Tobias Schwoerer studied history and social anthropology at the University of Zurich, and received a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Lucerne in 2016. He is currently Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University, funded by an SNF Post-Doc Mobility Grant. Previously he has held positions as Research Assistant and Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Zurich since 2002 and at the University of Lucerne since 2007. He has taught introductory courses in social anthropology, political anthropology and research methods, and held seminars on colonialism, conflict studies, and the anthropology of violence. Since 2008, he is a member of the editorial board of "Tsantsa," the journal of the Swiss Ethnological Association, and responsible for the section "Current Research."

His current research project focuses on strategies of livelihood and decision–making processes in a dynamic and rapidly changing economic environment in the Markham Valley of Papua New Guinea. He investigates how households and kin groups engage with large-scale capitalist projects in the form of mining and industrial tree plantations, and how they continously change and adapt their already quite diversified economic activities in dynamic interactions with local and global markets.

In his PhD thesis, he previously investigated colonial processes of pacification in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea, using a comparative ethno-historical approach to analyze the temporal variations and different outcomes of these processes towards an overarching theory of pacification. He conducted field research in four different villages of the Fore, Auyana and Tairora ethnic groups for sixteen months between 2004 and 2007, and also interviewed former colonial officers to arrive at a polyphonic history of the colonial encounter. At the same time, he collected data on contemporary forms of conflict, sorcery and warfare.


Research Priorities

Thematic interests
·         Political anthropology
·         Economic anthropology
·         Historical anthropology
·         Resource extraction and resource conflicts
·         Household Decision-making
·         Anthropology of the state
·         (Post-)colonialism
·         Anthropology of violence and warfare
·         Processes of pacification
·         Sorcery and witchcraft

Regional interests 
·         Oceania (Papua New Guinea) 

Research projects

Current projects

  • „Constellations and Processes of Pacification in Comparative Perspective“ (together with Prof. J. Helbling)
  • „Livelihood Strategies and Decision-Making Processes about Engagements with Markets and Large-scale Capitalist Projects among the Wampar in Papua New Guinea“ (Post-Doc Project)