A Brief History of ISA
The roots of the current Institute for Social Anthropology can be traced back to March 2, 1938, when the erstwhile Commissions for “Research on Illiterate Languages of Non-European Peoples” and for “Publishing Songs and Texts Recorded in Prisoner of War Camps” at the Austrian Academy of Sciences were merged into the new “Commission for Research on Primitive Cultures and Languages.” As the Commission’s research focus increasingly turned to complex societies, in line with the discipline’s international development, it was renamed “Ethnological Commission” on November 22, 1961. A second merger took place under Prof. Walter Dostal on January 1, 1993, when the “Arabic Commission” was integrated into the Ethnological Commission, resulting both in an interdisciplinary approach that provided a strong foundation for research on intercultural relations, and in a special emphasis on language competency in its anthropological work.
As it became clear that the term “ethnos” did not adequately capture anthropology’s research focus on the human anymore, the Commission for Ethnology was renamed, on January 18, 1995, to “Commission for Social Anthropology.” On January 1, 2007, this Commission was transformed into a Research Unit as part of the “Center for Studies in Asian Cultures and Social Anthropology,” and awarded temporary institutional status as the “Institute for Social Anthropology” on January 1, 2010. Following a successful external evaluation, it was granted permanent status on September 15, 2011. Today, the Institute for Social Anthropology constitutes one of the Austrian Academy of Sciences’ flagship institutes in the humanities and social sciences, and counts among the top European research institutions in its field.