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Ethnologists (also: social and cultural anthropologists or ethnologists) conduct systematic social and cultural studies on the diversity of human ways of life from a contemporary as well as historically anchored perspective. In addition to the original focus of ethnologists on ethnic groups and indigenous peoples , the focus of their field research is now on the culture of a wide variety of social groups and entities (e.g. institutions and organizations ). The areas of work of ethnologists include a. the economic anthropology , social anthropology , political anthropology , anthropology of religion , legal anthropology , medical anthropology and ethnomusicology .

The occupation and activity title for ethnologists is not uniform, so they were formerly called ethnographers ("Völkerbeschreiber"). Today it is also common to use the term social and cultural anthropologist, based on the British technical term for social anthropology and the term used in the USA for cultural anthropology . In Europe, cultural anthropologists are also understood to be folklorists who are experts in European ethnology .

For a long time, anthropologists mainly dealt with non-European, pre-industrial peoples. In the meantime, the field of ethnology has generally expanded to include the entirety of cultural and intercultural ways of life within or between social groups , for example in modern industrial societies , in urban areas or in connection with migration . Today, ethnological research and activities are neither limited to the present nor the past, nor to certain areas of the world (see list of regional ethnology ).

Areas of activity

The main opportunities for ethnologists are:


The Ethnology (now also social and cultural anthropology ) is since the late 19th century as a subject at universities taught, first in Germany and Ethnology, then as in the UK anthropology social and finally in the United States as cultural anthropology . In the Anglo-Saxon language area it is considered a branch of anthropology  - in continental Europe this is understood more as a natural science (physical anthropology) and as a branch of ethnological field research .

Many universities offer training to become an anthropologist, in different areas and with different names, mostly with a bachelor's degree (3 years) or master's (2 years). The course usually also includes practice-oriented parts of the course ( internships ), and field research in a different culture or in a domestic context is often expected as the final thesis. The main contents of the training are:

  • Characteristics and heterogeneity of cultural forms
  • Structures of human societies
  • historical conditioning of social and cultural phenomena
  • Products of cultural creation: art and media
  • Relationships between cultures
  • cultural and social change
  • History, theories and methods of the subject


The German Society for Social and Cultural Anthropology (DGSKA) lists the following courses in 2019:

  1. University of Bayreuth : Ethnology (Bachelor / Master) Culture and Society of Africa (Bachelor / Master) Cultural and Social Anthropology (Master)
  2. Free University of Berlin : Social and Cultural Anthropology (Bachelor / Master) Interdisciplinary Latin American Studies (Master)
  3. Ruhr University Bochum : Social Science (Bachelor / Master) Culture, Individual and Society (Bachelor)
  4. Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn : Latin American and Ancient American Studies (Bachelor) Ancient American Studies and Ethnology (Bachelor / Master) Cultural Studies in Latin America / Estudios Culturales de América Latina (Master)
  5. University of Bremen : Cultural Studies (Bachelor) · Transcultural Studies (Master)
  6. European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder) : Comparative cultural and social anthropology (Bachelor / Master)
  7. Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Frankfurt am Main : Ethnology (Bachelor / Master from winter 2014)
  8. Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg : Ethnology (Bachelor / Master)
  9. Georg-August-Universität Göttingen : Ethnology (Bachelor / Master)
  10. Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg : Ethnology (Bachelor / Master)
  11. University of Hamburg : Social Anthropology (Bachelor / Master)
  12. Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg : Ethnology (Bachelor / Master) · Health and Society in South Asia (Master) · Transcultural Studies (Master) · South Asian Studies (Bachelor / Master) · History of South Asia (Bachelor) · Cultural and Religious History of South Asia (Bachelor / Master) Health and Society in South Asia (Master)
  13. University of Koblenz-Landau : Cultural Studies (Bachelor / Master)
  14. University of Cologne : Ethnology (Bachelor / Master) Culture and Environment in Africa (Master) Intercultural Communication and Education (Master)
  15. University of Konstanz , Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology: Sociology (Bachelor / Master)
  16. University of Leipzig : Social Anthropology (Bachelor / Master)
  17. Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz : Social Anthropology (Bachelor / Master)
  18. Philipps-Universität Marburg : Comparative Cultural and Religious Studies (Bachelor) Cultural and Social Anthropology (Master)
  19. Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich : Ethnology (Bachelor / Master)
  20. Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster : Cultural and Social Anthropology (Bachelor) Social Anthropology (Master)
  21. University of Trier : Sociology (Bachelor) Social Sciences (Bachelor)
  22. Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen : Ethnology (Bachelor / Master) Social and Cultural Anthropology (Master)


Only the University of Vienna offers a course:


