Ethnology, originally the study of „foreign“– that is, of non-western cultures has evolved into a cultural and social science which, in principle, analyses all societies; it is therefore especially suited to carrying out extensive cultural comparisons of present-day societies.

In the field of ethnology, the Fritz Thyssen Foundation would like to support cultural comparative studies in particular which, without emphasizing a particular region, show that the local context – where one lives and works – has lost none of its importance in influencing the lives of people and nations. At the same time the foundation would like through the projects it supports to heighten our consciousness of the interdependencies which exist between societies and cultures, and which determine our lives to an ever greater extent.

In following these ends, the foundation supports projects which deal with the non-western world as well as projects which, viewed from the defamiliarizing perspective of the ethnologist, throw a fresh look at the problems of developed industrial societies, or devote themselves to the analysis of present-day societies moving towards a market economy, democracy and a state governed by law. The investigations supported by the foundation should be asking systematic questions: the study of particular cases and ethnographic field research will not normally be supported. Particular importance is attached to studies which show how closely the history and present state of western culture is linked with the non-western world. Historical anthropology also has a contribution to make to the analysis of such „connected histories“.

Within the framework of an ethnology such as that described here, studies which concern themselves with the results of the demographic revolution in various regions of the world are given a high priority. We also welcome projects where the questions asked by the „classical“ disciplines are given a new dimension by the inclusion of an ethnological comparison: this applies particularly to the areas of economy and law.