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Olivia Klimm

Phd student

Short profile

Olivia Klimm holds a Diplom, the equivalent of a MARes, degree in Physical and Human Geography from Heidelberg University, with Sociology, Social Anthropology and Urban Design (Stuttgart University) as her minors. At South Asia Institute Olivia wrote her Master’s thesis on the precarious livelihoods of fishing communities across the Indian-Pakistani littoral borderland, based on two months‘ fieldwork along the coast of Saurashtra and Kutch, Gujarat. Between 2013 and 2018, she worked as a research associate at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology of Freiburg University within the DFG-funded project “Constraint and Creativity on African State Boundaries”, led by Professor Dr Gregor Dobler. Between 2013/2014 and 2015/2016, Olivia spent 16 months doing ethnographic fieldwork in Musina, South Africa’s northernmost town. The working title of her PhD dissertation is “Last kasie ya Musina: The afterlives of mining in the South African borderland with Zimbabwe, c. 1986-2016“. Between 2018 and 2022 different positions in university administration amongst which as head of international office at the University of Art and Design Offenbach and as expert advisor for bringing on board and accompanying degree-seeking international students at Gießen University. Since the end of 2022 Olivia has been working in Frankfurt/Germany at Pro Asyl, Germany’s largest pro-immigration advocacy organisation.


Regional Research Focus

  • Southern Africa, Northern Limpopo Province, South Africa


Thematic Research Focus

  • Social order and differentiation in post-Apartheid; de-industrialisation and (re-)urbanisation; mining, infrastructure development and border economy; death, survival and identity
  • Research positionalities in thick participation; legitimacy of ethnographic knowledge production; researcher’s colonial family history
  • Externalization of German border regime to South Africa


Texts and Presentations





  • 2018 The seeming paradox of lawlessness despite intense executive state presence at two South African borders. Panel “Controlling Mobilities: Border Policing in Africa”, Conference of the Association for African Studies in Germany, 27-30/06/2018, Leipzig University, Germany.
  • 2017 “The Regime of Double Confinement”: A Tentative Comparison of Mobile Control and Arbitrariness at Two Borders of South Africa. Panel “Foreign and International Institutions and Peace and Conflict in Africa”, 60th African Studies Association Annual Meeting, 16-18/11/2017, Chicago, USA.
  • 2017 Good fences make worthy neighbours: Fencing and social transformation in Musina, South Africa. Panel “Lines of Control – Lines of Desire: Towards an Integrated History of Fencing in Southern Africa”, 7th European Conference on African Studies, 29/06-01/07/2017, Basel University, Switzerland.
  • 2017 Bribery and belonging: The case of South African officials at the border with Zimbabwe. Panel “Contested Possibilities: The South Africa-Zimbabwe Border and Movements within and across it”, 26th Southern African Historical Society Biennial Conference, 21-23/06/2017, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.
  • 2017 Ways of burying, ways of living: Funerals and cemeteries as sites of social differentiation in Musina, South Africa. Panel “Geographies of Death: Place-making, mobilities, diversity and sustainability”, 7th Nordic Geographers Meeting, 18-21/06/2017, Stockholm University, Sweden.
  • 2016 Social Differentiation in the Musina Borderlands of South Africa with Zimbabwe. Elements of a Tentative Conceptual Frame. Research colloquium, 8/11/2016, Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Freiburg University, Germany.
  • 2016 Inequality in Ethnographic Research: Embracing Privilege. Panel “Why are we (t)here? Radical Challenges to Privilege and Presence in the North-South Encounter”, American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting, 29/03-02/04/2016, San Francisco, USA.
  • 2015 Deceptive U-turns: Infrastructure, Control and Creativity at the Beitbridge Border Post, South Africa. SPP-Workshop “Technologies of Control and the Limits of Social Creativity”, 18-20/06/2015, Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Bayreuth University, Germany.
  • 2014 Rhino and Race: The Use of Space in the Musina Borderlands, South Africa. Cluster V “Spaces”, Second Results Conference of the DFG Priority Programme “Adaptation and Creativity in Africa – Technologies and Significations in the production of order and disorder”, 01-04/10/2014, Saly Portudal, Senegal.
  • 2014 “Stuck in the fence”, stuck with the source: Issues around analyzing narratives of Othering in contemporary audio media. PhD/Post-Doc Workshop “Researching Southern Africa. Archives and Sources”, 27-29/07/2014, Department of History, Zurich University / Basler Afrika Bibliographien, Switzerland.