Germany

By Bergenthum, Hartmut | African Research & Documentation, January 1, 2007 | Go to article overview

Germany


Bergenthum, Hartmut, African Research & Documentation


African Studies in Germany

Let me begin with some background information about African Studies in Germany. In terms of professorships and institutes it is a very small part of the academic community. There are around twelve Professors for African Languages, six for the history of Africa and six for the anthropology. They all know each other and work on their own region or subject with little overlapping. The organisational structure (concerning size, funding ...) is heterogeneous, and some of the institutes at universities are too small to survive in the long run. Further merging of locations and institutions will take place, and growing competition sometimes prevents closer cooperation.

The German Science Council (Wissenschaftsrat) - the most important advisory body to the Federal Government and the state (Länder) governments, drawing up binding recommendations on the development of higher education institutions - in July 2006 issued recommendations on area studies at Universities and other research institutes.1 For the first time the importance of area studies was acknowledged. In particular, the need to consult politicians and businessmen and the provision of language and intercultural competences were highlighted. Organisation of interdisciplinary "Centres for Area Studies" was suggested for the universities. And in the future there should be established one national centre per region, a model being SOAS.

The most important Africana collections are located at the main universities and in a very few research institutes in Hamburg, Berlin, Leipzig, Bayreuth, München, Frankfurt, Mainz and Köln.2 At some university departments very specialised libraries are attached like the "Jahn Library for African Literatures" as part of the Department of Anthropology and African Studies at the University of Mainz which holds one of the most extensive collections of African literary texts and relevant critical sources worldwide.3

German Research Centre Funding and three main centres

Due to the lack of a proper National Library collecting the international academic literature, a federal solution has been funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) since the end of the Second World War. The aim of the so called "Sondersammelgebiete" or "Special Subject Collection Programme" is to guarantee all researchers in Germany access to comprehensive and highly specialised subject literature. At least one copy of every relevant text should be stored at one library in Germany and made available in conventional printed form through interlibrary loan and document delivery. Twenty-two large libraries and some more specialised smaller ones participate in this programme.4 The German Research Foundation supports the libraries in the purchase of printed scholarly literature and in setting up virtual specialised libraries. In recent years, the acquisition and licensing of German National Licenses for digital publications has also been funded with about euro15 million per year. In this way, scientists and academics get immediate digital access to e-journals, documentcollections and other databases. This year the first Africa-related database could be licensed by this programme: Le Corpus de la littérature francophone de l'Afrique noire, écrite et orale, des origines aux indépendances (fin XVIIIe siècle - 1960) with 11.000 texts of all genres. The German National Licenses are available to all members of universities and research institutions located in Germany and are accessible free-of-charge from the campus networks and the catalogues of German state and university libraries. The German Research Foundation also supports the nationwide usage of the NISC Africa-Wide: NiPAD database collection via a pay-per-use-platform.

The German Research Foundation will continue to fund the Special Subject Collection Programme with an unrestricted mandate to collect specialised literature (in print), regardless of current demand. …

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