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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Department of Cultural History and Theory

Before 1993

At the Philosophical Faculty [Philosophische Fakultät] of Humboldt University of Berlin, Cultural History and Theory [Kulturwissenschaft] was first introduced as a subject of study in the year 1963. The contents of the GDR-diploma program in Cultural History and Theory ranged from the theory and history of aesthetics to cultural sociology and sociology of literature, as well as Marxist cultural theory.

In the course of the reorganisation efforts of 1968, the section “Aesthetics and Cultural History and Theory” [Ästhetik und Kulturwissenschaft] was formed, which was subdivided into “Cultural Theory” and “Aesthetics”. Alongside, a section dedicated to the cultural theory and aesthetics of mass communications was introduced.

Through Wolfgang Heise’s seminal studies about Hölderlin and Heine, Renate Reschke’s critical reception of Nietzsche, Irene Dölling’s work on gender issues and Dietrich Mühlberg’s research in cultural history, it was possible to open up new thematic areas and discourses that didn’t bow to dogmatic interpretative patterns.

In 1991, after the German Reunification, this contributed to the positive evaluation of the sections “Aesthetics” and “Cultural Theory”, which were threatened with closure. Thanks to the initiative of renowned academics from East and West, the Berlin Senate could be persuaded to revoke its initial decision to discontinue these sections.

The “Commission for Employees and Structure” [Personal- und Strukturkommission] underlined the unique cross-disciplinary profile that had been developed within the Department of Cultural History and Theory in Berlin, and attested to its potential to counteract the fragmentation of disciplinary fields and to withstand the cultural challenges of modernity and postmodernity, respectively.

The institutional delineation of Cultural History and Theory as a field of study at Humboldt University of Berlin benefitted from this recognition of its potentials for innovation and integration and it could get past the evaluation – despite the adjustment to the framework of the FRG’s Higher Education Act – without drastic structural reforms. The “Commission for Structure and Appointments” [Struktur- und Berufungskommission], chaired by Friedhelm Krummacher, was responsible for the denomination and re-appointment of professorships.

The alignment with the institutional structures of Federal German universities was carried out in 1990/91. It resulted in the transformation of the section for “Aesthetics and Cultural History and Theory” into the Department 8 “History and Theory of Culture and Art” [Fachbereich 8 Kultur- und Kunstwissenschaft]. All professorial posts had to undergo an new application procedure, but the teaching and research areas remained largely intact: The Chair of Aesthetics and History of Media, the Chair of History of Aesthetic Thinking and the Chair of Systematic Aesthetics remained with the “Seminar of Aesthetics”; the Chair of Cultural Theory, the Chair of Cultural History and the Chair of Gender and History remained with the “Seminar of Cultural History and Theory”.