Groningen-Frankfurt Millets Network

Foto: Roland HardenbergProjektleitung: Peter Berger & Roland Hardenberg

The Groningen-Frankfurt Millets Network was founded in 2018 by Peter Berger (Groningen) and Roland Hardenberg (Frankfurt). The network's founding idea is to connect scholars interested in the study of millets in their respective sociocultural contexts across regions and time. Currently the network comprises members of both universities, covering disciplines such as anthropology, archaeology, archaeobotany and ecology.

For further information please contact:

Peter Berger: p.berger[at]
Roland Hardenberg: hardenberg[at]





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13012012PeterBergerFGG01Photo: Elmer Spaargaren








Peter Berger is Associate Professor of Indian Religions and the Anthropology of Religion at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Groningen. His interest in millets has developed through his long-term ethnographic research in highland Central India. The plateau of the Eastern Ghats (belonging to the Koraput district of Odisha) is home of a number of indigenous communities that cultivate both wet rice and millets. The complementarity of these two main staple cereals is deeply rooted in local life-worlds, embedded in the social order and manifest in ritual practices. Among the publications that discuss these aspects are his monograph “Feeding, Sharing and Devouring: Ritual and Society in Highland Odisha, India” (de Gruyter 2015). Other relevant publications include: (2003) “Erdmenschen und Flussbräute: Natur, Umwelt und Gesellschaft in Orissa, Indien”, Baessler Archiv 51: 7-24 and (in press, with R. Hardenberg) “Cereal Belongings – a cultural perspective on cereals as resource”, Paideuma: Journal of Cultural Anthropology, 64. His ongoing interests include the comparative study of agriculture and religion in Central India as well as the investigation of the dynamics of both resilience and change in these fields.


CappersPhoto: Private









René Cappers is professor of Archaeobotany at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen and the Leiden University. He studied biology at Groningen University and specialized in plant ecology and archaeobotany. His PhD thesis deals with methodological aspects of archaeobotanical research. Postdoctoral projects concerned the study of the modeling of the transition to early farming in the Near East and the Roman trade with Africa south of the Sahara, Arabia and India. Currently, his interest if focused on the reconstruction of the former food economy with special emphasis on the modeling of crop selection. Recent research deals with the standardization of concepts related to (1) the morphology of plant units that are produced in agriculture and to (2) the processes that are involved in crop processing and food preparation. His study was initially focused on the founder crops of southwest Asia (wheat and barley in particular). Recently, he also started to study crops that have been domesticated in India and Africa south of the Sahara. The millet project perfectly fits into this new challenging enterprise. Cappers, R.T.J. (2018): Digital atlas of traditional food made from cereals and milk (book and website of University Library Groningen). Groningen Archaeological Studies no. 33. Groningen: Barkhuis & Groningen University Library. Cappers, R.T.J., R. Neef, R.M. Bekker, F. Fantone & Y. Okur (2016): Digital atlas of traditional agricultural practices and food processing (book and website of University Library Groningen). Groningen Archaeological Studies no. 30. Groningen: Barkhuis & Groningen University Library.

Champoin Louis 1Photo: Nicolas Nikis

Louis Champion is a tropical archaeobotanist and archaeologist. He has been working in West Africa (Benin, Mali, Ghana and Senegal), East Africa (Uganda, Madagascar, Zanzibar, and Comoros), Central Africa (DR Congo and PR Congo) and in Asia (Myanmar, Bangladesh and Thailand). He has recently completed a PhD, at the institute of archaeology at University College of London (UCL), on archaeobotanical remains along the Niger River Basin, with a strong focus on ethnobotanical and ethnoarchaeological understanding. He has also been working on millets more widely in Africa and beyond. His research examines the evolution of the agricultural and food economies that supported the communities that gave rise to complex societies in West Africa, as well as the agricultural systems that sustained the succeeding polities around the Niger River Valley. One of the major goals of his researches is to reconstruct the evolution of food and beer systems, including both production and consumption. This aim goes beyond simply documenting the arrival of new practices or new crop taxa. It also addresses the consumption practices that these crops gave rise to, and how they became embedded in the social, economic, political and environmental history of past African societies. Currently he is a researcher (Post-Doc) on the Nok Project at the Department of Pre- and Proto-historical Archaeology, Institute of Archaeological Sciences at Goethe University. He is also associate researchers at the Royal Museum of Central Africa, Tervuren in Belgium and external collaborator in Anthropology and ethno-archeology at the Department of Genetics & Evolution, university of Biology, Geneva Switzerland.


Diawara FoA D700 20170524 014 FI steiPhoto: Frobenius Institute

Mamadou Diawara is professor at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology of the Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, since 2004. He is Director of the Centre for Interdisciplinary African Studies (ZIAF). He also is Deputy Director of the Frobenius-Institute for Research in Anthropology. Before 2004 he taught at Yale University as well as the University of Georgia, USA (2002-2003). He is principal investigator (PI) for the Cluster of Excellence research project The Formation of Normative Orders at Frankfurt University. He is PI at for the Africa’s Asian Options funded by the BMBF at the Frankfurt University (AFRASO) and the founding director of Point Sud, The Centre for research on local knowledge in Bamako, Mali. He is council member of the International African Institute in London. He had several fellowships at renowned institutions such as the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS), the Institute for Advanced Study in Nantes. He was John G. Diefenbaker fellow at the Université Laval, Canada. Diawara’s research focuses on oral tradition and history, as well as the media, the relations between Asia and Africa, migration and development issues in sub-Saharan Africa.


Susanne Epple bildPhoto: Private

Susanne Epple is a researcher at the Frobenius Institute in Frankfurt/Main currently engaged in a DFG project on legal pluralism in Ethiopia. Since 1994 she has done extensive fieldwork in Bashada, southern Ethiopia, on issues related to gender and age, social discourse and identity, and has gained MA and PhD degrees in Social Anthropology from Mainz University. From 2007 to 2015 she taught Social Anthropology at Addis Abba University, and supervised and examined numerous MA and PhD theses based on research in different parts of the country. Between 2012 and 2015 she also worked on marginalized groups for a project located at Hamburg University. Her publications include numerous articles, a special issue and three books on Ethiopia, including two recently edited volumes: Creating and Crossing Boundaries in Ethiopia: Dynamics of Social Categorization and Differentiation (2014) and The State of Status Groups in Ethiopia: Minorities between Marginalization and Integration (2018). In the planned project, Epple will explore changes and continuities in the social and ritual meaning of sorghum among selected societies of southern Ethiopia, with a special focus on related concepts of purity and impurity.



Nick G PortraitPhoto: Mirko Krenzel for VolkswagenStiftung

Nikolas Gestrich is a Junior Research Group leader at the Frobenius Institute. He is an archaeologist specialising in the emergence and nature of complex societies in West Africa. His current research interests lie in the relationship of Archaeology and other historical disciplines in the African past, and in the history of cities and states in the Ségou region of Mali. Within the “contested millets” project, Nikolas’ emphasis is on material cultural expression and settlement patterns which accompany past crop regimes.

 hahn hpPhoto: Ronja Metzger

Hans P. Hahn is Professor for Anthropology with special focus on Africa at Goethe University of Frankfurt a. M. His research interests are oriented towards material culture, consumption and the impact of globalization on non-western societies. He edited a book on “Consumption in Africa” (Lit, 2008), focussing on household economies and agriculture in the West African Savanna. He participated in a research programme on globalization in Africa (2000-2007), investigating the many roles of “global goods” in West Africa. Until spring 2019, he was speaker of the research training group “Value and Equivalency” at Goethe-University. In this context, he participated in the organization of several exhibitions on human action and materiality. Other ongoing research initiatives are linked with polysemic approaches to material culture studies.
Hans P. Hahn’s recent publications include an edited volume on the “Obstinacy of Things” (Neofelis 2015) and on “Marcel Mauss’ writings on money “(Suhrkamp 2015).


Karen HahnPhoto: Dr. Wolfgang Staudt

Karen Hahn is a Senior Researcher at the Institute of Ecology, Evolution and Diversity, Faculty of Biological Sciences, Goethe-University. She is a vegetation ecologist conducting research in Africa since the 1990th with a strong focus on West African savannas. Her scientific interests comprise the fields of ecology and plant diversity in savanna ecosystems under climate change and land use impact as well as ethnobotanical research on the use and valuation of wild plant species and their sustainable use. Her special focus in regard to millets is to evaluate the impact of current shifts from these dominant staple crops to cash crop cultivation in West African savanna areas. The aim is to achieve a better understanding how wild food availabilities closely interconnected with millet farming change under commercial agriculture expansion and which implications this has for smallholders’ wild food provisioning and strategies in regard to wild food tree species.


