Portrait photo Tatjana Thelen

Contact Details

Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology
Universitätsstraße 7, 1010 Vienna
NIG, 4th floor
Room: B0404

T: +43-1-4277-49560
E-Mail: tatjana.thelen@univie.ac.at

Office Hours

Tuesdays, 3pm -5pm

Previous registration via e-mail to hanna.vietze@univie.ac.at 


Current Courses: u:find

Past Courses: u:find

Research Focus Areas

  • Kinship, Law and the State
  • Economy, Property and Social Change
  • Care, Difference and Social Security
  • (Post-)Socialist Societies
  • Relational Theory

Short Biography

Tatjana Thelen is a full professor at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Vienna since 2012. She is currently writing on the role of "political atmospheres" in iterative demarcations of state boundaries, in ways that reinforce or forge belonging. This study traverses multiple social-science disciplines and diverse European landscapes to show that such atmospheres, as meaning-making practices generating nascent critique, are not only impacted by institutions, the state and political change but also profoundly shape them.

Having studied social anthropology at the Universities of Bonn and Cologne, her academic journey began with an ethnographic exploration of economic transformations in postsocialist Hungary and Romania. With a specific focus on property relations, this research formed the basis of her dissertation at the Free University of Berlin in 2002. Generating insights into persistent biases prevalent within the social sciences, particularly on East and Southeast European societies, this phase of ethnographic work also highlighted the broader adverse consequences of relying on entrenched preconceptions about these regions.

She was involved in developing a relational approach to the state as Senior Researcher in the Working Group of Legal Pluralism at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle (Saale). Shifting her ethnographic focus to eastern Germany, she developed care as an analytic concept bridging the fields of economic and political anthropology, demonstrating its centrality to social organisation. A Volkswagen-funded project on access to natural and state resources in rural areas allowed her to continue this line research through fieldwork in Hungary, Romania, and Serbia. Increasingly, the epistemic consequences of the separation of kinship and state became an additional focus of her research. This question was also at the heart of an interdisciplinary research group at the Center for Interdisciplinary research in Bielefeld, which she headed with colleagues from Los Angeles, Zurich, and Bayreuth.

Tatjana Thelen was the Distinguished Visiting Austrian Chair at Stanford for the academic year 2023, Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Paris in 2020/21, and is co-directing the Research Platform for the Study of Transformations and Eastern Europe.

Selected Publications

The Team

Team Research Focus Areas

Care, Kinship and the State: Processes of belonging and the Production of Difference

Over the last decades care has increasingly gained attention in both public and scientific discourses. The team's research is characterised by a relational approach to the (re-)production as well as the dissolution of significant relations and difference through care. Thereby, care has immense political importance for political subjectivities, belonging and the reproduction of the state at different layers. The individual projects centre around interfaces between of private and public spheres, e.g. within institutions like public childcare or senior citizen welfare. One focus is the performativity and impact of welfare practices on the reproduction of social marginalisation based on constructions of cultural difference. A second focus consists of the reproduction and reconfiguration of kinship and state as separate units. In both instances translations of globally circulating ideas and concepts are central.