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Prof. Dr. Michaela Pelican

Principal Investigator of the Global South Studies Center Cologne (GSSC), Thematic Research Area I 'Citizenship and Migration'; previously director of the University of Cologne Forum "Ethnicity as a Political Resource: Perspectives from Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe"

Hauptgebäude, Albertus-Magnus Platz 1
Room 6.003

Currently Taught Courses

CEA BM 1.1 Introduction to Human-Environment Relations 
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Duration2 Semesterwochenstunden
Type of CourseVorlesung
Course LanguageDeutsch
RoomOrtsangaben folgen
60 Minutes in Ethnography, Theory, Anthropology 
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Duration2 Semesterwochenstunden
Type of CourseKolloquium
Course LanguageDeutsch
Room100 Hörsaal VIIa (46 Sitzpl.) (100/U1/HS VIIa) 
Kolloquium | Prof. Pelican 
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Duration2 Semesterwochenstunden
Type of CourseKolloquium
Course LanguageDeutsch
EM1 | Ethnographie vor der Haustür ( Nachbereitung) (BA und MA) 
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Duration2 Semesterwochenstunden
Type of CoursePraktische Uebung
Course LanguageDeutsch
RoomExterner Raum

Short Biography

I am  Professor of Cultural and Social Anthropology at the University of Cologne. Previously, I was a lecturer at the University of Zurich and a researcher with the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle/Saale. I received my PhD from the Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and my MA from the University of Bayreuth. 

My current focus is on South-South mobility and migrant transnationalism, and involves research in Cameroon, Gabon, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates. Concurrently, I am working on indigeneity in Africa, a topic that emerged from my previous research on interethnic relations and identity politics in Cameroon. Moreover, I have a strong interest in visual and media anthropology, and have been using methods of visual and theatre anthropology throughout my research. I have published on Fulbe agro-pastoral economy, farmer-herder relations, interethnic friendship, witchcraft, citizenship and indigenous rights, migrant transnationalism, and Fulbe mobility.

In my teaching I concentrate on research methodology, political and social anthropology, anthropology of religion, and the anthropology of Africa. I supervise final year students on BA, MA and PhD level whose work overlaps with my research and teaching interests.

Thematic Interests and Regional Focus

Transnational migration, South-South mobility, ethnicity, indigeneity, pastoral economy, visual and media anthropology.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Cameroon, Gabon, South Africa; United Arab Emirates (Dubai); China.

Department focus: Methods, Globalization.

Research Projects

The major themes addressed in my research projects so far include migration, ethnicity and pastoral economy. In addition, I have realised several film and media projects as well as international collaborations. Selected projects are listed below. For more information, please visit my personal website.

Current project: 'Chinese immigration law and policy: Perspectives of law makers, administrators and immigrants'

In collaboration with Prof. Björn Ahl (Department of Chinese Studies, University of Cologne) and Prof. Li Zhigang (Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou)

'Transnational relations of Cameroonian Muslim migrants'

Postdoctoral project (2008-2012), research in Cameroon, Gabon, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates, supported by the University of Zurich.

The project was concerned with Muslim migrants from Cameroon who live in other African countries, namely Gabon and South Africa, as well as in the Arab region, specifically in Dubai. The research focused on the migrants’ experiences in their new environments, their communication and exchange relations with their relatives and friends back home, as well as their influence on local ideas of identity and modernity in Cameroon.

'Interethnic relations and identity politics in Cameroon'

PhD project (2000-2006), research in Cameroon, supported by the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle/Saale.

In my PhD research I examined the structures and mechanisms that either positively or negatively influence the co-existence of different population groups within a culturally and ethnically heterogeneous environment. In order to answer this question, I conducted fourteen months of fieldwork between 2000 and 2002 in the small town of Misaje in the Anglophone northwest of Cameroon, also known as the Cameroon Grassfields.
Mbororo, northwest Cameroon 1997.

'Transformation of the socio-economic situation of agro-pastoral Fulbe women in northwest Cameroon'

MA project (1996-1999), research in Cameroon.

My MA project focused on the social organisation and pastoral economy of the Mbororo-Fulbe of northwest Cameroon. It examined the gendered division of labour, and paid attention to transformations in the socio-economic position of Mbororo women that were initiated by the pastoralists’ sedentarisation in the first half of the 20th century.


Another focus of my work has been on the application of media-related methods in anthropological research. This includes among other things the analysis of role-plays on farmer-herder conflict and milk-marketing as part of my PhD research as well as the exchange of video-letters between Cameroonian migrants and their relatives back home.

Publications (Selection)


Pelican, Michaela. 2015. Masks and Staffs. Identity Politics in the Cameroon Grassfields. Oxford, New York: Berghahn. 

Edited Volume/Thematic Issue

Pelican, Michaela and Sofie Steinberger (eds.). 2017. Melilla. Perspectives on a Border Town. Kölner Arbeitspapiere zur Ethnologie 6. Institut für Ethnologie, Universität zu Köln. 

University of Cologne Forum ‘Ethnicity as a Political Resource’ (ed.). 2015. Ethnicity as a Political Resource – Conceptualizations across Disciplines, Regions, and Periods. Bielefeld: Transcript.

Maruyama, Junko and Michaela Pelican (eds.). 2015. Indigenous Identities and Ethnic Coexistence in Africa. Special issue of African Study Monographs 36(1). 

Damir-Geilsdorf, Sabine, Mira Menzfeld und Michaela Pelican (eds.). 2014. Islam und Sport: Einblicke in das interdisziplinäre Forschungs- und Lehrprojekt "Ethnographie vor der Haustür" der Universität zu Köln. Kölner Arbeitspapiere zur Ethnologie 5. Institut für Ethnologie, Universität zu Köln.

Heiss, Jan Patrick and Michaela Pelican (eds.). 2014. "Making a future" in contemporary Africa. Special issue of Journal des Africanistes 84(1).

Pelican, Michaela (ed.). 2014. BAOHAN Street: An African Community in Guangzhou. Documentary photographs by Li Dong. Kölner Arbeitspapiere zur Ethnologie 4. Institut für Ethnologie, Universität zu Köln.

Pelican, Michaela and Mahir Saul (eds.). 2014. Global African Entrepreneurs. Special issue of Urban Anthropology and Studies of Cultural Systems and World Economic Development, UAS 43(1-3).

Recent Articles and Book Chapters (since 2012)

Damir-Geilsdorf, Sabine and Michaela Pelican. 2018. Between regular and irregular employment: subverting the kafalasystem in the GCC countries, Migration and Development, DOI: 10.1080/21632324.2018.1479215.

Pelican, Michaela and Li Dong. 2017. PHOTO ESSAY: Baohan Street: An African Community in Guangzhou. In: Hodgson, D.L. & J. Byfield (eds.) Global Africa. University of California Press, Oakland.

Pelican, Michaela. 2013. Insights from Cameroon: Five years after the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Anthropology Today 29(3): 13-16.

Pelican, Michaela. 2013. International Migration: Virtue or Vice? Perspectives from Cameroon. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 39(2): 237-258.