Prof. Dr. Olaf Zenker

Olaf  Zenker

Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology

Junior Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology with focus on Political and Legal Anthropology

Field of Activity

Programme Director of the BA in Social and Cultural Anthropology

Address Mailing address: Landoltweg 9-11; Office address: Thielallee 52
Room 009
14195 Berlin
Telephone +49 (0) 30 838 70126
Fax +49 (0) 30 838 470126
Email olaf.zenker@fu-berlin.de

Office hours

Winter semester 2016/17: 
Wednesdays 3 - 5 pm via doodle-registration: http://doodle.com/poll/95tz9qy329edzrey


Research Area Political and Legal Anthropology


Guidelines for letters of reference (requests at least 6 weeks prior to the deadline)


Future dates for the review and signing of documents for the registration of BA thesis by the Chairman of the Audit Committee (Prof. Dr. Zenker) in the office on Thielallee 52 (room E-009):

  • Thursday, September 29th, 2016, 3 - 5 pm
  • Thursday, January 26th, 2017, 3 - 5 pm

Academic Qualifications

  • 2015 Habilitation in Social Anthropology [second PhD in German speaking countries qualifying for full professorship], Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Bern, Switzerland, based on 8 peer-reviewed publications (Mentor: Prof. Dr. Julia Eckert).
  • 2008 PhD in Social Anthropology, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg & Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle/Germany. PhD thesis: “Irish/ness is all around us: the Irish language and Irish identity in Catholic West Belfast”. (Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Schlee and Prof. Dr. Rottenburg).
  • 2002 MA in German Linguistics and Literature and Social Anthropology, University of Hamburg, Germany. MA thesis: „Techniken zur kommunikativen Herstellung von Gruppenzugehörigkeit: Eine Gesprächsanalyse über Imagearbeit bei Obdachlosen“ [“Communicative strategies for constructing group membership: a discourse analysis on face-work among homeless people”].
  • 1999 MSc in Social Anthropology, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), UK. MSc thesis: “Bewitchedful thinking: witchcraft and political instrumentalism in the Northern Province of South Africa”.


Academic Career

  • Winter Semester 2016/17 Associate Researcher at the Law & Society Institute Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.
  • Since 2015 Junior Professor (W1) at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Free University of Berlin, Germany.
  • Since 2015 Programme Director of the BA in Social and Cultural Anthropology, Free University of Berlin, Germany.
  • Since 2015 Associate at the Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Bern, Switzerland.
  • Since 2014 Member of the Consultative Committee and Associate, Department III “Law & Anthropology”, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle/Germany.
  • 2012 – 2014 Ambizione Research Fellow of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) at the Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Bern, Switzerland.
  • 2014 Visiting Full Professorship (W3) at the Department of Cultural and Social Anthropology, University of Cologne, Germany.
  • 2011 – 2014 Visiting Fellow at the Department of Anthropology at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.
  • 2013 Five-week Visiting Fellowship at the Department of African and African American Studies, Harvard University, USA, in the course of the Ambizione Research Fellowship. [Sponsor: John L. Comaroff].
  • 2012 Six-week Visiting Fellowship at the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology / Division of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom [Sponsor: Harri Englund] & Visiting Scholar at St. Edmund’s College in the course of the Ambizione Research Fellowship.
  • 2009 – 2011 Assistant Professor [Wissenschaftlicher Assistent], Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Bern, Switzerland.
  • 2010 Visiting Fellow at the Sawyer Seminar “Property, Race and Poverty: Paradoxes of the Law and the Possibility of Justice in Contemporary South Africa”, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, & at the Department of Anthropology at the University of South Africa (UNISA), Pretoria.
  • Since 2009 Ambassador of the Minority Research Network, Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
  • 2003 – 2008 PhD Candidate at Department I „Integration & Conflict“ at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle/Saale, Germany.
  • 2006 – 2007 Lecturer at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany.
  • 2003 – 2004 Visiting Research Associate at the Institute of Irish Studies, Queen’s University Belfast, while conducting 14 months of fieldwork in Catholic West Belfast, Northern Ireland.

