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Study European ethnology at the KU

Subject and content

European ethnology is a discipline of cultural studies that analyzes every-day, popular and mass cultural phenomena in European societies in the past and present. Culture – a key term in ethnology – is understood as the processes through which people (groups, societies) deal with one another, understand each other, organize themselves, and shape their living and experiential spaces. In doing so they often unconsciously make use of patterns of orientation that have been passed down to them, or draw on them intentionally and change them, or develop new strategies that are adapted to modernization processes and associated social change. European ethnology looks at the natural, every-day cultural practices that are created through this process and how they shape people’s lives in a wide range of population groups. While the main focus is on developments in the 19th to the 21st century, the early modern period also provides important insights into factors that have had long-term cultural effects.

Studies often focus on specific examples of small, clearly defined areas. At the same time, against the background of increasing cultural contact and transfer, supraregional and global developments are also considered. This approach is required in order to obtain a targeted, critical view and understanding of cultural contexts and cultural change in our ‘own’ and in other societies.

European ethnology works with methods from historical criticism and qualitative empirical research: content, image, object, and discourse analysis; participant observation; qualitative interviews; etc.


  • Curiosity and interest in discovering different ways of life
  • Interest in the every-day life of and every-day phenomena in historical and contemporary societies
  • Willingness to consider and question things that you consider familiar as well as the unknown


The Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs provide basic and advanced knowledge of the variety and complexity of cultures in Europe, their historical developments, their social relationships, and their regional characteristics. Students develop an understanding of intercultural and transcultural processes in present-day Europe.

Over the course of their studies, they deepen their knowledge of these processes in selected topics and areas of research, such as custom and ritual research, religious and piety research, migration research, the social history of regional cultures, and material cultures and their representations.


Students gain practical skills that enable them to recognize social issues and to explain current and historical social phenomena using methods of cultural analysis and interpretation.

Career prospects

The degree programs in European ethnology do not aim to prepare students for a specific profession. Instead, they are able to develop their individual profiles over the course of their studies on the basis of their future plans and possible career paths.

Depending on their interests and strengths, graduates may pursue careers in areas such as public and independent cultural work, museum or exhibition work, journalism and media, or adult education. Graduates of the Master’s degree program may also work in research and academia and are qualified to pursue doctoral studies (Dr. phil.).

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