Günther Schlee Are Conflicts in the 21st Century Mainly Identity-based?

Günther Schlee is Director at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle/Saale (Germany). Before becoming Director at the Max Planck Institute, Schlee taught Social Anthropology at the University of Bielefeld and received a guest lecturing position at the renowned School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (École des Hautes Études en Science Sociales) in Paris. Schlee’s ethnographic region of expertise is Northeast Africa. He has done extensive fieldwork in South Sudan as well as in parts of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. His interest stems from the ethnic multiplicity that dominates in these countries. More recently, Schlee has also looked at the political effects different forms of collective identification had in other countries, such as Germany. Schlee works interdisciplinary, using both anthropological as well as political, linguistic, and economic lenses for analysis.

Area of Research

Ethnology, Social Anthropology, Identity and Differences

Günther Schlee and Abdullahi A. Shongolo. Pastoralism and Politics: in Northern Kenya and Southern Ethiopia. James Currey: Woodbridge, 2012.  
Günther Schlee. "How Terrorists Are Made." working paper in 2016.  
Jon Abbink, Kelly Askew, D. Feyissa Dori, Elliot Fratkin, E. Christina Gabbert, John Galaty, Shauna LaTosky, Jean Lydall, Hussein A. Mahmoud, John Markakis, Günther Schlee, Ivo Strecker and David Turton. "Lands of the Future: Transforming Pastoral Lands and Livelihoods in Eastern Africa." working paper in 2014.  

since 2002

Honorary Professor for Social Anthropology

Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg (Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg)

since 2001

Honorary Professor for Ethnology

Leipzig University (Universität Leipzig)

since 1999


Max Planck Society (more details)

Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology


Professor for Social Anthropology

University of Bielefeld (Universität Bielefeld)

Faculty of Sociology


Lecturer of Ethnology and Social Anthropology

University of Bayreuth (Universität Bayreuth)


Field Research in Northern Kenya on "Interethnic Clan Relations"

German Research Foundation (DFG)



University of Bayreuth (Universität Bayreuth)



University of Hamburg (Universität Hamburg)

- African Studies Association (ASA)

- Deutsche Gesellschaft für Völkerkunde e. V. (DGV)

- European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA)

- Studienwerk Sudan e.V.

- Vereinigung von Afrikanisten in Deutschland e. V. (VAD)

© Maximilian Dörrbecker

Max Planck Society

"The Max Planck Society is Germany's most successful research organization. Since its establishment in 1948, no fewer than 18 Nobel laureates have emerged from the ranks of its scientists, putting it on a par with the best and most prestigious research institutions worldwide. The more than 15,000 publications each year in internationally renowned scientific journals are proof of the outstanding research work conducted at Max Planck Institutes – and many of those articles are among the most-cited publications in the relevant field." (Source)


Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology

"The Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology is one of the world’s leading centres for research in socio-cultural anthropology. It was established in 1999 by Chris Hann and Günther Schlee, and moved to its permanent buildings on Advokatenweg 36 in Halle/Saale in 2001. Marie-Claire Foblets joined the Institute as its third Director in 2012. Common to all research projects at the Max Planck Institute is the comparative analysis of social change; it is primarily in this domain that its researchers contribute to anthropological theory, though many programmes also have applied significance and political topicality. Fieldwork is an essential part of almost all projects. More than 175 researchers work at the Institute, the great majority in one of its three Departments: ‘Law & Anthropology’ (Foblets); ‘Resilience and Transformation in Eurasia’ (Hann); ‘Integration and Conflict’ (Schlee). The Institute’s Library, the Research Coordination Unit, the IT Department and administrative staff assist the researchers in their work. The Institute has its own Guesthouse, and organises regular seminars and international conferences. It cooperates closely with anthropologists and other colleagues at the Martin Luther University, Halle-Wittenberg, and at the University of Leipzig" (Source)


The 20th Century has been marked by a return to ethnic and religious affiliations and identifications which continue to be in the foreground of political discourse. The rise of religious groups is represented by the media as a turbulent phenomenon, which spikes new conflicts globally. These representations of collective identities are politically utilized. Resource conflicts and controversies about citizenship and residence rights become more difficult to solve, because notions of identity fuel them with generalizations and prejudice. In this video, political anthropologist GÜNTHER SCHLEE argues that collective and individual identities (i.e. which collective identity an individual opts for) are subject to change over time. The ways in which groups and individuals identify often result from a dynamic interplay between political advantages, economic opportunities and plausible identity options for personal choice. Looking at the process of identification and analyzing which factors influence it, may help to improve human organization on all levels.

LT Video Publication DOI: https://doi.org/10.21036/LTPUB10309

How Enemies are Made: Towards a Theory of Ethnic and Religious Conflict

  • Günther Schlee
  • Published in 2008
Günther Schlee. How Enemies are Made: Towards a Theory of Ethnic and Religious Conflict. Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2008.