Short Portrait: Rüdiger Schott

Rüdiger Schott
Rüdiger Schott

Rüdiger Schott was born in Bonn in 1927. There he spent his childhood and youth. His father, Albert Schott, was an associate professor for Assyriology and german translator of the Epic of Gilgamesh. After finishing school Schott was forced to join the German Army during the last months of World War II. He returned to his home town in 1945, after a short period in a detention camp of the US army.

Schott took up his studies at the Bonn University in 1946/47. Anthropology, Geography, Psychology, Religion Studies, Early and Prehistory were his subjects. Hermann Trimborn was among his teachers. Besides becoming interested in the work of Thurnwald, Schott also read authors of the US American Cultural Anthropology, such as Boas, Kroeber, Mead and Lowie.

Schott graduated in 1954 and subsequently took up an assistant position at the Institute for Ancient American Studies and Ethnology at the Bonn University. After writing his Ph D thesis about the historical roots of Economy, Schott now received a scholarship of the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG). During the following years he not only worked about the early history of property but also began to write his habilitation thesis on the relation between ethnic groups in South Africa. Moreover, Schott attended post-doctoral lectures at the London School of Economics (LSE) in 1960.

In 1961 Schott took up an assistant position at the newly founded Research Center of Cultural Sciences (now: Bergstraesser-Institute) in Freiburg, which was chaired by Arnold Bergstraesser. Schott not only became the expert for sub-Saharan Africa but also helped to establish the institute. Moreover, he completed his habilitation thesis in 1964. The same year Schott began lecturing at the Bonn University.

In 1965 Schott took up a full professorship at the newly founded Institute for Cultural and Social Anthropology at the Westfälische Wilhelms-University in Münster. Besides lecturing, he conducted stationary field work in Northern Ghana in 1966/67. There he collected ethnographic data and worked on oral history among the Bulsa people. Schott did further field researches, not only among the Bulsa in 1974/75 and 1988/89 but also among the Lyela people in Burkina Faso.

Schott was head chairman of the Institute for Cultural and Social Anthropology in Münster until his retirement in 1993. He kept lecturing at the Institute for Religious Studies in Bonn for several years.

Schotts main fields of interest include the research on social and cultural change among non-literate societies, the Anthropology of Law, the Anthropology of Religion and Oral History. His regional focus is mainly on Western Africa.

Schott died on Dec 7th, 2012 in his hometown Bonn.

(Text written by Vincenz Kokot in July 2012, based on an article by Schott, Rüdiger,2002, "Mein Weg zur und in der Ethnologie", Paideuma, ed. 48, pp. 7 - 31; photo source: