Areas of specialization: Economic anthropology

The Development of palm oil industry in North Sumatera, Indonesia

Yuri Bachrioktora, M.A.

My research will focus on the development of palm oil industry and its impacts on ecological, socio-economic and cultural life of the communities around the palm oil plantations in North Sumatera Province, Indonesia. This research will focus on how the communities respond and negotiate with the expansion of palm oil industry.


Large-Scale Land Acquisitions and Gender in Africa: The Impact of Institutional Change and Land Investments on Gender Relations and Food Security

Prof. Tobias Haller, Sarah Ryser, Desirée Gmür

The SNSF funded qualitative comparative project on Large Scale Land Acquisition (LSLA) and Gender in Africa focuses on the impact of land investments on gendered access to land and related common pool resources in

Morocco (Solar Energy Project by state of Morocco and European Partners; PhD candidate Sarah Ryser),
Tanzania (Forestry Project, UK Investor; PhD candidate Desirée Gmür)
Ghana (Rice Plantation Project, European Investor; PhD candidate Kristina Lanz)
Malawi (Sugar Cane, South African/UK Investor; PhD candidate Timothy Adams).

The project uses a combined approach based on New Institutionalism in Social Anthropology, Political Ecology and Neo Marxism. We focus on how institutional change since colonial times has affected gendered access to land and land related resources. In addition, we reflect on state driven gender policies and discuss on how in this context LSLA or „Land Grabbing“ impacts access to resources, distribution of potential benefits and costs. As a final step we focus on how these changes impact  gender relations regarding care work and food security. (collaboration with Institute of Geography, University of Bern Prof. Dr. Jean-David Gerber; Interdisciplinary Centre for Gender Studies, University of Bern and Swiss TPH Basel.

Towards food sustainability: Reshaping the coexistence of different food systems in South America and Africa

Prof. Tobias Haller, Fabian Käser, M.A.

The Centre for Development and Environment (CDE, Uni Bern) takes the lead in this SNSF funded Research For Development (R4D) project dealing with the interdependence of several food systems (domestic, national and international) to be compared in Bolivia and Kenya. The concept of food systems analyses the whole network from access to resources, production distribution and consumption and focuses at interrelations of these food systems to each other. Four work packages share the coordinated analysis on the level of

legal aspects and the right to food (WP1)
institutional analysis and access to land and land related common pool resources (WP2)
value chains and interrelations between the food systems (WP3)
Impacts on ecosystem aspects of the food systems (WP4).

In WP 2 PhD candidate PhD candidate Fabian Käser analyses the domestic food systems and its relation to water and land management starting from an analysis of a water use association in Laikipia area in Kenya. A Kenyan PhD and MA student study the national and international food systems. In Bolivia Prof.  T. Haller and MA F. Käser help coordinating research on the international food system (one Bolivian PhD, one Bolivian MA) as well as an indigenous domestic and an alternative food system (two Swiss MA students).

Pasture commons, institutional change and conflicts in the Swiss Alps: Negociations and institution building in Laax und Sumvitg (GR)

Gabriela Landolt

This ongoing PhD project of Gabriela Landolt is looking at the conflicts over the management of Alpine pastures in the Canton Grison) and explores in comparison issues of collective action and power constellations in two common property pasture areas (Laax and Sumvitg). First peer reviewed publication is out with the journal Human Organization:

Landolt, G., and Haller, T. 2015. Alpine Common Property Institutions under Change: Conditions for Successful and Unsuccessful Collective Action by Alpine Farmers in the Canton of Grisons, Switzerland. Human Organization, 74(1):100-111.

Ethnography of Land Deals

Prof. Tobias Haller, Fabian Käser, Franziska Marfurt, Elisabeth Schubiger

In collaboration with CDE, Prof. Tobias Haller leads an MA research project called  Ethnography of Land Deals (PDF, 142KB) in which we focus on the emic perception of land deals from a local (horizontal level) and a company/state perspective (vertical level). Research is done in Sierra Leone, Kenya and India (Rajastan).

The following MA studies are completed:

Fabian Käser (PDF, 5.1 MB)
Franziska Marfurt
Samuel Lengdon
Anna von Sury (PDF, 20.0 MB)
Leonie Pock
Romy Scheidegger
Elisabeth Schubiger (PDF, 3.0 MB)

Piraeus, the emergence of a container transshipment port: formations of local and global relations of capitalism

Linda Charlotte Gubler Soto Astudillo, M.A.

The maritime transport economy, due to its low transport cost which has become possible with the container and the scale effect the later introduced, is the backbone of globalized capitalism. In the network of “sea highways”, where ever bigger container ships transport 80% of the worldwide produced goods, the so-called hubs, ports which dispose of the necessary depths, infrastructure and transport connections, play a central role. In her thesis project Linda Gubler (Master of Social Sciences, University of Lausanne) addresses the way such a hub emerges at Piraeus port in Greece, where, at the same time, a profound restructuring of the state and economy is taking place. Through an ethnography of the decision processes and their implementation by the different actors that are involved (state, private and transnational), the ways in which dynamics of globalized and neoliberal capitalism actually take shape “on the ground” are to be explored, notably in terms of social relations of power. Thus, this anthropology of port economics wants to contribute to the understanding of the concrete practices of authorities, companies and international organizations in the broader context of social processes concerning the economy and the state.

Why Reforestation Fails: Institutional Change, Climate Change and Migration in Coastal Yucatán, Mexico

Lysann Schneider

This PhD of Lysann Schneider focuses on a combined analysis of the failure of reforestation policies under climate and institutional change in Yucatán, Mexico.


Feminization, agricultural transition and rural employment (FATE)

Prof. Heinzpeter Znoj,

Is quinoa on your diet? Are you tempted by the exotic scent of cardamom in your local tea shop? Any idea where the tender beans on your plate come from, and how they are produced?
The demand for new agricultural products with specific nutritional characteristics and year-round availability has constantly been on the rise in recent years – and so has their price. These market dynamics have a profound effect on the places where such products are grown. In many cases, these are rural areas in developing countries where agriculture is the main economic sector. Accordingly, high-value crops hold the promise of stimulating rural development in the global South: employment is expected to lift poor people – and women in particular – out of their multiple dependencies on small-scale agricultural production, offering them and their children new perspectives.

The Moral Economy of Assam Tea Production

Anna-Lena Wolf, M.A.

The current PhD project is an ethnography on the moral economy of tea production on tea plantations in Assam. I am analysing how various entangled and contradictory moral frameworks – underlying the plantation economy of Assam tea – are conceived of, embodied, negotiated and transformed ‘…to understand the everyday-grounded logics of macro-economic (and political) processes…’ (Palomera & Vetta 2016: 428). I am furthermore interested in how structural inequalities are generated within/by the tea plantation economy in Assam and how they are maintained or challenged, for example, by forms of state regulation, moral sentiments or forms of protest.