The Department of Anthropology and Cultural Research (IfEK) has made critical, anti-racist, and intersectional approaches central to its teaching and research. Our goal is to implement and live these approaches in the everyday life of our institution. We do this also with the awareness that we are part of a university landscape that is institutionally entangled in histories of power and violence and that often suppresses or renders illegible the voices and knowledge of the marginalized. This affects the daily life of the university and the question of who feels included and supported, who dares to speak out, and who sets foot in the university in the first place.
We are thus committed to creating free spaces and to equip our students with the professional tools they need - both in the job market and as members of a rapidly changing and increasingly conflictual society. We advocate for an open university and strive to strengthen processes of decolonization, democratization, gender equality, queering, and social inclusion. We aim to institutionally anchor structural safeguards against racism, sexism, classism, and all other forms of discrimination based on age, origin, or religion.
The IfEK´s critiques of power was most manifest in its initial emphasis on critical theory from the Frankfurt School, ethnopsychoanalysis, feminist cultural anthropology, applied ethnology, and cultures of memory. At the same time, however,, the institute was and continues to be embedded in a wider disciplinary tradition that long concealed its involvement and complicity in colonial conditions, placed its research in the service of National Socialist racial doctrine, and co-developed and promoted Eurocentric, Orientalist and racist notions of the “self” and the “Other.” Anthropology was furthermore a science that often brutally appropriated both objects and human remains from the colonies for alleged research and teaching purposes. Some are still kept in German museums and negotiations for the return of objects and ancestral remains are often difficult and in many cases unsuccessful.
At the same time, our discipline has also since its inception been committed to conveying the diversity of human cultural and social creativity - an archive of human possibilities. The goal is to interrogate both "self," and "Other," to capture the variety and complexity of human life, and to concretely help shape it. Our discipline thus also has a long track-record of repeatedly rethinking and rebelling against racist, Eurocentric and hierarchical theories of humanity, research emphases, and methods. Students and scholars have repeatedly problematised and revised questions of ethnographic representation and research ethics.
The (unique) connection between cultural research and anthropology at the IfEK is, among other things, a result of the criticism of a professional separation of Europe and the "rest" of the world. This development would not have been conceivable without decolonial struggles for political recognition and self-determination or without the struggle within Germany to come to terms with its colonial and Nazi past. The IfEK is therefore committed to self-criticism and continuous renewal, equality, anti-discrimination and justice. We aim to recognize the aspirations, perspectives and critiques of "other anthropologies" and to implement them in our research and teaching. We understand this to be an ongoing process that we collectively shape with students and the university and which is reflected in our methodology, theory-building and our self-reflexive research practice. We do this with the awareness that the attractiveness of the term diversity, as Sara Ahmed warns, should never cloud its critical character. That is why it must be anchored and lived institutionally.