Winter Semester 2023/2024

Note: this page may be subject to modifications. Please follow up for updates.


Module – Theories of Decision-Making Across Cultural Contexts (10 ECTS)

Students are required to take all of the following classes

Is It Already Decided? An Enquiry Into the Social Life of Decision-Making.

Lecturer: Prof. Dr. Jean-Baptiste Pettier

Time and Place: Wed. 12:00 – 14:00, SDAC Seminar Room 


Opposed views on humans’ capacities to make decisions have always existed. On one side, more liberal, human beings are seen as having their fate in their own hands. They can create, innovate, renew, make a change, it depends all on themselves. On the other, more deterministic, everything is already decided. Life is in the hands of the divine, or of a great underlying mechanism, humans have no real capacity of choice. Social sciences also deal with these age-old questions and have attempted to address them in two ways: on one side, examining how and to which extent people’s lives and ways of thinking are determined by the cultural or social milieu they originate from; on the other, studying how people the world over deal with predetermined conditions, try to find out what the future will be, and attempt to change it. Through theories of individual agency and concrete cases of decision-making, this course will trace back these two trends.

Interdisciplinary Methodologies

Lecturer: Prof. Dr. Jean-Baptiste Pettier

Time and Place: Wed. 16:00 – 18:00, SDAC Seminar Room 


What differentiates a sociological research from an historical one, or an ethnographic one? What is the difference between qualitative and quantitative methodologies? How do you carry out a field research or conduct an interview? What are the ethical issues of carrying out research with human beings, and how can you deal with these challenges? Is it possible to make an “objective” research and remain neutral? What do you do of your emotions or of your subjectivity? How can you deal with the ways people situate you, or evaluate your identity or position in society? Based on the reading of methodology texts, exemplary pieces of research, and concrete practice, this class will address these issues and equip you with methodological tools to produce qualitative data, which are the material of qualitative social sciences.

CAS Colloquium & SDAC Workshop Series

Time and Place: TBA




Module – Politics of Culture (10 ECTS)

Students are required to choose two of the following classes

What is Southeast Asia?

Lecturer: Dr. Ferdiansyah Thajib

Time and Place: Wed. 10:00 – 12:00, SDAC Seminar Room


As a modern history invention, Southeast Asia has come to have a living reality which bears critical investigation and articulation. `Southeast Asia’ and its various constituent countries are being made and remade through the movements and flows of goods, peoples, ideas and technologies across and beyond the region. This course is an introduction to how the region is shaped through a history of similarities and differences, and why it remains an important area to study today. The first part of the course focuses on the region’s historical evolution through diverse typologies of precolonial, colonial and postcolonial encounters. We will critically engage with the complexity of Southeast Asian cultures and societies, by studying its diverse ethnicities, plural patterns of gender and sexuality and vernacularized forms of world religions and local beliefs. The final part examines the dynamics that constitute the region’s sociopolitical realities in current times, including democratization, populism, economic outlooks and environmental issues.

What is East Asia?

Lecturer: Dr. Ioan Trifu & Prof. Dr. Jean-Baptiste Pettier

Time and Place: Mon. 10:00 – 12:00, SDAC Seminar Room


Looking at a world map and searching for the very far east of the Eurasian super-continent, we find China, North and South Korea, Japan… The names of these few countries strike our mind as being part of the same region: East Asia. Cultural common points also seem to unify these populations in our imagination: chopsticks, buddhist temples, traditional roofs, martial arts, rice and tea, or filial piety… Yet like so many other similar territorial divisions, the more we try to make sense of it, the more elusive the unity becomes. Are these populations not too different to be assimilated in the same space? Does East Asia exist outside our geography textbooks? What do these populations really share in common? And what separates them? This course examines the construction of this region and its present realities. Breaking away from the discourses of the nation-states as well as the orientalist vision of a little differentiated cultural space, we will investigate, in a transversal manner, several major themes, ranging from the writing system to the governmental structures, or the food and drinks. At the end, students will be able to gain a deeper understanding of the complex links that interconnect this region.

What is Africa?

Lecturer: Mingqing Yuan, M.A.

Time and Place: Tue. 14:00 – 16:00, SDAC Seminar Room


What is Africa? Where is Africa? When is Africa? What is the meaning of Africa and being African? Who has the right to define it? This course traces how the idea of Africa is invented, discursively constructed and performed through various historical moments and (post)colonial knowledge production. It will start with a brief introduction to area studies, especially African studies and invites the students to critically reflect on the categorization of knowledge and compartmentalization of the world. Then the course is organized in a chronological order to discuss the invention of Africa from the perspective of various disciplines. The specific topics range from the history of the black Atlantic, construction of race, and discussion of cultural authenticity to pan-Africanism, Afropolitanism and African futurism. It is designed to acquaint students with African philosophy, history, African political thoughts and African literature in general, through which students could connect daily issues with larger social and political contexts. At the end of the course, students will be familiar with the intellectual history of Africa, current debates within African studies, and the role of human agency and decision-making in historical processes.

