Erich Kasten

Dr. phil.

Kulturstiftung Sibirien gemeinnützige GmbH
Uferweg 4, 16798 Fürstenberg/Havel
Tel. ++4933093-60671 • Fax ++49.30263917303637 kasten@kulturstiftung-sibirien.de 
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Curriculum vitae

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.