Erich Kasten

 kasten [at]


Erich Kasten was born in 1949 in Muenster, Westfalia. He first studied economics at the Free University of Berlin, where he later received his PhD with the distinction summa cum laude in Social and Cultural Anthropology, specializing in Scandinavian and American studies. His dissertation addressed cultural dynamics in reindeer herding among the Sami of northern Scandinavia. A subsequent post-doctoral grant from the German Research Foundation (DFG) brought him to the First Nations of Canada's Pacific northwest coast, where he studied most notably their elaborate ceremonial systems. Through collaborations with Native artists, he mounted his exhibition “Maskentaenze der Kwakiutl,” which was displayed in 1989/90 at the Ethnological Museum in  Berlin.

The drastic political upheavals of those years opened up new research opportunities, inducing Kasten to direct his research toward the peoples of Siberia and the Russian Far East. After studying Russian in St. Petersburg, in 1993 he began his first research project in Kamchatka, funded by the DFG and aimed at understanding ethnicity processes among that region's indigenous peoples. In the following years, this initial project evolved into a comprehensive research program encompassing nearly all cultural aspects of the peoples of Kamchatka: the Itelmens, Evens and Koryaks. From 1989 to 1998, Kasten was also a lecturer at the Free University of Berlin, and he curated a variety of exhibitions. From 2000 to 2002 he was coordinator of the newly established Siberia research group at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle/Saale. From that base, he conducted field research on post-socialist socio-economic transformations in Siberia and organized international conferences. From 2003 to 2004, he was the team leader of a UNESCO project on the documentation of traditional ecological knowledge relating to sustainable development in Kamchatka. Subsequently, as a DFG-funded expert at the Ethnological Museum in Berlin, he investigated more closely ways of preserving and enhancing native art and crafts traditions. Meanwhile, he also documented and studied native song and dance traditions and organized tours in Europe for ensembles from Kamchatka. Based on the experiences and results of his wide-ranging ethnological research, he curated the German-Russian exhibition “Schamanen Sibiriens” at the Linden-Museum in Stuttgart from 2007 to 2009.

From the outset, Erich Kasten has drawn the connections between his scientific research and practical applications of the documented indigenous knowledge. In 2010 he founded the Foundation for Siberian Cultures, which has enabled him even more effectively to utilize his expertise and pursue his main aim of preserving endangered cultural heritage and sustaining cultural diversity. Along with his own publications, the activities of the foundation’s publishing house have become his special focus. Using his own video recordings, and in collaboration with native experts, he produces printed and multimedia learning tools in the relevant indigenous languages. Each year he defines one or more themes for the Foundation for Siberian Cultures. After discussing them in depth at workshops, he produces edited volumes that reflect the intended interdisciplinary and crosscultural discourse. Kasten’s involvement in these international research projects reflects his strong commitment to applying academic knowledge to the needs and interests of indigenous communities.



  • November 4, 1971: cand. rer. pol. in Economics, Freie Universität Berlin
  • January 13, 1984: Dr. phil. in Ethnology, Native American ("Altamerikanistik") and Scandinavian Studies, "summa cum laude", Freie Universität Berlin. Dissertation : Kulturwandel bei den Samen. Ethnohistorische Untersuchungen zum Kulturkontakt in Schwedisch-Lappland.


  • 2014 : Consultant, film project “Chamissos Schatten”, directed by Ulrike Ottinger, Berlin.
  • 2012-2014 : Consultant, team leader for the Siberian group within the project Mathematics in Cultural Context, sponsored by the National Science Foundation. University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
  • 2010 : Director, Foundation for Siberian Cultures / Kulturstiftung Sibirien, Fürstenberg/Havel.
  • 2007-2009 : Project manager and curator for the exhibition "Schamanen Sibiriens" at the Linden-Museum in Stuttgart, in cooperation with the Russian Museum of Ethnography in St.Petersburg.
  • 2005 : Curator of special exhibition "Offen für das Fremde – Kunst und Kultur aus Kamtschatka" at the Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin.
  • 2003-2004 : UNESCO consultant (Team leader on Traditional Ecological Knowledge in the Russian North).
  • 2003-2004 : Research Associate at the State Museum of Ethnology, München.
  • 2001-2003 : Research Associate at the Museum of Ethnology, Berlin.
  • 2000-2002 : Coordinator of the Siberia Research Group at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle.
  • 1996-2002 : Project-coordinator, Franckesche Stiftungen, Halle:
    • Workshop and summer school programme in Central Kamchatka (2000-2002)
    • Exhibition: Kinderzeichnungen aus Sibirien und von der Nordpazifikküste (1998)
    • International Symposium: Bicultural Education in the North (1997)
    • Exhibition: Steller und die Itelmenen (1996)
  • 1999 : Project-coordinator, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin:
    • workshop/performance: Stimmen des Nordens – Spuren der Schamanen (Tanztheater Nulgur, Kamchatka).
  • 1989-1998 : Lecturer, Institut für Ethnologie der Freien Universität Berlin.
  • 1993-1997 : Research Associate at the Institut für Ethnologie der Freien Universität Berlin, Researcher and Project-coordinator:
    • Ethnicity among the Peoples of the Russian North and Far East (Kamchatka) (1993-1997, funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Bonn)
    • Natural Resources on the West Coast of Kamchatka: A Resource Assessment Study on the State of the Environment and its Potential for Local Development with Regard to the Traditional Territory of the Itelmen People (1995-1996, funded by INTAS, EU).
  • 1992 : Project-coordinator (with M. Dürr and E. Renner), Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin:
    • Exhibition: Franz Boas – Ethnologe, Sprachwissenschaftler, Anthropologe : Ein Wegbereiter der modernen Wissenschaft vom Menschen.
  • 1989-1990 : Project-coordinator, Museum für Völkerkunde Berlin SMPK:
    • Exhibition: Maskentänze der Kwakiutl: Tradition und Wandel in einem indianischen Dorf.
  • 1988 : Research Affiliate, University of Victoria, B.C.:
    • Project title: Reserve and Off-Reserve Indian Interaction on the Northwest Coast.



  • 2001-2003 : Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Bonn : Project title: Variationen von Kultur: Umsetzung eines ethnologischen Paradigmas anhand der Sibiriensammlung des Ethnologischen Museums Berlin
  • 1998 : Center for Environmental Research and Conservation (CERC), Columbia University, New York : Project title: Economic Revitalization and Environmental Conservation in Kamchatka: The Historical Dynamics of Traditional Resource Use.
  • 1985-1987 : Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Bonn : Project title: The Potlatch of the Northwest Coast First Nations.


University Teaching

1989-1998 Courses with regional focus on the circumpolar North at the Institut für Ethnologie der Freien Universität Berlin on:

  • Contact history, cultural continuity and change
  • Native arts and ceremonial life
  • First Nations self-government
  • Sustainable resource management
  • Native education



  • July 18 - August 4, 2010 : 250 years of German-Russian Research on the Nature of Kamtchatka and the Cultures of its Indigenous Peoples (Dom kul'tury, Ossora; Central House of Culture "Seroglazka", in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski, 16.09.2010, Kamchatka)
  • December 13, 2008 - June 28, 2009 : Schamanen Sibiriens – Magier, Mittler, Heiler (Linden-Museum, Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde, Stuttgart)
  • January 29 - April 2, 2005 : Offen für das Fremde: Kunst und Kultur aus Kamtschatka (Zentral- und Landesbibliothek, Berlin)
  • July 24, 2003 - January 15, 2005 : Zwischen Tundra und Meeresküste: Korjaken und Evenen im Fernen Osten Russlands. In: Unterwegs - Nomaden früher und heute (Westfälisches Museum für Naturkunde, Münster)
  • November 10, 1998 - January 15, 1999 / November 1999 - June 2000) : Kinderzeichnungen aus Sibirien und von der Nordpazifikküste (Franckesche Stiftungen zu Halle / Überseemuseum Bremen)
  • June 15, 1996 - January 15, 1997 : Steller und die Itelmenen (Franckesche Stiftungen zu Halle)
  • March 27-28, 1995 : Die Itelmenen auf Kamtschatka (photo exhibition for the conference "Unendliche Taiga", World Climate Summit '95 in Berlin)
  • December 17, 1992 - March 6, 1993 : Franz Boas - Ethnologe, Sprachwissenschaftler, Anthropologe: Ein Wegbereiter der modernen Wissenschaft vom Menschen (Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin), with M. Dürr and E. Renner.
  • February 14 - May 6, 1990 : Maskentänze der Kwakiutl: Tradition und Wandel in einem indianischen Dorf (Museum für Völkerkunde Berlin SMPK)


Conferences and Workshops

  • June 8-11, 2012 : Die wissenschaftliche Erschließung des Fernen Osten Russlands durch deutschsprachige Forscher im 18. und 19. Jahrhundert, convened by E. Kasten. (Kulturstiftung Sibirien, Fürstenberg)
  • October 2-6, 2011 and January 5-8, 2012 : Preserving Endangered Languages and Local Knowledge. Learning tools and community initiatives in cross-cultural discussion, convened by E. Kasten. (Kulturstiftung Sibirien, Fürstenberg)
  • April 15-17, 2008 : Folklore and art traditions of the peoples of northern Kamchatka. Workshop on preserving and enhancing song and dance traditions,convened by A. Urkachan and E. Kasten. (Dom kul'tury, Ossora,
  • Kamchatka)
  • July 1-2, 2002 : A World of Cultures: Culture as Property in Anthropological Perspective (International Conference at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle)
  • November 8-9, 2000 : Postsocialisms in the Russian North (International Conference at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle)
  • August 20-27, 2000 : Children of the North: Lessons of culture. Workshop on bicultural education & children's dance festival (Sputnik, Oryakan, Shkolnye Gody), convened by Erich Kasten, with assistance of G. Fedotova, A. Savchenko, E. Zlotnikova, supported by the "Franckesche Stiftungen", Halle/Saale. (Dom kul'tury, Esso, Kamchatka)
  • December 13-15, 1997 : Bicultural Education in the North: Ways of Preserving and Enhancing Indigenous Peoples' Languages and Traditional Knowledge (International Conference at the Franckesche Stiftungen zu Halle)
  • April 5, 1995 : International Workshop on Sustainable Development from the Indigenous Peoples' Point of View (Institut für Ethnologie der Freien Universität Berlin, in connection with the World Climate Summit '95)


Download the CV : CV Erich Kasten 2019.pdf


Last revision: January 2019