Short biography


Andreas Wimmer's research aims to understand the dynamics of nation-state formation, ethnic boundary making and political conflict from a comparative perspective (see current projects). He has pursued these themes across the disciplinary fields of sociology, political science, and social anthropology and through various methods: field research in Oaxaca (Mexico) and Iraq, comparative historical analysis, quantitative cross-national research, network studies, formal modeling, the analysis of large-scale survey data, as well as policy oriented research.

Wimmer's articles have recently appeared in the American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, the Annual Review of Sociology, World Politics, Social Networks, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Sociological Theory, as well as leading German journals (download articles here). These papers won ten best article awards over the past six years (see CV). His recent work has resulted in two new books:


Analyzing datasets that cover the entire world over long stretches of time, Waves of War traces the emergence of the nation-state, its subsequent proliferation across the globe, and the resulting waves of international war and domestic conflict. To understand these processes, the book highlights changing configurations of political power and legitimacy--the shift from imperial or dynastic principles to the nationalist ideal of self-rule. Nation-state formation and the ensuing ethno-political struggles over the state are responsible for a large number of civil and international wars fought over the past 200 years | Read summary in Foreign Affairs | Download introduction | Watch a book talk | Read book debate in Trajectories


To advance the boundary making approach to ethnicity and race, Ethnic Boundary Making introduces a series of epistemological principles, theoretical stances, research designs, and modes of interpretation that allow to disentangle ethnic from other processes of group formation. The empirical chapters comparatively explain why some ethnic boundaries structure the allocation of resources, incite political passion, and represent primary aspects of individual identity while others don't. Paying systematic attention to such empirical variation helps to avoid both an unreflected essentialism and an exagerated constructivism | Download introduction | Read book debate in Ethnic and Racial Studies

Wimmer's previous work, mostly written in German, concerned the dynamics of social and cultural change. He developed a model of cultural negotiation and compromise to study a wide variety of seemingly disparate phenomena such as ethnic boundary making, mythical narration, nation-building and cross-cultural love. Several of these studies were brought together in a book. This theory of cultural transformation also provided the basis for two earlier books that compared the different paths along which indigenous communities in Mexico and Guatemala evolved over the past two hundred years, depending on initial conditions as well as the subsequent transformations of power relations at the local level. Seeking to explore the general methodological and theoretical problems involved in understanding such processes, he edited a volume that discusses various post-mechanistic, non-linear models of change from the natural sciences, economics and the social sciences.

Professional background

Andreas Wimmer was educated at the University of Zurich, from where he received a PhD in social anthropology in 1992 and a habilitation two years later. He joined Princeton University in 2012 as the Hughes-Rogers Professor of Sociology and a Faculty Associate in Politics (see the Featured Story on PU's homepage). From 2014 onward he directs Princeton's Fung Global Fellows Program. Between 2003 and 2012, he taught sociology at the University of California Los Angeles. Before moving to the United States, Wimmer served as founding director of two interdisciplinary research institutes: the Swiss Forum for Migration and Population Studies at the University of Neuchâtel (from 1995 to 1999) and the Department of Political and Cultural Change at the Center for Development Research of the University of Bonn (from 1999 to 2002).

Wimmer received the Heisenberg fellowship from the German Research Foundation, was Senior Associate Member of St Antony's College of Oxford University, a fellow of the Center for Advanced Studies Berlin, Visiting Professor for Ethnic Studies and Sociology at Harvard University, visiting professor/researcher at the Department of Politics of the University of Paris 8, the Institute for Research in Humanities of Kyoto University, the Social Science Research Center Berlin, the Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris, the sociology department of SciencesPo in Paris, and a Jenning Randolph Senior Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington DC.

He is an external fellow of the Center for Research and Analysis of Migration of University College London, board member of (among others) the Institute for World Society of Bielefeld University, the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, and the Foundation for Population, Migration, and Environment. He is or was associated with the editorial boards of Ethnic and Racial Studies, Nations and Nationalism, the American Journal of Sociology, Sociological Theory, and World Politics, among others. In 2013/14 he chaired the Comparative Historical Section of the American Sociological Association.