Research Focus Areas

  • Political anthropology: anthropology of the state
  • Economic anthropology
  • Anthropology of development
  • Peasant studies & agro-food studies
  • Kinship studies
  • Science and Technology Studies
  • Medical anthropology
  • Anthropology of China, Chinese studies: rural China
  • Ethnography, methods and philosophy of science


Short Biography

Christof Lammer studied Social and Cultural Anthropology and China Studies at the University of Vienna, Tianjin University and Renmin University of China. Since 2019 he is university assistant (post-doc) at the Department of Science, Technology and Society Studies at the Alpen Adria University of Klagenfurt, working on genomics and precision medicine in Asia. From 2013 until 2017 he was university assistant (pre-doc) in the Ethnography Group at the Department of Methods in the Social Sciences and at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Vienna. In 2017 he participated as a fellow in the ZIF Research Group ‘Kinship and Politics: Rethinking a Conceptual Split and its Epistemological Implications in the Social Sciences’, based at Bielefeld University. The Dissertation Completion Scholarship of the University of Vienna enabled him to finish his dissertation ‘Performing State Boundaries: A Stategraphy of Citizen Participation in China’, which he defended with distinction in September 2018 (Promotio sub auspiciis Praesidentis rei publicae).

Christof’s research interests are in political and economic anthropology, the anthropology of development, kinship studies, as well as in Peasant and Agro-food studies. Recently, the ‘China National GeneBank’ and ‘China’s Precision Medicine Initiative’ deepened his interest in the anthropology of science and medicine. The anthropology of China is his regional specialization. Since 2011, he has conducted more than 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork in the People’s Republic.


Winter term 2018/19: Kinship: Prove, Measurement and Translation, together with Tatjana Thelen
Summer term 2016: Qualitative research methods (ethnography)
Winter term 2015/16: ‘Peasants’ in globalization: anthropological perspectives
Summer term 2014: Qualitative research methods (ethnography), together with Tatjana Thelen 

Selected Publications

Dissertation Project

Performing State Boundaries: A Stategraphy of Citizen Participation in China

Supervisor: Tatjana Thelen

Reviewers: Chris Hann (Halle), Thomas G. Kirsch (Konstanz)

Christof Lammer’s dissertation project deals with the question of how state boundaries are performed in rural development efforts in Sichuan Province in China. During 15 months of ethnographic fieldwork between 2013 and 2015, he studied NGO initiatives promoting ecological agriculture and rural cooperatives as well as the bureaucratic administration of state assistance for the poor. Bringing the ‘stategraphy’ approach of Tatjana Thelen and her colleagues (2014) to the People’s Republic of China, the dissertation adds a focus on performance to this relational approach to the ethnographic study of states. Taking projects and policies that call for citizen participation as empirical cases, Christof examines how state officials and other citizens situationally perform the boundary between what they regard as state and non-state. The study shows how such performances in front of different audiences decide about access to diverse kinds of resources. Thereby, the dissertation closes a gap in the anthropology of the state. Although earlier state-as-subject and state-as-object formulations have given way to more processual and relational understandings of states, most studies still take the distinction between state and society for granted rather than analysing the actors’ ‘performative boundary work’. This analytical focus on state boundaries also questions (sub-)disciplinary divisions and speaks to debates beyond political anthropology in kinship studies, (post-)socialist anthropology and agro-food studies. Exploring performed state boundaries not only opens new perspectives on the Chinese state that do not depend on presumptions or claims of authoritarian, socialist or cultural otherness but also invites a fresh look on participation in states in the imagined ‘democratic West’ and elsewhere.

Post-doc Project

Health and measurements of degrees of relatedness: national genomes and individualised medicine in China

Currently, Christof Lammer is preparing a research project at the intersection of anthropological studies of kinship, economy, science and medicine. Looking at the case of China’s ‘National GeneBank’ and ‘Precision Medicine Initiative’, the project asks how tensions emerge and are negotiated when national genomes are produced for individualised medicine. It examines which ‘healthy’ individuals, families, nations and markets are co-produced through measurements of degrees of relatedness in the ‘life economy’.


