Press Releases

Press Release, 05/02/2019

An academy in Africa, sports history and lost cities:
Gerda Henkel Foundation approves almost EUR 7 million for more than 60 different projects

The Gerda Henkel Foundation is supporting more than 60 new research projects worldwide. At its spring meeting, the Foundation approved funding of almost seven million euros for this purpose. Of this sum, 970,000 euros have been earmarked for the creation of an academy for young scholars in Bamako, Mali. In other resolutions, the Foundation’s committees approved studies on the history of sport as well as initial research projects in the new Gerda Henkel Foundation Funding Programmes “Democracy” and “Lost Cities”.

Example project I: Useful is not always useful – a new culture of academics in Africa
The academic system in Africa is marked by two major trends: Student numbers are rising and research is measured primarily based on its political and economic relevance. The consequences of this are highlighted by Professor Mamadou Diawara (Frankfurt/Main) and Professor Elísio Macamo (Basel): Higher education institutions are strongly focussed on an application-oriented education. With a good 970,000 euros, the Gerda Henkel Foundation is supporting the two scholars on Africa in developing a postgraduate academy at the “Point Sud” centre in Bamako. The aim of the academy is to strengthen basic research in humanities and social sciences in Africa and place it on a confident footing in relation to other research areas.

Example projects II: Sprinting and boxing
“The fastest Jew in Germany” is how gallerist Alfred Flechtheim described his great-nephew Alex Natan. Born in Berlin, Alex Natan (1906–1971) set a world record in the relay. He later emigrated to Britain, joined the antifascist resistance, and founded a rescue commission for Jewish children. After the War, he was involved in efforts for reconciliation between the former wartime enemies. As a sports journalist, Alex Natan wrote for the “Manchester Guardian”, “Die Zeit”, the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” and Berlin’s “Tagesspiegel”. Historian Professor Kay Ernst Schiller (Durham) is now planning a cultural-historical biography in memory of the civil rights campaigner, individualist, and homosexual athlete.

Throughout the history of boxing, immigrants and members of minority groups have played a major role. This is notable in Great Britain in particular, where boxing developed from an illegal activity on the fringes of society to a popular spectator sport. Immigrants and members of minority groups can be found not only inside the ring, but also outside it as trainers, promoters and managers. Historian Dr David Dee (Leicester) is planning to write a history of British boxing. As part of this, he will also investigate the significance of immigration and ethnicity for the history of this sport and the impact boxing has had on Britain’s minority communities.

Approved for the first time: Applications in the new Funding Programmes “Democracy” and “Lost Cities”
For the first time, scientists and academics have been able to submit applications in two new international funding programmes. For the line of funding entitled “Democracy as Utopia, Experience and Threat”, the approved projects covered the democratic monopoly on the use of force in the Weimar Republic and changes in preconceptions of democracy within Germany, Great Britain and the Netherlands after the Second World War. In the programme “Lost Cities. Perception of and living with abandoned cities in the cultures of the world”, the projects approved range from deurbanised areas in Imperial Rome, the ancient city of Babylon, and abandoned towns in the Mongolian steppe to the fate of the Jewish “shtetl” after the Holocaust.

The Gerda Henkel Foundation was established in June 1976 by Lisa Maskell in memory of her mother Gerda Henkel as an incorporated foundation under civil law, headquartered in Düsseldorf. The Gerda Henkel Foundation concentrates its support on the historical humanities. In some of the programmes the Foundation furthermore addresses issues of great relevance to contemporary life and the future, above all as part of its special programme “Security, Society and the State”. As part of the Lisa Maskell Fellowship programme, the Foundation supports young scholars in the humanities in both Africa and Southeast Asia. With its “Patrimonies” funding initiative it promotes the preservation of the cultural heritage, specifically in regions experiencing crisis. Research that places current challenging issues in a greater historical context form the focus of the “Democracy as Utopia, Experience and Threat” and “Lost Cities” funding programmes. In connection with funded projects, the Foundation also provides assistance for social support measures as part of complementary projects. The Gerda Henkel Foundation can by virtue of its statutes pursues its objectives both inside and outside Germany.