 

 Scholarships, Awards & Third-Party Funding

  • Since 2015 Honorary Student Tutor [Vertrauensdozent] of the German Academic Scholarship Foundation [Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes] at the Free University of Berlin.
  • 2015 – 2019 4-year Research Project (extendable to up to 12 years) within the Collaborative Research Centre [Sonderforschungsbereich] „Affective Societies“ of The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG).
  • 2012 – 2017 Five-year Visiting Scholarship at St Edmund’s College, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.
  • 2012 – 2014 Ambizione Research Fellowship of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) for individual career development (responsible applicant and main investigator) [see http://p3.snf.ch/project-137094].
  • 2010, 2011 Three grants by the Berne University Research Foundation, supporting three blocks of fieldwork for the project “Land restitution and the moral modernity of the new South African state”.
  • 2008 – 2009 Postdoctoral fellowship with the project group “Law, Organisation, Science and Technology in Africa (LOST)”, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle/Germany.
  • 2003 – 2005 PhD scholarship at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle/Germany.
  • 2001 Stipend by the Karl H. Ditze-Stiftung for the participation in the Summer School of the Institute of Irish Studies, Queen’s University Belfast, on the Northern Irish conflict.
  • 1994 – 2000 Scholarship of the German National Academic Foundation [Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes].
  • 1998 – 1999 Scholarship of the German Academic Exchange Service [DAAD] for the participation in the MSc course at LSE.

Research Interests

  • Thematic interests: political and legal anthropology in trans/local contexts (especially modern statehood; bureaucracy; legal pluralism; neotraditionalism; identity and conflict formation); linguistic anthropology; moral anthropology; philosophical anthropology; social & cultural theory
  • Regional focus: Southern Africa and Europe (esp. Northern / Ireland and Germany)



Monographs and Edited Volumes

  • 2014: Transition and justice: negotiating the terms of new beginnings in Africa. In: Development and Change 45(3) [Special Issue, co-edited with Gerhard Anders].


Articles and Book Chapters (peer-reviewed)


