thesis, I conduct multispecies ethnography to portray different ecological actors that comprise tea plantations, focussing especially on plant species (such as camellia sinensis, lantana camara, or diplazium esculentum), but also on insects, microbes, and mammals (such as helopeltis theivora, exobasidium vexans, or panthera tigris). I aim to describe plantations as historically particular multispecies contact zones in which human schemes need to be understood in relation to numerous non-human others. As plantations remain troubled spaces indicative of global socio-ecological problems, my findings inspire a critical discussion of agricultural "diversity management" and contribute to an interdisciplinary discussion of novel ecosystems.

Betreuerin/Supervisor: Ursula Rao

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Karen Silva Torres

Journalistic Practices: The Emergence of Public Media and the Transformation of Political News in Ecuador

Karen PhD Foto

This PhD project draws on recent debates within the field of media anthropology and aims at understanding of journalistic practices modification in the context of the recent emergence of public media in Ecuador, a country with a long tradition of privately owned media market. By adopting an anthropological point of view, this study observes the modification of the practice of journalists and their relationships with the political field in order to ask how journalists embody, negotiate, prevent and produce institutional transformations.

This research will contribute to current academic and political debates. It will provide an understanding of the experience of journalists, the construction of their subjectivities and the decision-making to the academic anthropological debates about news production. Through this, it will also postulate useful insights to the political discussion about the meaning of free speech, free press, and the role of public service media and market-oriented media in democracy.

Betreuerin/Supervisor: Ursula Rao

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Lesley Branagan

Health Seeking Practices in Urban India

Branagan Lesley

This research project is an ethnographic study of urban health practices utilised by low-income people in urban India. It aims to understand how they navigate the complex terrain of health care options on offer in Delhi, against a background of increasing privatisation of health care, rising health care aspirations, and new patterns of consumption and delivery. In this rapidly changing landscape, health care is differentially accessed according to the socio-economic position of health seekers, and new forms of disparity, exclusion and marginalization are created. The research aims to reveal how the health seeking process and associated conceptions of agency are shaped by multiple factors, including urbanisation, social segregation, inequality, class, caste and gender. It aims for an interdisciplinary approach that draws on a broad range of theories (including medical anthropology, postcolonialism, feminism and embodiment, as well as development, the state, public health and biomedicine – or critiques thereof) to explore how people reflect on and engage with the frequent discontinuities between conceptions of health care and everyday life.

Betreuerin/Supervisor: Ursula Rao

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Pablo Holwitt

Remapping the City - Conflicts over Redevelopment of Mumbai's Chawls

This project examines struggles and conflicts surrounding the introduction of global architectural forms into middle class neighbourhoods in the Indian megacity Mumbai. More specifically, it looks at processes aiming to remake Mumbai into a global metropolis through a process of Redevelopment, that affects different localities in the city. The project specifically looks at Redevelopment of Mumbai´s Chawls. These are densely populated rental-housing units with shared toilet facilities, which have been built during the colonial era. Chawl-Redevelopment is a highly contested process that involves multi-level negotiations between different stakeholders and is characterized by intimidations, asymmetrical power relations, aspirations and envy. Moreover, it profoundly transforms the built environment of these neighborhoods and entails new forms of residential segregation, influenced by new middle class desires and aesthetics of urban space. The project seeks to situate these contestations within broader discussions about sensorial othering, urban gating and the changing nature of class-identities in Indian cities.

Betreuerin/Supervisor: Ursula Rao

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Immo Eulenberger

Integration and Conflict in the Ateker Region of Northeast Africa

The border region of South Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda is home to a group of culturally extremely closely related ethnic communities, called the Àteker cluster, including the Karamojong, Turkana, Toposa, Nyangatom and others. While their vast majority continues to follow inherited patterns of nomadic pastoralism and autonomous tribal organisation, the effects of parallel existence of very similar groups in four states with very different historical and social dynamics create an intriguing field for controlled comparison. The thesis focusses on the ways patterns of identification and integration shape violent and structural conflicts in the interwoven 'traditional' and 'modern' spheres of the regional society.

Betreuer/Supervisor: Günther Schlee

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Antje Baecker

Food and tasting in the Andes - Body, Person and cultural change

In Peru, as in many regions, people live their own cuisines. They maintain long lasting culinary traditions and invent new local traditions, importing receipts or adopting foreign food products. In this project, I study Andean cuisine, which like the cuisines of many conquered peoples has long been stigmatized within the country. I have conducted extensive research in the Colca Valley at the southern Peruvian Andes and observed daily, festive and ritual meals. I theorize the relation between food, tasting, conception of the body and cultural change. How is the identity of local inhabitants entangled with their nutritional habits? How are conceptions of food and taste related to an understanding of the person, the individual and collective body? What roles do taste and tasting play in normative assessments about the need to conserve culinary traditions or change them? What conflicts emerge in this process and how are they negotiated? This study contributes to debates of cultural appropriation and to the anthropology of food and the senses.

