Jun.-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"

Room: 6.003
Phone: +49 (0)221-470 3515
Email: mpelican(at)uni-koeln.de
Personal Website: www.michaela-pelican.com
UoC Forum Ethnicity website: www.forum-ethnicity.uni-koeln.de

Office hours:

During the semester: Wednesday, 12-13.30h (entry in list/by email).
During semester break: arrangment by email.

Please take note: No office hours on Wednesday, 26.4.17, 24.5.17, 14.6.17, 26.7.17.

I am Junior Professor (Assistant 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. 


Research Interests and Regional Expertise

  • 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

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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 is 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 focuses 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 (see: http://www.michaela-pelican.com/research_media.php).


Selected Publications

Complete publication list as pdf download at the end of the page, students of the University of Cologne can access all publications via ILIAS: Institut für Ethnologie - E-Learning Angebot > Publikationen der DozentInnen


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

Pelican, Michaela
2006. Getting along in the Grassfields: interethnic relations and identity politics in Northwest Cameroon. Halle, Saale: Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Sachsen-Anhalt.

Pelican, Michaela
1999. Die Arbeit der Mbororo-Frauen früher und heute: eine Studie zum Wandel der sozio-ökonomischen Situation semi-nomadischer Fulbe-Frauen in Nordwest Kamerun. Bayreuth: Universitätsbibliothek Bayreuth.

Edited volume/thematic issue

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)

Pelican, Michaela
2015. Ethnicity as a political resource: Indigenous rights movements in Africa. In: University of Cologne Forum "Ethnicity as a Political Resource" (ed.). Ethnicity as a political resource: Conceptualizations across Disciplines, Regions, and Periods. Bielefeld: Transcript. pp. 135-149.

Pelican, Michaela
2015. Neoliberal Challenges and Transnational Lives of Cameroonian Migrants in Dubai. In: Rogaia Mustafa Abusharaf and Dale F. Eickelman (eds.). Africa and the Gulf Region: Blurred Boundaries and Shifting Ties. Berlin: Gerlach Press. pp. 92-110.

Maruyama, Junko and Michaela Pelican
2015. Introduction: Indigenous identities and ethnic coexistence in Africa. African Study Monographs 36(1): 1-3.

Pelican, Michaela and Junko Maruyama
2015. The Indigenous Rights Movement in Africa: Perspectives from Botswana and Cameroon. African Study Monographs 36(1): 49-74.

Pelican, Michaela and Jan Patrick Heiss
2014. "Making a future" in contemporary Africa. Introduction. Journal des Africanistes 84(1): 7-19.

Saul, Mahir and Michaela Pelican
2014. Global African Entrepreneurs: A new research perspective on contemporary African migration. UAS 43 (1-3): 1-16.

Pelican, Michaela
2014. Urban Lifeworlds of Cameroonian Migrants in Dubai. UAS 43 (1-3): 255-309.

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.

Pelican, Michaela

2012. From cultural property to market goods: changes in the economic strategies and herd management rationales of agro-pastoral Fulbe in North West Cameroon. In: Anatoly Khazanov and Günther Schlee (eds.). Who Owns the Stock? Collective and multiple property rights in animals. New York, Oxford: Berghahn. pp. 213-23.

Mimche, Honoré et Michaela Pelican

2012. Quand les immigrants se font "autochtones": dynamiques d'insertion des Mbororo et insécurité foncière à l'ouest-Cameroun. In: Pierre Kamdem et Martin Kuete (eds.) L' "in"sécurité au Cameroun: mythe ou réalité? Paris: Iresma.

Pelican, Michaela

2012. Friendship among pastoral Fulbe in northwest Cameroon. African Study Monographs 33(3): 165-188. http://jambo.africa.kyoto-u.ac.jp/kiroku/asm_normal/abstracts/pdf/33-3/33-3-2.pdf

Pelican, Michaela

2012. Mbororo pastoralists in Cameroon. Transformations in identity and political representation. Afro-Eurasian Inner Dry Land Civilizations vol. 1: 113-126.

Documentary films

Pelican, Michaela and Francesco Bondanini
2014. Portrait of a Migrant Woman: Martha in Dubai. Docu-short, 15 min. http://www.michaela-pelican.com/research_migration.php#mobility

Pelican, Michaela
2008. Face To Face: Cameroon-Gabon-Dubai-Geneva. Docu-short, 8 min. http://www.michaela-pelican.com/research_media.php#face2face_film 

Pelican, Michaela and Judith Orland
2002. Getting along in the Grassfields: aspects of village life in Misaje (North West Cameroon) / Misaje, ein kleines Dorf in Nordwest Kamerun. Documentary, 38 min. http://www.michaela-pelican.com/research_media.php#more

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pdf downloads

Current CV (pdf)