Current Projects

Bücherregal der Forschungsbibliothek in Gotha

Institutionalising the Law of Nature and Nations: The Universities of Kiel, Greifswald and Rostock 1648-1806 (Dr. Mikkel Munthe Jensen)

The project is about the history of the teaching of natural law at the three north German universities in Kiel, Greifswald and Rostock during the period 1648-1806. It is concerned with why, how and to what extent this academic discipline developed in three different political settings along the Baltic coast. The project is based on the general presumption that natural law was of great significance for the period's intellectual development and state building endeavours. The general aim of the project is to show that "modern" natural law, even at smaller north German universities, was playing an important role in this matter.

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Project Director: Mikkel Munthe Jensen Funding : German Research Foundation (DFG) € 350.000 Period: 01.07.2022-30.06.2026

Ways and Works of Michael Kosmeli (1773-1844) (Dr. Dirk Sangmeister)

The Silesian-born Michael Kosmeli (1773-1844), a studied lawyer, versatilist writer, polyglot translator, virtuoso Jew's harpist and doctor of botany, never had a permanent job, not even a permanent residence, but traveled all his life as a vagabond scholar and musician crisscrossing half of Europe to Asia. He was the exact opposite of a parlor scholar. Kosmeli preferred to travel in the corridor that connected East Germany and Eastern Europe with the Ottoman Empire and Persia. Favorite ports of call and hubs in his travels were Berlin, Breslau, Riga, Reval, St. Petersburg, Moscow, Tbilisi, Jassy, and Constantinople, where Kosmeli had loose networks of local scholars and friends who could accommodate and assist him. He reached as far as Persia (Isfahan, Shiraz) and, according to contemporaries, even toyed with the idea of converting to Islam; years often passed before he temporarily returned to Silesia and Prussia. Kosmeli not only crossed countless geographical, political, cultural and religious borders without any effort, but actually felt at home in this Eastern European-Ottoman region. Through his "Rhapsodic Letters on a Journey to the Crimea" (1813) and the "Harmless Remarks on a Journey via Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev to Jassy" (1822), through his translations, above all of poetry (among others from Polish, Russian, Modern Greek, and Persian, among others), through his contacts with some of the most outstanding scholars and literary figures of his time, including Hammer-Purgstall, Goethe, Chamisso, and Jean Paul, and through his constant concert appearances at home and abroad, Kosmeli was the most mobile and versatile mediator of texts, ideas, and Music between West and East, in both directions, among all German-speaking actors in the early 19th century. Despite his extensive travels, diverse connections, and various publications, Kosmeli has long been a completely forgotten figure, who has so far only been rudimentarily examined in a single essay published in 2011 (by Dr. Dirk Sangmeister), but who will now be embedded in the overarching contexts of "Transottomanica." In a first step, the research project aims at reconstructing Kosmeli's intricate, partly obscure life and all his works in context by means of a short biography including a detailed bibliography and an annotated edition of his scattered letters. Based on this, in a second step, his role in the circulation of knowledge in the trans-Ottoman area, his connections, interconnections and interactions with scholars, literary figures and musicians in the West and East, as well as his transfer achievements in the course of the adaptation of texts, ideas, knowledge and compositions will be worked out.

The German Research Foundation (DFG) is funding the project as part of the priority program "Transottomanica" for a period of three years. In the priority program, conceived and led by historians Stefan Rohdewald (Leipzig), Albrecht Fuess (Marburg), and Stephan Conermann (Bonn), more than a dozen humanities scholars have been collaborating since 2017 to research Eastern European-Ottoman-Persian mobility dynamics from the early modern period to the 20th century.

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Contact: Dr. Dirk Sangmeister Funding : DFG funding within the priority program "Transottomanica" Duration : 2021 - 2024

Strategies of Collecting and Displaying China in Nineteenth-Century Germany: Gotha’s Chinese Cabinet (Dr. Emily Teo)

My research project brings renewed attention to a significant Chinese collection in early-nineteenth-century Germany, the Chinese Cabinet in Gotha, established by Duke Emil August (1772-1822) of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg from 1804 to 1810. Consisting of over 2000 objects, the Cabinet was a great sensation during the first decades of the nineteenth-century and was described as the most important Chinese collection in continental Europe. However, following the establishment of national museums across European metropoles in the late-nineteenth century, smaller, regional collections such as the Chinese Cabinet gradually faded from memory. Despite its former fame, this collection is scarcely heard of today. The project argues that the Chinese Cabinet deserves further scholarly attention and takes a micro-historical approach to investigate the historical, cultural and social processes behind its creation. In doing so, this project offers new conclusions about the history of collections in nineteenth-century Germany, German perceptions and representations of China, and the provenance of Chinese objects during the early-nineteenth century.

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Funding: DFG funding (material grant) Duration: May 2021 - April 2024

Property and habit. On the Political Anthropology of Property in Western Modernity.

In the Collaborative Research Centre/ Transregio SFB TRR 294 "Structural Change of Property", which will be established in 2021, the FZG is involved with a subproject on "Property and Habit. On the Political Anthropology of Property in Western Modernity".

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