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Prof. Dr. Benedikt Korf

PhD supervision:



  • Kelegama, Thiruni (principal supervisor with t.b.a.): t.b.a.
  • Bartmess, Jennifer (principal supervisor with t.b.a.): t.b.a.
  • Hochleithner, Stephan (principal supervisor, with Timothy Raeymaekers and Werner Zips): Socio-Economic Relations among IDPs in Eastern DR Congo (2011-2014).
  • Hollenbach, Pia (principal supervisor, with Urs Geiser, Jonathan Spencer and Christoph Uehlinger): Ethnographies of Aid, Moral Geographies and Post-Tsunami Humanitarianism in Sri Lanka (2008-2010)
  • Byrne, Sarah (principal supervisor, committee to be selected): Living with Violence in Rural Nepal (2010-2013).
  • Johnson, Deborah (principal supervisor, with Roland Bleiker): Securitization and the developmental state in Sri Lanka (2010-2013).
  • Emmenegger, Rony (co-supervisor, with Tobias Hagmann and Timothy Raeymaekers): Title to be confirmed (2010-2014)



  • Bart Klem (principal supervisor, with George Frerks, Urs Geiser and Jonathan Spencer): State building, liberal peace and political brokers in South Asia (2008-2011)
  • Fekadu Beyene (co-supervisor, with Konrad Hagedorn, HU Berlin), The Commons in Transition: Pastoralism and resource management in Somali Region, Ethiopia (2004-2008)
  • Mark Starmanns (co-supervisor, with Boris Braun, Universität Köln, Markus Hassler): Standards of Fairness and Corporate Social Responsibility in the Global Textile Industry (2003-2008)


Completed research projects

AID: Aid, Conflict and Peacebuilding in Sri Lanka

?(B. Korf, J. Goodhand, J. Spencer)
This edited volume compiles papers by eminent peace researchers and practitioners from Sri Lanka and elsewhere on aid and peace building in Sri Lanka after the ceasefire in 2002. In 2010, the editors have done a final review and edit of the book chapters. The book has appeared with Routledge in January 2011.

BORDERLANDS: Bringing the margins back in: war making and state making in the borderlands (2009-2012)

?(Timothy Raeymaekers, Benedikt Korf, Tobias Hagmann with J Goodhand, SOAS)
This project challenges the received wisdom about contemporary state formation as a centrally guided, top down process. Instead it looks at today’s borderlands as key sites of contestation and negotiation that are central to state-making processes. Taking case studies from Africa and Asia, it gives a central place to the everyday experience with violent conflict and state formation at the border, and the way these affect the making and unmaking of political configurations. In 2009, Tobias Hagmann and Benedikt Korf organized Panel 69: Revisiting the African Frontier at the AEGIS European Conference on African Studies, 4-7 June 2009, Institute of African Studies, Leipzig (pdf: 156KB (PDF, 152 Kb)). In a second step, a workshop was conducted in Ghent in February 2010 where more than a dozen invited papers were discussed (BORDER WORKSHOP 1 (PDF, 330 Kb) and BORDER WORKSHOP 2 (PDF, 335 Kb)). A selection of these papers will be compiled in an edited volume to be submitted to Palgrave in 2011.

CONTESTATION: Space, Contestation and the Political (2010)

?(B Korf, D Featherstone, Glasgow, J van Wezemael, Fribourg)
This project engages recent theoretical debates in political theory that signal the reassertion of notions of antagonism and political contestation, taking Chantal Mouffe’s work (and reading of Carl Schmitt) as starting point. From the emergence of networked resistances to neo-liberalism to the persistence of violent conflicts in many parts of the world contestation continues to be important to what can be called “the political.” A workshop organized in February 2009 in Zurich sought to explore what is at stake in these debates over the relations between space, contestation and the political. Selected papers were pooled into a themed issue submitted to the journal Geoforum (currently under review). (pdf: 123KB (PDF, 119 Kb))

DEVELOPMENT: Negotiating Rural Development at South Asia’s Frontier (SNF- ProDoc; jointly with Ulrike Müller-Böker, Human Geography) (2009-2012)

?(U. Müller-Böker, B. Korf, B. Klem, M. Juninger)
The SNF ProDoc research module on Negotiating Rural Development in South Asia is a joint project with Human Geography and hosts two PhD studies. Bart Klem’s PhD research focuses on the war and post-war transition in eastern Sri Lanka. It takes on a range of interconnected political, ethnic and development issues that feature saliently in this transition. Within this broad canvas of issues, it focuses on the role of the civil service, political entrepreneurs, and religious leaders. In 2010, Bart conducted three months of fieldwork in Sri Lanka and started to draft and submit PhD papers. On a more thematic note, he co-organised a reading and debating seminar on the Anthropology of the State literature, a topic that will be developed further in the coming period. A first article on “Islam, politics and violence” is forthcoming in the Journal of Asian Studies.

FAITH: Conflict, Community and Development in Sri Lanka (2007-2010)?

