/ Photo: Susanne Ziese

I was born and raised in West Berlin. The feeling of living on an artificial island that was so different from its surroundings behind walls shaped my childhood and inspired my curiosity about the other. On 10 November 1989, I was standing on the Berlin Wall lighting sparklers. When I was 15, I went to the US for half a year to study English and play softball. Soon, I was in danger of forgetting my mother tongue and loved bagels instead of German bread rolls. After graduating from high school, I moved around the world, worked in different countries as a farmhand and hitchhiked through New Zealand with two friends. When these friends repeatedly asked me to share our experiences by reading from my diaries, I knew that I also wanted to write, travel and create knowledge for others.

Since 2003, I have carried out numerous research visits to various countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including observing everyday school life at a village school in Benin for one school year. Since 2015, I have been working as a researcher, evaluator, consultant and project coordinator, both in permanent positions and as a freelancer.

I enjoy bringing people and ideas together, providing impulses and creating connections – open to what can emerge from this. After all, it is often the unexpected answers to unasked questions in my projects that provide crucial insights and inspire change.

When I’m not writing, reading or researching, I’m passionate about dancing Tango Argentino and Balboa.


2020 to present Project coordinator and Senior Researcher at FiBS – Research Institute for the Economics of Education and Social Affairs

Project coordinator of the Encounters media workshops

2016–2020 Freelance researcher in various research and consulting projects of the Institute for Innovation and Counseling – INIB e.V. at the Protestant University of Applied Sciences Berlin, among others

2016–2017 Lecturer at the Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology of the Free University of Berlin

2016–2017 Invited Research Fellow in the field of education in sub-Saharan Africa at the Robert Bosch Academy Berlin, research stays in Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo

2015–2016  DAAD Scholarship “Recuperating German Scientists from Abroad” at the Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology at the Free University of Berlin

2015 Co-founder of the Encounter network at the Free University of Berlin

2012–2015 Post-Doctoral researcher at the research centre Les Afriques dans le Monde (LAM), SciencesPo Bordeaux, France, research stays in Benin

2007–2012 Research assiciate and administrative coordinator of the research project “States at Work. Public Services and Civil Servants in West Africa: Education and Justice in Benin, Ghana, Mali and Niger” by Prof. Dr. Thomas Bierschenk at the Institute of Ethnology and African Studies at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz

2006–2011 Doctorate at the Institute for Ethnology and African Studies of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany, scholarship holder of the Volkswagen Foundation in the project “States at Work”, research stays in Benin

1999–2005 Master’s degree in ethnology, political science and economics at the Free University Berlin, research stays in Tanzania

Editorial and board work

2017 to present Member of the editorial team of the quadrilingual magazine and blog of the Encounters media workshops

2016–2020 Member of the Editorial Committee of the journal Anthropology & Développement

2015 to present Board member of the Association for the Anthropologyof Social Change and Development (APAD)

Selected publications

2024  Sarah Fichtner & Anja Werner: Connecting Across Divides: A Case Study in Public History of the (e-)Motion Comic 'Ghost Train―Memories of Ghost Trains and Ghost Stations in Former East and West Berlin'. In: MnemoZIN (eds.): (An)Archive: Childhood, Memory, and the Cold War. Open Book Publishers, pp. 351–369.

2023 Sarah Fichtner: Schulleitungen wollen Schule verändern. In: bbz 11-12/2023 Schwerpunkt "Schule neu denken", pp. 20-22.

2023 Sarah Fichtner, Klaus Hurrelmann, Dieter Dohmen: Schulleitungen wollen die Digitalisierung aktiv gestalten. In: PÄDAGOGIK, 6 (23), pp. 42-45. 

2023 Sarah Fichtner, Ewa Bacia, Matthias Sandau, Klaus Hurrelmann & Dieter Dohmen: Schule  stärken - Digitalisierung gestalten. Cornelsen Schulleitungsstudie 2023. Gesamtstudie, FiBS Forschungsinstitut für Bildungs- und Sozialökonomie.

2022 Sarah Fichtner, Martin Bittner, Tamara Bayreuther, Vanessa Kühn, Klaus Hurrelmann & Dieter Dohmen: Schule zukunftsfähig machen - Cornelsen Schulleitungsstudie 2022. Gesamtstudie, FiBS Forschungsinstitut für Bildungs- und Sozialökonomie.

2022 Medienwerkstatt Encounters: What Happens When We Meet? Encounter as a Method for Transcultural Learning. Waxmann: Münster.

2022 Klaus Hurrelmann & Sarah Fichtner: Welche pädagogischen Konsequenzen hat die Pandemie? In: PÄDAGOGIK, 4 (22), pp. 33-38. 

2021 Sarah Fichtner: Can solidarity be taught? In: On Education. Journal for Research and Debate, 4(10)

2020 Sarah Fichtner & Hoa Mai Trần: Lived citizenship between the sandpit and deportation. Young children’s spaces for agency, play and belonging in collective accommodation for refugees. In: Childhood 27 (2), pp. 158–172.

