History of the Hamburg Asian and African Studies

by Prof. dr. Michael Friedrich

The Asia-Africa-Institute of the University of Hamburg today represents the largest university network of Asian and African sciences in Germany, supplemented by several research institutions in the Free and Hanseatic City. Twenty professorships cover the subjects Japanese Studies, Korean Studies, Sinology, Vietnamese Studies, Thai Studies, Austronesian Studies, Tibetology, Indology, Iranian Studies, Islamic Studies, Turkology, Ethiopian Studies and African Studies. Nearly 50 teachers supervise 1400 students in 14 master’s degree programs, of which more than ten percent possess a passport other than the German passport; Among the doctoral students, the proportion of foreigners is about 50 percent.

There are two language and media laboratories available for teaching 50 Asian and African languages; the library offers access to 350,000 volumes as well as image, sound and film archives. Partnerships with a good dozen Asian and African universities serve to foster cooperation and exchange students. The Asia-Africa Institute is currently working on more than 100 research projects, many of which are funded through third-party funding; The German Research Foundation supports long-term projects and a Collaborative Research Center. Members of the Asia-Africa-Institute publish 27 journals and scientific series. Scientific awards, academy memberships and last but not least the establishment of a foundation guest professorship are signs of appreciation by experts.

For the summer semester of 2002, five of the six departments of the Asia-Africa Institute have moved in front of Dammtor Station in the east wing of the main building. After decades of dispersion at up to eight locations near the campus, the Hamburg Asian and African studies have returned to the Moorweide. The Department of Culture and History of India and Tibet will follow in the main building as soon as the administration clears it. The combination was not only about the spatial displacement of people and books, but also about the completion of the development phase of the Asia-Africa-Institute, which was founded in May 2000 under the umbrella of the Department of Oriental Studies at the University of Hamburg. On the occasion of this caesura, it may be useful to take a look at the Hamburg Asian and African Studies.

Nobody really knows when it started with Oriental Studies in the Free and Hanseatic City. Mostly the theologian Hermann Samuel Reimarus is called, picture of Samuel Reimarusder 1727 professor for oriental languages ​​at the academic high school in Hamburg became. Like many of his contemporaries, Reimarus had also thought about the Chinese language, in fact a progenitor worthy of the myth. It was not quite so: the professorship for oriental languages ​​existed long before Reimarus at the 1613 founded educational institution, it was dedicated to Hebrew teaching and Bible philology and existed until the death of the last orientalist in 1882. One of his students, the later senior Georg Behrmann, learned Arabic at the Academic High School and later adapted to Persian and Turkish. It was he who organized the 13th International Orientalist Congress in Hamburg in 1902 and, as the head of the Hamburg clergy, promoted the publication of the Encyclopaedia of Islam.

Long before Behrmann, however, there had been considerations to set up a university in Hamburg, which should take into account the peculiarities of the port city. In 1828, the historians Dahlmann and Niebuhr see the advantage of “the fresh world air that is breathed in Hamburg” at a future Hamburg university; In 1847 the syndic Karl Sieveking discusses the goals and possibilities of a “cosmopolitan university” in a memorandum. Hamburg has “preferably a mediating and cosmopolitan character”, which is also beneficial to a meeting of the nations and even among the students. However, at first nothing happened. After the dissolution of the Academic Gymnasium in 1883 Mayor Kirchenpauer energetically pursued the expansion of the scientific institutions, apparently already supported by the intention to make them the foundation of a later university. Werner von Melle continued this program, from 1891 as Syndicus, since 1900 then as senator. He initially devoted himself to the reform and expansion of the General Lectures, which had remained as a relic of the Academic Gymnasium. He attentively observed the foreign university life and corresponded with numerous scholars to find suitable men for Hamburg. Even then, in addition to the “practical” subjects, there were also national and ethnical studies, as well as history and linguistics. In 1905, a letter from Harvard professor Hugo Münsterberg was published in Hamburg in which he recommended a “modern university” where the necessary “connection with the world circle” was to be sought.

