Short Portrait: Ludger Müller-Wille

Ludger Müller-Wille
Ludger Müller-Wille

Dr. Ludger Müller-Wille was born in Göttingen in 1944. Both of his parents had studied geography and when his father was offered a professorship in 1947, the family moved to Münster. Müller-Wille, who developed an early interest in foreign languages and northern countries, finished high school in 1965 and began his studies at the university in Münster.

After studying Nordistik (Nordic Languages and Literature) for a few terms, Müller-Wille decided to take Geography and Prehistory as minors and Ethnology as a major at the recently founded Department of Ethnology in Münster, where Rüdiger Schott had accepted the professorship in 1965.

In 1966 Müller-Wille went to Helsinki University for two terms, where he expanded his knowledge of Finnish and Swedish. After returning to Germany he prepared for his first field research in northernmost Europe, which lasted for 15 months in 1968/69, accompanied by his family. Based on the collected data, he wrote his doctoral thesis on ethnic identity in a bi-cultural, Sámi-Finnish community in northernmost Finland. He obtained his doctorate in 1971.

In 1972 Müller-Wille worked as a university librarian in Münster and eventually did his second field research with Dene and Inuit in the subarctic and arctic regions of Canada between December 1972 and March 1974 and returning again to Northern Europe for the remainder of 1974. Subsequently, he worked as a scholarship officer with the German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst - DAAD) in Bonn (Germany) in 1975 and 1976 and also held a one-term lectureship in the Department of Ethnology at the university during that period..

In 1977 Müller-Wille obtained a professorship in Geography/Northern Studies in the Department of Geography at McGill University in Montréal (Canada), where he worked till retirement in August 2008. He held visiting professorships at the Faculty of Geography in Marburg in 1982/83, the Institute of Geography in Hamburg in 1987/88, and at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1991. From 1994 to 1996 he was professor and director of the Arctic Centre at the University of Lapland in Rovaniemi (Finland).

Müller-Wille was a founding member and the first president of the International Arctic Social Sciences Association (IASSA) from 1990 to 1995. He retired in 2008 and continues to reside in St. Lambert (Québec) Canada.

Müller-Wille has published extensively on cultural identity and socio-economic changes in hunting and herding economies in northern North America and northernmost Europe as well as on Inuit toponymy. He edited and published – in German and English – the diaries of Franz Boas (1994, 1998) and (with Bernd Gieseking) of his servant Wilhelm Weike (2008, 2011). He has continued his research into the early beginnings of Arctic Anthropology with a focus on Franz Boas.

Müller-Wille has recently published a book on Boas: The Franz Boas Enigma. Inuit, Arctic, and Sciences. 2013 Baraka Books, Montréal

(text by courtesy of Ludger Müller-Wille; photograph courtesy of Jürgen Langenkämper, 2008)

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