Social and cultural anthropology can look back on a 150-year tradition in Berlin, and it has been a discipline at Freie Universität ever since the university was founded in 1948. Research at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology focuses on cultural, social, economic, political, and religious forms of human organization and explores cultural comparisons as well as processes of sociocultural change.
In this context, “culture” is understood to refer all of the non-material, symbolic, and material expressions of human existence, including all aspects from physical objects and techniques to business practices and forms of social organization, and knowledge, religion, art, and education. In addition to providing an education in social and cultural theory, and regional knowledge, the Institute is distinguished by its strong focus on methodology and the implementation of empirical research beginning with the master's program.
Within the scope of the German Excellence Initiative, the Institute is involved in the Berlin Graduate School of Muslim Cultures and Societies and in the Graduate School of East Asian Studies as well as in the Languages of Emotion cluster of excellence. As part of the Institute’s interdisciplinary research on emotions, scholars of social and cultural anthropology study the culture-specific particularities of emotional behavior, with an eye to the essential anthropological question of how emotion and culture are related. Other research at the Institute is focused within three research areas: Anthropology of Emotions, Medical Anthropology, and Environmental Anthropology. In addition to bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in social and cultural anthropology, the Institute offers a postgraduate master’s program in Visual and Media Anthropology, which is taught in English.
Regionally, the Institute focuses in particular on insular Southeast Asia and Oceania, as well as sub-Saharan Africa (including eastern and southern Africa). Increasingly, within the context of global and transnational linkages, there is a focus on migration contexts in European societies.