Betreuer/Supervisor: Ursula Rao

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Christoph Graf

 Transnational Spaces and Discontinuous Places: The Auspices of Santa Muerte in Los Angeles

Bild Christoph Graf

This project is an ethnographic study of a Mexican-American religious community in Los Angeles. The study specifically focuses on the narratives and practices of the devotion to Santa Muerte in this urban context. Due to the controversial reputation of this saint of death and her followers and the increasingly contested role of migrant communities in the United States, this research has implications for both current academic as well as political debates. The thesis examines the role of religious identity for both local and translocal entanglements of migrant communities and processes of social spatialization. It aims to understand how these interconnections and processes intertwine with the construction and negotiation of other social, ethnic and national boundaries.
Betreuerin/Supervisor: Ursula Rao
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Jessica Steinman

 From North - South to East - West: the Remnant of Cold War Dynamics in the Global Community of Vietnamese Migrants

20160925 095214This project examine the Vietnamese community in Eastern Europe which amasses one of the largest migrant communities in the Eastern European countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic and Russia (Szymanska-Matusiewicz, 2015c). Yet, scholarships about the Vietnamese communities in Eastern Europe are scarce and tend to concentrate on the integration and adaptation of the migrants to the majority society (Górny et al., 2007; Halik and Nowicka, 2002; Halik, 2006; Freidingerova, 2014; Wysieńska, 2012; William & Baláz, 2005; Mazyrin, 2004). Through multi-sited ethnography in Moscow and Berlin, I seek to employ the concepts of transnationalism, transnational social field, and transnational social space to understand how the complex processes of spatialization and the transnational dimensions such as economic strategies and transnational family life affect the formation of the Vietnamese community Eastern Europe and their positioning within the global Vietnamese migrant community as well as the reimagination of Eastern Europe by these migrants. Through this research, I want to broaden the scope of academic discussion concerning the Vietnamese migrant communities which tends to be western-centric focusing on the "stateless diaspora" (Sheffer,2003) of boat people by including the Vietnamese migrants in Eastern Europe as well as the narrative concerning migration, especially post-socialist migration, which tends to focus on the east-west narrative and outward migration of people from the former Socialist countries.

Betreuerin/Supervisor: Ursula Rao

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Kürzlich abgeschlossene Promotionen / Completed Theses (seit/since 2012)

Màrcio Vilar (2017) 'A Vida do Cigano': Trauerrituale, Person und Tauschkreisläufe bei Calon-Zigeunern im Nordosten Brasiliens

David Zemanek  (2016) Der Handel mit afrikanischer Kunst in Deutschland nach 1945.

Jürgen Gispert (2016) "Die Aschen der Opfer schlagen in unseren Herzen". Zu einer Theorie Memorialkultur in Armenien.

Theresa Elze(2014) "Die gefeierte Linie" – Rituelle Komplizenschaften im urbanen Grenzgebiet von Tijuana und San Diego. (Erschienen bei: transcript)

Sandra Calkins (2014) Survival at the Margins: Processing Uncertainties in Sudan. (Erschienen bei: Berghahn)

Mäßig, Danny (2013) Wir bitten Großvater Berg um Regen. Regenbittrituale und Ritualgemeinschaften der Otomí der Sierra Madre Oriental von Hidalgo. (Erschienen bei: LIT)

Riedel, Franziska (2013) Von Geistern, Steinen und anderen Leuten. Das Weltbild der Baure im bolivianischen Tiefland. (Erschienen bei: LIT)

Marx, Tobias (2012) ,Modellzigeuner' und ,Romaschablone'. Im Gespräch mit ,Roma-/Zigeuner-Eliten' in Bulgarien und Mazedonien über Organisationsgeschichte, Machtkonstellationen und Prestigewandel. (Erschienen bei: transcript)

Pfeifer, Kristin (2012) "Wir sind keine Araber!" Amazhigische Identitätskonstruktion in Marokko - Im Spannungsfeld von internationalen Einflüssen und lokalen Ansprüchen. (Erschienen bei: transcript)


Annette Veit
 Tel + 49 341 97 37 220
Fax + 49 341 97 37 229
Office Hours:
Mon-Thu 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.


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