Short Portrait: Wolfgang Rudolph

Wolfgang Rudolph
Wolfgang Rudolph

Wolfgang Rudolph was born in Berlin in 1921. He visited school both in his home town and in Naumburg/Saale. At early age he was forced to participate in World War II and eventually became a prisoner of war.

Disbanded in 1945 Rudolph took up his studies at the Department of Anthropology and African Studies at the Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz two years later. Adolf Friedrich and A. E. Jensen were among his teachers. Due to financial difficulties Rudolph interrupted his studies in 1948 and learned Russian and English at the Hartnack-School in Berlin in order to become a translator. From 1949 until 1955 he worked in this profession for the municipal administration as well as the electric utility in East Berlin.

In summer 1955 Rudolph continued his studies at the newly founded Free University in the western part of Berlin. At the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology Sigrid Westphal-Hellbusch was among his teachers. Rudolph graduated in 1958 and eventually took up an assistant position at the institute.

In 1966 Rudolph became academic council at the Free University. Moreover, Rudolph conducted a number of field researches between 1956 and 1965, mainly among the Kurds in Eastern Anatolia and Western Iran.

Rudolph completed his habilitation thesis in 1967 and received his venia legendi. After being interim chairman of the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology in 1970, Rudolph took up a professorship one year later.

Due to university reforms and the protest of the 68-students movement, the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology was restructured in the late 1960s and became part of the Department of Philosophy and Social Sciences. Moreover, Lawrence Krader also took up a professorship at the institute in 1972.

Rudolph did some research studies in Wassenaar/Netherlands in 1971/72. His attempt of founding an Institute for Integrated Anthropology in 1979 eventually failed. He retired in 1983. During his scientific career he has been active for the journal “Sociologus” for many years: First as a non-official contributor (1956-61), later as an official writer (1963 -71) and finally as its publisher (1973-96).

Rudolph´s work was influenced by the Cultural Anthropology as well as by an empirical approach. His publications about the US-American tradition of anthropology were among the first in post-war Germany. Moreover, Rudolph had a strong interest both in theory and field work.

Wolfgang Rudolph died in Berlin in 1999.

(Text written by Vincenz Kokot in June 2012, based on an obituary by Renner, Egon, 1999) 

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