In 1907 things progressed: von Melle set up the well-endowed Hamburg Scientific Foundation with the help of banker Max Warburg and a school friend, and Edmund von Siemers donated a building for the general lecture system on Moorweide, the present main building of the university. Decisive for the further development was the decision of the Budget Commission of the Reichstag to set up a full professorship for colonial sciences. The location was initially Berlin. In hectic negotiations, at the beginning of 1908, it was possible to get this chair to Hamburg. In the meantime Hamburg had offered a whole colonial institute, which included chairs for economics, law and geography as well as a professorship for the history and culture of the Orient. On October 20, 1908, almost a hundred years ago, the Colonial Institute was solemnly opened. The orientalist chair was taken over by Carl Heinrich Becker. In addition to language courses for Kisuaheli and Arabic, the first course catalog also lists one for Chinese, which Dr. Ing. Hagen, scientific assistant at the Museum of Ethnology, took over. Becker also read in the context of the General Lecture on “The main problems of modern Orientpolitik” and “Islamkunde with special consideration of our colonies”.

The listeners had to pay an admission fee of 20 marks at that time, per exercise and semester another 10 marks, for semester-semester events 5 marks. The fees could be waived in whole or in part on application; An application also required the issue of a certificate. In contrast to the sometimes very well-attended events of the General Lecture, there were only a few listeners in the colonial institute, mostly seconded from the colonial office in Berlin. A commercial advisory board should secure the connection between practice and science; However, the merchants had rejected a mere commercial college and expressly advocated for a scientific education.

Only a few weeks after the opening of the Colonial Institute, Melle had applied for further professorships, including one for African or, as it was then called, colonial and one for East Asia. Both were expressly requested by the Commercial Advisory Board. The linguist and Africanist Carl Meinhof began his activity the following year, the sinologist Otto Franke then on 1 January 1910. Both occupied the first chairs of their kind in Germany; the Africanist was even the first in the world. After Franke had taken over the Chinese lessons, taught Hagen Japanese for beginners. Mr. Hara, an “innate” research assistant at the Museum of Arts and Crafts, took the advanced course.

The lectures took place in the auditorium of the Johanneum, exercises were held in its lecture halls or in the rooms of museums. After completion of the building on the Moorweide, the seminars on the history and culture of the Orient, as well as colonial languages, housed in Domstraße 8, moved there with the East Asian Seminary housed in Dammthorstraße 25. The seminars consisted of two rooms: the library, which also taught, and the director’s office. The number of students remained low.

The founding of a university was still on the agenda. In the years before the First World War, a committee of citizens suggested that the colonial institute should be extended to an “overseas college”, but, more modestly, it was thought that the colonial institute would become the “colonial science faculty” of a university. The quarrels between university friends and opponents are well documented, the front ran across all camps. It must be emphasized, however, that by no means all merchants were against a university, as is often claimed. The importance of the topic for a wider public is shown by the agenda of a civil society meeting from those days: 1. “Construction of a waiting pavilion at the terminus Zollvereinstraße”, 2. “Contamination of the roads by the dogs”, and 3. finally “Establishment of a university “. The Hamburger Nachrichten saw, like many others in the university, the danger of a mass enterprise and already spoke of an “academic proletariat”. Alfred Lichtwark, on the other hand, responded to the accusation that the university was a luxury, with the much cited phrase, “The most expensive luxury that a single or a state can afford is narrowness and ignorance.”

An application of November 20, 1912, which failed in the citizenry, under § 1 already states in the second paragraph: “the university must take special account of the branches of knowledge relating to colonial and overseas conditions.” Otto Franke, who had a significant share in the later founding of the university, countered an opponent of the Orientalist subjects, he lacked the understanding for the attempt “to sharpen our people and his leaders the view for the world-political developments of the present, to awaken understanding for foreign Cultural systems and foreign character “. Statements of this kind are not uncommon, as Senator Heidmann remarked in 1914: “If you ask why we Germans are hated the most in foreign countries, […] it can be explained that […] abroad without understanding for the culture of the foreign country and looking down on them in overstatement “. Especially a Hamburg university is therefore necessary so that “the outgoing Germans are concerned with the culture of the country concerned.”