Hardenberg FoA D700 20170523 031 FI steiPhoto: Frobenius Institute

Roland Hardenberg is professor at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology of the Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main, Germany. He is also Director of the Frobenius-Institute for Research in Cultural Anthropology which hosts one of the most important collections of rock art worldwide. His previous research focused on Hindu rituals (The Renewal of Jagannatha’s Body, 2011), society and religion of an Indian tribal community (Children of the Earth Goddess, 2018) and death commemoration practices in Kyrgyzstan (ed. Approaching Ritual Economy, 2017). As a co-founder of the “Frankfurt-Groningen Millet network” he is currently engaged in research on the cultural meaning of cereals. During previous research among the Dongria Kond of Odisha he realized the impact of subsidized rice on millet cultivation. When rice was accepted as a staple food, it began to substitute millet on festive occasions and the number of rice fields increased. Rice became an alternative to millet in a variety of contexts: as offering to gods and object of worship, as gift to friends and relatives, as food for daily and ceremonial contexts. In his research, he raises the question what wider impacts the choice for rice has.
His publications on millet and rice include (2018) “Grains as socio-cosmic resources in Odisha/India and Beyond: Rice and Millet in Competition.” Paideuma: Journal of Cultural Anthropology 64: 265-283 and (2016) “Beyond Economy and Religion. Resources and Socio-cosmic Fields in Odisha, India.” Religion and Society: Advances in Research 7: 83-96.


marzolff photo C HeylPhoto: C. Heyl

Irene Marzolff is Senior Lecturer & Researcher at the Institute of Physical Geography at Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main. She is a remote sensing/GIS specialist who has worked on high-resolution remote sensing methods for studying land degradation and erosion since 1995, mostly using unmanned aerial systems (UAS), and has co-authored an Elsevier textbook on "Small-format Aerial Photography and UAS Imagery" (2019). She has a strong focus on semi-arid landscapes undergoing land-use changes, such as marginal dry-farming areas in Spain, agro-industrial landscapes and agroforestry systems in Morocco, and smallholder-farming areas with millet and mustard cropping in reclaimed erosional badlands of India (doi:10.1002/esp.4266). Her research within the millet network will focus on UAV and satellite mapping of the crop types and tree populations patterns in West African smallholder agroforestry systems that are currently undergoing a shift from millet staple crops to cash crop cultivation. The aim is to analyse how commercial agriculture expansion impacts on traditional millet and sorghum agroforestry systems and their related ecosystem services.

 Katharina Neumann IMG 0282Photo: Barbara Voss

Katharina Neumann is professor of African archaeobotany at the Institute for Archaeological Sciences of Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main. Her research concentrates on ancient diet, the transition from foraging to farming, and the development of early agricultural systems in West and Central Africa. Another focus lies on vegetation change in relation to climatic fluctuations and human impact during the last 12.000 years in Africa. During the last 30 years, she and her working group have conducted basic archaeobotanical research on ancient plant exploitation and the development of agriculture in several West and Central African countries, especially Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Mali, Cameroon and DR Congo ( She and her colleagues have build up a large archaeobotanical comparative collection of African plants which is frequenty visited by international researchers for the identification of archaeological plant remains.  Her interest in millets is concentrated mainly on pearl millet (Cenchrus americanus, syn. Pennisetum americanum), the most ancient African crop plant, and on smaller wild and domesticated grass species. Katharina Neumann has published books and numerous articles on ancient African plant exploitation, most recently in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia about the development of plant food production in the West African savannas (doi: 10.1093/acrefore/9780190277734.013.138). She teaches basic and advanced courses in archaeobotany, with a focus on the worldwide emergence of agriculture


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Sophia Thubauville is researcher and head of library at the Frobenius Institute, Frankfurt am Main. She obtained her PhD on questions of gender and agency among the Maale of southern Ethiopia from the University of Mainz. She has been undertaking extensive field research in southern Ethiopia since 2002 and codirected the South Omo Research Center in Jinka in 2009/2010. Recent publications include the edited volumes ‘Cultural Research in Northeastern Africa. German Histories and Stories’ (2015), ‘Seeking out wise old men. Six decades of Ethiopian Studies at the Frobenius Institute revisited’ (2017), and ‘Anthropology as Homage. Festschrift for Ivo Strecker’ (2018). Her current research interests focus on Indian educators in Ethiopia, making archival material accessible in Ethiopian Studies, and informal savings and insurance associations. Her research within the millet network will focus on the ritual embeddedness of sorghum and the social hierarchy of crops in southern Ethiopia.




International Workshop Contested Millets in Asia and Africa: Past and Present, March 28th-29th 2019, Groningen

Workshop Contested Millets in Asia and Africa, May 18th-19th 2018, Frankfurt am Main


Latest news

Millets: ancient crops for the future
University of Groningen, 18 May 2020