PhD Candidates

Administrative Staff

Student Assistants



Affiliate Member of the Research Group on Political Transformations

André Chappatte was awarded a PhD in Social Anthropology from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), UK, in 2013. The dissertation is based on an 18 months fieldwork in southwest Mali and focuses on young male Muslim migrants of rural origin who have moved to build better lives in Bougouni, a small but fast-growing administrative town of southwest Mali.

André Chappatte’s research interest is the under-studied field of ‘secondary cities’ in West Africa. While numerous scholars have explored the logics of global flows that shape mega-cities, he is interested in the fact that living within the intermediate context of the secondary city simultaneously means being involved in and shaped by local ramifications, regional politics, and being connected to ‘where civilisation is’, such as illustrated with the increasing consumption of Chinese products observed in urban West Africa. Within this broad theme, he more precisely focuses on the rapid urban growth observed in the savannah area, a contemporary dynamic he addresses via the southwards integration of Mali within West Africa. 
The above contextual axes of analysis support a current research called ‘Odienné by night’ that he is developing at the ZMO Berlin as part of its research group Cities as Laboratories of Change.

Selected Publications

2014. Night life in urban Mali: being a Muslim maquisard in Bougouni. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. 20:3, 526-44.

2014. Chinese products, social mobility and material modernity in Bougouni, a small but fast-growing administrative town of southwest Mali. African Studies Review. 73:1, 22-40.

2010. Mali: les musulmans ordinaires à Bougouni – Entretien avec André Chappatte. Religioscope Institute. Fribourg. Switzerland.

Affiliate Member of the Research Group on Political Transformations

Divine Fuh obtained his PhD in Social Anthropology at the University of Basel in 2009. Currently he is Head of the Publications and Dissemination Programme. He joined CODESRIA in February 2017 from the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Faculty at the University of Cape Town, he is interested in questions related to youth, urbanity and uncertainty, especially with respect to how people seek ways of ‘smiling’ in the midst of ‘suffering’.

Affiliate Member of the Research Group on Political Transformations

Katharina Heitz Tokpa obtained her PhD in Social Anthropology at the University of Basel, Switzerland, in 2013. She has conducted field research in the rebel-held parts of western Côte d'Ivoire for her thesis on the reconfiguration of trust and social life during rebel rule, which is part of a comparative study funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. Her research interests are post-conflict politics, questions of statehood, violent conflicts and social agency.

Focus in Teaching

West Africa, social organisation, statehood, methodology

Focus in Research

Research areas: post-conflict politics, social trust, rebel governance, youth, land transfers, borders

Regional focus: West Africa (Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal) and Central Africa (Cameroon)

Field research: 2008/2009 (8 months); 2010 (4 months); 2011/2012 (4 months) Côte d’Ivoire

Research Projects

“Regaining Trust in Post-Conflict Societies: A Comparative Study.”

Affiliate Member of the Research Group on Political Transformation

Andrea has a PhD from the Seminar of Social Anthropology, University of Basel. She has obtained her PhD in 2013 on political associations at the intersection of state and society in post-war Liberia. Her ethnographic research included associations such as deactivated soldiers, a slum dwelling women’s movement or an ethnically-framed association, which are all demanding of social change in the post-war context. Andrea is interested in how local or national associations and their socially shared imaginaries of a better life serve as motors of change on social, political or cultural context of a war-affected setting. Andrea’s main interests are in the fields of conflict, urban studies, associational life, gender and social relations in general in post-war societies in the West African conflict region, in particular Liberia.

Andrea Kaufmann worked for the UN Research Institute for Social Development UNRISD from 2014-2016 where she held the position of a Gender Expert within the research program Gender and Development, a position funded by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs through the Swiss Expert Pool for Civilian Peacebuilding.

Selected Publications

Kaufmann, Andrea (2016): Spaces of Imagination: Associational Life and the State in Post-war, Urban Liberia. PhD Thesis. University of Basel, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Ammann, Carole and Andrea Kaufmann (2014): Politics of ethnicity in Monrovia, Liberia and Kankan, Guinea – A comparative analysis. Journal of the Mande Studies Association (14): 57-98.

Kaufmann, Andrea (2011): Mobilizing for improvement. An empirical study of a women's movement in West Point, Liberia. Stichproben. Wiener Zeitschrift für kritische Afrikastudien (20): 163-188.

Kaufmann, Andrea (2011): “But things are coming small small, that’s how we’re seeing it.” [PDF (628 KB)] Agency of a Liberian women’s organisation in a context of insecurity, scarcity, and uncertainty. Basel Working Papers on Political Transformation (2).

