Rita Kesselring is Senior Lecturer at the Institute for Social Anthropology, University of Basel, Switzerland. She currently works on a book project on global extractivism, urban development in new mining towns in Zambia's Northwestern Province and Switzerland's commodity trading sector. She is editor-in-chief of the journal Anthropology Southern Africa and the JJ Bachofen Lecture Series and author of the book "Bodies of Truth: Law, Memory and Emancipation in Post-Apartheid South Africa" (Stanford University Press 2016). She led and coordinated the interdisciplinary project Valueworks: Effects of Financialisation along the Copper Value Chain (funded by SNIS; 2017-2018), for which she was awarded the University of Basel's Engagement Award 2017.
Kesselring studied social anthropology, English linguistics and international law at the University of Zürich (lic.phil; 2007) and the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and obtained her PhD at the University of Basel in 2013. For her PhD thesis, she was awared the Young Scholars’ Award 2014 of the African Studies Association in Germany (VAD) and the Faculty Price 2013 of the Faculty of Humanities, University of Basel. From 2009 to 2010 and in 2012, she was a research fellow in the bilateral project “Safeguarding Democracy: Contests of Memory and Heritage” between the Chair of African History, University of Basel, and the History Workshop at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.
In 2011, she spent 12 months as a visiting researcher at the Human Rights Institute, University of Connecticut, USA, financed by an SNF writing fellowship. She was also a visiting researcher at the Department of Anthropology, University of Cape Town in 2012 and at the Dag Hammarskjöld Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of the Copperbelt, Zambia in 2015. During the 2018/2019 academic year, she was a Fung Global Fellow at the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, Princeton University.
To listen to a New Books Network (NBN) author-interview episode on Rita Kesselring's book "Bodies of Truth", click here, and to a conversation on the search of truth hosted by the Swiss radio station SRF 2 Kultur, listen here (in German).
Focus in Teaching
The anthropologies of the body, the law, memory, the built environment and infrastructure, and mining; humanitarianism, methodology, the ethnography of Zambia and Southern Africa, and various introductory courses in anthropology.
Focus in Research
Research areas: anthropology of the body, legal anthropology; post-conflict societies; memory, social change; methodology, built environment, urbanity, extractivism and logistics, commodity trade, local authorities.
Regional focus: Zambia, South Africa; Southern Africa
Field research: South Africa: 2006 (6 months), 2009 (11 months), 2010 (3 months), 2012 (1 month), 2013 (1 month), 2017 (1 month); Zambia: 2013 (2 months), 2015 (10 months), 2016 (2 months), 2017 (2 months), 2018 (2 months)