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Public scientific contributions by lecturers and students of the Institute of Ethnology at the University of Freiburg.

Current contributions from lecturers at the Institute of Ethnology at the University of Fribourg:


Prof. Dr. Judith Schlehe:


    • Opinion on:

      Saurer, Michael. 2021. Darstellung schwarzer Menschen im Europa-Park sorgt für Kritik. Abgerufen am 27.09.21 (


      Judith Schlehe and Tina Brüderlin

      Explanation of the background

      This article in the Badische Zeitung of 10 September 2021 refers to a seminar paper by two students from the Institute of Anthropology at the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg. The seminar was entitled "Self and Foreign Representation - Ethnographic Exploration of Exoticisation and Decolonisation in Contemporary Freiburg" and took place in the winter semester 2019/2020 under the joint direction of Judith Schlehe (Professor of Ethnology at the University of Freiburg) and Tina Brüderlin (Head of the Ethnological Collection of the Museum Natur und Mensch, Städtische Museen Freiburg). One of the aims of the seminar was for the students to develop exhibition modules based on small-scale empirical research - i.e. "ethnographic explorations". These were intended to possibly be incorporated into an interdisciplinary special exhibition on the topic of "Freiburg and Colonialism: Yesterday? Today!" at the Freiburg City Museums, which was originally planned for 2021 and had to be postponed to 2022 due to the pandemic.

      The students chose different topics, which they developed during the seminar and outlined as an exhibition module in order to reflect on the areas of our current everyday life in which colonial traces may be found. They examined forms of representation and utilisation of the "foreign" in the areas of consumption, popular culture, leisure and education. In line with ethnographic methodology, they also endeavoured to capture the voices of the actors, i.e. to find out what different people (producers, recipients, consumers) think and say about it, how they behave and relate to it themselves. Self-reflection also played an important role here. All participants were made aware of how often, for example, advertising, restaurant decor and well-meaning children's books do not arouse interest in cultural plurality and encounters, do not stimulate debate and interested questions, but instead market and stabilise (mostly derogatory, sometimes sexist) stereotypes.

      Two students, Sophia Hiss and Leon Mogk, dedicated their work to the 'Adventureland' themed area of the Europapark. This also ties in with a DFG research group at the University of Freiburg on "Historical environments in popular knowledge cultures of the present", in the context of which Judith Schlehe researched cultures as backdrops and mutual reflection in various countries (see "Staging the Past. Themed Environments in Transcultural Perspectives". Edited by Schlehe et al., Bielefeld: transcript 2010). The two students focussed on the 'jungle raft ride' at Europapark. This ride leads past white colonial lords in tropical clothing and colourfully dressed black people, lush tropical markets and wild animals, it offers pure exoticism, normalises and trivialises colonial hierarchies and reproduces orientalist images of 'traditional cultures' for visitors to enjoy. Can this really be dismissed as harmless leisure entertainment? Many cultural and educational institutions, especially museums, are currently endeavouring to come to terms with Germany's colonial past - can a theme park, with its millions of visitors, be so blatantly opposed to this? Of course, European cultures are also staged and homogenised in a clichéd way at Europapark - but nobody would think of trivialising the Nazi era there for entertainment purposes, for example. So why colonialism?

      In their seminar paper, Sophia Hiss and Leon Mogk adopted an ethnological perspective in an exemplary manner by not focussing on their own critical stance, but instead exploring the question of how visitors to the park perceive the jungle ride. The students sought out dialogue, took part in countless rides and produced a film that expresses the wide range of voices. The film, which was to be included in a module of the exhibition, shows the raft trip as experienced by the visitors and is accompanied by the visitors' comments and reflections on what they saw and experienced. Unfortunately, this film will not be shown in the upcoming "Freiburg and Colonialism" exhibition mentioned above, as Europapark did not grant the image rights. The two students then contacted the Badische Zeitung newspaper. After the article appeared, they were inundated with a flood of critical to aggressive and hurtful comments on social media. Quite a few of these comments testify to the racism of their authors and a lack of sensitivity and awareness of (neo)colonial structures. As regrettable as it is that this can happen when anthropologists make their work publicly visible, it also encourages us that it is important and worthwhile to examine our own everyday, consumer and leisure worlds, to constantly scrutinise images and ideas anew, to enter into conversation about them and to place them in structural contexts and political discussions. However, the form of discourse in social media seems very unsuitable for this; it would be more worthy of its own investigation.




    • Schlehe, Judith: Neuverhandlungen von Kontinuität und Wandel. In: Theater Freiburg (09.2020).


    • Mehlin, Beate: Zoos und Freizeitparks bedienen sich oft der Exotik. Interview mit Judith Schlehe in Staatsanzeiger, Nr. 36 (11.09.2020).


