Center for Interdisciplinary Area Studies (ZIRS)
at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg

Dr. Michael Hoffmann

Position: Research officer
Phone: ++49 345 / 552 41 76
Fax: ++49 345 / 552 76 00
E-Mail:

Main fields of interest

social movements, debt-bondage, industrial labor, labor migrants, maoism, revolutions, development, poverty, alternative economic models and ethnographic films.

South Asia, Nepal and India, Greece.

Current research project

Uncertain Industrial Futures: An Ethnography of Industrial Labour, Revolutionary Change and Natural Disaster in Contemporary Nepal

Curriculum Vitae

Michael Hoffmann has a MSc in Social Anthropology & Development Studies and received his PhD in Social Anthropology from the London School of Economics and Political Sciences in 2012.

After completing his PhD entitled Patronage, Exploitation and the Invisible Hand of Mao, based on 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork in far-western Nepal, he joined the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology as a research fellow (2012-15) and worked as a senior researcher at the Global South Studies Center and the Institute for Cultural and Social Anthropology at the University of Cologne (2015-17). During this time he conducted a range of anthropological fieldwork projects largely focused on industrial labor in post-conflict Nepal but also on South Asian labour migrants in Greece. His academic work has been published in numerous prestigious international journals including Critique of Anthropology, Focaal, Contributions to Indian Sociology and Modern Asian Studies. His first monograph, entitled The Partial Revolution: Labour, Social Movements and the Invisible Hand of Mao in Western Nepal, was published in January 2018 with Berghahn Books, New York. The book examined the far-western region of Kailali in the aftermath of Nepal’s Maoist insurgency, critically analyzing the ways in which revolutionary political mobilization affected social relations – and often unexpectedly clashed with the movement’s ideological goals.

Throughout his postdoc based at ZIRS at the Martin Luther University in Halle, Michael will work on a second book project with the preliminary title „Uncertain Industrial Futures: An Ethnography of Industrial Labour, Revolutionary Change and Natural Disaster in Contemporary Nepal“. Along his commitment to field based, ethnographic research, Michael works also together with filmmakers to visualize the issues he writes about. In 2014 he co-directed the award-winning ethnographic documentary film ‚Akil‘ which is based on his doctoral fieldwork and has been shown amongst others at the Bogota Film Festival, the Jakarta World Film Festival and the Film Section at the American Anthropological Association in Denver, USA. In addition, Michael is the co-founder of the non-profit organization nightbank which helps finance social- and environmental grassroots initiatives & movements through a unique internet-based plattform and which won the prestigious ‚Kultur- & Kreativpiloten‘ award of the german economic ministry in 2017.

Selected Publications

Books

  • Hoffmann, M.P. (2018). The Partial Revolution: Labour, Social Movements and the Invisible Hand of Mao in Western Nepal. Berghahn Publications. New York.

Journal articles

  • Hoffmann, M.P. (forthcoming 2018). From Bonded- to Industrial Labour: Precarity, Maoism and Ethnicity in a modern-industrial food-processing factory in western Nepal. Modern Asian Studies.
  • Hoffmann, M.P. (2017). Unfree Labor after the Maoist Revolution in western Nepal. In Contributions to Indian Sociology.
  • Hoffmann, M.P. (2015). ‘In the Shadows of the Maoist Revolution: On the Role of the “People’s War” in Facilitating the Occupation of Symbolic Space in Western Nepal’. Critique of Anthropology 35:3.
  • Hoffman, M.P. (2014a). ‘Strong vs. weak targets: Urban activist practices of the Kamaiya Movement in the western lowland of Nepal’. FocaalBlog, 30 October.
  • Hoffmann, M.P. (2014b). ‘Red Salute at Work: Brick factory work in postconflict Kailali, western Nepal’. Focaal 70: 67–80.
  • Hoffmann, M.P. (2014c). ‘A Symbiotic Coexistence:.Nepal’s Maoist Movement and Labour Unions in an Urban Municipality in Post-conflict Far-western Tarai’. Journal of South Asian Development, 9 December: 213–234.

Book Chapters

  • Hoffmann, M.P. (2018). ‘From Casual to Permanent Work: Maoist Unionists and the Regularization of Contract Labour in Industries in Western Nepal’. In Industry and Inequality in Euroasia, eds. Catherine Alexander, Chris Hann and Jonathan Parry.
  • Hoffmann, M.P. (forthcoming, 2018). ‘Rebels and Revolutionaries: Urban Mobilizations of the Kamaiya Movement in Post-Conflict, Western Nepal’. In Worldwide Urban Mobilizations, eds. Don Kalb and Mao Mollona.

Working Papers

  • Hoffmann, M.P. (2013). ‘Labour unionism in a post-conflict context: Maoists, unionists, and formerly bonded labourers in an urban municipality in the Western Tarai’. Halle/Saale: Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Working Paper 145.

Ethnographic Films

  • Hoffmann, M.P. (2014) Akil (Awareness). Co-directed with Director Tommaso Dolcetta.

Grants & Awards Received

2018‚Eigene Stelle‘ DFG Post-Doc Project
2017Fellowship at Rework, Humboldt University of Berlin
2015World Film Award, World Film Festival, Jakarta, Indonesia
2011-12Bagri-Fellowship at the Asia Research Centre, LSE.
2010-11Alfred Gell Memorial Scholarship, Department of Anthropology, LSE.
2009-10Departmental Grant, Department of Anthropology, LSE.
2007-09Departmental Grant, Department of Anthropology, LSE.
2007University of London Travel Fund, University of London.

Field Research

Sept 2014-Oct 2014Fieldwork in Kathmandu/Kailali/Banke, Western Tarai Region of Nepal
Sept 2013-April 2014Fieldwork in Banke District, Western Tarai Region of Nepal.
March 2013-April 2013Fieldwork in Accham & Dhailekh District, Far-Western Highland Region of Nepal.
July-August 2010Fieldwork in Kailali District, Western Tarai Region of Nepal.
Oct 2007-July 2008Fieldwork in District Kailali, Western Tarai, Nepal & Northern India (Gujarat, Bihar).

Teaching

2017Seminar Teacher “The Anthropology of Revolutions”, Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Cologne
2016-2017Seminar Teacher “Industry & Inequality in South Asia and South America”, Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Cologne
2016Seminar Teacher “Conflicts in the Global South”, Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Cologne.
2015-2016Seminar Teacher “Industry & Inequality in South Asia”, Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Cologne
2014-2015Seminar Teacher “Work and Poverty in South Asia”, Institute for Social Anthropology, University of Halle.
2011Graduate Teaching Assistant Class Seminars for “The Anthropology of South Asia” (Dr. Alpa Shah), Goldsmith University, London, England
2010Graduate Teaching Assistant Class Seminars for “Ethnography and Anthropological Theory” (AN101, Dr. Mukulika Bannerjee) London School of Economics and Political Sciences, London, England