Georg Pfeffer (ethnologist)

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Georg Pfeffer (born January 17, 1943 in Berlin ; † May 20, 2020 ) was a German ethnologist .


The son of the sociologist Karl Heinz Pfeffer and the teacher Margaret Wainman Kirby studied ethnology , sociology and the history of religion . At the age of 16, Pfeffer moved with his parents to Lahore , Pakistan , where he attended Forman Christian College from 1959 to 1962. He studied with Rolf Herzog at the University of Freiburg , where he received his doctorate in 1970. In 1971 he moved to Heidelberg University , where he completed his habilitation in 1976. From 1978 he was a university lecturer and from 1979 to 1985 professor of ethnology at the University of Heidelberg. From 1985 to 2008 he taught as a university professor at the Free University of Berlin . During his academic career he specialized in South Asian studies and kinship, rule and religion ethnology. Pfeffer died on May 20, 2020 after a serious illness. From 1993 to 1995 Pfeffer was the first chairman of the Berlin Society for Anthropology, Ethnology and Prehistory .


In 1968 and 1969 he carried out his first ethnological field research with the non-Muslim minority of Abortzugern in the old town of Lahore as well as comparative studies in Amritsar , India , on which he obtained his doctorate in 1970 ("Paria groups in Punjab").

1971–1972 Pfeffer spent another year doing ethnographic research as part of the DFG's first "Orissa Project" (1970–1976) with the Sasana Brahmins , who form the Brahmins segment with the highest status in the Puri district in the Indian state of Orissa . This regional elite was the subject of his habilitation thesis .

From 1974–1976, Pfeffer taught as a visiting professor at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad , Pakistan. Together with Professor AK Dani, the Dean of Social Sciences , he founded the Department of Anthropology there and supervised the first ethnographic research.

From 1980, Pfeffer's ethnographic interests led him to the mountains of Western Orissa, where he visited villages for months almost every year until 2002. He stayed longer with the Kuttia Kond in Kandhamal District and the Gadaba in Koraput District .

Pfeffer recorded the respective kinship terminology as well as marriage rules and marriage practices for more than 30 different ethnic units. As a result, he registered clear differences between these three analytical levels of reference and a system of affinity (sisterhood) and consanguinity (consanguinity) which is characteristic of the central Indian tribal areas and which differs significantly from the systems typical of northern India or southern India.

He also examined the secondary burial of the Gadaba. This describes the “return” of the deceased in the shape of buffalo and the large-scale systematic exchange of these soul carriers, which in the context of a “great wedding” connects mutually agnatic villages almost incestuously in analogy to the affinal external relations.

After Roy, Elwin and von Fürer-Haimendorf, Georg Pfeffer is the first social anthropologist who has devoted himself to long-term comparative empirical research on the complex of Central Indian tribal societies . As part of the second "Orissa Project" (1999–2006) of the DFG, Pfeffer also supervised long-term research by Peter Berger, Lidia Guzy , Roland Hardenberg, Tina Otten , Uwe Skoda and Christian Strümpell, which fundamentally expanded the ethnological knowledge of Central India.

During and after his university career as an ethnologist, Pfeffer made regular presentations and publications on political issues in Pakistan and India . His particular concern was the imminent threat to the Indian tribal population. Large tribal areas in the states of Orissa and Jharkhand are earmarked for the mining of minerals by multinational corporations, so that millions of locals could still lose their living space and at least their socio-cultural existence, like the example of the "steel city" Rourkela in Orissa, which was built with German help demonstrated.

Works (selection)

as an author
  • Lewis Henry Morgan's Comparisons. Reassessing Terminology, Anarchy and Worldview in Indigenous Societies of America, Australia and Highland Middle India . Berghahn, New York 2019. ISBN 978-1-78920-317-2 hardback; ISBN 978-1-78920-318-9 (ebook)
  • Kinship as a constitution. Unbureaucratic patterns of public order . Nomos, Baden-Baden 2016, ISBN 978-3-8487-2421-5 (print), ISBN 978-3-8452-6580-3 (ePDF)
  • Status and affinity in Middle India . Steiner, Wiesbaden 1982, ISBN 3-515-03913-9 . (Contributions to Southeast Asian Studies; 76)
  • Paria groups of the Punjab . Renner, Munich 1970. (also dissertation, University of Freiburg / B. 1970)
  • Hunters, Tribes, Peasants. Cultural Crisis and Comparison. NISWASS-CEDEC Press, Bhubaneswar 2003. (The Dr. Ambedkar Memorial Lecture Series)
  • Puri's Vedic Brahmins Continuity and Change in their Traditional Institutions . In: Anncharlott Eschmann, Hermann Kulke, Gaya C. Tripathi (eds.): The Cult of Jagannatha and the Regional Tradition of Orissa . Manohar Publ., New Delhi 1978, pp. 421-437.
as editor
  • Concept of Tribal Society. Concept Publ., New Delhi 2002, ISBN 81-7022-983-9 . (Contemporary Society. Tribal Studies; Vol. 5) (with Deepak Kumar Behera).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Hansjörg Dilger, Birgitt Röttger-Rössler: Prof. Dr. Georg Pfeffer (January 17, 1943 - May 20, 2020). Freie Universität Berlin, Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology, May 24, 2020, accessed on May 26, 2020 .
  2. ^ Order in Tribal Middle Indian "Kinship" . In: Anthropos. International Journal of Ethnology and Linguistics. Volume 99, 2002, ISSN  0257-9774 , pp. 381-409.
  3. ^ A Ritual of Revival among the Gadaba of Koraput . In: Herrmann Kulke, Burkhard Schnepel (ed.): Jagannath revisited. Studying society, religion and the state in Orissa . Manohar Publ., New Delhi 2001, ISBN 81-7304-386-8 , pp. 123-148.