Racism and Historiography

This text by Christina Morina and Norbert Frei was first published, in German, on the L.I.S.A. blog of the Gerda Henkel Stiftung. It was translated by Jenny Price.

Where are you from. Here we go again, I thought, and answered: Tricky question! It depends on what you mean by where. The geographic location of the hillside on which the maternity ward stood? The national borders at the time of the last contractions? My parents’ background? Genes, ancestors, dialect? Whichever way you look at it, your origin is a construct! A kind of costume that you are forced to wear for the rest of your days once it has been fitted. And thus a curse! Or, with a bit of luck, a fortune, derived not from talent but adorned with benefits and privileges.

Saša Stanišić, Herkunft (2019)

At the end of the day, the shelf life of a text on contemporary history, especially one that intervenes in current affairs, depends on the pace at which present events unfold and respond to it.

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The Greedy Dog – Gestures, Postures and Emotions Portraying Degrees of Vice and Virtue in the Sixteenth-Century Iyār-i Dānish

An outstanding illustration preserved as a detached folio in the Chicago Art Museum, attributed to the Mughal artist Farrukh Chela, illustrates the fable of the ‘Greedy Dog’ which forms one of the significant narratives from the Iyār-i Dānish,1 a collection of stories written by Emperor Akbar’s historian and confidant, Abul Fazl, and illustrated in 1595–1600.

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  1. The Iyār-i Dānish was a collection of animal fables, whose tales served as an educational ‘mirror for princes’ for Mughal emperors. It was translated from an earlier version composed in Timurid Herat (present day Afghanistan) during the fifteenth century, and was illustrated multiple times by Mughal artists during the final quarter of the sixteenth century. []

History is Located Inside, not Outside Racial Biases – Can Historians in Germany Break the Silence after Black Lives Matter? (Part 2)

In last week’s blog post, we addressed recent calls for equity and structural change in historical disciplines by looking inwards, in a moment of self-reflection. But what practical steps can we take to transform our field into a more inclusive environment—one in which not only scholars with privileged backgrounds can pursue a career? How can we address discrimination, diversity, and inclusion beyond tokenistic statements and designated research areas? What would a commitment to anti-racism look like if we were to spell out a concrete action plan, as colleagues have done in the UK?

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History is Located Inside, not Outside Racial Biases – Can Historians in Germany Break the Silence after Black Lives Matter? (Part 1)

In the weeks following the murder of George Floyd, hundreds of higher education institutions and other organizations around the world issued statements of solidarity. Yet despite mounting pressure, most German universities, research institutions, and associations remained silent. The hashtags #ShutDownAcademia and #BlackInTheIvory scarcely registered on German-speaking social media. Criticism was on the rise in the US and the UK because many historians felt the tokenistic statements of their institutions fell far short of plans for concrete action; yet in German academia, many colleagues were still waiting for an initial reaction.

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Manuscript News Sheets: A Neglected Medium of Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Europe

At the turn of the eighteenth century, newspapers had established themselves as the principal port of call for readers with a strong taste for current affairs. One hundred years after the first newspaper had been printed in Strasbourg in 1605, the new medium had spread to all parts of western and central Europe.

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Germans, the Dutch East India Company, and Early Colonial South Africa

Germans were the largest foreign European group in the Dutch empire during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. They worked for the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, or VOC) in its territories along the Indian Ocean, stretching from present-day South Africa to Sri Lanka, Japan, Taiwan, and Indonesia. Initially serving on temporary labour contracts as officials, sailors, and soldiers, soon Germans began to stay in the Dutch overseas territories for good. Some continued to work for the Company for the rest of their lives, while others applied for citizenship and became farm holders, teachers, ministers, or tradesmen.

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Welcome to the blog of the German Historical Institute London!

There is a lot going on at the German Historical Institute, both within and without the walls of our beautiful building on London’s Bloomsbury Square. With this blog, we want to share our work in all the areas that make the GHIL so unique.

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