Other Publications


Presentations of the past five years

  • 2016: "Restituting (more) justice: exploring alternatives for redressing historical injustices in South Africa“. 2016 Restitution Conference: „Something for Everyone“, Restitution Foundation: Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town, 9-10 November 2016.
  • 2016: “The re-opening of land restitution, neo-traditionalism and the contested values of land justice in South Africa”. Workshop Rajak/Muehlebach, European Association of Social Anthropologists EASA 2016 Conference, Milan, 20-23 July 2016.
  • 2016: “Anthropology on trial: exploring the laws of anthropological expertise”. 2016 Annual Meeting of the Law and Society Association. New Orleans, 2-5 June 2016.
  • 2016: "The re-opening of land restitution, neo-traditionalism and the contested values of land justice in South Africa”. Land & Accountability Research Centre (LARC), Lunch Time Seminar Series, University of Cape Town, 11 March 2016.
  • 2016: "Studying morals and ethical subjects across borders: a critical comment“. Workshop "Entangled in moralities“, University of Bern, Institute of Social Anthropology, 24-25 February 2016.
  • 2016: “Communicative Transfer, Translation, Brokerage? On the Implementation of State Law in South African Land Restitution”. Workshop “Law as Communication”, SFB 700 “Governance in Areas of Limited Statehood”. Berlin, 18-19 February 2016.
  • 2016: "Current Concerns in Political and Legal Anthropology: New Prospects for Research in Berlin“. Workshop "Law & Anthropology“. Retreat of the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology. Wittenberg, 10-12 January 2016.
  • 2015: “The re-opening of land restitution, neo-traditionalism and the contested values of land justice in South Africa”. International Conference: "Transforming Africa – Africa transforming?”, University of Stellenbosch,  Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study, 24-27 November 2015.
  • 2015: “Emotional sense(s) of justice: an introduction”. Biennial conference of the German Anthropological Association (DGV), Panel Zenker/Bens “Emotional sense(s) of justice: affective states in times of crisis”, Marburg, 30. September – 3 October 2015.
  • 2015: “Disciplinary blind spots: complementarities and contradictions between law and anthropology”. Summer School of the International Max Planck Research School on Retaliation, Mediation and Punishment, Bad Hersfeld, 11-16 September 2015.
  • 2015: “Bush-level bureaucrats in South African land restitution: implementing state law under chiefly rule”. Panel “Rule of Law and Governance”, Congress of the German-speaking Associations of the Sociology of Law: “The Promises of the Law / Die Versprechungen des Rechts”, Berlin, 09-11 September 2015
  • 2015: "Retributive versus distributive justice: popular demands and official narratives in Sierra Leone and South Africa" (together with Gerhard Anders). Panel Anders/Zenker, AEGIS 6th European Conference on African Studies (ECAS 6), Paris, 08-10 July 2015.
  • 2015: “‘Politics by other means’ revisited: legal entrepreneurs and land reform in post-apartheid South Africa”. University of Leipzig, Institute of Social Anthropology & Institute of African Studies, Lecture Series “Dimensions of agency: entrepreneurship in business, culture and governance”, 6 July 2015.
  • 2015: “Doing justice to the land question? Navigating the plural legal orders of South African land restitution”. Conference: “Pursuing justice in Africa”, University of Cambridge, CRASSH, 27-28 March 2012.
  • 2015: “Anthropology on trial”. University of Bern, University of Bern, Institute of Social Anthropology Seminar Series, 24 February 2015.
  • 2015: “South African land restitution, white claimants and the fateful frontier of former KwaNdebele“. University of Lucerne, Research Seminar of the Department of Ethnology, 18 February 2015.
  • 2015: „Anthropology on trial: exploring the laws of anthropological expertise“. Joint Institutes Colloquium of the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology & Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Halle, 03 February 2015.
  • 2014: Roundtable discussion on “Transition and Justice: Negotiating the Terms of New Beginnings in Africa” at the launch of the edited volume with the same title. Michaelmas Term Speaker Series, Cambridge Review of International Affairs (CRIA), Politics and International Studies Department, University of Cambridge, 01 December 2014.
  • 2014: “Land reform and the contested remaking of autochthony in South Africa”. Workshop Rodima-Taylor/Meinert, 57th Annual Meeting of the African Studies Association (ASA), Indianapolis, 20-23 November 2014.
  • 2014: Discussant at the panel “Localising Morality: Faith, Intimacy, and Rights”. 7th Congress of the International Association for Southeast European Anthropology (InASEA), Istanbul, 18-20 September 2014.
  • 2014: “South African land restitution and the contested eligibility of white claimants”. Workshop Drotbohm/Eckert, European Association of Social Anthropologists EASA 2014 Conference, Tallinn, 31 July – 3 August 2014.
  • 2014: “Why the individual must be defended ~ seemingly against all anthropological odds”. Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle/Saale, Workshop “(Not) outside my culture: The paradoxes of personal autonomy in a plural society”, 26−28 May 2014.
  • 2014: “Politics by other means revisited: legal activism and land reform in post-apartheid South Africa”. Conference “1994-2014: 20 years of South African Democracy”. University of Oxford, African Studies Centre, St. Antony's College, 25-26 April 2014.
  • 2014: Discussant at the conference “Doing Gesellschaftstheorie / Doing social theory”. University of Konstanz, Department of Sociology, 13-14 February 2014.
