Victoria Hegner

Situations of Upheaval

Disciplinary development in European ethnology/cultural anthropology after 1989


Buy article


The cultural, political and social situatedness of science and scientific practice emerges in a condensed manner in situations of social upheaval. Research on such situations facilitates particularly insightful academic self-reflection. The reappraisal of the scholarly caesura caused by the Nazi regime was addressed early on in European Ethnology; the revision of the discipline at the beginning of the 1970s, as a consequence of the countercultural movement of the time, is also firmly anchored in disciplinary memory. However, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the unification of Germany, with their consequences for the (re)formation of knowledge and disciplinary knowledge culture in (German-speaking) European ethnology/cultural anthropology, have been largely ignored. Against this background and by combining archival source studies with biographical and thematic interviews with protagonists of the time, the present article takes a research-oriented look at the historical developments of the discipline after 1989. It is interesting how, as a result of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the clash between East and West German colleagues, the development of the discipline and its thematic-analytical and social new interpretations were wrestled with. The aim of this study is to create another surface for the reflection of how social upheaval in the field of science continues to have an effect and what specific knowledge emerges from it. In addition, it is a matter of concern to open up the ongoing German-German process of understanding, which is accompanied by strong reservations, more broadly.

History of science, development of the discipline, fall of the Berlin Wall, GDR, upheaval, historical ethnography