Traveling to unknown countries, exploring foreign cultures, getting to know other traditions and customs – the job of ethnologist has a touch of adventure. As the science in the 19th century established at the universities, she was still as ethnology known. The scientists primarily researched cultures that they considered completely alien, such as indigenous peoples or peoples threatened with extinction.
The “science of the culturally foreign”
Today the subject of ethnology has expanded significantly. Ethnologists study all cultures represented in the world. They try to understand and describe similarities and differences in human ways of living and thinking . Cultural everyday practices, but also phenomena such as migration or multiculturalism, are of interest to anthropologists.
In order to arrive at scientifically measurable results, anthropologists use quantitative and qualitative methods of social research . The fieldwork on site plays a particularly important role.
Studying ethnology in Germany
Studying ethnology is possible at many German universities. On the one hand, there are general courses in which students in higher semesters can specialize in a region or sub-discipline of ethnology. On the other hand, there is the possibility of studying courses such as Asian, historical or European ethnology .
In the Bachelor
At the beginning of the bachelor’s degree , students receive an introduction to the history of the subject. You will get to know the scientific methods and working techniques of ethnology, including statistical surveys or participatory observation .
Afterwards, the students often choose a region that will be the focus in the further course of their studies. Depending on the research focus of the university, you can choose from , for example, East Africa , Latin America or Asia . The students consider the local cultures from different points of view and dedicate themselves to sub-disciplines such as economic ethnology, religious ethnology or ethnolinguistics . The seminars cover a wide range of topics, including “Social Security in Africa” or “The Purpose of Hindu Asceticism”.
In order to understand other cultures, knowledge of the national language is essential. The module handbook therefore often includes language courses . In empirical research projects, students have the opportunity to carry out their own small research . Excursions are also compulsory at most universities.
In the master
After completing the bachelor’s degree, graduates have the option of entering the profession directly or of adding a master’s degree. Master’s programs are usually aimed at deepening one’s own knowledge and qualifying for management positions. A scientific career also usually requires a master’s degree and a subsequent doctorate. In the master’s program , students usually specialize in a certain region and deepen their scientific skills .
Requirements for studying anthropology
According to top-medical-schools, some master’s courses are held in English. Many bachelor programs also require a good command of English and usually another European language such as Spanish or French. In the further course of their studies, the students often learn a non-European language. Anyone who sees their professional future in ethnology should be interested in people and cultures and have a talent for languages.
Ethnologist in the profession
Like many other cultural studies courses , the subject of social anthropology does not provide training for a specific professional field . It is therefore advisable to do internships during your studies in order to get to know various professional fields and acquire practical qualifications. Ethnologists work in the following professional fields , for example :
- Research: Many ethnologists mainly do research and after completing their master’s degree or doctorate are employed at universities, research institutes or museums. In many cases, their research activities are linked to an activity as a lecturer.
- Military and Foreign Office: Ethnologists are also employed as experts for certain regions and work in an advisory capacity. For example, you work in the armed forces or in the foreign service.
- Publishers and the tourism industry: Ethnologists are also employed by publishers or in the tourism industry , for example as specialist journalists or in the areas of PR or marketing . In individual departments or as heads of public cultural institutes, they also take on management tasks in places .
- Non-specialist professional fields: In addition, anthropologists find work in non-specialist branches. This includes personnel management , press and public relations and business consulting.
Good reasons for studying ethnology abroad
Studying abroad in the subject of anthropology is desirable. A semester or two in another country is an ideal starting point to get to know other cultures up close and do research yourself. The research results can often also be used for the bachelor’s or master’s thesis.
In addition, studying abroad offers the opportunity to acquire foreign language skills , train intercultural skills and make contacts all over the world.