What is Indian Ocean?

Lecturer: Prof. Dr. Tijo Salverda & Prof. Dr. Jean-Baptiste Pettier

Time and Place: Tue. 12:00 – 14:00, SDAC Seminar Room


Long before European colonial expansion, important trading routes already ran through the Indian Ocean, connecting Africa’s east coast with the Arab world, India and East Asia. These long-term circulations and exchanges of goods, ideas, and people also continued through European merchants, trading posts, and settler colonies. This has turned the Indian Ocean into a place where some of the most original and varied societies cohabit and mix. Yet these connections also imply inequalities, power hierarchies, and conflicts. In this course, we will start from a closer analysis of historical connections across the Indian Ocean. This will allow us to better understand how societies in and around the Indian Ocean have been influenced by (long-distance) exchanges, of which the legacies can still be witnessed today in beliefs, technics, and vocabularies. Next, we will explore various contemporary themes, such as tensions and opportunities in multicultural (postcolonial) societies, responses to climate change, and geopolitics, for instance observed in the presence of various naval bases. The aim is to better understand the context and significance of the third largest ocean in world history and current affairs.

What is West Asia?

Lecturer: Dr. Maryam Abbasi

Time and Place: Thu. 14:00 – 16:00, SDAC Seminar Room


This comprehensive course provides an in-depth look at West Asia’s geography and its rich cultural tapestry. As participants progress through the curriculum, they will delve into various significant aspects of the region, including:

  1. Religious Diversity: West Asia is home to a wide array of religious beliefs and practices, making it a melting pot of faiths and traditions. This section of the course delves into the various religions present in the region, their historical significance, and the role they play in shaping the social and political landscape.
  2. Gender Identity and Women’s Status: Delving into the intricacies of gender identity and societal norms, this section sheds light on the continual challenges and progressions surrounding women’s rights within the region.
  3. Economic and Political Landscape: This exploration of the contemporary economic and political realms of West Asia provides students with the analytical tools to discern the region’s global impact. The course offers insights into its geopolitical significance, as well as its economic strengths and challenges.
  4. Contemporary Challenges: With challenges ranging from political upheavals to economic dynamics and environmental concerns, West Asia is a region in flux. This segment allows students to comprehend the pressing issues of the day, enhancing their understanding of the factors that profoundly affect the lives of its people.

Engaging with these multifaceted themes, the course aims to equip students with the ability to critically assess the complexities of Contemporary West Asia. Through immersive discussions, insightful readings, and thorough research, participants are set on a path to deeply appreciate the region’s history, its current state, and the possibilities the future may hold. Ultimately, this course offers a comprehensive lens, guiding individuals through the rich tapestry and dynamic evolution of this vital world region.


Module – Specific Approaches of Selected Academic Disciplines Ia-d (10 ECTS)

Students are required to choose two of the following classes.

Anthropological Critiques of Culture, Comparison and Representation

Lecturer: PD Dr. Viola Thimm (she/her)

Time and Place: Tuesday 16:00 – 18:00, SDAC Seminar Room


The concept of “culture” has radically been put into question by many anthropologists and among some representatives of neighboring disciplines. Many categorically oppose the application of
“culture” – especially the plural form “cultures” – as an analytic category. This critique has been influential since the 1980s, when the “writing culture debate” unfolded and began to inform various follow-up discussions in the following years. Among the most prominent examples was L. Abu-Lughod’s (1991) plea for “writing against cultures”. However, proponents of these critiques mostly failed to convey their arguments to broader audiences beyond anthropology, post-colonial studies, feminist theory, and anti-racism research. Other disciplines, such as business- and marketing-oriented programs teaching “cultural competence”, often speak about “cultures”, while claiming a right for themselves to authoritatively define, quantify and measure them, and to explain human being’s behavior through culturizing explanatory frameworks. Both types of “culture”-related academic research appear to exist in epistemic worlds far apart from one another. This course introduces students to some anthropological critiques and enables them to develop their own informed argumentation on whether speaking of “culture(s)” should or should not be sustained. As a second step, the course delves into the interrelated problem of cultural representation, i.e. the (im-)possibility of speaking and writing adequately about human beings, cultural Others, and other “cultures”. Finally, the course will turn to the question of anthropological comparison. After reviewing its trajectory dating back to the colonial era, when what colonial scholars imagined as “cultures” where dubiously mapped, measured and in effect produced, we will discuss why early post-colonial anthropology largely gave up comparative research, and on which grounds attempts have been made since the early 2000s to rehabilitate comparison in more nuanced and less epistemologically violent ways.