  • 2018. “Grey and green infrastructure: un/doing state boundaries in an ‘ecological village’ in China”. 4th Vienna Ethnography Laboratory, “Infrastructures: Imagination, Materiality, Process.” organised by Tatjana Thelen, Kirsten Rüther und Peter Schweitzer, University of Vienna, Austria, 26 September 2018.
  • 2017. “Listing signatures of belonging: Welfare and performances of community and state in China”. German Anthropological Association (DGV) Biannual Conference “Belonging: Affective, moral and political practices in an interconnected world”, Panel “The politics of lists” organised by Sabine Strasser and Martin Sökefeld, FU Berlin, Germany, 5 October 2017.
  • 2017. “Distancing the entangled state: Performances of peasant participation in a food network in China”. Workshop “China and Chinas: the many faces of the nation state” organised by Jean-Baptiste Pettier and Roberta Zavoretti, University of Cologne, Germany, 27 July 2017.
  • 2017. “Intervening by upholding the state/family-split: Participation in an NGO’s ‘rural community education’ for China’s ‘left-behind children’”. ZiF Summer School “Kinship and Politics. Undoing the Boundaries”, ZiF Center for Interdisciplinary Research, Bielefeld University, Germany, 3 July 2017.
  • 2017. “Reworking state boundaries through performances of care”. Werkstatt Series, organised by Chris Hann, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle (Saale), Germany, 13 June 2017.
  • 2017. “Staging ecology, consuming transparency civil society style.” IKSA Graduate Forum “The many social lives of policy: across different processes and regional contexts”, University of Vienna, Austria, 28 April 2017.
  • 2016. “Peasant friends, greedy entrepreneurs and corrupt officials? Caring for food safety in China”. 14th European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) Biennial Conference: “Anthropological legacies and human futures”, Panel “Cross-cutting care and care across cuts: dimensions of care in contexts of crisis and social change” organised by Antónia Pedroso de Lima and Rosie Read, Milano, Italy, 22 July 2016.
  • 2016. “Avoiding to offend others: ‘democratic’ participation in rural governance in China”. 3rd Vienna Ethnography Laboratory, “Practices of Bureaucracy and State Practices. Power, Interaction, Exclusion” organised by Tatjana Thelen, Birgit Sauer and Wolfram Schaffar, Vienna, Austria, 10 June 2016.
  • 2015. “Peasant friends and state certification: Negotiating boundaries on the way to food safety in China”. Workshop “Chinese Capitalism in the World System: New Perspectives” organised by Felix Wemheuer, Global South Studies Center, University of Cologne, Germany, 12 December 2015.
  • 2015. “Being the crisis of someone else: Chinese ‘peasants’ as objects of transformation”. German Anthropological Association (DGV) Biannual Conference “Crises: reconfigurations of life, power and worlds”, Marburg, Germany, 2 October 2015.
  • 2014. “Co-production beyond ‘alternative’ food networks”. STS Conference Graz 2014 “Critical Issues in Science and Technology Studies”, Graz, Austria, 5 May 2014.
  • 2013. “Relocating capitalism and reproducing inequalities: unintended outcomes of experiments with cooperation in post-Mao rural China”. IAMO Forum 2013 “Rural Areas in Transition”, Halle (Saale), Germany, 20 June 2013.
  • 2013. “Imagined Cooperatives: An Ethnography of Cooperation and Conflict in New Rural Reconstruction Projects in a Chinese Village”. Guest lecture in “Introduction to Economic Anthropology” by Gertraud Seiser, University of Vienna, 21 January 2013.

Convened Workshops

  • 2019. Panel “Measuring kinship: the end of negotiating relatedness?” together with Tatjana Thelen (Vienna) and Staffan Müller-Wille (Exeter), German Anthropological Association (DGSKA) Biannual Conference “The End of Negotiations?”, University of Konstanz, Germany, 29 September – 2 October 2019.
  • 2017. IKSA Graduate Forum “The many social lives of policy: across different processes and regional contexts”, 27- 29 April 2017, University of Vienna, Austria, together with Volha Biziukova, Cansu Civelek, Alexandra Sindrestean, Andreas Streinzer and Melanie Sindelar.