about me


Professor (non-tenured), Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, LMU-University of Munich, Germany

Fields of Research
My work is focused on Post-Capitalist Socio-Ecological Alternatives to Modernity and on Ethical Forms of Life in the context of a Degrowth Society . In particular I examine the Politics of Becoming, the Political Ontologies involved and the various Practices through which people make such forms of living 'good with less' material and consumption/production metabolism possible (or not).
A particular focus is on the ideas about what constitutes a 'good life' and on the social dynamics of selected projects of alterity which significantly contribute to a Degrowth economical infrastructure of sufficiency and social-ecological transition such as solidary agro-economy, a Food-Cooperative and a Communal-Housing Project, to name just three.  
It is a project of engaged or activist anthropology which means, that my work is performative and aims, with many other people, to make such worlds a reality. As such my research (and teaching) is designed to create and reflect upon the concepts and practices  (e.g. subjectivation, performances, the ethico-political, micro-politics, ontology) constituting this particular value oriented way of life.

Beyond that I am an active member of the Degrowth movement, in particular I'm engaged in research for and in Degrowth, in the Degrowth Summer School and the Degrowth-Anthropology reading-group. I practice activist research and long-term field work. 

Until 2013 I worked in India for a total of approx. 10 years with 'tribal' Adivasi people and peasants (of South and Middle India).  There I have been working on the politics of becoming, ethical identities and various concepts of a good life in the Nilgiri area of Tamil Nadu. This study explores the ethico-political processes of how collective actors imagine, co-construct and politically articulate their ethical ways of living good. It also investigates the rhetorical, poetical and performative dynamics constituting the ethico-political domain of postcolonial- and indigenous politics. This work also reconsiders the faculty of reason and argues to apply a concept of 'engaged practical reason' to enable the study of conflicting and competing ethical projects of 'identities as becomings'. 

This interest in the politics of becoming motivates my current work on the urban degrowth- or transition infrastrucutre and culture in Germany. In addition, I work on the construction and ethico-politics of socio-ecological movements as they increasingly unfold across Europe. I bring to my research and teaching a strong background in social-cultural theory, political anthropology, and performance/discourse analysis.

Recent courses & lectures: 
  • Anthropology of socio-ecological Movements. Part I: Ethics/Values, Solidary Economy & the Politicisation of Sustaninbility (winter-semester course 2018/19 Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Leipzig). 
  • Anthropology of the 'Pluriverse'. The Econonomical, the Cultural/Ethical & the Political of 'Alternatives to Modernity' & Socio-Ecological Movements (weekly lecture, SummerSemester 2018, Institute of Social/Cultural Anthropology, LMU Munich).
  • Postdevelopment: Visions of a good life in the Global South and Alternatives to Development Cooperation (?). 4day course at the Degrowth Summer School at the Climate Camp 2018, LeipzigerLand, 30th July to 2. August, 2018.
  • The Anthropology of the 'Pluriverse'. Socio-ecological movements, transition discourses & grass-roots transformations (three semester course: part I. & part II. & partIII. 2016-2017, Institute of Social/Cultural Anthropology, LMU Munich).
  • Activist Research and socio-ecological movements/transformations (2016/17; Institute of Social/Cultural Anthropology, LMU Munich.)
  • Anthropological Constructionism (course of lectures) (2015; Institute of Social/Cultural Anthropology, LMU Munich).
  • Activist/Militant Research in and for Degrowth. 4 day course at the Degrowth Summer School- Climacamp Rhineland/Germany (Ende Gelände) 18th to 23rd August 2017.

Talks/Presentations 2014-2018 (selected) 
  •  "Cultural Repertories of Politicization in Degrowth Alternative Building". The 6th International Degrowth Conference for ecological sustainability and social equity. 18th-25th August 2018.
  •  "Towards a Tool Kit for Activist Research on Degrowth: An Anthropological Approach." Degrowth Conference 2016, Budapest. Special session on 'Empowering Communities', 5th September, 2016, Budapest, Corvinus University, Hungary . 
    • "Degrowth' Transformations: Transition Initiatives and the Micro-Politics of Becoming in Europe.' Presentation @/for 'Transition Town Heidelberg', Breidenbach Studios, Heidelberg. 17th November 2015.
    • Rhizomes, Adivasi and the Ethical Politics of Becoming. A 'Cartographic' Approach to Subaltern 'Adivasi' Micro-Politics (in South India). ECSAS (European Conference on South Asian Studies) Zurich 23rd July 2014.
    Publications (Selected)

    2018. Was ist „aktivistische Forschung“ in, mit und für Degrowth? Fragestellungen, Reflexionen, partielle Antworten. (What is "Activist Research" in, with and for Degrowth? Queries, Reflections, partial Answers). Forschungsjournal Soziale Bewegungen. 2018/Heft4: Jenseits von Wachstum, Kapitalismus und Industrialismus: Utopie, Konturen und Spannungen des Degrowth-Spektrums. FJSBplus.
    and, comin soon, in: http://forschungsjournal.de/jahrgaenge/2018heft4

    2017. (with Agata Hummel). Degrowth, Anthropology, and Activist Research: The Ontological Politics of Science. In Degrowth, Culture, and Power. Edited by Lisa Gezon and Susan Paulson. Special Section of Journal of Political Ecology 24: 611-622. http://jpe.library.arizona.edu/volume_24/Demmer.pdf

    2016. Towards Another Reason. Identity Politics and Ethical Worlds in South India. London, New York, New Delhi: Oxford University Press. 417 Pages. 

