[INDOLOGY] Fwd: Saying “NO!” to the planned abolishment of the subject of Art History of South Asia at the Freie Universität Berlin

Christophe Vielle christophe.vielle at uclouvain.be
Sun Oct 13 14:21:16 UTC 2013

Petition from
Studierende der Kunstgeschichte Südasiens
Berlin, Germany


Open letter to the Executive Committee of the Freie Universität Berlin in support of the retention of the subject of Art History of South Asia at the Freie Universität Berlin.

Saying “NO!” to the planned abolishment of the subject of Art History of South Asia at the Freie Universität Berlin!

It is with grave concern that we have learned of the planned closure of the Department of South Asian Art History at the Institute of Art History of the Freie Universität Berlin.

The subject Art History of South Asia / Indian Art History is concerned with the art and architecture of South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Central Asia. As such, it encompasses to the greatest possible extent all epochs from pre-history to modern times. The subject also includes the cultural and religious history of the above-mentioned regions. Abolishing the subject of Art History of South Asia would mean that the Freie Universität Berlin would relinquish the last remaining place of study of its kind at any German university. 

We call upon the Freie Universität Berlin to enforce the Developmental and Structural Plan of April 2004, which continues to remain in force, and therefore to retain the Department of South Asian Art History / Indian Art History.     

The art history of South Asia is internationally renowned and has led many students and doctoral candidates, both from Germany and abroad, to choose the Freie Universität as their place of study. Within the framework of joint projects, the Department represents a central facility and an important resource for numerous scholars from Germany and from abroad. This exchange has also led to many joint publications, book editions, and conferences. Alumni of the Department today work in esteemed institutions all over the world.

Moreover, the Department of South Asian Art History has established wide-ranging international relations, which not only include India, a rising economic power with an extremely rich cultural and artistic landscape, but also western China, a region straddling the Silk Road which has been strongly influenced by Indian art and culture.

The Center for Jaina Studies, founded in 2011, which continues an over hundred year-old tradition of conducting research on Jainism in Germany, has established numerous contacts to Jaina organizations across the world and has become so well-known as a center of research that Indian Jaina institutions hold important events such as award presentation ceremonies here. By closing the Department of South Asian Art History, the Freie Universität Berlin runs the risk of losing a crucial element of its international outreach.    

The Humboldt Forum which is currently being realized in the heart of Berlin is slated to become a unique resource for the dissemination of non-European collections of the Berlin State Museums. This new facility represents a commitment, in the spirit of von Humboldt, to conduct and encourage scientific research and discussion on the displayed objects. The Forum’s name already recalls the work of the brothers Alexander and Wilhelm von Humboldt, and with it the illustrious history of scientific research in Germany and Berlin. As of now, the Museum of Asian Art still employs research staff. However, if the subject of Art History of South Asia is abolished, training of young, qualified persons will cease, putting one of the most outstanding collections of Indo-Asian art in the world at the risk of being degraded to mere display objects.    

Due to the reasons stated above, we insistently demand compliance with the Developmental and Structural Plan of 2004 and the preservation of the last facility of its kind for conducting university-based research on South Asian art in Germany. We kindly ask for your support!

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