Short Portrait: Hermann Amborn

Hermann Amborn
Hermann Amborn

Prof. Dr. em. Hermann Amborn was born in Braubach near Koblenz in 1933. He grew up in a pastor´s family which took position against the repression of the Nazi regime. Most of his youth he spent in Offenbach near Frankfurt a.M. and after finishing an apprenticeship as a technical designer he studied in Munich and Frankfurt a.M. in order to become an engineer.

Apart from his interest in technical matters, Amborn had an early urge to travel and being in contact with other cultures, so he undertook several journeys that were leading him to countries like Turkey, the Iraq and India. During the years of his first studies Amborn also got in contact with Anthropology and in 1963 he took up his studies for the second time, at the Institute of Ethnology in Munich. Herrmann Baumann, Otto Zerries, Lázló Vadja, Wolfgang Marschall and Helmut Straube were among his teachers.

Amborns regional interest focussed on Northern and East Africa, for he e.g. took part in a research project on african myths and wrote his graduation thesis on iron-smelting techniques in Africa. He also was involved in the students movement of 1968 and had a growing interest in french neomarxist theories by Godelier and Meillassoux. After finishing his studies on 1973 Amborn did field researches in Ethiopia. Besides socio-economic studies he collected linguistic material. During this time he increasingly moved away from the classical ethnographic approach. He started to intensify a discursive way of research and developed an interest in a rather participating form of Anthropology, from which later not only his emphasis on the ethical responsibility of anthropological work sprung but also his interest in Action Anthropology.

After giving academic lectures in Hamburg and Berlin since the late 70´s, Amborn finished his habilitation thesis on the division of labour in 1986 and took up a full professor position in Munich, where he worked until his retirement in 1998.