    2015. 'Agent Plus' and 'Practical Reasoner': A Comparative Study of the Ethical Person. Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology, Vol. 80 (1): 91-116. http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/4NJm7iAURuNU4xfQKfsm/full

    2015b. Performance/Performativity. In Brill’s Vocabulary for the Study of ReligionEdited by Robert A. Segal and Kocku von Stuckrad . Brill: Leiden; pp. 1-7. 

    2014a. The Poetics and Politics of Practical Reason: Indigenous Identity, Ritual Discourse and the Postcolonial State in the Northern Nilgiris (South India). Asian Ethnology, Vol. 73 (1–2):111-137. http://nirc.nanzan-u.ac.jp/nfile/4357

    2014b. Jēnu Kurumba Culture: A Tradition of Moral Argumentation. Eastern Anthropologist, Vol. 67 (3 - 4) July-December 2014: 363-389.

    2013. Text, Drama und performativer Diskurs. Ethnologische Ritualtheorien der Gegenwart. In Iris Gerlach und Dietrich Raue (Hrsg.), Sanktuar und Ritual. (Menschen — Kulturen — Traditionen. Studien aus den Forschungsclustern des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts. Band 10)Rahden/Westfalen: Leihdorf, S. 247-259.

    2012a. Jēnu Kurumba (Religion). In Paul Hockings (ed.), Encyclopedia of the Nilgiri Hills. New Dehli: Manohar.

    2012b. Jēnu Kurumba (Society). In Paul Hockings (ed.), Encyclopedia of the Nilgiri Hills. New Dehli: Manohar.

    2010. Social Representations ‘In Between’: Concepts of Society and Community in Orissa and Beyond. In H. Kulke and G. Berkemer (eds.), Centres out There? Facets of Subregional Identities. New Delhi: Manohar. Pp. 419-439.

    2009 Models of Social Life in Tribal India. In G. Pfeffer und D. K. Behera (eds.), Structure and Exchange in Tribal India and Beyond. Contemporary Society Tribal Studies. Vol. 8. New Delhi: Concept Publishers. Pp. 266-281. 

    2008 Contested Modernities in the “Tribal Zone”: The Post-Colonial State, Adivasi Politics and the Making of Local Modernity in the Northern Nilgiris (South India). Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, Bd. 133 (2): 257-282. 

    2007a The Power of Rhetoric: Persuasion and Dialogue in the Healing Rituals of a South Indian Community. In U. Demmer and M. Gaenszle (eds.), The Power of Discourse in Ritual Performance. LIT Verlag: Berlin, Münster, London.

    2007b 'Introduction' (with M. Gaenszle). In U. Demmer and M. Gaenszle (eds.), The Power of Discourse in Ritual Performance. LIT Verlag: Berlin, Münster, London.

    2007. (with M. Gaenszle) eds. The Power of Discourse in Ritual Performance. Berlin, Münster, London. LIT.

    2006. The Rhetoric and Poetics of Ritual Performance. The Jēnu Kurumba in South India. A interactive CD-Rom.  Enclosed in Ulrich Demmer, Rhetorik, Poetik Performanz: Das Ritual und seine Dynamik bei den Jēnu Kurumba (Südindien). Münster, Berlin: LIT. 

    2006b. Rhetorik, Poetik Performanz: Das Ritual und seine Dynamik bei den Jēnu Kurumba (Südindien). Mit interaktiver Multimedia CD‑ROM. Berlin. Muenster, London: LIT.


    2006 Bicultural Versatility as a Frontier Adaption among Paliyan Foragers of South India. By P. M. Gardner. Anthropos 101. 2006/l: 272‑73.

    2004 "The Living and the Dead: Social Dimensions of Death in South Asian Religions". Edited by Liz Wilson. Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 63‑3: 838‑40.

    Completed Research projects
    • 2009-2014. The Kurumba Languages of the Nilgiris in South India. http://mpi.nl/DOBES Funded by the VW-foundation. In collaboration with Dr. Christiane Pilot-Raichoor (CNRS, Paris, France) and Indian colleagues 'Dr. Muralidharan (Thanjavur University),  Prof. N. Rajasekharan Nair (Annamalainagar University, Chennai),  Dr. B. K. Ravindranath (University of Mysore), and Prof. F. Heidmeann (LMU-Munich).
    • 2004- 2009 Political Imagination and Social Praxis: Postcolonial State, Nation and Local Culture in South India (with Prof. Frank Heidemann). Funded by the DFG (German Research Foundation).
    • 2002-2003 The Visual Culture of the Jenu Kurumba in South India (with Prof. Frank Heidemann). Funded by the DFG (German Research Foundation).
    • 2000-2002 Ritual and Social Conflict among the Jenu Kurumba (with Prof. K.P. Koepping). Funded by the DFG (German Research Foundation).


    The CD-ROM 'Rhetoric and Poetics of Ritual Performance: The Jenu Kurumba of South India'
    is an interactive, multimedia publication that accompanies the book (2006, see above).Users can navigate through a wide range of sources such as videoas of rituals, transcriptions and translations of ritual dialogues between shamans and the Jenu Kurumba. In addition, maps, garphic illustrations of rituals, references, and ethnographic background make it ideal for use in courses. You need a windows PC to use the CD-Rom. If you need a Mac version please contact me, also if you need a PC version without the book.