Erich Kolig

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Erich Kolig
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  • Austrian
  • New Zealander
  • Austria and New Zealand
  • Anthropologist
  • Writer
  • Academic

Erich Kolig is an Austrian–New Zealand cultural and social anthropologist who has taught at universities in New Zealand, Austria and Australia.[1] His research spans nearly 50 years and has focussed on Muslim and Islamic social and religious issues, Australian Aboriginal culture and many other issues. Kolig has written and edited 13 books, as well as publishing many scientific papers and book chapters.


Erich Kolig read social, cultural and physical anthropology, philosophy, psychology and medicine at the University of Vienna, gaining a PhD in 1969 with a thesis on the body-soul conceptions among New Guinea Papuans, using the methodology of ethnoscience. In 1968 he performed his first field work in Afghanistan as a graduate student, studying matters of Islamic and Muslim society.[2]

In 1970, Kolig shifted his focus to the Kimberley (Western Australia) region of Western Australia.[3] There he took up a research fellowship at the University of Western Australia, sponsored by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies in Canberra. This fellowship allowed Kolig to undertake field research in the Kimberley region, the northernmost part of Western Australia. Here his focus was on religious change, and this lead to his first book, The Silent Revolution: The Effects of Modernisation on Australian Aboriginal Religion (1981).[2] In 1973, Kolig became a government anthropologist with professional responsibility for the northern half of the state of Western Australia. While the general and professional view at that time was that Aboriginal culture was fast disappearing, in this capacity as a government official Kolig was among the first to draw attention to the rising Aboriginal cultural renaissance, to predict the future survival of the indigenous religion and the important role it would play in land rights claims.

At the end of 1974, Kolig accepted a lectureship at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, where he stayed until his early retirement in 2006. During this time he also taught several times as a visiting professor at his alma mater in Vienna. In between there were also several stints as visiting fellow at various Australian universities, where Kolig drew on his experience in Australian Aboriginal studies. In this capacity, at various times, he acted as consultant to the WA Housing Commission, to mining companies (to map sacred sites and advise on their preservation) and to the West Australian Attorney General's Office and the Premier's Office in matters of native title claims (Aboriginal land rights).

At times Kolig's interests assumed a Pacific focus (Māori people and Pacific indigenous politics, especially in Vanuatu where he studied charismatic movements). In the 1990s his interests turned to Islamic matters and the study of Muslim society, which linked him back to his first field work in Afghanistan in 1969. He became interested in radical Islam in Indonesia and in multicultural situations in which Muslims constitute a minority. Kolig undertook research in New Zealand, Indonesia and Austria to gather material for several books and numerous chapters and articles, and also drew on his travel experience in the Middle East and North Africa. Based on intensive research he produced the first comprehensive study of the Muslim community in New Zealand entitled "New Zealand’s Muslims and Multiculturalism" in book form. After retirement he continued with Muslim studies as an Honorary Fellow in Religion at Otago University until 2017. Kolig's work after retirement focusses on the connection of culture and globalisation, culture politics in general, and a global comparative exercise of cultural phenomena

Kolig has also had a vital interest in museum culture. Apart from several stints in the Ethnological Museum of Berlin in Dahlem (Berlin), he also made collections of Hindukush arts and crafts and Aboriginal art from the Australian Kimberleys (both collections are in the Ethnological Museum in Vienna) and a collection of Vanuatu traditional pottery from the village of Wusi on Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu (in the Otago Museum in Dunedin, New Zealand).

Personal life

Kolig has Austrian and New Zealand citizenship. He lives on a small farm on the outskirts of Dunedin on the South Island of New Zealand,[4] with his wife Nicole, a ceramic artist.


Single-authored books and monographs:

1981, The Silent Revolution: the Effects of Modernization on Australian Aboriginal Religion. Philadelphia: ISHI (192p.)

1987, The Noonkanbah Story: portrait of an Aboriginal community in Western Australia. Dunedin: University of Otago Press (159p.) (1989 3rd enlarged edition (181p.)

1989, Dreamtime Politics: Religion, World View and Utopian Thought in Australian Aboriginal Society. Berlin: D.Reimer (161p.)

1996, Umstrittene Wuerde: Andreas Reischek, der Neuseeland-Forscher aus dem Oberoesterreichischen Muehlviertel (1845–1902).Wiener Ethnohistorische Blaetter 41, Vienna: Ethnologischer Instituts Verlag der Universitaet Wien (153p.)

2010, New Zealand’s Muslims and Multiculturalism. Leiden: Brill. (272p.)

2012, Conservative Islam: a Cultural Anthropology. Lanham MD: Lexington Books. (381p.)

2014, Wiener Märchen: über Museen, Forscher und magische Objekte. Frankfurt a.M.: Frankfurter Taschenbuchverlag.

2017, Maban – das Paranormale bei den Aborigines Australiens. Berlin: Frank & Timme.

2020, Understanding the Past, Navigating the Future: from the Neanderthal to cultural Globalisation and its Prospects. London: AustinMacauley. (532p.)

Edited books/volumes

2002, E. Kolig and H. Mueckler (eds.), Politics of Indigeneity in the South Pacific. Muenster, Hamburg, London: LIT. (186p.)

2006, (edited) Muslims in New Zealand. Special issue of New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies vol. 8/2.

2009, E.Kolig, V. Angeles and S. Wong (eds.), Identity in Crossroad Civilisations: Ethnicity, Nationalism and Globalism in Asia. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. (259p.)

2014, (edited) Freedom of Speech and Islam. Farnham: Ashgate. (262p.)

2016, (ed. with Malcolm Voyce), Muslim Integration: Pluralism and Multiculturalism in New Zealand and Australia. Lanham: Lexington. (280p.)


  1. Kolig, Erich (2010). New Zealand's Muslims and Multiculturalism. Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-17835-9.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Burke, Paul (2011), "The Anthropology of the Broome Region", Law's Anthropology, From ethnography to expert testimony in native title, ANU Press, pp. 101–136, ISBN 978-1-921862-42-7, JSTOR j.ctt24hdxr.8, retrieved 23 June 2021
  3. Peterson, Nicolas; Kenny, Anna (2017), PETERSON, NICOLAS; KENNY, ANNA (eds.), "The German-language tradition of ethnography in Australia", German Ethnography in Australia, ANU Press, pp. 3–28, ISBN 978-1-76046-131-7, JSTOR j.ctt1ws7wn5.10, retrieved 23 June 2021
  4. "Kolig Erich". 19 September 2020. Retrieved 23 June 2021.

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