The Anthropology of Gender – Feminist Perspectives

Lecturer: PD Dr. Viola Thimm (she/her)

Time and Place: Tuesday 08:00 – 10:00, SDAC Seminar Room


In this course, we will examine issues and perspectives important to the Anthropology of Gender. We will deal with the development of feminist anthropology, with special attention to significant
theories, themes of study, and debates within the field. Topics related to gender and sexuality that we will focus on include social constructions of gender, gender hierarchies, politics of the body,
gender in its intersections with race, class and sexuality, and kinship and family. We will furthermore deal with feminist ethnographic writing strategies and with (taboos of) embodied fieldwork. We will focus on gender and women in heterosexual social relationships and on non-normative and non-binary genders and sexualities, analyzing central feminist works in anthropology from the 1920s to the present. We will focus simultaneously on two kinds of directions: 1) what we know and what we don’t know, what we can and what we can’t learn about women, men, and non-normative genders, and the ideas of “masculine” and “feminine” in different cultural contexts, and 2) how anthropologists develop and use their methods and theories to learn about gender variation, and how politics influence this process. Rather than studying a collection of “facts” about gender across cultural contexts, in this class students will learn how to bring a feminist anthropological approach to topics related to sex, gender and sexuality, and to critically consider how categories and hierarchies of gender and identity are constructed in and through cultural norms about sexuality, race, ethnicity, class, indigeneity, nationality, and more.

Introduction to Transcultural Studies

Lecturer: Mingqing Yuan, M.A.

Time and Place: Mon. 14:00 – 16:00, SDAC Seminar Room


What is culture? How does it define or influence our perceptions of self and the other? How do historical context and socio-cultural factors influence one’s decisions? This course deals with theories and practices in transcultural studies. Situated in postcolonialism and decolonization, the course will cover key concepts and theories in transcultural studies and evaluates their applications in analyzing narratives, mechanism and practices of difference-making machinery. It will also briefly introduce different tools of analysis that cross disciplinary boundaries. By integrating different perspectives, this course delivers insights into both historical and current complexities, into unexpected similarities and productive differences that challenge social, national and linguistic borders. Students are very welcome to bring their own interested cases and knowledge from different disciplines to enrich the in-class discussion.

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • explain the major theoretical concepts and frameworks of trans/cultural studies;
  • apply these concepts and frames of analysis to different cases;
  • understand the complex reality and different factors in transcultural encounters;
  • grasp historical and current complexities, unexpected similarities and productive differences

State and Politics

Lecturer: Dr. Ioan Trifu

Time and Place: Mon. 12:00 – 14:00, SDAC Seminar Room


From birth to death, for private as much as for public matters, the State is omnipresent in our life. While it is often portrayed as a threatening menace to people’s freedom, it claims to serve and protect them. Always contested and frequently transformed, it nevertheless appears as an unavoidable staple of modern politics. Such conflicting perspectives prevent any attempt to draw a single image of the State and force us to question this entity both in a critical and comparative manner: what is the State? And is it as universal and atemporal as it seems to be? This course offers an introduction to the historical sociology of this institution and the variety of forms it has taken in modern times. Through the close readings of major thinkers and the analysis of concrete examples, notably from Europe and East Asia, the course investigates the emergence and development of the State as well as its relationships with other political phenomena and ideologies such as national identity, leadership, bureaucracy, welfarism or even neoliberalism. It will help students to better understand how state structures decisively impact most decision-making in our contemporary world.

Social Movements, Protests and Counterpower

Lecturer: Prof. Dr. Tijo Salverda

Time and Place: Wed. 08:00 – 10:00, TBA;


Why do people protest and organise to change the world around them? Why do some social movements succeed, while others fail? How do expressions of protest, ideas of change, means of action differ from place to place? This course will explore different manifestations of protest and resistance by taking under scrutiny socio-political developments across the globe. It aims at addressing questions that are central to anthropological/sociological investigations of social movements and, more broadly, counterpower and social change; individual and collective agency; political subjectivity; modes of action and organizational structures; group mobilisation, decision making and processes of activist ‘habitus’ formation; ideas of utopia, change, critique; perceptions of ideas of justice, deservingness, common good; universality vs particularism.

