The statue park in the Budapest, showing cleared-away memorials from the Communist era


The Department Culture and Imagination

Researchers from the disciplines of Art and Architectural History, Cultural and Literary Studies as well as History and Public History jointly investigate cultural processes in Eastern Europe.

Prof. Dr. Arnold Bartetzky heads the department.


Culture and Imagination

The department devotes itself to cultural patterns and processes of societal change as articulated in art, literature, architecture and various fields of popular culture and knowledge production. It is concerned with drawing forth imaginations as well as with the significance of culture for the formation of societies. This endeavour centres around the visual and the narrative, but also comprises performative practices. With this profile, the department offers a framework for interdisciplinary studies across a broad spectrum of cultural and historical subjects. 

Current research focuses on three topics: »Heritage and Canon«, »Knowledge and Truth«  and »Visions for the Future«, all building on current societal debates. They are deeply interwoven with the GWZO’s main themes while also strongly linking with the Leibniz Research Alliance »Values of the Past« in which several of the department’s employees participate.

From the Department’s Work

Adaptation and Radicalisation. Dynamics of Popular Culture(s) in Eastern Europe before the War

– GWZO Participation in the Leibniz Cooperative Excellence Programme

This joint project, led by the ZfL, investigates popular cultures in Belarus, Poland, Russia, Ukraine and Hungary in an interdisciplinary, comparative perspective since the 1980s. At the GWZO, Indira Hajnács is investigating Hungarian folklore heritage. Popular cultural phenomena are explored in the project from historical, literary, cultural and media studies perspectives, using objects from literature, film and visual arts, television series, folk and pop music, videos, memes, murals and graffiti, political journalism and social media. The project promises new insights into popular cultural dynamics from the dawn of democratisation in the 1980s / 1990s to today's strengthening of nationalist ideologies and authoritarian structures.

about the research topic

Classics of Romanian film

A new book on Romanian film, in this format the first publication on the subject in German and from the GWZO. It contains 25 film essays written by film experts and enthusiasts not only from Romania. It was edited by Dana Duma (București), Stephan Krause (Leipzig) and Anke Pfeifer (Berlin) and spans more than a century of Romanian cinematography, whetting the appetite for cinema românesc.

Buch Klassiker des rumänischen Films

New publication: The unbuilt Leipzig. Projects, visions, castles in the air

Edited by Arnold Bartetzky with the collaboration of Greta Paulsen, the volume »Das ungebaute Leipzig« was published by Lehmstedt Verlag at the end of 2023. The richly illustrated book explores the architectural and urban development promises of the past that have not been fulfilled, yet many of them still have an impact today. Even if, in retrospect, they often seem unrealistic, sometimes bizarre, amusing or frightening, they reflect architectural and urban development models, urgent questions, acute problems, wishes and hopes of the respective present. The volume, which emerged from a course, received a great deal of media coverage, including press and television reports as well as a radio series on MDR Kultur.

Find more information here.

Lehmstedt Verlag: Das ungebaute Leipzig
© Lehmstedt Verlag: Das ungebaute Leipzig. Projekte, Visionen, Luftschlösser

Artists, artworks and places of action: digitization and visualization of networks

The DIKUSA sub-project based at the GWZO investigates the migration and mobility of artists in, to and from Saxony in the 17th century. It asks questions about connections and networks between the artists themselves, between artists and those who commissioned them, as well as the works of art and the reasons for their creation. A further aim is the georeferenced visualization of artists' routes. Diana Lucia Feitsch and Susanne Jaeger report on their current research in a post on the Saxorum blog for interdisciplinary regional studies in Saxony, which was placed on the homepage of the Hypotheses blog portal in February 2024.

Click here for the blog post.

DIKUSA Webanwendungsausschnitt Heinrich Schütz
Wall fresco in Kaaden’s Franciscan church, detail with a portrait of the donor, © GWZO/R. Boček

Subject Areas of the Department Culture and Imagination

Heritage and Canon

Cultural heritage is not a constant essential property, but rather a social construction subject to continuous change. This subject area focuses on heritage constructions and canon formations in art, literature, music and architecture.

Visions of the Future

Rooted in a growing interest in social utopias, this area adopts a historical long-term perspective to examine radical concepts for a comprehensive redesign of society and ways of life.

Knowledge and Truth

In the face of current controversies over knowledge production and credibility, this subject area examines the entanglements of different cultures of knowledge and truth regimes between the public arena and expert discourse.


Publications 2017–2020


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