2019 Sarah Fichtner & Hoa Mai Trần: Handlungs-Spiel-Räume von Kindern in Gemeinschaftsunterkünften. In: Anne Wihstutz (ed.): Zwischen Sandkasten und Abschiebung. Zum Alltag junger Kinder in Unterkünften für Geflüchtete. Opladen: Barbara Budrich, pp. 107–134.

2019 Sarah Fichtner: The local fabrication of school statistics. Actors, practices and issues at stake in a primary school in Benin. In: Anthropologie & développement 48–49, pp. 43–‍65.

2018 Sarah Fichtner & Hoa Mai Trần: Ethische Ambivalenzen in der Forschung mit Kindern in Unterkünften für geflüchtete Menschen. In: Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research 19 (3), Art. 30.

2017 Kathryn Anderson-Levitt, Stéphane Bonnéry & Sarah Fichtner: Introduction du dossier. Les approches dites “par compétences” comme réformes pédagogiques “voyageuses”. Notions, trajectoires et pratiques de mises en œuvre. In: Cahiers de la Recherche sur l’Education et les Savoirs 16, pp. 7–26.

2017 Kathryn Anderson-Levitt, Stéphane Bonnéry & Sarah Fichtner: (English version) Introduction to the dossier. “Competence-based” approaches as “traveling” reforms: Ideas, trajectories and practices in implementation. In: Cahiers de la Recherche sur l’Education et les Savoirs 16, pp. 27–45.

2017 Sarah Fichtner: En République Démocratique du Congo, la pédagogie active permet de se réconcilier. In: The Conversation France.

2016 Sarah Fichtner: La fabrique locale des statistiques scolaires: acteurs, enjeux et pratiques au Bénin. In: Revue d’Anthropologie des Connaissances 10 (2), S. 261–278

2016 Sarah Fichtner: Rituels de compétences et d’apprentissage non verbal de la langue française dans les salles de classe béninoises. In: Frédérique Montandon & Carla Schelle (Hrsg.): Activités langagières, pratiques pédagogiques et rituels dans le cadre de l’école et de la formation. Pays francophones d’Afrique du Nord et de l’Ouest, en France et en Allemagne. Paris, Téraèdre, S. 105–115.

2015 Sarah Fichtner & Pauline Jarroux: La micropolitique de l'école primaire au Bénin. Une ethnographie combinée des directeurs et inspecteurs. In: Politique Africaine 139, pp. 63–81.

2015 Sarah Fichtner: What’s in the gap and what’s in a copy? Local practices and discourses of competency-based education reform in Benin. In: Revue Tiers Monde 223, pp. 165–‍182.

2014 Sarah Fichtner: Global governance by numbers? A local perspective. In: Norrag News 51, pp. 49–50.

2014 Sarah Fichtner: Head teachers as central actors in glocal education politics. A real story from Benin. In: Norrag News 50, pp. 118–120.

2012 Sarah Fichtner: The NGOisation of Education. Case Studies from Benin. Köppe: Cologne.

2010 Sarah Fichtner: A laboratory for education reform or a battlefield of donor intervention? Local debates on primary education and the New Study Programmes in Benin. In: International Journal of Educational Development 30, pp. 518–524.

2005 Sarah Fichtner: Normenunternehmer und Entwicklungsmamas. Beschreibung und Analyse transnationalen Normentransfers gegen Kinderarbeit in Tansania. In: Arbeitspapiere des Instituts für Ethnologie und Afrikastudien der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz 61 (Master’s thesis).


2023  Was ist Lions-Quest "Erwachsen handeln"? Das sagen Pädagog*innen.
With Susanne Dzeik (camera and editing). Berlin: Lions-Quest/FiBS. 6:15 minutes. 

2023  Was ist Lions-Quest "Erwachsen handeln"? Das sagen Schüler*innen.
With Susanne Dzeik (camera and editing). Berlin: Lions-Quest/FiBS. 4:40 minutes. 

2019  ChangeWriters macht Schule.
With Susanne Dzeik (camera and editing). 38 minutes. Link on request. (In German).
Film clip ChangeWriters Methoden: SchülerInnen Feedback. 2:37 minutes. 
Filmclip ChangeWriters Methoden: PädagogInnen im Gespräch.  4 minutes.   

2018  La PAP à Kisangani: démarches et défis.
With Guido Borgers (camera) und Deniz Sözbir (editing). 27 minutes. Link on request. (In French).

2017  Teaching differently in Africa.
Training in active and participative pedagogy in the Democratic Republic of Congo / Enseigner autrement en Afrique. La formation à la pédagogie active et participative en République Démocratique du Congo. With Paratéba Yaméogo (camera) und Canisius Aveko (editing). 18:30 minutes. (French with English subtitles).

2014 »Ici on se débrouille« – Le quotidien des écoles au Bénin / The everyday school management in rural Benin.
With Paratéba Yaméogo (camera) and Madina W. Ouédraogo (editing). 10:52 minutes.
(French / Baatonum with English subtitles).


/ Photo: Sarah Fichtner

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