The First World War initially thwarted all plans, but shortly before that it was possible to set up further professorships at the Colonial Institute. The “Akademische Rundschau” of March 1914 announces “that a permanent professorship has been created for the language and culture of Japan [as well as for the language and culture of India […]”. It is quoted from the explanatory statement: “In the interest of preserving and securing the colonial institute, […] everything must be done which is possible under present conditions to give Hamburg the hitherto leading role in the new and peculiar field of colonial and overseas branches of knowledge true “. The “Rundschau” comments: “With skillful grasp, […] stepchildren of German science were brought here to prepare a place of work for them. […] In Hamburg it is self-evident – in contrast to many sad conditions at Prussian universities It should be emphasized that […] sufficiently rewarded seminars will be combined with at least one scientific worker and one or more indigenous linguists. ” Hamburg’s Japanese professorship was also the first in Germany.

During the war, in the spring of 1917, the university friends were alarmed when plans were announced to expand the Seminary for Oriental Languages ​​in Berlin, the language school for colonial officials, into a foreign university with funds from the Reich. The plans came from the first orientalist professor of the colonial institute, Becker, who had meanwhile become a Privy Councilor in the Prussian Ministry of Culture. As a result, in early 1918, a further expansion of the colonial institute was applied for, which found the support of the merchants shortly before the end of the war. She emphasized that university costs were not among the dead but the advertising expenses and that the university question was not a question of finance.

After the revolution in November 1918, the events unfolded: so-called university courses began in January, which were to save the retreatants from further loss of time, and on May 10, 1919, the Hamburg University was solemnly opened. Mayor of Melle said on this occasion: “The observance of foreign countries, and in particular of the overseas territories, and the pursuit of the countries and peoples connecting thoughts that have always emerged in the Hamburg scientific care and then ten years ago by the establishment of our colonial institute particularly strong and weirdly, they should be continued and further developed in the Hamburg University “. And the Higher Education Act of 1921 set the accents similarly: the university had “especially to provide for the promotion of foreign and colonial studies” (§ 4). The colonial institute opened in the Philosophical Faculty; its central office, which was responsible for the procurement and collection of information on Asia and Africa, was hived off as the Hamburg World Economic Archives.

A portrait of the University of 1927, commissioned by the Academic Senate, recognizes the roots of the young university when it says: “By preserving overseas studies, it preserves an independent peculiarity”. The Phonetic Laboratory, which had first belonged to African Studies, had since become an independent institute; to Islamkunde was added a professorship for Semitic Studies, which was rededicated in 1964 to Iranian Studies. Meinhof’s African Seminary was expanded to include a South Sea Department, which became an independent seminary in 1931. It may be interesting to know which languages ​​were taught there: Ethiopian, Amharic, Tigrina, Tigré, Somali, Galla, Berber, Hausa, Ful, Nama, Swahili, Zulu, Herero, Mbundu, Bangala, Duala, Ewe and Vai nine South Sea languages. That was in 1927, years after the end of the colonial delusion. Nowadays, in the age of “globalization” and “internationalization,” the funds are just enough for eight or nine African languages. Contemporary reports from the seminars speak of close contacts with merchants and citizens, but also with international science and with the reference regions. Even then, young people from Asia and Africa studied here. Due to lack of space, in 1924 Afrikanistik moved from the main building to the Rothenbaumchaussee, and in 1927 the Oriental Seminary departed.

The colonial institute did not lead, as Melle had hoped, to founding the university. The University of Hamburg, however, recognized in its heritage an “independent peculiarity” that had to be maintained and developed. Where was this in Germany? Six well-equipped seminars dedicated to the languages ​​and cultures of two continents! Even today, three points seem worth considering: 1. Hamburg’s self-image as a cosmopolitan port city was the prerequisite for the creation of a unique combination of Asian and African sciences in Germany; 2. the demand of the merchant community for “scientific education” instead of practical training has contributed significantly to this; 3. In many cases the competition between Hamburg and Berlin played a decisive role, and the Free and Hanseatic City always maintained its primacy over the capital for its own benefit.