    • Schlehe, Judith: Kampfschild. In: Ausgepackt. 125 Jahre Geschichte(n) im Museum Natur und Mensch. Katalog, Hg. Tina Brüderlin u.a., Städtische Museen Freiburg 2020: 59. Mitarbeit bei der Jubiläumsausstellung zur naturkundlichen und ethnologischen Sammlung des Museum Natur und Mensch Freiburg: (12.08.2020).






Prof. Dr. Gregor Dobler:








Dr. Philipp Schröder:




Dr. Ingo Rohrer:




Dr. Thomas Hüsken:




Statement by the Institute of Social Anthropology at the University of Freiburg on the debate on refugees and immigration


As an academic institute that deals with the diversity of human cultures, we would like to express our support for an open and welcoming society in view of the current debate in Germany and Europe. We encourage people from other regions of the world to be treated not with fear and rejection, but with curiosity and openness. We are convinced that cultural contacts and exchange represent an opportunity for personal and social enrichment. The Institute would like to see an unbureaucratic approach to people in need and a long-term commitment to a society based on solidarity.


Europe has long been a continent of migration and immigration. Our society has repeatedly managed to integrate the arrival of exceptionally high numbers of immigrants and to change positively as a result (see the statement by the Non-European History Working Group of the Association of German Historians)

We see the arrival of so many refugees in Germany as an obligation for our society and for our discipline. Anthropology is particularly suited and obliged to question some of the currently popular discourses on "culture" (or even "cultural groups" - a completely anachronistic term), religion and "foreignness". Social differences and inequalities cannot be culturalised. In a world of intercultural and intracultural diversity, constructions and definitions of the foreign often serve primarily to reassure ourselves. They are rarely based on close encounters, experiences and interactions with specific people.


Such close encounters are at the centre of ethnological methods. In our own research, we constantly experience how interest grows in encounters, certainties break down and attributions to "foreign cultures" are called into question. Particularly in the context of migration, actions can rarely be explained by the culture of origin; the social situation of the migrants and, above all, the reaction of the host society to them are often much more influential for the role they can take on in the new place than their cultural origin.
Such connections are analysed in many projects at our institute (see below for an overview).

These projects also give rise to concrete ideas for the academic study of flight and migration. All too often, we see research in which refugees play the role of research material rather than becoming equal partners. This is not only ethically problematic, but we are also convinced that it leads to poor results.

Anthropology is particularly suitable for relating different ways of thinking and acting to each other and allowing them to speak to each other. To this end, we are increasingly working in (interdisciplinary) teams and experimenting with collaborative methods. At the same time, the traditional approaches of the discipline - above all participant observation - are proving to be extremely suitable for exploring new fields of research, understanding them and making them comprehensible. In this context, we are very pleased about an offer from the Freiburg Regional Council, which welcomes students from our institute to live in initial reception centres for refugees for an extended period of time. By participating in everyday life in an initial reception centre, conclusions could be drawn, for example, about the extent to which it is not cultural differences but the type of accommodation that creates current tensions.

At the Freiburg Institute of Social Anthropology, we have had excellent experience with reciprocal research for twelve years now. In German-Indonesian co-operation, research is carried out alternately in both countries. Every second year, Indonesian students research selected cultural aspects in Freiburg together with their local partners. This is worth mentioning in the present context because it shows us time and again how exciting and enlightening the questions and perspectives of our guests are.


However, those who have arrived in recent months are not just guests, but people who want or need to stay. This makes it all the more important to enable people to get to know each other. This certainly includes communicating the democratic values that make an open society possible. However, the validity of such values must also be constantly re-established in our country, and it requires a serious and persistent dialogue. In this dialogue, we must also be prepared to understand others and get an idea of their views on the world here. Only in this way can we actually live together in a way that does not constantly reaffirm the categorical boundaries between "us" and "them". In their place, a social world should be developed that is co-produced by all the different actors - and research in which everyone is involved.

Research projects at the Institute of Social Anthropology on flight, migration and culturalisation

  • Images of "the West" and the "Arab world" in Indonesia

Under the direction of Judith Schlehe, various projects are being carried out that deal with constructions of images of the self and the other. A differentiated examination of the ambivalent stereotypes of "the West" or "Arab culture" shows that identification with or differentiation from cultures that are perceived as foreign depends on the respective historical, political and socio-economic context. Apart from these general findings on constructions of difference, this research can above all teach us a lot about contemporary Indonesia - and about the fact that in this country with well over 200 million Muslims, there is a struggle for forms of Islam that stand in marked contrast to those of the Middle East and that are completely unknown to people in this country who speak of "Islam". We hope that corresponding research can also be carried out in Germany in the near future in order to stimulate a critical examination of popular and populist discourses on foreignness.


