The Development of German Sinology in the European Context

Entanglements between Politics, Disciplinary Structure, and Personalities
Tuesday
4:00 pm – 5:45 pm
Room 6

  • Mechthild Leutner, “Phases of German Sinology Development with Special Consideration of the Leipzig School and Eduard Erkes”
  • Susanne Weigelin-Schwiedrzik, “Sinology in the Cold War: Developments in East and West Germany”
  • Marianne Bastid-Bruguière, “Dialogues between French and German Sinologists in the 19th and 20th Centuries”
  • Bernhard Führer, “Sinology and the Disciplines”

In the panel some basic characteristics of the development of German Sinology in particular from the end of the 19th century to the end of the 20th century will be presented: The different political systems: Empire, Weimar Republic, Nazi period, the two German states, formed the context in which the institutionalization and professionalization of the discipline took place and was handed down or not handed down. In the dialogue with the European and international scientific community—the French context is particularly important here—divergent specialist knowledge, thematic focuses, methodological, and theoretical orientations, and, last but not least, different perceptions of China have emerged. A look at the history of sinology also sharpens the critical view of recent developments in the discipline, of the self-perception, and role of the representatives of the discipline, and their position in the respective academic and political context.

Mechthild Leutner, “Phases of German Sinology Development with Special Consideration of the Leipzig School and Eduard Erkes”

The institutionalisation of sinology (1831) and Chinese studies (1887) at the Berlin University and the establishment of the Gabelentz professorship in Leipzig (1878) each represented different starting points for the professionalisation of the discipline in the outgoing empire. This was also evident in the Weimar Republic in the respective methodological and theoretical development of the discipline and the different views of China. During the Nazi era, the Leipzig School, but also young scholars in Berlin were particularly affected by persecution and emigration, with devastating consequences for the discipline as a whole. The new beginning after 1945 took place in the Federal Republic of Germany and the GDR under different political and academic conditions. Erkes rebuilt Sinology in Leipzig and left his mark on the next generation in both German states, even after his death. With the end of the GDR in 1989, sinology was completely restructured—here, too, the interrelationships between disciplinary development and politics in Germany are particularly evident.

Susanne Weigelin-Schwiedrzik, “Sinology in the Cold War: Developments in East and West Germany”

This presentation will focus on the geopolitical setting of the Cold War and its impact on the development of the field of Sinology in East and West Germany. It will discuss the hypothesis that the rules of the game followed by the representatives of Sinology in both parts of Germany were strikingly similar despite the fact that research and teaching on China developed under the impact of two external political players as different as the US and the SU. In both parts of the country, the dichotomy between focusing on ancient or contemporary China generated the fractionalisation of the field which has up until today left a mark on the development of Sinology in the German-speaking world. However, the different approaches to the study of China are not only political but also different in terms of methodology and the question to which extent philology is the basic methodological pillar of Sinology. The presentation argues that the kind of factionalism which has haunted Sinology since the end of WW II is the main reason why the international impact, as well as the reputation of the field, has not grown simultaneously to the development of Sino-German relations.

Marianne Bastid-Bruguière, “Dialogues between French and German Sinologists in the 19th and 20th Centuries”

Regardless of political enmity or alliance between related countries, sinology has been a field of continuous interaction between the German-speaking world and France all along the 19th and 20th centuries. This can be evidenced from personal relations between German, Austrian and French sinologists, from connections between their works and interests, from the mutual reviews of their publications or from their joint projects. The general ground of the ongoing contacts laid on historical legacy and commonalities that have linked together the learned elites on both sides, and which play their role in other fields as well. In sinology, however, the interaction was shaped also by a special framework borne by actual circumstances of fieldwork in China, of specialised journals editing, and of international conferences organization. There were ups and downs in the interaction, but on the whole, its framework has driven to a closer and wider European cooperation in that area of the humanities.

Bernhard Führer, “Sinology and the Disciplines”

In this presentation, I shall discuss the level to which sinological research relates to and is embedded in developments and trends in various disciplines during the late 19th and the early 20th century. Examples for this discussion are taken from the publications of Austrian scholars discussed in my monograph Vergessen and Verloren.

Event Timeslots (1)

Room 6
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Entanglements between Politics, Disciplinary Structure, and Personalities