In 1933, the Hamburg University became the Hanseatic University. Even Hamburg Orientalists were in debt, although in many cases more out of political naivety than conviction. A victim is known by name: The summa cum laude doctorate Arabist Hedwig Klein was withdrawn in 1938 by Dean Fritz Jäger, a sinologist, the doctorate approval. The ship that was supposed to take her to safe India was recalled shortly before the outbreak of war in 1939. Hedwig Klein was deported in 1942 with the first direct transport from Hamburg to Auschwitz. Julian Obermann had already been deprived of teaching as a “non-Aryan” in 1933, but found a new existence in the United States at Yale University. In addition to the hunter already mentioned, Wilhelm Gundert, a Japanese scientist, had exposed himself, not only through explicitly Nazi statements and publications, but also through assuming political office. So he was appointed from 1938 to 1941 the rector, which led in 1945 to the removal of the Japanese Chair. Apart from such exceptions, it may be true what a study of the conditions in African studies states in spite of numerous party entries: “The published scientific papers of the Hamburg hardly reveal any influence of this ideology, let alone that of a Nazi-Africanist could be talked “. Institutionally, however, the Asian and Asian studies gained importance: in 1933 the first foreign diplomas were awarded, in 1937 one held off an Africa week, before the war there was also an overseas day. In 1938, a colonial institute was again founded on the highest initiative, which, however, remained a paper institution and disappeared without a trace after Stalingrad in 1943. The equipment of the seminars with personnel and material resources improved clearly.

After 1945, there is no word of the “overseas” nature of the university. Although the University Law of 1921 became “habitually applicable again”, the constitution of the University as a peculiarity mentions only the cooperation with the scientific institutes. And a presentation of the Philosophical Faculty of 1955 begins with the facultas artium hausbacken, then cited German idealists and leads after the philosophy and the unspecified philological-historical subjects still pedagogy, psychology and sociology. Wolfgang Franke, emeritus Sinologist in 1978, recalled recently: “For the universities of the Federal Republic of […] East Asia was completely irrelevant even in the 1950s.” Even in Hamburg, it was not until 1956 that I was able to repopulate the Chair of Japanese Studies, which was abolished in 1945 In the Philosophical Faculty, understandably, everything that had happened in the Nazi era was considered bad and outlandish. […] This or that had been one way or another before 1933 and must be regulated accordingly […] so worked at the German universities, the traditional Eurocentric attitude of the past on. It was precisely thanks to the efforts of Franke junior that the development of orientalist subjects progressed: in 1966 a second ordinariate for sinology and indology was added, further subjects and languages ​​were established.

In 1969, the faculties were dissolved, they created 15 faculties, including the Department of Oriental Studies with the Asian and African Studies. The new university law had deleted the old “peculiarity” without substitution, and the Hamburg Higher Education Act of 1978 requires only in general form and of all universities to promote “international, especially European cooperation” and “the exchange between German and foreign universities” (§ 3 para. 4); Today’s mission statement of the University of Hamburg is similarly arbitrary. Luckily, the long-standing President Fischer-Appelt, who always promoted the Asian and African sciences in word and deed, stood by this astounding horizon narrowing. It is thanks to him – and, of course, also to the clever policy of the technical representatives – that the difficult, but nevertheless continuous, expansion is due. The most recent step in this direction was the creation of a professorship of Korean Studies in 1992.

Since the beginning of rigid budget cuts in the following years, four professorships have either been canceled or converted into “cheaper” jobs: one each for Japan and China dedicated to the development of present-day priorities; one for South Africa, which rose economically and politically after the end of apartheid to a regional great power, as well as the one for ancient Near Eastern. This subject has been dropped without replacement. A number of posts were also canceled by academic staff – including in the age of “globalization” and “internationalization”. It is thanks to the incumbent President’s insight that the professorship of Vietnamese Studies can be re-occupied and the sword of Damocles withdrawn from the second Indology Chair. Reductions in the resource budget and the unfavorable dollar exchange rate have led to a loss of purchasing power of up to 50% – with detrimental consequences for the libraries and thus for research and teaching. Without the involvement of the students, libraries could have been kept open only on two days a week during lectures, even during lectures.