  • Borders and their role

The concept of migration presupposes borders and at the same time constantly reaffirms their validity. State borders decide who is considered a migrant and determine which group of people can decide whether to accept or deport new arrivals. The connection between state sovereignty, border regimes and social action is at the centre of several long-term research projects led by Gregor Dobler. The empirical research usually focuses on border regions in Africa; however, due to the changes in European border regimes, the borders between Africa and Europe and their function in the illegalisation of migration in Africa are increasingly coming under scrutiny.


  • Chinese migrants in Africa

The economic role of migrant entrepreneurs has long been analysed in the social sciences. Many authors assume that ethnically organised networks promote trust and enable migrants to be more successful in their economic activities. Gregor Dobler has shown for Chinese migrants in Namibia that origin does not automatically translate into economic networks. When they arrive, the traders have little in common with each other and see each other as competitors. It is only the reaction of the host society that makes them a distinguishable group. Those who are better connected with the host society in turn become middlemen (and midwives) for new migrants. It is therefore the type of integration into the host society that makes new arrivals into a distinguishable and interconnected group. At the same time, group boundaries and selective connections to the host society emerge - and precisely because of this, new hierarchies are created within the group of migrants. Socialisation as a separate, self-structured group is a consequence of the host society's reaction, not a prerequisite.


  • "MentorMigration" teaching project - in cooperation with the city of Freiburg and Freiburg primary schools

Since the winter semester 2012/2013, the Institute of Ethnology has been involved in the "MentorMigration Project" of the City of Freiburg, which has been running since 2007 and has also been known as S-A-L-A-M (Play - Exchange - Learn - Be Mindful - Together) since 2009. As part of an accompanying seminar, students look after a primary school child for eight months and organise various leisure activities with them. As many of the pupils have a migrant background, the parallel course focuses on questions of intercultural education, the concept of culture and migration; the theoretical discussions in the seminar are supplemented by talks with experts working in the field of education and migration.


  • Language and encounter: language course for refugees at the Institute of Social Anthropology in the winter semester 2015/16

Barbara Szudarek organised a language course for refugees at the Institute, which was accompanied by students. The course was organised as an AG. Like the SALAM project, this project offered the opportunity to gain practical intercultural experience. It was intended to be a place of intercultural encounter and exchange for both sides, over and above the mere teaching of the language. The students formed tandems with the German learners. Forms of interaction were developed in which both sides acquired new skills. Refugees not only learnt German, but also gained initial access to the university, to young German adults and a flexible range of joint activities tailored to their needs, which enabled them to open up new fields of activity in Freiburg.

  • Main seminar in the winter semester 2016/17

A seminar entitled "On the move: refugees, migrants, travellers" took place in the winter semester under the direction of Judith Schlehe.

Students had the possibility to contribute to fieldwork projects in collaboration with visiting Indonesian students who intended to conduct research exercises with refugees in Freiburg. Anthropologists are working on mobilities and displacement along various thematic and conceptual lines. Notions of mobility are marked by class, gender, religion, ethnicity and culture. Involuntary or forced movements as well as all other forms of mobilities are imbued with cultural meanings and imaginaries that need to be analysed in the contexts in which they occur. This seminar intended to explore the categorization and practice as refugee, migrant and traveller, and juxtapose narratives, ideas and experiences of mobilities by grounding them in selected case studies from all over the world. The seminar was combined with an interdisciplinary lecture series on "Mobilitäten: Flucht, Migration, Reisen" organised by the "Gesellschaft für Geographie und Ethnologie".

  • Tandem seminar summer semester 2017

Rosaly Magg, ethnologist and employee at iz3w (Informationszentrum 3. Welt), led the seminar "Gender, Migration & Flight. The difficult handling of difference and the connection between ethnicity, identity and gender". In the seminar, current debates on the topic of flight and migration were critically discussed from a gender perspective. Both the reasons for transnational migration and the living situation of migrants were discussed as gender-specific processes that are characterised by multiple symbolic orders of gender images as well as by the real power relations between men and women and within different groups. Particular attention was paid to the processes of ethnification and culturalisation through which social inequalities are (re-)produced and manifested. These mechanisms function to create hierarchical relationships, particularly along the lines of gender. In the seminar, current debates and concrete examples, such as the events of the Silver Star Night in Cologne or the feminisation of (labour) migration, migrant women in domestic work or the headscarf debate in Europe, were examined in a media-critical manner and discussed in relation to theoretical concepts of postcolonial and cultural studies, intersectionality, men's studies and basic feminist concepts.


  • Tandem seminar winter semester 2017/2018

In the 2017 winter semester, a tandem seminar was held on the topic of "Refugees in Germany. Ethnological perspectives and practical experiences in social work". You can find a description here.