Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

Tobias Holzlehner


Seminar für Ethnologie

Telefon: +49 345 55 24 186
Telefax: +49 345 55 27 326

Raum 305
Reichardtstr. 11
06114 Halle

office hours:
Tue 12 - 2 pm

Dr. Tobias Holzlehner
06114 Halle


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Tobias Holzlehner

Research Areas

Russia, Circumpolar North, Borderscapes, Maritime Anthropology, Informal Networks, Migration, Cultural Change, Organized Crime, Markets and Traders

My general research interest focuses on migration and processes of economic and political transformation in the borderlands of the Russia Far East and the Circumpolar North. In the course of the last years I conducted several research projects that tried to grasp shifting social configurations and various forms of mobility in a time of rapid cultural change. I examine in different ways overlapping and constantly moving sets of cultural formations, people and commodities alike, which seem to characterize a growing global and transnational culture. By tracing the connections between local communities and global forces, my research contributes to basic questions which anthropology is facing on our increasingly “moving earth.” How can anthropology theorize culture and the social order in periods of radical transition? What are the elements and media of social and cultural stability? How do flows of goods, ideas and people create boundaries and focal points of interaction? In that respect, it is crucial to listen to local voices, how they perceive processes of globalization and transnationalism at the periphery of nation states, and essential to understand in detail the effects of transnational flows of goods and people on local communities.

Current Research

As a post-doctoral fellow at the Department of  Anthropology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, I conducted research  in Chukotka (Russia) as part of an ESF/NSF funded project (“Histories and Futures of Relocations in Alaska and Rural Chukotka   ”). At the center of this project are the effects of state-induced  resettlement policies that intertwine political macro processes, local  communities, and various forms of belonging in the uprooted landscape of  relocation. Focusing on individual strategies of place making amidst a  resettled population, my research addresses the central role of memory  and nostalgia in relation to ecology, border landscapes, and state  policies and analyzes stories and strategies of how coastal people in  Chukotka come to terms with the displacements of a volatile past.

Since 2011, I am the principal investigator in a NSF Arctic Social Science research project ("Far Eastern Borderlands: Informal Networks and Space at the Margins of the Russian State   "). The project develops a comparative approach to investigate the flow of  commodities and people, economic strategies and spatial practices of  inhabitants in two different border regions of the Russian Far East. By  comparing and juxtaposing commonalities and differences of the two  regions through time, the project envisions exploring the longue durée  of two Russian borderlands. The central guiding question is how local  residents through time have used the borderland in both cases as a  resource. Investigating cross-border trade, labor migration, and  territorial and conceptual borders, the project proposes to explore how  new border regimes influence and shape the socio-economic situation and notions of self among border residents.

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