Professor Dr. em. Georg Pfeffer was born in 1943 in Berlin, Germany. His father was the German sociologist Karl-Heinz Pfeffer, his mother Margaret Wainman Kirby was a British citizen. After being bombed out at the end of World War II, Georg Pfeffer spent his childhood in a small village in Hesse, where he not only first got in contact with refugees and displaced people but also with the social structures of rural Germany. When he was six years old, his family moved to Hamburg, where he attended primary and secondary school. At the age of sixteen he accompanied his parents, who moved to Lahore in Pakistan. There he spent three years (1959 -1962) at the Forman Christian College and got to know the culture, language and society of Pakistan.
After his return to Germany and a short attempt to study jurisprudence, in 1966 Georg Pfeffer began to study Völkerkunde, sociology and the history of religion in Freiburg, where Heinrich Popitz and Rolf Herzog were among his teachers. Georg Pfeffer graduated in 1970, receiving his PhD with a dissertation about ethnic groups in Punjab.
A year later, he took up an assistant position at the South Asia Institute in Heidelberg, where he published his habilitation thesis in 1976. In 1979 he became a full professor of Ethnologie at the University of Heidelberg, where he stayed until he moved to Berlin in 1985. There he worked and taught at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the Free University Berlin as a full professor until his retirement in 2008. Since 1968, Pfeffer regularly conducted field research in Pakistan and India, especially in Orissa. His geographical focus is South East Asia, his main interests include the anthropology of religion and of kinship as well as power relations.