PD Dr. Jan Heiss

PD Dr. Jan Heiss

Curriculum Vitae

PD Dr. Jan Patrick Heiss is a senior researcher and lecturer at the department of social anthropology and empirical cultural studies at the University of Zurich. He is part of a small group of researchers who see a void in, broadly speaking, the sciences of man, ‘anthropology’. While social and cultural anthropology studies society and culture and is interested in man as a bearer of shared social and/or cultural features, these researchers turn human beings, their lives and existence “as such” into its subject and research them empirically. Anthropology is the appropriate discipline for this, because it understands itself as an empirical discipline focusing on man, produces precise descriptions of individuals and their lives and, through comparative work, brings to light both their general human, culture-specific and, possibly, individual features. In a first step, he Jan Patrick Heiss has written a monograph on Musa, a Hausa peasant in Niger (2015).

His current project continues to open up a new field site for further research in Togo and the intention to do research in the village of Kalanga, where Bassar/Ncam is spoken. The research project is based on two long-term goals, which will be further specified in the course of the project:

  • It aims to gain new insights into the structures of individuals and the processes of their everyday lives (e.g. the forms of decision-making and the positions these forms occupy in individuals’ everyday life processes).
  • It assumes, of course, that village life is based on systematically integrated social institutions, but at the same time it wants to investigate how the diversity and individuality of the inhabitants of Kalanga is reflected in the social processes of the village (e.g. in friendships, marriages and conversations).



2015: Musa – An Essay (or Experiment) in the Anthropology of the Individual. Anthropology, Existence and Individuals, Vol. 2. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot

Special issue

2015: with Albert Piette. Towards an Anthropology of the Individual. Zeitschrift für Ethnologie 140 (1)


2019: Reflections on the Influence of Religion on Field-Cultivation in Southern Central Niger. African Studies Monographs, Supplementary Issue 58: 21-54.

2019: Some Factors in the Historical Development of Field Cultivation Practices in Two Villages in South Central Niger. Cahiers d’Etudes Africaines LIX (I), 233: 75-120.

2018: A Hausa Man Makes A Decision – A Contribution to the Anthropological Perspective on Decision-Making. Anthropological Forum 28(3): 236-254.

2015: Assessing Ernst Tugendhat’s Philosophical Anthropology as a Theoretical Template for an Anthropology of the Individual. In: (with Albert Piette) Special Issue: Towards an Anthropology of the Individual, Zeitschrift für Ethnologie 140 (1): 35-54.

2015: with A. Piette. Introduction: Individuals in Anthropology. In: (with Albert Piette) Special Issue: Towards an Anthropology of the Individual, Zeitschrift für Ethnologie 140 (1): 5-17.

Book chapter

2015: Change and Continuity in Field-cultivation, Migrants’ Labour, and Peasants’ Being – the Case of Hausa Peasants from the Village of Kimoram in Niger. In: Fall, Babacar; Pfaff-Rheinberger, Ineke; Eckert, Andreas (eds.), Travail et culture dans un monde globalisé – Work and Culture in a Globalized World, Paris, Karthala: 99-114.

Book Review

2018: Michael Jackson – How Lifeworlds Work: Emotionality, Sociality, and the Ambiguity of Being, by Michael Jackson, Anthropological Forum 28 (4): 412-4.