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History of the 'Institut für Ethnologie' Freiburg

From the late 19th century until 1927, the subject of Ethnology (originally known as Völkerkunde) has been represented at the University of Freiburg by Ernst Grosse (1862-1927), a specialist in East Asian cultures. Theodor Koch-Grünberg, a researcher of South Africa, (1872-1924) continued his work for a short time (1910-1915). 1964 Rolf Herzog (1919-2006) reestablished the subject. Prof. Herzog started rebuilding the Instiute.

The Institute initially obtained classrooms at the Peterhof and changed in 1965 to the universitätstraße 9. In 1972 the Institute of Völkerkunde was moved to Werderring 4, at the Wertmannhaus along with the Institute of Geography/Geographical Institute. Geography and Ethnology were granted the same subject specific library, which still holds the literature of the institute until today. After a big fire at the Werthmannhaus in 1975, the institute was moved to the house at Werderring 10, where it is still located nowadays.

When the institute was created in 1975, it was assigned to the Philosophy Faculty. In 1969, after the new organization oft he faculties, ethnology was made part oft he faculty for geo sciences. After their disappearance in 2002, the institute was to form part of the newly created philosophy faculty. A chair holder, as well as a professor (since 1980) and an assistant, represent the subject.  Initially, only 20 students attended, but by the winter semester of 2005/2006 this number had already increased to 300 students.

Research Profile

In the 1990s, both professors represented the institute at the DFG-Graduiertenkolleg „Sozio-Ökonomie der Waldnutzung in den Tropen und Subtropen“. Since 2005, the institute, together with Prof. Dr. Schlehe, has been a participant at the DFG-Graduiertenkolleg „ Freunde, Gönner, Getreue: Praxis und Semantik von Freundschaft und Patronage in historischer, anthropologischer und kulturvergleichender Perspektive“.

According to the individual interests of the chair holder, there have been differing regional research focuses, of which were included African studies with Prof. em. Dr. Rolf Herzog, especially concerning north and northeast Africa, American studies with Prof. Dr. Ulrich Köhler, with a focus on Mexico, and finally Southeast Asian research concerning Indonesia conducted by Prof. Dr. Judith Schlehe. (Prof. titles?) Stefan Seitz also represented parts of Africa and Southeast Asia.

Development of Teaching

The Institute engages in teaching across different interdisciplinary subjects at the University of Freiburg. These include the international M.A. Global Studies, the Magister in Gender Studies, as well as historical anthropology. At the same time the institute forms part of a teaching group in Asian sciences. There have been weekend seminars and common themes organized in cooperation with ethnological institutes in Basel and Strasbourg (EUCOR).

Field Trips

Ethnology field trips and short field work with students have taken place in Southeast Asia and Mexico. The short research in Indonesia is a regularly offered activity, which is done together with the ethnology students of the Gadjah Mada university in Yogyakarta. The results of the research in 2004 were showed at the Uniseum Freiburg in the exhibition “The double point of view: Ethnological research of German and Indonesian students in Java”. We offer regular Indonesian language courses as part of the preparation for such research.

Thanks to the Socrates Program, we have an intensive exchange with students from the university of Sevilla in Spain, but also with the Université des Antilles et de la Guyane (UAG). University connections such as these also include the Institute at the Gadja Mada University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, the Xavier University, Cagayan de Oro in the Philippines and the School of Social Sciences at the Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand.

Future Developments

The future direction of the Institute, under the guidance of Judith Schlehe, is to be a contemporarily oriented Ethnology in research and teaching, in which the methods and points of view look to contribute something to theory and praxis in a global field of interdisciplinary work. Additionally, the regional focus should not only help to communicate global knowledge but also help reinforce Asian research at the University of Freiburg.

Chair holders have been Rolf Herzog from 1964 to 1987 and Ulrich Köhler from 1987 to 2002. Both were representatives of the subject at the DFG, chairmen of the German Association for Ethnology (DGV) and deans of the faculty of geo sciences. In 1983 the Institute for Ethnology organized the conference of the German Association of Ethnology. Judith Schlehe has led the Institute since 2002. Since 1980, Stefan Seitz has been second professor at the Institute. In 2010, Gregor Dobler accepted the position of second professor. Through the decades, teaching has also been the responsibility of Bodo Spranz, Otakar Nahodil, Lothar Käser and Günter Best.