Representations of the Past

In times of social crises and upheaval, as well as a lack of utopias and visions for the future, pasts often become a contested resource. Under which circumstances and with which political goals can representations of the past become a mobilising social force? Which ideas of social justice and the right to speak about and for the past are linked to it? These are core questions of the research unit. Empirical research concentrates on (post-)colonial or (post-)socialist societies in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The aim is to identify translocal connectivities between discourses and practices of representations as well as to compare struggles over images of the past in different periods of time. Thematic foci are the relationship between historically operating sciences and politics, the significance of memory politics as well as practices of interacting with historical images in everyday life.

Completed Projects

Dr. Veronica Ferreri

Paper Trails and Dislocated Bureaucracies (BMBF)

Until July 2022
Dr. Ergün Özgür

The Impact of Multicultural Policy Implementations and Acculturation Strategies on the Adaptation of Muslim and non-Muslim Immigrants from Turkey (Humboldt-Stipendium)

Until August 2020

Modern India in German Archives, 1706–1989 (MIDA)

Long-term project supported by the German Research Council (DFG) with the participation of Prof. Dr. Ravi Ahuja, Centre for Modern Indian Studies (CeMIS), Universität Göttingen, Dr. Heike Liebau, Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO) Berlin, and Prof. Dr. Michael Mann, Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften (IAAW), HU Berlin.


Crafting Entanglements: Afro-Asian Pasts of the Global Cold War (CRAFTE)

In the history of the Cold War, the global South often appears only as a theater of bloc politics between the East and West. Recent research has taken note of voices from Africa and Asia, yet little is known about their interconnections. To shed light on these, this project, conducted by Dr. Anandita Bajpai, engages with students’ and women's networks, media entanglements enabled by radio stations and film festivals, and the divided city of Berlin as an arena of South-South interconnections. The focus will be on the entangled trajectories of Asian and African actors and how these were embedded in, but also, how they shaped the global Cold War. The aim is to contribute to a more inclusive historiography by relying on the framework of global-entangled histories.

In Pursuit of ‘Legality’ and ‘Justice’. Minority Struggles in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union (ERC-Consolidator Grant)

What did Muslim and Jewish groups in the Russian Empire, and Crimean Tatars, Chechens, Armenians, and other national groups under Soviet rule expect when they called on ‘justice’ and ‘legality’? And what did they achieve?

While there is no set definition of the ‘rule of law’, with over half a dozen indices competing for recognition, the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union would not score high on any of these. And yet, the notions of 'legality' (zakonnost’) and 'justice' (spravedlivost’) greatly mattered in both. Led by PD Dr. Stefan B. Kirmse, this ERC-funded project explores the ways in which ethnic and religious minorities, from the Russian Empire’s ‘Great Reforms’ of the 1860s to the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, routinely employed ‘legality’ and ‘justice’ to further and enforce their rights. In dialogue with local partners in six Soviet successor states, it looks at minority actors from both ‘above’ and ‘below’, as participants in policy-making and public debate, as judges and litigants, and as local activists.