|History and Culture in Africa|
Globalisation as well as the growing fear of foreigners and xenophobia make it essential to understand African cultures. To what extent are Africans really “different”; what do we have in common? These questions must be answered ethnologically by synchronic studies on the one hand; on the other, they must be answered historically through diachronic studies. African cultures are the result of historical processes of interaction and are connected to each other and the rest of the world. Therefore, no immutable “traditional”, “archaic” cultures exist in Africa.
The working section is called “History and Culture in Africa” (and not “African History and Culture”), because its focus lies on the dynamic production of history and culture inside Africa. Thus not only objective facts are of interest, but also the way in which Africa perceives itself and is perceived by outsiders. Some would even talk of an “invention” of Africa or individual ethnic groups respectively.
The working section “History and Culture in Africa” overlaps with the other two fields of work “Economy and Politics” and “Languages and Literatures”. In order to explain current economic and political circumstances in Africa, the basic cultural, historical and ecological conditions of the longue durée need to be taken into account. The development of today's language families, the expansion of the Bantu languages or the development of the lingua francae should be considered in relation to cultural-historical processes. Furthermore, African literatures are part of African societies’ efforts to reproduce themselves.
Teaching and Research
The working section “History and Culture in Africa” offers Bachelor's courses on the history of a selected African region before or since1900. Additionally, lectures are held on religions, cultures and Africa’s culture history. Master's courses are held in English and primarily deal with 20th century history, arts, history of mentalities and methods of research. The working section’s research projects address historical missionary photography, the transfer of knowledge between Africa and Germany 100 years ago and African history before 1850.