Univ.-Prof. Dr. Tatjana Thelen, MA

Full Professor
Vice Director of Studies of the Doctoral Studies Programme Social Sciences
Member of LOST Research Network

2016-17: Fellow at the Center of Interdisciplinary Research, Bielefeld University


Rathausstrasse 19/9 (staircase 1, 1st floor)
Room: RH 1/11
A-1010 Vienna
Phone: +43-1-4277-49560
E-Mail: tatjana.thelen@univie.ac.at

Office Hours

Currently, after prior appointments only. In case of requests regarding the supervision of final papers, please contact Dr. Evangelos Karagiannis (E-Mail: evangelos.karagiannis@univie.ac.at) first.

Research Focus Areas

Care and Social Security; Kinship, Law and State; Property and Social Change, (Post-)Socialist Societies, Relational Theory

Short Biography

Prof. Thelen started her academic career with a dissertation on post-socialist transformations in Hungary and Romania (PhD 2002, Freie Universität Berlin). As a senior researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology within the former Working Group of Legal Pluralism she carried out research in eastern Germany and later also Serbia. During this time her focus shifted from property reforms and their consequences for social inequality to care and welfare, exploring the interfaces and boundary work between kinship and other support arrangements connected to local state formations.

Central to her theorising these developments has been the role of establishing and practicing care responsibilities for the (re)production (or dissolution) of significant relations. With her critique of how social sciences had so far conceived of South-eastern European societies and their transformations, she shifted her interest to how the difference and relational categories are modelled upon understandings of historical development as central features of Western self-understanding. This interest in the development of categories of difference and specific understandings of history (despite contradicting practices) stands also at the heart of her current work in Bielefeld.



Courses: u:find

Selected Recent Publications

  • 2017

    Reconnecting State and Kinship. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. (together with Erdmute Alber). (in print).

    Stategraphy: Toward a Relational Anthropology of the State (reprint). New York: Berghahn Books. (together with Larissa Vetters and Keebet von Benda-Beckmann). (in print).

  • 2015

    Care as Social Organisation: Creating, Maintaining and dissolving significant relations. Anthropological Theory 15 (4): 497-515.

  • 2014

    Care/Sorge. Konstruktion, Reproduktion und Auflösung bedeutsamer Bindungen. Bielefeld: transcript.

  • 2011

    Shortage, fuzzy property and other dead ends in anthropological analysis of (post) socialism. Critique of Anthropology 31 (1): 43-61.

All Publications since 1997

List of Publications as PDF

Ongoing Research Projects & Supervised PhD Projects


Anna Ellmer, MA (University Assistant, Predoc, uni:docs)
Ilona Grabmaier, MA (PhD candidate, Doktoratskolleg Galizien)
Nina Haberland, MA (University Assistant, Predoc)
Dr. Evangelos Karagiannis, MA (University Assistant, Postdoc)
Christof Lammer, MA (Research Fellow, Dissertation Completion Scholarship)
Brigitte Möller, MA (University Assistant, Predoc, uni:docs)
Deniz Seebacher, MA (PhD candidate, OeAW-DOC-Team grant holder)

Team Research Focus Areas

Care, Kinship and the Local State

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. The individual projects centre around interfaces between kinship and state institutions. 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 of kinship and state as separate units within institutions like public childcare or senior citizen welfare. 

Globalisation: Processes of Translation and Production of Difference

Globalisation forms the team’s second research focus with an emphasis on two central issues in the anthropological literature on globalisation. The first one is processes of appropriation and the translation of globally circulating ideas and concepts. The broad spectrum of research topics ranges from the realm of politics to the economy to questions of religion. The second issue concerns shifts in identity constructions and especially constructions of cultural difference as a result of migration. The central entry point of empirical investigation is constituted by care practices at the interface of private and public spheres.

Guest Scholars 2017

Prof. Cindy Dell Clark, PhD (Paul-Lazarsfeld-Visiting Professor, 8.-12.5.2017)
Prof. Cati Coe, PhD (Wednesday Seminars, 22.11.2017)
Irene Donatoni, BA (Erasmus+ Trainee, 1.4.-30.9.2017)

Relevant Subpages & Websites

Vienna Ethnography Laboratories (Ethnolabs)
Vienna Working Papers in Ethnography (VWPE)
Doktoratskolleg Galizien
Center of Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF), Bielefeld University, Germany
LOST Research Network
Doctoral Studies Programme Social Sciences