Kaufmann, Andrea (2011): The EEA in an urban, post-conflict setting [PDF (961 KB)], in: Förster, Till et al.: The Emic Evaluation Approach - Epistemologies, Experience, and Ethnographic Practice. Basel Working Papers on Political Transformation (3): 25-29.

Kaufmann, Andrea (2011): The lost honor: Ex-soldiers fighting for their rights in post-conflict Liberia. Conference Paper of the European Conference on African Studies 2011.

Affiliate Member of the Research Group Medical Anthropology

Arlena Siobhan Liggins was a PhD candidate at the Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Basel, Switzerland. She has started her PhD on a scholarship granted by ‘The Graduate School of Social Sciences (G3S) of Basel University’ within the Medical Anthropology Research Group (MARG), lead by Prof. Brigit Obrist. Arlena Liggins studied cultural science (BA) at the University of Koblenz-Landau in Germany, Cultural Anthropology (MA) and International Health (MSc) both at Uppsala University in Sweden.

For her Master Thesis in Cultural Anthropology Arlena conducted a three-months qualitative research in Uganda collecting illness narratives of diabetes patients funded by the Nordic Africa Institute (NAI), Uppsala and the the ‘Svenska Sällskapet för Antropologi och Geografi’ (SSAG). In her Master Thesis in International Health she focused on the experiences of diabetes patients in Uganda from a more general perspective.
As one focus of the upcoming research she wants to trace the question what it means for Ugandans to lead a ‘good life’? Not until the last decades has the study of well-being emerged to a central concern of scientific endeavor. In times of modernity many people are today leading alleged ‘modern’ lives of physical inactivity, unhealthy diets and high levels of psychological stress, nevertheless considering these features as a part of being well. Whereas especially moral philosophy has extensively dealt with conceptions of well-being often used synonymously for happiness since centuries, anthropology has hardly dealt with matters of well- being, even though this unquestionably is an empirical concern of many anthropologists. What does it mean to be well? It lies in human nature to strive for well-being and to do the best one can to achieve it, and hitherto well-being has its own mystery making it nearly impossible to define it. The state of well-being appears as something unachievable, a never-ending story in a “world of want”. It is the nature of well-being she wants to explore, contrasting this concept against the backdrop of chronic diseases.

Focus in Research

  • Research interests:  Chronic Diseases, non-communicable diseases, well-being, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, uncertainty, STS 

  • Regional focus: East Africa (mostly Uganda)
  • Field research experience: Uganda (September-December 2012), Uganda-Rwanda (April-June 2014)

Research Projects

  • 2014- approx. 2017: “Matters of well-being in times of chronic diseases” (working title of the PhD project)
  • 2013-2014: A disease for life – Experiences of diabetic patients in two hospitals of Uganda. A qualitative study (MSc)
  • 2011-2013: “They say it has no cure” – illness narratives of diabetes patients in Uganda (MA)

Affiliate Member of the Research Group Medical Anthropology

Affiliate Member of the Research Group on Visual Culture

Fiona Siegenthaler is an Affiliate Member of the Research Group on Visual Culture (University of Basel) and a Research Associate at the Center for Visual Identities, Art, and Design (University of Johannesburg). She obtained her PhD in 2012 (thesis: Imageries of Johannesburg. Visual Arts and Spatial Practices in a Transforming City), followed by a position as Assistant Professor (Lehrstuhlassistenz; 2012-2018) at the Chair for Social Anthropology at the University of Basel. After her postdoctoral research in Kampala (2015-2017), she was awarded a Fulbright Visiting Scholarship at Columbia University, New York (2018) while serving as a coordinator in the SNF-funded research project Art/Articulation: Art and the Formation of Social Space in African Cities (2015-2019). She has published widely, amongst other in Critical Interventions, African Arts, Research in African Literatures, Critical Arts, Transcultural Studies, and Social Dynamics. She has extensive teaching and lecturing experience in fields including but not limited to African art history, contemporary African art, visual culture studies, visual anthropology, cultural studies, urban anthropology, performance and ritual theory.

Selected Publications

Edited Volumes

2017      Pensa, Iolanda, Marta Pucciarelli, Fiona Siegenthaler, Marilyn Douala Bell, Kamiel Verschuren, Xandra Nibbeling, Asta Adukaite, Maud de la Chapelle (eds.): Public Art in Africa. Art and Urban Transformations in Douala. Geneva: Métis Presses.

Edited Journal Issue

2018      Siegenthaler, Fiona and Till Förster (eds.): Re-Imagining African Cities. The Arts and Urban Politics. Special issue Social Dynamics (in print).

Peer-reviewed Journal Articles

2018      Siegenthaler, Fiona: “To Embrace or to Contest Urban Regeneration? Ambiguities of Artistic Practice in Contemporary Johannesburg”, in: Journal of Transcultural Studies 2/2017, n.p.

