Presse release, 11/21/2019

Young scholars in Africa, Research into democracy and “Lost Cities”

Gerda Henkel Foundation approves EUR 8.6 million for 53 new projects worldwide

The Gerda Henkel Foundation has included 53 new research projects into its sponsorship programme. At its autumn meeting, the Foundation’s boards approved EUR 8.6 million for this purpose. Some EUR 2.1 million will benefit young humanities scholars at Makerere University, Uganda. A further EUR 1.6 million will be committed to doctoral programmes at the University of Ghana in Accra. Additional funding will go to three groups of researchers for projects in the field of democracy research. Within the Lost Cities” theme projects on abandoned and destroyed cities in Oman and the Near East asserted themselves. In total scientists from almost 30 countries will receive support.

Funding examples I: Stronger accent on humanities in West and East Africa
The two most comprehensive individual initiatives are located in Sub-Saharan Africa: In Ghana, the humanities suffer from the fact that funding tends to be given primarily to mathematics, computer science, science and technology while there is a lack of qualified staff in the humanities. The University of Ghana in Accra, one of West Africa’s most renowned universities, aspires to counter this trend. With the interdisciplinary aim of developing a reputation as a university with an intensive research arm, a team around Prof. Dr. Samuel Kwame Offei will award humanities scholarships to doctoral students from the ECOWAS. The Gerda Henkel Foundation will make available EUR 1.6 million for 30 doctoral students.

In Kampala, Uganda the Makerere University can rest assured it has funding for the doctoral programme it has already begun in the humanities and social sciences. Three years ago, the Gerda Henkel Foundation facilitated the establishment of a Graduate School for young scientists from different African nations at Makerere University. Since then the number of applications has clearly exceeded the number of available places. Now with funds totalling EUR 2.1 million approved, Makerere University can continue its multi-country study opportunities headed by Prof. Dr. Josephine Ahikire and expand it to include conferences and field research projects.

Funding examples II: Research on democracy
With its new focal theme “Democracy as Utopia, Experience and Threat” the Gerda Henkel Foundation is inviting research groups in the area of the humanities and social sciences to place current problems in larger historical contexts. In the context of the programme Dr. Oliver Eberl (Hannover), Prof. Dirk Jörke (Darmstadt) and Dr. David Salomon (Hildesheim) will examine the historical and current defence strategies elites use to parry social protest. The title of their project reveals their main interest, namely "The View Downwards: Social Conflicts in the History of Ideas of Democracy”.

In the same context historians headed by Dr. Claudia Christiane Gatzka (Freiburg im Br.) are researching how the “people’s will” was articulated in the Federal Republic of German up until the year 2000. Have the Internet and social media statements that are made about the “people” or in its name altered over the long term? And what response have speakers faced who do not identify with the values of liberal democracy?

Funding examples III: Abandoned and destroyed
Two large-scale research projects within the funding focus on “Lost Cities” addresses lively and lifeless places. In Oman, the upswing of the last three decades generated by the exploitation of oil and gas has also had an impact on housing development. Many people have moved from their traditional clay brick settlements into new concrete houses nearby but without totally abandoning their original settlements. Scholars argue that it is time to retain this cultural landscape. An interdisciplinary group of researchers based in Frankfurt/Main, Bochum and Leipzig headed by Dr. Stephanie Döpper examines the relevance of Oman’s abandoned city centres.

The research work of Prof. Daniel Monterescu, who is based at the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary, is based not on abandoned but rather destroyed areas. Together with a team of sociologists and geographers the professor concentrates on the ruins from the cities of Jaffa and Hebron. Depending on a person’s origin and historical experience, these ruins evoke mixed feelings in the Israeli and Palestinian population. The project will trace what the ruins of both cities mean as collective ideals and a social reality; it will cover the period from 1882 up unto the present day.

Press office Gerda Henkel Foundation:
Dr. Sybille Wüstemann
Tel. +49 211 93 65 24 - 19
Fax +49 211 93 65 24 - 44