  • 2013: “Legal pluralism, communal land tenure and multiple livelihoods in South Africa’s countryside”. Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Institute for Anthropological Research in Africa (IARA), Colloquium of Cultures and Development Studies (CADES),10 December 2013.
  • 2013: “Recursive prolegomena: the morally modern state of anthropology”. Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Institute for Anthropological Research in Africa (IARA), Research Seminar, 9 December 2013.
  • 2013: “Recursive prolegomena: the morally modern state of anthropology”. 112th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), Panel “Advocacy, Activism, and Engaged Anthropology”, Chicago, 20-24 November 2013.
  • 2013: Discussant in the Panel “Pastoralism and the New Commons: Co-Management, Conflict, and Cooperation”. 112th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), Chicago, 20-24 November 2013.
  • 2013: “Mind the gaps: renegotiating South African legal pluralism within the post-apartheid state”. Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle/Saale, Workshop “Negotiating Normative Spaces: Insights from and into African Judicial Encounters”, 7-8 November 2013.
  • 2013: “De-judicialisation, outsourced review and all too flexible bureaucracies in South African land restitution”. Africa Studies Workshop, Harvard University, Cambridge MA, 30 September 2013.
  • 2013: “Implementing state law under chiefly rule: navigating the plural legal orders of South African land restitution”. Panel Hayward, 17th World Congress of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES), Manchester, 5-10 August 2013.
  • 2013: “De-judicialisation, outsourced review and all too flexible bureaucracies in South African land restitution”. Panel Anders/Blundo, AEGIS 5th European Conference on African Studies (ECAS 5), Lisbon, 27-29 June 2013.
  • 2013: “Recursive prolegomena: notes on the morally modern state of anthropology”. International Conference of the Euro-African Association for the Anthropology of Social Change and Development (APAD): “Fieldwork Relations in the Context of Development or Emergency: Access, Risks, Knowledge, Restitutions”, Montpellier, 13-15 June 2013.
  • 2013: “Linguistic relativity and dialectical idiomatization in the Irish language revival of Northern Ireland”. University of Cape Town, Department of Social Anthropology, Emergent Ethnographies Seminar, 2 April 2013.
  • 2013: “South African land restitution, white claimants and the fateful frontier of former KwaNdebele”. Conference “Land Divided: Land and South African Society in 2013, in Comparative Perspectice”. University of Cape Town, 24-27 March 2013.
  • 2012: “White claimants and the moral community of South African land restitution". University of Cambridge, Faculty of History, Africa Research Forum, 31 October 2012.
  • 2012: “South African land restitution, white claimants and the fateful frontier of former KwaNdebele”. London School of Economics, Department of Anthropology, Research Seminar on Anthropological Theory, 26 October 2012.
  • 2012: “South African land restitution, white claimants and the fateful frontier of former KwaNdebele”. Workshop Jensen/Zenker, European Association of Social Anthropologists EASA 2012 Conference, Paris,10-13 July 2012.
  • 2012: “Bush-level bureaucrats in South African land restitution: implementing state law under chiefly rule”. Panel Höhne/Zenker, Centre of African Studies CAS@50 Conference, Edinburgh, 6-8 June 2012.
  • 2012: “The indicatorisation of South African land restitution”. University of Basel, Centre for African Studies, Department of History & Basler Afrika Bibliographien, Tuesday Research Seminar in African History, 29 May 2012.
  • 2012: “Politics by other means revisited: legal activism and land reform in post-apartheid South Africa”. Université de Neuchâtel, Institut d'ethnologie, MAPS lecture series, 10 May 2012.
  • 2012: “State law, customary law and communal land tenure within South African land reform”. Workshop: “Revisiting communal land tenure: perspectives on households, families and work from below”, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, IGK Work and Human Lifecycle in Global History, 4-5 May 2012.
  • 2012: “Failure by numbers? Settlement statistics as indicators of state performance in South African land restitution”. Conference: “The new public good: affects and techniques of flexible bureaucracies”, University of Cambridge, CRASSH, 23-24 March 2012.
  • 2012: “The transitional justice of land restitution in post-apartheid South Africa”. University of the Witwatersrand, Wits Anthropology Seminar Series, Johannesburg, 8 March 2012.
  • 2012: “The indicatorisation of South African land restitution”. University of Pretoria, Department of Anthropology and Archaeology Seminar Series, 2 March 2012.
  • 2011: “New laws against an old state: land restitution as a transition to justice in post-apartheid South Africa?”. Jubilee Congress of the Commission on Legal Pluralism, Panel Bakker “Contesting the state: natural resource claims and discourses of rights”, University of Cape Town, 8-10 September 2011.
  • 2011: “Idiomatisation, ethnicity and linguistic relativity: second language acquisition in the Irish language revival of Northern Ireland”. Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle/Saale, Workshop on the occasion of the 60th birthday of Günther Schlee, 10-12 July 2011.
  • 2011: “Transition and justice in Africa: an introduction” [together with Gerhard Anders]. Panel Anders/Zenker, ECAS 4, Uppsala, 15-18 June 2011.
  • 2011: “New laws against the old state: land restitution as a transition to justice in post-apartheid South Africa?”. Panel Anders/Zenker, ECAS 4, Uppsala, 15-18 June 2011.

 

 

List of supervised bachelor and master theses

List of supervised Ph.D. theses