Tobias Haller, is Extraordinary Professor in Social Anthropology at the Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Bern, Switzerland and lecturer at the ETH Zurich. He studied at the University of Zurich social anthropology, geography and sociology and made his PhD and his habilitation at the University of Zurich. After being project leader in the NCCR North-South, he was appointed as Director of the Swiss Network for International  Studies in Geneva in 2008. 2009 he became Associate Professor at the Institute of Social Anthropology in Bern until 2014 when he received an extraordinary professorship at the same institute.

He did fieldwork in Cameroon and Zambia and has specialized in economic and ecological anthropology (common pool resource management, New Institutionalism and local perception of environment, peasants and agro-pastoralist, fishermen, oil exploitation, protected areas, and community-based natural resource management). He teaches courses on economic, political, and ecological anthropology on topics such as sustainable use of natural resources, environmental perception, conservation and protected areas, land tenure issues, and anthropology of mining. He has published People, Protected Areas and Global Change (NCCR Bern, 2008) and Fossil Resources, Oil Companies and Indigenous Peoples (Lit) as well as in Journals such as Human Ecology, Environment and Development, Development Southern Africa, Food Policy, Human Organisation, Journal of International Development.

The main focus of his work is on sustainable local resource management, with special reference to so-called collective goods (commons), but also relating to nature conservation areas and major investment in agricultural regions (so-called "land grabbing").  He also studies the activities of oil and mining corporations and the associated environmental and human rights problems.  In terms of theory, he espouses the theory of New Institutionalism in social anthropology, combined with theories drawn from political ecology. He is interested in how stakeholders with different levels of negotiating power establish ideological legitimation and select, transform or produce their regulatory frameworks ("legal institution shopping"). Tobias Haller has led various comparative research projects on institutional change in floodplain areas in Africa (Disputing the Floodplains, 2010), participative resource management in protected areas (People, Protected Areas and Global Change, 2008), and the implications of the oil and mining industry (Fossil Fuels, Oil Companies and Indigenous Peoples, 2007; The Open Cut, 2015). He is currently studying gender relations in regions of major agricultural investment, and participative processes of institution genesis in the context of sustainable use ("constitutionality").

Tobias Haller is responsible for studies in the fields of the anthropology of economics (production, consumption and distribution), ecology (socio-ecological systems) and politics (political forms of organization, power relations, aspects of legitimation – ideology, debate, narrative).  In all three areas, questions relating to the use of resources and access to resources (institutions, rights of ownership and use) play an important role.  Connections are also made with national and global dynamics.

He is on board member of the Swiss Society for African Studies and a member of the Institute for Ecology and Action Anthropology (INFOE CH). Through the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) at the University of Bern, he is closely involved in the BA and MA programs on Sustainable Development and various joint inter- and transdisciplinary projects.

Tobias Haller is currently supervising the following doctoral students:

Lisa Alvarado Grefa-Lüscher, Dorothee Baumann, Desirée Gmür, Selina Felber, Angelika Lätsch, Margaretha Schelbert-Bürgler, Samuel WeissmanAriane Zangger

Research Regions

Africa (Camerun, Sambia, Mali, Tansania, Botswana)

Research Themes

  • Africa (in comparison with Europe, Latin America, Asia)
  • New Institutionalism and Political Ecology
  • traditional resourse use
  • common pool resourse
  • management (pasture, fisheries, wildlife, water)
  • resilience and substainable development
  • environment and human rights problems (indigenous peoples)
  • protected areas
  • transnational corporations (oil, mining) and local people
  • environmental perceptions
  • Large-Scale Land Acquisitions („Land Grabbing“)
  • Gender and Resource Management
  • climate change
  • bottom-up institution building processes (constitutionality)
Publications of Prof. Dr. Tobias Haller


Mega-Infrastrukturprojekte: New Development Turns, New Frontier or Anti-Politics Machines?

Writing workshop Mega Projects and Development

Master colloquia

PhD colloquia

Spring semester 2018

Lecture: Introduction to political Anthropology

Seminar: Natur-Diskurse zwischen Romantisierung und Ökonomisierung: Von Alexander von Humboldt bis zum World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)

Master colloquia

PhD Colloquia

Autumn semester 2017

Research course II

lecture of specialised area: Introduction to economic anthropology

Master colloquia

PhD colloquia