In the meantime, however, social and economic circumstances have changed as well. The existing study regulations of the Asian and African sciences date back to the seventies, when there were only a handful of students. In the meantime, these subjects are no longer orchids, quite the contrary. Above all, the audience has become more numerous, but also more heterogeneous: some come to the university only after several years of work experience, most have to work alongside, and many hope that studying Asian and African sciences will give them better job opportunities. New organizational forms of scientific work and changed criteria for the allocation of funds require interdisciplinary cooperation and projects. For the Asian and African sciences, it is also true that the disciplinary boundaries, which are mostly related to the young nation-states, are of limited use from a historical perspective. If one did not want to idly watch the new developments, ideas with a future perspective were needed.

After several years of deliberations, which gained additional weight in 1997 through recommendations of an external commission of experts, an initiative then submitted an application for the establishment of a joint institute on 25 May 1998. Afrikanistik had hesitated at first, but soon joined. The statement of reasons for the petition states: “When assessing the current situation, it emerged that the subjects of Asia / [Africa] represented at the University of Hamburg still occupy an excellent position on a national level, although some of our subjects are in other German languages However, the HH subjects are disproportionately successful in the graduation rate, according to a list compiled by the Federal Statistical Office, as is the publication of scientific journals and series of publications, as well as the integration of our subjects with the public And the combination of these subjects is unique in its nationality in its diversity and unity.

Such an […] institute is urgently needed for future-oriented effects on the society of the Federal Republic. This requires a continuous expansion of their perspectives beyond small Europe. For this purpose, such an institute is naturally a more important reference point than the conglomerate of the previous institutions […]. This also applies to the development of new study programs and the expansion of international scientific cooperation as well as other cooperations.

In addition to the more efficient use of material and personnel resources, the proposal identified other objectives, including: creating new interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary teaching and study programs, including short courses; […] for joint scientific projects leading to the acquisition of third-party funds; […] for an improvement in the presentation of the entire University of Hamburg in the reference regions of this institute. ”

In the meantime it had become known that a patron, in the tradition of the names mentioned at the beginning, had donated two wings to the main building, and that in the second of these buildings the Asian and African sciences should find a common home after more than 75 years. The foreseeable spatial consolidation of the seminars spread across the campus gave additional weight to the substantive arguments of the application. By the spring of 2000, it had finally passed through all university departments and was approved within a few weeks by the Department of Science and Research by letter of 26 May 2000.

As a result of this administrative act, the Department of Oriental Studies became the Asia-Africa-Institute of the University of Hamburg with its formerly independent seminars and institutes as departments. Steps have been taken to reorganize and streamline the administration, and preparations have been made to integrate the existing sub-libraries into a media center in the East Wing, which will be open to the interested public six days a week. A uniform study regulations for all subjects represented at the Asia-Africa-Institute is in the approval procedure. In addition to the introduction of short-term courses, she also provides for interdisciplinary courses. After the move, the Asia-Africa Institute will increasingly turn to the public with an annual festival and exhibitions and events in the Asia-Africa Forum, the foyer of the East Wing.

With the merger of at least five of the six departments, the development phase of the Asia-Africa Institute will be largely completed. The spatial possibilities of the east wing provide nationwide unique conditions to realize its ambitious program. However, not only the efforts of its members, but also the political insight that sinking human and physical resources and increasing costs jeopardize the by no means unrealistic plans to establish an internationally competitive center for Asian and African sciences in substance, are needed for this purpose Their full impact often only takes years to develop after investment, swift action is required. In Berlin, one seems once again to have recognized the signs of the times: there, on the advice of the Science Council, an Asian center is planned which will include the relevant institutions of the two major universities. And there they have created several new professorships, including one for East Asian art history and two for Korean studies. But there, too, they plan to expand even further.

It was a long way from the Colonial Institute to the Department of Oriental Studies and the Asia-Africa Institute. The way things go will depend crucially on the decisions of the years to come. The Hamburg Asia-Africa-Sciences were once dear to the Free and Hanseatic City. Will they return there with the move? It would be nice to both, the city and science.

Source: University in the heart of the city. A Festschrift for Dr. med. Hannelore and Prof. Dr. med. Helmut Greve. Published by Jürgen Lüthje, Hamburg 2002, pages 170-179.