2016      Siegenthaler, Fiona: “Playing Around with Money: Currency as a Contemporary Artistic Medium in Urban Africa”, in: Critical Interventions: Journal of African Art History and Visual Culture 10(2), pp. 135-153. Issue editor Jordan A. Fenton.

2013      Siegenthaler, Fiona: “Towards an Ethnographic Turn in Contemporary Art Scholarship”, in: Critical Arts: South-North Cultural and Media Studies 27(6), pp. 737-752. Special Issue: Revisiting the Ethnographic Turn in Contemporary Art, part 2. Guest editors: An van. Dienderen, Kris Rutten, Ronald Soetaert.

2013      Siegenthaler, Fiona: “Visualizing the Mental City: The Exploration of Cultural and Subjective Topographies by Contemporary Performance Artists in Johannesburg”, in: Research in African Literatures 44(2), pp.163-176. Special Issue: (In)Visibility in African Cultures. Guest Editors: Zoe Norridge, Charlotte Baker, Elleke Boehmer.

2010      Siegenthaler, Fiona: “Schichten des Transitorischen. Oberflächen und Reflexionen in der zeitgenössischen Fotografie in Johannesburg”, in: kunsttexte 2 (14 pages), ISSN 1618-8101.

Book Chapters

2017      Siegenthaler, Fiona: “Aesthetic Shifts in a Transforming City: Performative Acts and Gestures in the Urban Space of Johannesburg”, in: Cities in Flux: Metropolitan Spaces in South African Literary and Visual Texts. Festschrift in Honor of Professor Em. Dr. Therese Steffen, eds. Moreillon, Olivier, Alan Muller and Lindy Stiebel. Zurich: LIT Verlag, pp. 73-99.

2017      Siegenthaler, Fiona and Dunja Herzog: “Artistic Practice and Art Publics in Africa: Exit Tour”, in Iolanda Pensa, Marta Pucciarelli, Fiona Siegenthaler et al. (eds.): Public Art in Africa. Art and Urban Transformations in Douala. Geneva: Métis Presses, n.p. (e-book)

2017      Siegenthaler, Fiona: “Contemporary African Art”, in: Iolanda Pensa, Marta Pucciarelli, Fiona Siegenthaler et al. (eds.):Geneva: Métis Presses, Glossary n.p. (e-book)

2017      Siegenthaler, Fiona: “Johannesburg: Vom Gold der Moderne zur Post-Apartheid Gegenwart/Johannesburg: From the Gold of Modernism to the Post-Apartheid Present“, in: Yvonne Müller and Leif Bennett, Inside the Carlton Hotel Johannesburg. Heidelberg: Kehrer, pp. 8-17/18-27.

2013      Siegenthaler, Fiona: “Performing (In)Visibilities in Public Space. Reflections on the Social and Aesthetic Agenda of Contemporary Performance Art in Johannesburg”, in: Obrist, Brigit, Elísio Macámo and Veit Arlt (eds.): Living the City in Africa. Processes of Invention and Intervention. Zurich: LIT Verlag, pp. 253-270.

Curriculum Vitae

Barbara Heer was a PostDoc in the SNF-Project “Making the City” and lecturer at the Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Basel, until January 2019. She is working as an applied anthropologist in the field of interreligious relations and migration, and she is a member of parliament in the canton Basel-Stadt (Grosser Rat, SP Fraktion).  Barbara wrote her PhD thesis on “Space, Difference and the Everyday: A Comparative Ethnography of Neighbourhoods in Maputo and Johannesburg” and obtained her PhD in 2015. Within the scope of her PhD, she was a research affiliate at the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, Maputo, and a visiting scholar at the History Workshop, Witwatersrand University, Johannesburg. She conducted 14 months of ethnographic fieldwork in these two cities. Her PhD project focused of spaces of encounters (shopping malls, religious spaces, domestic work etc.). By focusing on the micro-level of interactions, she analysed how sociality in these cities is shaped by the spatial and social divisions. She has been awarded several scholarships for her PhD project.
Barbara Heer studied Social Anthropology, as well as Economics and Gender Studies at the University of Basel (lic.phil, 2008). During an exchange semester at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, she conducted her first ethnographic field research (on backpacker tourism in the Transkei). Her Master thesis, entitled “The Journey of Table Mats from the Cameroon Grassfields to Basel. Anthropological Inquiry into a Fair Trade Commodity Chain”, was published in 2009.

Focus in Teaching

Public anthropology, anthropology of gender, history of anthropology, methodology, fundamentals in anthropology

Focus in Research

Research areas: urban anthropology, urban spaces, difference and inequality, urban encounters, neighbourhood politics, shopping malls, religious spaces, migration

Regional focus: Southern Africa (South Africa, Mozambique), Switzerland

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