(B. Korf, B. Klem, J. Goodhand, J. Spencer, K. T. Silva, S. Hasbullah)
This is a collaborative project with the University of Edinburgh, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka which was funded by ESRC. The project funding has come to an end in 2009, but many activities are continuing in this network, which investigates linkages between aid, religion and conflict in the multi-ethnic and multi-religious east coast of Sri Lanka. From July to September 2010, Dr. S.H. Hasbullah, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka joined our research group again and worked on his field material, while discussions were also held with prof. Jonathan Spencer during his short visit to Zurich. The research group continues to work on a joint book project [in preparation for Pluto Press] with the title “Temple, Church, Mosque and Checkpoint: A collaborative ethnography of war and peace in eastern Sri Lanka”.

VIOLENCE: Living with Violence: Rural Livelihoods in Mid-Western Nepal During and After the Maoist People's War (2010-2013)

?(S. Byrne, B. Korf, U. Mueller-Boeker, T. Rauch, B.R. Upreti)
This SNF-funded research project investigates the impacts of different forms of violence, coercion and control on rural livelihoods in Mid-Western Nepal during and after the Maoist conflict. It studies how different social groups and individuals navigate through the difficult social and political terrain of rural Nepal. The initial focus is on understanding the strategies developed by local state and non-state development workers, as well as local businesspeople, for dealing with insecurity, negotiating access and mobility, delivering services - in other words, strategies to continue working. Sarah Byrne conducted two months of field work in Surkhet and Kathmandu in September- November.

Past research projects:

CAPRI: Collective Action and Property Rights for Poverty Reduction in Ethiopia (2004-2007)

?(B Korf, F Beyene, B Hundie, A Bogale, M Mealin, with K Hagedorn, M Padhmanaban,  R Meinzen-Dick, E Mwangi)
This project investigated the nexus of property rights, collective action and fragile statehood in Afar and Somali region, Ethiopia, with a special interest in pastoral communities. The project was a collaborative research endeavor with the Humboldt University of Berlin and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development. The project has been completed in Summer 2007. Outputs from the project include: participation in the Policy dissemination workshop of the overall research programme organized by IFPRI-CAPRi in Uganda (2007); funding of two small field studies in Ethiopia, one investigating the political geographies of resource conflict in Somali region (M Mealin), one studying local resource conflicts (A Bogale); the PhD dissertation of Fekadu Beyene on “Challenges and Options in Governing Common Property: Customary Institutions among (agro-) pastoralists in Ethiopia” (Supervisors: K Hagedorn, B Korf), which has been completed and successfully defended (7 Jan 2008). 

LIVELIHOODS: The Role of Local-Level Institutions for Enhancing Rural Livelihoods in Ethiopia (2003-2005)

?(A Bogale, B Korf, K Hagedorn)
This project investigated rural livelihood strategies of agriculturalists and pastoralists in eastern Ethiopia using quantitative household surveys and qualitative methods.


WAR: Conflict, Space and Institutions: Property Rights and the Political Economy of War in Sri Lanka (PhD) (2000-2004)

(B Korf)
This was my PhD project which studied the everyday practices and livelihood strategies of farmers, fishermen and other „ordinary people“ in the political economy of war in Sri Lanka before and after the 2002 ceasefire agreement. The PhD engaged critically with the greed versus grievance debate in the civil war literature, both theoretically and empirically. The PhD showed that the methodological premises of the economic theory of civil war (greed) are questionable. Empirically, using field work from eastern Sri Lanka, it demonstrated that in the political economy of war, greed and grievance factors are closely intertwined. The book also discusses the ambivalent arena of humanitarian aid in the context of civil war. (pdf: 70KB (PDF, 66 Kb)).

CONFLICT: Conflict – Threat or Opportunity? Land Use and Coping Strategies of War-affected Communities in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka (2001)

?(B Korf with T Flämig, C Schenk, M Ziebell, J Ziegler, R Singarayer, T Sakthivel, A Ratnayake, K Devarajah and D Darmarajah)
This project investigated livelihood and land use strategies of war affected communities in Trincomalee District, Sri Lanka. The study was conducted in a collaboration between the Seminar für Ländliche Entwicklung (SLE) and the Integrated Food Security Programme Trincomalee (IFSP).

FOOD: Food Security and Conflict: A Participatory Development Concept for the IFSP Trincomalee, Sri Lanka (1999)?

(E Bauer, C Bigdon, A Engel, N Ha, B Korf, K Schäfer and E Terzioglu)
This action research developed a participatory development concept for the Integrated Food Security Programme Trincomalee (IFSP), German-Sri Lankan Development Cooperation. The IFSP was operating in the war-affected areas of Sri Lanka.

WATER: Water Supply and Sanitation in Rural Communities of Sunyani District, Ghana (1997)

?(B. Korf)
This was a student project funded by the ASA programme of the Carl-Duisberg-Gesellschaft in collaboration with the German Development Service. The project studied the water supply and sanitation system in two villages in rural Ghana.

MILLS: Socio-economic Evaluation of Rural Water Mill Projects in Mbinga, Tanzania (1996)

?(B Korf)
This student project studied the socio-economic effects of water mill projects in rural Tanzania in collaboration with the Caritas Office of the Diocese of Mbinga.