The course will begin with a critical overview of the theoretical frameworks that have long dominated in the study of social movements, power and resistance. It will then proceed by exploring various (ethnographic) works on social movements and resistance and the ways these works contribute to theory-building. The case-studies to be discussed will allow us to explore a variety of issues: class, gender, ethnicity, religion as key-constituents of social protest and social action; impact of the discourse on women’s rights, human rights, environmentalism; socioeconomic developments; transnational versus local movements; as well as different forms of protest, resistance and counterpower.

This will help us to problematise the dichotomic take on passivity/activism, submission/resistance, violence/non-violence. We will also reflect on the problem of bias in the study of social movements and resistance, interrogating why the analyses of ‘less sympathetic’, ‘non-progressive’ movements and protests remain scarce.


Additional offers

Moral Anthropology Colloquium

Lecturer: Prof. Dr. Jean-Baptiste Pettier

Time and Place: Mon. 16:00 – 18:00, SDAC Seminar Room


Morality remains the great question of human life. How do we split the good from the bad, how do we associate with others, and how do we make these decisions? The study of moral phenomena is a core issue for the understanding of how society and culture work. What is the role of ethics in human life? How do people deal with their moral sentiments in complex situations, and how can we distinguish individual moral sentiments from collective and socially-induced moral representations? But moral phenomena goes beyond questions of distinguishing the good from the evil. It includes all dimensions of life concerned with beliefs, symbols, and how we tie ourselves together. This research colloquium will work on the study of moral phenomena from an anthropological perspective. Based on the discussion of early or recent publications, as well as presentations of on-going research, it will particularly focus on the personal and collective dimensions of moral phenomena by examining the social dimensions of individual personality.

The colloquium is conceived as a space of exchange on ongoing research. It is reserved to second-year MA students working on their thesis and opened to all researchers with an interest in the issue. In order to register, please write to

Transcending Boundaries: A Journey into the Intersections of Technology and Humanity

Lecturer: Oleg Vasilchenko, M.A.

Time and Place: Mon. 10:00 – 12:00, Kochstr.4, Room 5.012


This thought-provoking seminar delves into the complex and rapidly evolving interplay between technology and humanity. As we journey further into the digital age, our lives are becoming increasingly intertwined with technology, yet how often do we pause to consider its implications on our cultures, societies, and personal identities?

The seminar is grounded in the discipline of digital anthropology, offering a unique framework to navigate the complexities of human-technology relationships. A variety of other disciplinary perspectives from the social sciences and humanities, including digital sociology, philosophy, and gender studies, will enrich the exploration. Moreover, a decolonial lens is employed to scrutinize these phenomena from the viewpoints of marginalized communities, highlighting the biases and implications of the digital divide.

The course is structured around compelling topics that invite critical inquiry and inspire thoughtful discussion. We traverse the intriguing intersections of ‘virtual’ and ‘real’ worlds, and delve into the nature of digital identity-building. We confront controversial themes such as algorithmic biases toward marginalized communities and the societal implications of Post-Humanism. What does it mean to love, express sexuality, and extend care in the age of robots? How does artificial intelligence influence our cultures, shape our work, and what does it mean for the future of humanity?

Learning in this seminar goes beyond passive absorption of information. It is designed to spark intellectual curiosity, promote active participation, and create an inclusive community of learners. The course encourages students to reflect on personal attitudes towards digital technology, understand its role in society, and explore the potential biases and limitations it presents to marginalized communities.

Expectations and Requirements:

Participation in this seminar requires active involvement through individual and collaborative work. Students will need to carefully read and prepare assigned texts for each session, contributing significantly to class discussions, and working productively in group assignments. This participatory approach aims to foster a deep understanding of the material and enhance critical thinking skills.

Note: No prior knowledge in anthropology, sociology, or related fields is required. The course is open to anyone with an interest in understanding how our digital reality impacts cultures, societies, and individuals.

Ethnographic Writing

Lecturer: Henriette Hearn, M.A. & Oleg Vasilchenko, M.A.

Time and Place: Fri. 10:00 – 14:00, Glückstr. 10, Seminar Room Ground Floor
The course is going to take place on the following dates: 20.10.23 (Introduction), 27.10.23, 10.11.23, 01.12.23, 15.12.23, 12.01.24, 02.02.24


Applying C. Wright Mills’ “Sociological Imagination” students will connect a personal trouble to a societal issue through ethnographic writing, specifically auto-ethnography. Throughout the semester, students will write a term paper in three steps. First, they will write about a personal trouble using first person narrative style. This can either be a true story or made up if students do not feel comfortable sharing personal stories. In the second step, students will relate this to a societal issue and bring in relevant literature. Lastly, an argument will be added, and the paper will be structured. In-depth feedback will be provided each time we meet in the course. The exact schedule of the meetings will be presented on the first day of class. Students can expect to meet for two hours for the first two weeks and then for four hours every three weeks during the remaining part of the semester.

