Fakultäten » Philosophische Fakultät » Sozialanthropologie und Empirische Kulturwissenschaft, Institut für » Ethnologie » Prof. Dr. Peter Finke » Heiss

Completed research project

Title / Titel The Life of Musa – an Essay in Existential Anthropology
PDF Abstract (PDF, 14 KB)
Summary / Zusammenfassung Anthropology has undertaken a substantial amount of successful research on different societies, their structures, histories, and so on. The study of individuals, however, remains a desideratum in anthropology. We do not know much about the modes of existence, the ways of living a human life that characterize certain societies in Africa.

As studies in African anthropology look at African societies from their specific vantage point, they only have a partial interest in the total complexity and specific features of lives of Africans. My project takes an interest, however, in the “ways of being” or “form of existence” of a single African peasant. I describe his personal life in its total complexity. I try to unfold the different dimensions of his life, his relation to his wife, to his children, his working patterns, his migratory experience, his religious studies. I define his basic desires, his ways of relating to others, his value-orientations, his ways of planning, the strength and the weakness of his will and so on. From these descriptions arises a picture of this peasant in its overall complexity and specific shape. It thus becomes clearer to understand what “to exist” means in his case.

Moreover, I analyse the historical and socio-structural elements that shaped his form of existence. The study also critically assesses the implicit notion of the actor in anthropology, as anthropology hardly reflects on this notion although it permeates all its studies.
Project leadership and contacts /
Projektleitung und Kontakte
Dr. Jan Patrick Heiss (Project Leader)  
Funding source(s) /
Unterstützt durch
Universität Zürich (position pursuing an academic career)
Duration of Project / Projektdauer Jan 2009 to Jun 2015