Short Portrait: Gernot Prunner

Gernot Prunner
Gernot Prunner

Gernot Prunner was born in Vienna in 1935. He was the only child of the architect Gilbert Prunner and his wife Ada, who chaired a local school. After being evacuated to the Kärnten Region during World War II, the family returned to Vienna in 1946, where Prunner finished school seven years later.

Thereafter Prunner took up his studies at the Vienna University, where Anthropology, Roman Studies, English Studies, Chinese, Japanese and Sanskrit were his subjects. Wilhelm Koppers, Robert Heine-Geldern, Karl Jettmar and Josef Haekel were among his teachers.

In 1961/62 Prunner studied at the Institute of Anthropology and Archaeology of the National Taiwan University in Taipei and subsequently moved to Mainz, where he studied Anthropology, Sinology and Comparative Cultural Studies from 1963 onward. Prunner graduated with a Ph D thesis on the Hainan-Collection of the Vienna Ethnological Museum in 1964.

After finishing his studies Prunner took up an assistant position at the Section for Cultural and Social Anthropology of the newly founded South Asia Institute in Heidelberg. From 1965 onward he was head of the Department for South and Southeast Asia at the Ethnological Museum in Hamburg.

Throughout the years, Prunner not only organized a large number of exhibitions but also chaired a research project on New Religions in Korea (1975/76) and eventually founded a documentation center based on this project. Moreover, Prunner lectured at the Hamburg University, i.e. on Material Culture.

Prunner was deputy chairman of the Hamburg Ethnological Museum from 1984 onward. Due to health reasons he retired in 1990.

Gernot Prunner died in 2002.

(Text written by Vincenz Kokot in July 2012, based on an obituary by Hartmut Walravens, 2002:; photo source: