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Dr. Julian Sommerschuh

Assistant Professor (Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter)

Research Interests

Values, Christianity, Cultural Change, Moral Economy, Ethiopia

Short Biography

I was trained as a social anthropologist at Cambridge (PhD 2019), and I am now a postdoc at Cologne University, 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 social 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 have 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 economic development as an aspirational project. I am 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. 2020. From Feasting to Accumulation: Modes of Value Realisation and Radical Cultural Change in Southern Ethiopia. Ethnos. DOI: 10.1080/00141844.2020.1828971
  • Sommerschuh, J. 2020. Legal pluralism and Protestant Christianity: From fine to forgiveness in an Aari community. In Legal pluralism in Ethiopia: Actors, challenges and solutions. Susanne Epple and Getachew Assefa, eds. Pp. 213–34. Culture and social practice: transcript-Verlag. DOI: 10.14361/9783839450215-011
  • Sommerschuh, J. 2019. Whatever Happened to Respect? Values and Change in a Southwest Ethiopian (Aari) Community. Doctoral Thesis, University of Cambridge, Cambridge. DOI:10.17863/CAM.45917
  • Robbins, J. & J. Sommerschuh. 2016. Values. In The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Anthropology F. Stein, S.Lazar, M. Candea, H. Diemberger, J. Robbins, A. Sanchez & R. Stasch, eds. http://doi.org/10.29164/16values 
  • Sommerschuh, J. (forthcoming) Respectable Conviviality: Solving Value Conflicts through Orthodox Christianity in Southern Ethioipa. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute.
  • Sommerschuh, J. & J. Robbins. (forthcoming). Values and Ethics. In Handbook of the Anthropology of Ethics and Morality. James Laidlaw, ed. Cambridge University Press
  • Sommerschuh, J. (forthcoming). Speaking Humbly: Speech, Values and Change in Protestant Southern Ethiopia. In Religious Speakers and Religious Speech. Authority and Influence of Word and People.
  • (under review) Sommerschuh, J. Questioning Growth: Christianity, Development and the Perils of Wealth in Southern Ethiopia. Journal of Religion in Africa.


2020/2021 – Four undergrad seminars
Winter term: Modern Virtue Ethics; Bernard Williams
Summer term: Introduction to the Anthropology of Ethics; Ethnography and Cultural Difference (with Prof. Hinsch)

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)