Short Portrait: Gerd Spittler

Gerd Spittler
Gerd Spittler

Prof. Dr. em Gerd Spittler was born in Donaueschingen in 1939. His family has a rather rural background. Spittler developed an early interest in foreign languages, literature and history as well as in African culture and the work of Max Weber. He finished school in 1958.

In 1959 Spittler took up his studies at the Institute of Sociology and Ethnology in Heidelberg, but moved to Hamburg a year later. There he studied for another year before moving to Bordeaux. In order to participate in seminars of the renowned sociologist Heinrich Popitz he eventually moved to Basel and Freiburg. In 1966/67 Spittler graduated, after doing his first field researches both in a restaurant and a hospital.

In 1968 Spittler took up an assistant position at the Institute of Sociology in Freiburg and started to give lectures. Being both influenced by Sociology and Ethnology, Spittler had an interest in a broad range of topics, i.e. research on material culture and nomadic societies as well as in power relations and work. His regional focus is mainly on Western Africa, where he did various field researches since 1967.

Spittler was deputy chairman at the Institute of Sociology in Heidelberg in 1975/76 and also completed his habilitation thesis during this period. He returned to Freiburg in 1977 and eventually took up a full professorship of Sociology in 1980.

In 1988 Spittler was appointed to the Chair of Anthropology at the University in Bayreuth. His main areas of research mainly focussed on work and consumption as well as on research methodology and local action in a global context. Spittler furthermore established the collaborative research centre »Identity in Africa« and the graduate school »Intercultural Relations in Africa«. Since 2000 he also took part in the collaborative research centre »Local Action in Africa in the Context of Global Influences«.

Spittler retired in 2004 but kept lecturing at several universities, i.e. in Basel. He furthermore worked on a theoretical overview on the Anthropology of Work. Since 2007 Spittler is an honorary member of the German association of Anthropologist (Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Völkerkunde, DGV).