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Dr. Julian Sommerschuh

Assistant Professor (Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter)

Research Interests

Values, Christianity, Change, Moral Economy, Development, Ethiopia

Short Biography

I was trained as a social anthropologist at Cambridge (PhD 2019), and I’m now a postdoc at the University of Cologne, where I collaborate with philosophers and anthropologists around the topic of moral change.

My main theoretical interest concerns the role of values in processes of societal transformation. How do deeply rooted conceptions of what is good and worthwhile in life change? And, conversely, how can values become drivers of historical change?

I approach these theoretical questions through a long-term ethnography of a rural community in southern Ethiopia, where I’ve carried out over two years of fieldwork since 2015. Specifically, I have been studying conversion to Christianity, as well as economic transformations relating to the uptake of ‘development’ as an aspirational project. I’m now working to expand this enquiry by examining intersections of religion and economy, asking in particular about the role of religious values in re-negotiating economic morality in times of rapid economic change.


  • Sommerschuh, J. (2019). Whatever Happened to Respect? Values and Change in a Southwest Ethiopian (Aari) Community (Doctoral thesis). Cambridge.
  • Robbins, J. & J. Sommerschuh. 2016. Values. In The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Anthropology
  • (eds) F. Stein, S.Lazar, M. Candea, H. Diemberger, J. Robbins, A. Sanchez & R. Stasch.
  • (forthcoming) Sommerschuh, J. From Fine to Forgiveness: Protestantism and Legal Pluralism in a Southwest Ethiopian (Aari) Community. In The interplay of plural legal orders in 21st Century Ethiopia: Between cooperation and conflict. Susanne Epple and Getachew Assefa, eds. Bielefeld: Transcript.
  • (under review) Sommerschuh, J. Questioning Growth: Christianity, Development and the Perils of Wealth in Southern Ethiopia. Journal of Religion in Africa
  • (under review) Sommerschuh, J. Speaking Humbly: Speech, Values and Change in Protestant Southern Ethiopia. In Religious Speakers and Religious Speech. Authority and Influence of Word and People. Roland Hardenberg, ed.
  • (in preparation) Respectable Conviviality: Solving Value Conflicts through Orthodox Christianity
  • (in preparation, with Joel Robbins) Values and Ethics


2019/2020 – Four seminars for advanced undergraduate students
Winter term: Value and Values; Religion and Modernity
Summer term: Moral Change (with Prof. Hinsch); Religion and Moral Economy

2018/2019 – Supervision of undergraduate students at Cambridge
Part IIb (San5): Ethical Life and the Anthropology of the Subject


PhD in Social Anthropology, Cambridge University, 2019
MPhil in Social Anthropology, Cambridge University, 2014
BA in European Ethnology and Sociology, Humboldt-University of Berlin, 2012


2015-2019 Cambridge Trust (Vice-Chancellor’s Award)
2014-2015 German Academic Exchange Service (One-year Grant)
2009-2014 German National Academic Foundation (Stipendiary)