Valérie Liebs, M.A.

PhD candidate
VW Postdoctoral Fellowships Program: “Livelihood, Management, Reforms and Processes of Structural Change”

Georg-August-University of Göttingen
Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology
D-37073 Göttingen


Herzberger Landstr. 2
Room: 206

Phone: +49 551 39-20684

Office hours by appointment

Scientific background

Valérie Liebs studied cultural and physical anthropology at the Johannes Gutenberg-University in Mainz. In the frame of her master thesis on medicinal plant knowledge and its transmission amongst Fulbe healers, she spent 3 months of fieldwork in northwestern Benin. Her PhD focuses on medicinal plants in Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo). In collaboration with the project „Cuvette Centrale as reservoir of medicinal plants“, she spent a total of 15 months working with healers, medicinal plant sellers, plant gatherers and households. The field stays were mostly financed through DAAD, the PhD project through Stipendienstiftung Rheinland Pfalz. Besides that, she teached “Urbanity in Africa” and co-organized the interdisciplinary workshop “(De-)Constructing Biodiversity” at the Georg-August-University in Göttingen in 2011. Since 2011, Valérie Liebs participates in the working group “Medical Anthropology” in Berlin and assists in the final editing process of the journal Curare. In 2012, Ms Liebs changed to continue her PhD studies at the Georg-August-University in Göttingen, where she is currently finalizing her thesis.

Research Interests

Ethnobotany, ethnopharmacology, medicinal plant knowledge, urban herbalism, supply strategies in cities; urbanity; West Africa (Benin); Central Africa (Democratic Republic of Congo).

Subject of dissertation

The dissertation project aims to explore the use of medicinal plants in the context of Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Decline in plant populations due to loss of plants in the vecinities as well as strong availability of biomedical practices leading to concurrence and degradation of traditional practices are said to negatively influence the use of medicinal plants. How these constraints work on different actors and which strategies are applied to ensure their use are analysed through quantitative and qualitative methods with healers, medicinal plant sellers and laymen.


(forthcoming) Liebs, Valérie; Bikandu, Blaise; Lassa, Lemmy; Schareika, Nikolaus; Lukoki, Félicien; Fruth, Barbara (2013): Signifying Competence. Herbalists in Kinshasa’s Urban Context. In: Elísio Macamo und Brigit Obrist (ed.): Living the City. Hamburg: Lit-Verlag.

Conference Papers

2013. Objekte des Wirkens – Heilpflanzen und minkisi im unteren Kongo. Presentation in the fram of the exhibition “Minkisi – Skulpturen vom unteren Kongo” at GRASSI-Museum Leipzig (Germany), the 21.02.2013.

2012. Shifting (un-)Certainties? Trust in Herbal Medicines in the Urban Context of Kinshasa. Presentation in the frame of EASA-conference „Uncertainty and Disquiet” at University Paris-Nanterre (France), the 11.07.2012.

2011. Signifying Competence. Urban Herbalists Seeking Affirmation in Kinshasa. Presentation at the DGV-conference „Wa(h)re ‘Kultur’?“ at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology in Vienna (Austria), the 15.09.2011.

2010. Herbalists in Kinshasa. Producing ‘Modernity’ – Relating to ‘Tradition’. Presentation in the frame of AEGIS-conference „Living the African City” at the Institute for Cultural Anthropology in Basel (Switzerland), the 8.10.2010.

2009. Les plantes médicinales en milieu urbain. L´exemple à Kinshasa. Talk for the presentation of the project „Cuvette Centrale as reservoir of medicinal plants“, at the National Institute of Biomedical Research (INRB) in Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo), the 10.11.2009.


Urbanity in Africa. Summer semester 2011