Rune Steenberg

Interact Postdoctoral Research Scholar
Columbia University
12th Floor, International Affairs Building, Harriman Institute
212 854-4623

Rune Steenberg is a trained anthropologist and human geographer. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. from Freie Universität Berlin and has subsequently been a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Dahlem Research School of Freie Universität Berlin and Crossroads Asia Fellow at Bonn University. Steenberg has done research in Kyrgyzstan and Xinjiang since 2007. In southern Kyrgyzstan, he examined social interaction around the annual walnut harvest and the networks of Uyghur traders from western Xinjiang. He has followed these networks to their villages of origin around Kashgar city, where he found marriages to be a central institution for their success in business and more generally social organization beyond markets and state institutions. At the center of Rune’s research is a focus on conceptualizations of social relations and their expression and constitution in spatial, bodily, verbal and exchange practices. 

During his time in Berlin Steenberg has taught courses on the history of anthropological theory, methods of social anthropology, methods of human geography and Uyghur language. At the Harriman Institute, Steenberg will explore nuances in the language of giving at life cycle rituals in a more comparative perspective across Post-Soviet and Chinese Central Asia and its multiplex interaction with state institutions. As an extension of this research he has recently started to explore the meanings and social significance of money lending, money transfer, monetization and financialization among Uyghurs in Xinjiang and beyond. A further strand of his research interest concerns the historical development of Uyghur kinship practices and conceptualizations in Xinjiang. Steenberg has also been working in eastern China and Indonesia.
His publications include: “Crossing at Irkeshtam. Kinship and Border Trade Between Kyrgyzstan and China,” in the edited volume Tracing Connections (2014) by Andreas Benz and Henryk Alff and “Tausch und Kategorien bei der Nussernte in Kyzyl Üngkür” in Mensch und Umwelt in Kirgistan (2014), edited by Matthias Schmidt, as well as the Crossroads Asia Working Paper “Network or Community? Two tropes for Analysing Social Relations among Uyghur Traders in Kyrgyzstan” (2014), “The transforming House — Changing Spatiality and Genealogy of ’the House’ in Kashgar” in Mobiles Asia Forum.