Prof. Dr. Carola Lentz: Biography

Prof. Dr. Carola Lentz Photo: Goethe-Institut / Loredana La Rocca

Born on 21.04.1954 in Braunschweig

Short biography
Carola Lentz, born in Braunschweig in 1954, studied sociology, political science, German and education at the University of Göttingen and at Freie Universität Berlin. In 1987 she earned her doctorate at the University of Hanover und qualified as professor (Habilitation) in 1996 at the Freie Universität Berlin. From 1996 until 2002 she was professor of anthropology at Goethe University Frankfurt, and from 2002 until 2019 at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, where she is currently senior research professor. She served as president of the German Anthropological Association (2011-2015) and vice-president of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (2018-2020). Visiting professorships and fellowships have taken her to France, the Netherlands, the United States and South Africa. As a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (Institute for Advanced Study Berlin) she led a focus group on the subject of Family History and Social Change in West Africa (2017-2018). Her research interests include ethnicity, nationalism, colonialism, politics of remembrance, middle classes in the Global South and labour migration. She conducted field research first in South America and, since 1987, regularly in West Africa. Her publications include Land, Mobility and Belonging in West Africa (2013) and Remembering Independence (2018).

Education and professional career
  • 1972‑1979 Studied sociology, political science, German and education at the University of Göttingen and Freie Universität Berlin (first state examination for teaching at grammar schools)
  • 1979‑1980 Studied sociology at the University of Göttingen
  • 1981‑1982 Teaching internship and second state examination for teaching at grammar schools in Hamburg
  • 1982‑1985  Postgraduate course in agricultural sciences of the tropics and subtropics, University of Göttingen (degree: Magister)
  • 1987 Doctorate in sociology at the University of Hanover
  • 1987‑1992 Lecturer at the Department of Anthropology at the Freie Universität Berlin
  • 1992 Lecturer at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Marseille (ERASMUS programme)
  • 1996 Qualified as professor at the Freie Universität Berlin (Habilitation)
  • 1996–2002 Professor of anthropology at the Department of Historical Anthropology at the Goethe University Frankfurt
  • 2002‑2019 Professor of anthropology at the Department of Anthropology and African Studies, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
  • Since 2019 Senior research professor at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
Fellowships and awards
  • Fellow at the International Research Center Work and Human Life Cycle at Humboldt Universität zu Berlin (2020 and 2012‑2013)
  • Fellow at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study, South Africa (2019)
  • Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, head of the focus group Family History and Social Change in West Africa (2017–2018)
  • Fellow at the Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg, Delmenhorst (2015)
  • Melville J. Herskovits Prize of the African Studies Association for the book Land, Mobility and Belonging in West Africa (2014)
  • Granted a chieftaincy title (Maalu Naa) in the Nandom Traditional Area, Ghana, Upper West Region (2013)
  • Fellow at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research and Fulbright scholar at Harvard University (2008‑2009)
  • Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle/Saale (2003)
  • Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences, Wassenaar (2000–2001)
  • Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study and Research in the African Humanities, Northwestern University, Evanston (1993)
Offices and memberships
Carola Lentz is president of the Goethe-Institut as from mid-November 2020. She is a member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities and of the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. She is also a member of the advisory committee of the German Federal Cultural Foundation and of the scientific advisory board of the Museu Nacional Vive Project in Rio de Janeiro. She was furthermore a member of the academic advisory board of the Einstein Center Chronoi (2018-2019), secretary of the class of social sciences of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (2016-2018), vice president of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (2018-2020) and chair of the German Anthropological Association (2011-2015). She was also a co-editor of the Zeitschrift für Ethnologie (2011-2015) and sat on the editorial boards of many other international journals.

Publications (selection)

Monographs and edited volumes

2018. Remembering Independence. London: Routledge (with David Lowe).
2013. Land, Mobility and Belonging in West Africa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
2013. Ethnologie im 21. Jahrhundert. Berlin: Reimer (ed. with Thomas Bierschenk, Matthias Krings).
2011. Staatsinszenierung, Erinnerungsmarathon und Volksfest. Afrika feiert 50 Jahre Unabhängigkeit. Frankfurt a. M.: Brandes & Apsel (ed. with Godwin Kornes).
2006. Ethnicity and the Making of History in Northern Ghana. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP.
2003. Histoire du peuplement et relations interethniques au Burkina Faso. Paris: Karthala (ed. with Richard Kuba, Claude Nurukyor Somda).
2000. Ethnicity in Ghana: The Limits of Invention. London: Macmillan (ed. with Paul Nugent).
1999. Changing Food Habits: Case Studies from Africa, South America and Europe. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers.
1988. ‘Von seiner Heimat kann man nicht lassen’. Migration in einer Dorfgemeinde in Ecuador. Frankfurt a. M.: Campus.

2020. Doing being middle-class in the global South: comparative perspectives and conceptual challenges. Africa 90 (3), 2020: 439‑69.
2020. Wissenschaftskooperationen mit dem globalen Süden. Herausforderungen, Potentiale und Zukunftsvisionen. Denkanstöße aus der Akademie. Eine Schriftenreihe der Berlin-Brandenburgischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 3 (with Andrea Noll).
2020. Embodying the nation: the production of sameness and difference in national-day parades. Ethnography 21 (4): 506–536 (with Marie-Christin Gabriel, Konstanze N’Guessan).
2019. Unabhängigkeit und Erinnerungspolitik. Federal Agency for Civic Education.
2017. Culture: the making, unmaking and remaking of an anthropological concept. Zeitschrift für Ethnologie 142: 181‑204.
2017. „Kakube has come to stay“: the making of a cultural festival in Northern Ghana, 1989‑2015. Africa 87: 180−210 (with Trevor Wiggins).
2017. Die Aufführung der Nation und die Einhegung von Ethnizität in afrikanischen Nationalfeiern. In: Stefan Hirschauer (ed.), Un/doing differences. Praktiken der Humandifferenzierung. Weilerswist: Velbrück, 119−43.
2017. Vielstimmigkeit, Differenzpolitik und Konflikte. Contribution to the Blog „Kulturrelativismus und Aufklärung. Eine Debatte über den Umgang mit Fremdem“. Global Studies Center Cologne.
2016. „Jeder hat seinen Platz“. Differenzpolitik und Raumordnung in afrikanischen Nationalfeiern (with Marie-Christin Gabriel, Konstanze N’Guessan). Sociologus 66: 105−36.
2013. The 2010 independence jubilees: the politics and aesthetics of national commemoration in Africa. Nations and Nationalism 19: 217−37.
2013. Ghana@50: celebrating the nation, debating the nation. Cahiers d’Études Africaines 211: 519−46.
2012. Education, careers and home ties: the ethnography of an emerging middle class from Northern Ghana (with Andrea Behrends). Zeitschrift für Ethnologie 137: 139−64.

An exhaustive list of publications can be viewed at