Intersectionality in the U.S. Criminal Justice System

Lecturer: Henriette Hearn, M.A.

Time and Place: Mon. 12:00 – 14:00, Kochstr.4, Room 5.052


In this course, students will learn about contemporary issues plaguing the U.S. criminal justice system. The course will begin with an analysis of the most prominent issue, racial inequality. After this, we will look at how various aspects such as gender, class, age, mental health, and immigration impact individual experience and construct the system at large. As stated in the title of the course, intersectionality will be a guiding concept. In the last sessions, we will shift our focus to solutions to find out what is currently being done to address the issues discussed. Students will conduct research on an activist/advocacy organization of their choice. Although the course is focused on the U.S., I expect students to reflect on similar issues occurring in other countries.

Advanced Seminar LawTech Ethnographies

Lecturer: Prof. Dr. Dominik Müller

Time and Place: Thu. 14:00 – 16:00, Glückstr. 10, Seminar Room Ground Floor


This advanced seminar is open for advanced BA students, MA students, and PhD candidates whose research focus is related to the Chair of Cultural and Social Anthropology, or who are interested in pursuing related research. During the sessions, we will discuss research projects which are being conducted within the group “LawTech Ethnographies.” Students who are interested in writing an (under-) graduate thesis or PhD dissertation in the field of legal anthropology, and ideally related to impacts of legal technological and intersecting legal cultural changes, are encouraged to join this advanced seminar to discuss and present their ideas.

Magic and Spirits in Law and Politics

Lecturer: Prof. Dr. Dominik Müller

Time and Place: Thu. 08:00 – 10:00, Kochstr.4, Room 5.013


Magic, sorcery and spirits are often considered premodern relics from a sphere that is worlds apart from contemporary politics and law. This course will critically reconsider and problematize such assumptions by looking at ethnographic cases from various parts of the globe. Based on our weekly readings, we will discuss whether in contrast to the long-standing sociological dogma of a “disenchantment” (Entzauberung) of the modern world, we may be living in a re-enchanted world. In this re-enchanted world – which from the start has possibly never been as fundamentally disenchanted as many assume – magic and spirits have not only survived the cultural forces of global modernity with remarkable resilience but have themselves become thoroughly modern. While the modernity of contemporary magic, spirits and wider esoteric practices has generally been studied in multifold ways and across many disciplines, the spheres of law and politics offer particularly striking examples. Course participants are strictly expected to prepare weekly readings of 20-40 pages, participation in the seminar is practically otherwise impossible.

The course is offered by the Institute of Sociology’s newly established Chair of Cultural and Social Anthropology. No prior knowledge of the discipline of Anthropology is required. Students with an interest in deepening their engagement with the course’s subject will have the opportunity to get acquainted with FAU’s Center for Advanced Studies “Alternative Rationalities and Esoteric Practices from a Global Perspective” and attend some of its regular events.

English Practice for SDAC Students

Lecturer: Henriette Hearn, M.A.

Time and Place: Thu. 12:00 – 14:00, SDAC Seminar Room


Studying in a master’s degree program is difficult, but doing so in a foreign language adds further challenges. Keeping up on the weekly readings, conducting oral presentations, finishing writing assignments, and adding to class discussions can easily become overwhelming when this is all being done in your second, or maybe even third language. Therefore, this course will offer a place where students are free to discuss any challenges they face while studying in English. The course is voluntary and will not require added work. We will meet once a week. The format will be flexible so that students can address topics of their choice. Additionally, this course aims at building confidence by providing a space in which mistakes and imperfections are embraced.

Please register for the class via email:

Praxis Seminar: Thesis Preparation

Lecturer: Dr. Ferdiansyah Thajib

Time: once every two weeks on Wednesday from 12.00-16.00

Place: Conference Room & Online


This seminar is intended to create a collaborative environment for SDAC students who are about to start  writing their thesis. It is not a substitute of the ongoing thesis supervision process, but rather aimed at complementing it. The focus of the seminar is to craft student’s capacities for embarking on their thesis project: from getting ready for fieldwork to planning the first steps to take once they are in the field; crafting literature review and drafting a research report. The seminar leader’s role is to facilitate this peer learning process rather than prescribing how it should evolve.