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Pilot Project: Scholars in Residence – A Contribution to the Year of Foreign Research and Academic Policyen

Logo „Wissenswelten verbinden“; © Auswärtiges Amt“Connecting Worlds of Knowledge” logo; © Auswärtiges AmtTo strengthen Germany as a location for research and to enhance its attractiveness in the international competition for the “best minds”, the German Foreign Office proclaimed 2009 the “Year of Foreign Research and Academic Policy”. In response, the Goethe Institute joined together with the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities in Essen (KWI) and launched the program “Scholars in Residence”.

The Goethe Institute has always considered it an important part of its work to present the innovative power of German research all over the world and to foster international academic dialogue, for which purpose its many overseas branches virtually predestines it. It was therefore quite natural for the Institute to make a contribution to the “Year of Foreign Research and Academic Policy”.

Potential for foreign cultural policy

Early on, the Goethe Institute’s central office in Munich thought about how it could set its own accents without coming into rivalry with other mediators. In the shared conviction that the achievements of internationally highly regarded German researchers in the humanities and social sciences harbor a significant potential for foreign cultural policy, the Goethe Institute joined with the Essen Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities to take an initiative in this area.

Since cooperations were already in progress, it was logical first of all to review the fields of business ethics, migration, culture and climate change for their international social relevance and suitability to cross-border communities of interest. At the end of this exploratory process, the partners baptized the pilot project, which provides for the week long reciprocal guest residencies of highly qualified, young international researchers in the humanities, cultural and social sciences, “Scholars in Residence”.

Networking of scholarly communities

Dr. Carmen Meinert; © privateThe residency program is intended to aid international scholarly contacts and foster inner and inter-disciplinary dialogue between exponents of a “public scholarship” that addresses a broad audience. The KWI and the Goethe Institute hope that this dialectical perspective will encourage increased activity in the areas of cultural projects and research. The partners expect an unfolding of a productive internal dynamic from the networking of scholarly communities and the gaining of new ambassadors and door openers for Germany abroad.

Buddhist studies and climate protection

To launch the residency program in autumn 2009, the partners chose the first six Scholars in Residence. For example, the sinologist Dr. Carmen Meinert of the “Climate Research Group” of the Global Young Faculty in Essen will go for two months to Hong Kong. The expert in Chinese and Tibetan religion sees in the return to the nature-preserving core of Buddhism a chance to cope with the massive environmental problems that afflict the mega-populations of emerging countries seeking global economic power. And in this she is evidently on the same track as the leadership in Peking, whose toleration of the once vehemently suppressed religious traditions is currently helping to lead to their renaissance.

Meinert’s cooperation partner is Dr. Xue Yu of the Center for the Study of Humanistic Buddhism at the Department of Cultural and Religious Studies of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. During his stay in Germany she will introduce him to German circles of researchers in Buddhist Studies, with which she enjoys a lively contact.

Dr. Christian Gudehus; © privateSince the KWI’s newly established research focus “Climate and Culture” connects theories and methods of memory research with studies on perception of the environment and memories of catastrophes, Dr. Christian Gudehus, a participant in the residency program, will also have a chance to get his hand in. The forty-one year-old researcher from the Center for Interdisciplinary Memory at the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities in Essen is particularly interested in the causalities and links between global warming, collective violence, migration and memory.

Violence and memory

Dr. Daniel Eduardo Feierstein; © private Gudehus applied for the exchange program along with the social scientist Dr. Daniel Eduardo Feierstein of the Center of Genocide Studies at the Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero in Buenos Air. Like Gudehaus, the forty-two year-old Argentine studies mass violence, a reality that, after centuries of genocide, repression, civil war and dictatorship in South America, has been the fate of millions there. In Germany, Feierstein is interested in researching the psycho-social and continuing cross-generational effects of Nazi crimes and their consequences such as exile and expulsion.

Finally, the doctorial candidate Anne-Katrin Lang can buy a ticket to Warsaw. The research assistant to the KWI project “European Politics of Memory” will there exchange ideas with Dr. Zofia Wóycicka. The Polish Holocaust scholar is currently engaged with the Museum of the History of Polish Jews now under construction on the site of what was once the Warsaw ghetto.

Roland Detsch
The author is a freelance editor, journalist and writer living in Landshut and Munich.

Translation: Jonathan Uhlaner
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion
December 2009

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