The Institute of Asian and African Studies mourns the passing of Boike Rehbein, whose sudden death on June 11 leaves us grieving deeply.
Boike Rehbein was born in Berlin on February 18, 1965. He studied philosophy, sociology and history in Freiburg im Breisgau, Frankfurt am Main, Göttingen, Berlin and Paris. He completed his doctorate in philosophy in 1996 on the question what it means to understand another person (published in 1997). In his post-doctoral thesis in sociology, he analyzed globalization processes in Laos (published in 2004). A student of Pierre Bourdieu, Günter Dux, Jürgen Habermas, Jann Holl, and Hermann Schwengel, among others, his research pursued questions on the structure and genesis of social inequality, symbolic forms of domination, the genealogy of capitalist society as a form of domination, and critical social theory in a multicentric world. He was a leading expert on globalization processes, mainland Southeast Asia (especially Laos), the social structure of society, and the work of Pierre Bourdieu. His most important publications in recent years include Globalization and Inequality in Emerging Societies (Palgrave 2011), Inequality in Capitalist Societies (with Surinder S. Jodhka and Jessé de Souza; Routledge 2018), Critical Theory after the Rise of the Global South: Kaleidoscopic Dialectic (Routledge 2018), Die kapitalistische Gesellschaft [The Capitalist Society] (utb 2021), and Die globalisierte Welt [The Globalized World] (with Vincent Houben, utb 2022).
Boike Rehbein placed much emphasis on academic exchange and border crossing in a multicentric world. Over the years, he held visiting professorships in Bangkok, Santiago de Chile, Zurich, Vientiane, Buenos Aires, and New Delhi, and he also supported the establishment of the social science faculty at the National University of Laos. In addition, he served as Director of the Global Studies Program first at the Albert Ludwigs University in Freiburg im Breisgau and, since 2009, at the Institute for Asian and African Studies (IAAW) at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. He also served as Director of the IAAW from 2016 to 2018. For Boike Rehbein, teaching did not only take place within established university structures. Inspired to create educational opportunities outside of the university, he recently worked on the establishment of online institutes in Brazil and India, the aim of which was to enable marginalized people to better understand their own social situation and strengthen their self-esteem through education. He was quietly moving from understanding society to changing it through education.
In addition to his wide-ranging scholarly accomplishments, Boike Rehbein will be remembered by his students and colleagues above all as a someone with a great passion for teaching. His drive to understand social inequalities and capitalist forms of domination made him an outstanding speaker and committed teacher. The search for the good life was his constant companion; it also found expression in his engagement with colleagues and students, which was always marked by sincerity and a subtle sense of humor. Boike Rehbein’s passing leaves behind a large gap not only at his home institution, the IAAW, but also in the global community of scholars and practitioners he helped create. Our deepest sympathy goes to his family and relatives.