The German Society for Social and Cultural Anthropology also lists Swiss courses:

  1. University of Basel : Social Anthropology (Bachelor / Master) African Studies (Master)
  2. University of Bern : Social Anthropology (Bachelor / Master) Anthropology of Transnationalism and the State (Master)
  3. University of Freiburg : Social, cultural and religious studies (Bachelor)
  4. University of Geneva : Études du développement (Master)
  5. University of Lucerne : Social Anthropology (Bachelor / Master)
  6. University of Neuchâtel : Ethnology (Bachelor) Ethnology and Biology (Bachelor) Sciences humaines et sociales, orientation anthropologie (Master)
  7. University of Zurich : Social Anthropology (Bachelor / Master)

See also

Portal: Ethnology  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the topic of ethnology


Newest first:

  • Thomas Bierschenk, Matthias Krings, Carola Lentz (eds.): Ethnology in the 21st century. Reimer, Berlin 2013.
  • Janna Lena Degener: Professional fields: What ethnologists can achieve. In: job market education, culture, social affairs. No. 10, Wissenschaftsladen Bonn , 2010 ( PDF file; 1.4 MB; 6 pages on
  • Ingrid Thurner: Traveled. Researched. Science tourism as ethno tourism. In: Claudia Trupp, Alexander Trupp (eds.): Ethnotourism - Intercultural encounter at eye level? Mandelbaum, Vienna 2009, pp. 156–171.
  • Board of the German Society for Ethnology (DGV): Statement on ethics in ethnology. In: Messages of the German Society for Ethnology e. V. No. 37, February 2007, pp. 44–48 ( PDF file; 674 kB; 106 pages ).
  • Ursula Bertels u. a. (Ed.): Ethnology in school. A study to impart intercultural competence. Waxmann, Münster a. a. 2004, ISBN 3-8309-1338-9 .
  • Gertraud Seiser: Opportunities and opportunities for graduates of social and cultural studies on the labor market - using the example of ethnology, cultural and social anthropology. In: ibw-Mitteilungen. Institute for Economic Research in Education, Vienna January 2004 ( PDF file; 69 kB; 8 pages on
  • Gertraud Seiser u. a. (Ed.): Explorations of ethnological occupational fields. Opportunities and risks for university graduates (= Viennese contributions to ethnology and anthropology. Volume 13). WUV, Vienna 2003, ISBN 3-85114-722-7 .
  • Judith Schlehe: Ethnology of Tourism. To break the boundaries of field research and travel. In: Periphery. Journal of Politics and Economics in the Third World. Volume 89, No. 23, 2003, pp. 31-47 ( full text in Open Access ).
  • Helga Diel-Khalil, Klaus Götz: Ethnology and organizational development (= management concepts. Volume 3). 2nd, revised and expanded edition. Hampp, Mering 1999, ISBN 3-87988-415-3 ( review ).
  • Maike Wischmann: Applied Ethnology and Business. Practice-oriented ethnological research on corporate cultures (= interethnic relationships and cultural change. Volume 36). Lit, Hamburg 1999, ISBN 3-8258-4258-4 ( Master's thesis 1998; review ).
  • Malcolm Crick: The Anthropologist as Tourist. An Identity in Question. In: Marie-Francoise Lanfant, John B. Allcock, Edward M. Bruner (eds.): International Tourism. Identity and Change (= Sage Studies in International Sociology. Volume 47). Sage, London a. a. 1995, pp. 205 ff. (English).
  • Michael Harkin: Modernist Anthropology and Tourism of the Authentic. In: Annals of Tourism Research. Volume 22, No. 3, 1995 (English).

Web links

Commons : Ethnologists (Ethnologists)  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: ethnologist  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Sabine Klocke-Daffa: Applied Ethnology: Perspectives of an application-oriented science. Springer, Heidelberg 2019, ISBN 978-3-658-25893-1 , p. ??.
  2. ↑ Career advice: occupational functions and further training occupations: ethnologist. Swiss Service Center for Vocational Education and Training (SDBB), December 28, 2017, accessed on December 2, 2019 .
  3. Janine Barthel, Thomas Bierschenk: Ethnology and extra-academic practice: A bibliography of German-language literature (= working papers of the Institute for Ethnology and African Studies. No. 163). 2nd, supplemented edition. Institute for Ethnology and African Studies at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz , Mainz 2015 ( PDF 838 kB, 33 pages on ; first published in 2013).
  4. a b Overview with web link to every institute in DA-CH: German Society for Social and Cultural Anthropology (DGSKA): Links to social and cultural anthropology. 2018, accessed on December 2, 2019 (with web links to all courses).