Michael Bürge

Scientific career

I am PhD candidate at the chair for Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Konstanz. I received my M.A. (lic.phil.) in social and cultural anthropology, history and German linguistics from the University of Zurich. 

My M.A. dissertation “Mal geht es bergauf, mal geht es bergab!" Erfahrungen von Motorrad-Taxifahrern in Sierra Leone [„Sometimes things are looking up, sometimes they go downhill!” Experiences of Motorbike-Taxi Riders in Sierra Leone], focused on the lifeworlds of young men earning their living as commercial motorbike riders in northern Sierra Leone.

PhD project

2011, I started my PhD project In Sierra Leone everybody is a manager: shaping socialities in a precarious socioeconomic environment at the University of Zurich. It is part of the research project The Anthropology of Transnational Crime Control, in which I collaborated with Prof. Thomas G. Kirsch and Anna Hüncke. The project was financed by the German Research Foundation (DFG) within its priority program 1448 "Adaption and Creativity in Africa". In 2013 I joined Thomas G. Kirsch's chair in Konstanz.

For my doctoral dissertation I did 15 months of ethnographic fieldwork in northern Sierra Leone and the Republic of Guinea. The research focused on local people's practices in navigating or managing in an environment of existential socio/economic uncertainties, and the correspondence of sociospatial mobility and spaces. For this purpose I did fieldwork with young men engaging in activities that are often situated in grey zones of legality (unrecorded transport services, production and circulation of illegal products). Besides examining economic pratices that aim at earning a daily living, I am strongly interested in local disputes about the 'sustainability' of people's practices for the community's 'good'. I inquired into the relationship of (claims about) anti/sociality, im/morality, il/licitness and il/legality of people's the practices to manage uncertainty.

My dissertation is supervised by Prof. Thomas G. Kirsch (University of Konstanz) and Prof. Gerhard Anders (Centre for African Studies, University of Edinburgh).

Research interests

Research interests (geographical, topical, theoretical)

Sierra Leone, West Africa

Italy, Mediterranean Sea


Balkans (former Yugoslavia)

production, trade, consumption

(non-)work, labour, enjoyment/leisure time

il/legal and il/licit economies

authenticity, imitation, counterfeit, fake, fraud

moral and ethics, value(s)

precariety, un/certainty and in/security

migration and mobility, sociospaces

economic anthropology

political anthropology

legal anthropology

Research experience

Makeni, Freetown and Northern Province, Sierra Leone; Republic of Guinea. 2005, 2007, 2011-2013 (total of 25 months)

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. 2011 (3 months; research assistance)

Winterthur, Switzerland. 2003 (3 months)


Type Institution
Membership European Association for Social Anthropology (EASA)
Membership International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES)