Phone: +49 69/798-33053
Room: IG 515
Office hours: Tuesdays, 12 pm to 2 pm, please make an appointment with Ursula Paul (069-798 33050)
India, Central Asia; RessourcenKulturen, religion and materiality, economy and ritual
Paideuma. Zeitschrift für kulturanthropologische Forschung (2020)
Children of the Earth Goddess: Society, Marriage, and Sacrifice in the Highlands of Odisha (2018)
1. South Asia
Being part of the Asian continent, South Asia is variously defined. Geographically, South Asia consists of the plain bordered by the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra and the adjoining Indian peninsula, and is separated by the Hindu Kush in the northwest, the Karakoram mountain range in the north and the Himalayas in the northeast. In the south, the Indian subcontinent is surrounded by the Indian Ocean. According to the UN definition, which is based on national borders, South Asia includes India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bhutan and the Maldives. In terms of population, production of goods, gross national product and economic growth, India accounts for a larger share than all of the other neighbouring countries combined.
About 25 per cent of the world's population lives in South Asia. Two thirds of them live in India, which occupies 72 per cent of the total area of South Asia. These South Asian countries have much in common, which is an expression of the socio-cultural and religious dynamics that have shaped the entire region over the centuries in the context of the rise and fall of various empires. However, there are also great local differences in South Asia, both in terms of the linguistic groups (Indo-Iranian, Dravidian, Tibeto-Burman and Munda), with a total of around 650 languages, and in terms of religious diversity. While Hindus are the majority in India and Nepal, Muslims are the majority in Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Maldives, and the population of Bhutan and Sri Lanka is predominantly Buddhist. These three religions, which are strongly differentiated internally in terms of ideas and practices, go hand in hand with complex social orders. They influence the organisation of everyday life and may trigger communal conflicts in the respective regions. Other religious groups that form part of South Asia are the Sikhs, Jains, Parsees, Thomas Christians and Ahmadiyya, as well as the various tribal societies (Adivasi) of the subcontinent with their diverse religious practices. This diversity provides many interesting areas of research for social and cultural anthropologists, which should ideally be explored in intensive ethnographic field research. South Asia's diversity is also linked to an equally wide range of academic discourses in South Asian anthropology.
Our research activities and cooperations with universities in the east (especially Odisha) and west (Gujarat and Maharashtra) of India characterise the special research profile of the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology in Frankfurt. Thus, our profile complements the focal points of South Asia at other institutes in Germany. In our focus regions, students can find much common ground for their own research projects.
University of Mumbai (Maharashtra), India
Utkal University (Bhubaneswar, Odisha), India
University of Sambalpur (Sambalpur, Odisha), India
For further questions please contact Dr. Andrea Luithle-Hardenberg
2. Central Asia
Central Asia is a geographically and culturally diverse region stretching from west to east from the Caspian Sea to China and Mongolia, and from north to south from Russia to Afghanistan and Iran. The entire region is topologically diverse and includes high mountain ranges such as the Tian Shan, grassy steppes, deserts, as well as subtropical and semi-arid regions.
Historically, Central Asia is associated with pastoral nomads who have developed special forms of adaptation to their environment. Some of these social and cultural characteristics of the nomadic way of life remain relevant today or have adapted over time to changing conditions.
Traditionally, Central Asia is identified with the region through which the routes of the so-called "Great Silk Road" once ran. It connected Asia and Europe and enabled exchanges of different cultures. From a political perspective, the term Central Asia refers primarily to the five post-Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. For most of the 20th century, this part of Central Asia was ruled and governed first by the Russian Empire and then by the Soviet Union. The collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s led to a sudden transition from a planned economy to a market economy. This so-called transformation period had profound socio-economic and cultural consequences. At the same time, the revival of values defined as “traditional" and the return to Islam in the region have resulted in a unique combination of ethnographic characteristics that offer a broad spectrum for social and cultural anthropological research.
From an anthropological point of view, we are particularly interested in local expressions of social and political formations, variations of everyday Islam, the role of “ethnic" classifications in political communities, various pastoral and agricultural economic practices, as well as nomadic and sedentary lifestyles. So far, research has been carried out on topics such as: mobile lifestyle, human-nature relationships, yurts and material culture, holy places, land and water resources, kinship, the role of tribal orders in socio-political life, life-cycle rituals and celebrations, the revival of Islam, the role of women and children, traditional medicine, labor migration and much more.
We have been working with partner universities in Central Asia (see below) for a long time. Students have the opportunity to visit these institutions as part of exchange programs and be supervised for short-term field research.
American University of Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan
International University of Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan
Deutsch-Kasachische Universität, Kazakhstan
Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Iran
The University of Isfahan, Iran
For further questions please contact Dr. des. Baktygul Tulebaeva
3. The Caucasus
Politically, the Caucasus comprises parts of the Russian Federation in the north and the independent post-Soviet republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia (South Caucasus) in the south. Geographically, this area is situated between the Black and Caspian Seas. It is characterised by coastal zones and mountain ranges and includes arid deserts and steppes, as well as temperate-continental and subtropical-humid areas. The population is heterogeneous. In addition to the so-called "titular nations", ethnic groups from whose ethnonym the names of the nation-states are derived – Armenians, Azeri and Georgians, one also finds other ethnic and religious minorities such as Juhuro ("mountain Jews"), Molokans, Yazidis, Assyrians, and Kurds. On the one hand, from an internal and external perspective, the Caucasus is imagined as a connecting link between East and West, Asia and Europe and Orient and Occident. On the other hand, as reflected in the writings of Russian and European authors of the 19th century, this area is considered isolated and dangerous. In these novels, one can find romantic descriptions of "wild" mountain peoples and their concepts of honour. Despite all the exaggerations, both ideas are rather justified.
Historically, trade routes and migratory flows connected with the ancient Silk Road ran through the Caucasus. To this day, the Caucasus is a transit zone and brings together a wide variety of people and worldviews. At the same time, the region has been and is ravaged by conflicts and wars that can be traced back throughout history to changing power relations. Such conflicts continue to threaten social, political and economic security today and shape external contacts. Globally powerful nations such as the USA, Russia, Iran and Turkey, and more recently China, are interested in the natural resources of the Caspian Sea and in the geostrategic location of the Caucasus. At the same time, they consider the region as a periphery that appears foreign to some extent in terms of its cultural values and constellations.
The eventful history of the Caucasus, the ethnic and religious diversity, as well as the social, legal, political, economic and linguistic characteristics make the Caucasus a very interesting area of research for social and cultural anthropologists. However, despite favourable research conditions and support by local researchers and institutions, the Caucasus region remains underrepresented in the anthropological scholarship.
The projects carried out by our researchers, doctoral students and local students in the Caucasus cover a wide range of topics. They range from urban anthropology and local economics to religious identities and reproductive technologies. In addition to research contacts, our institute also cooperates with local universities that provide student exchange and support for student research projects.
Yerevan State University, Armenia
Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, Georgia
For further questions please contact PD Dr. Susanne Fehlings