Abriss des Palastes der Republik

Subject area

Heritage Constructions and Canon Formations in Art, Literature and Architecture

Cultural heritage is not a constant essential property, but rather a social construction subject to continuous change. The question of what should qualify as cultural heritage has been negotiated anew again and again throughout history, and has often sparked altercations in academia and society. Even today, cultural heritage — especially in the context of post-colonial discussions and claims — remains a highly topical and contested subject.

Definitions of heritage go hand in hand with processes of cultural canon building, which are often determined not by opinions drawn from a broad societal base, but frequently also through authoritarian orders that can remain operative over centuries. This subject area focuses on heritage constructions and canon formations in art, literature, music and architecture. It pays particular attention to the underlying processes of negotiation, in which academia, society and politics all play a part.

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Research topics

Canon Constructions

Canons of literature and art created in 19th- and 20th-century Eastern Europe fulfill a complementary double function of aesthetical-cultural representation and community-anchored identification. What mechanisms determine the construction of canons, and how can we describe this canon’s initial and continuing effects?

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Heritage without Inheritors

The eastern half of Europe is a clearer example than almost any other part of the world that cultural goods that are at first pushed aside as the relics of an unwelcome past can with time be adopted as heritage. The case studies examine these processes, drawing a line from the 19th century to the present.

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Imagining Cultural Heritage in Soviet Russia

The project investigates social and cultural meanings of tangible cultural heritage among restorers, volunteers, and architects who worked with or were influenced by ancient Russian monuments in the 1960s–1980s Soviet Russia.

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Re-thinking Socialist Architectural Legacy

Sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research

The Soviet Union’s most ambitious urban and social experiments included the construction of new »socialist cities«. When state socialism came to an end, this legacy underwent profound transformations. This study throws its spotlight on its changing perception in the context of local identities and the national narrative.

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The Art Inventory of Bohemia


Since the late 19th century, the Czech Archaeological Commission and the German Art-Historical Commission have been dedicating themselves to a shared project — documenting the artistic and cultural inventory of Bohemia. This study tackles the preconditions and results of the large-scale inventorying of cultural legacies that continued even after the foundation of the First Czechoslovak Republic.

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The Lost City of Ani

The capital of the mediaeval Armenian Kingdom, Ani, has symbolised Armenian statehood over the centuries. A quintessentially »lost« city in the Armenian imagination and beyond, Ani has evolved from a real into an imagined place. The research project addresses the complexity of configurations generated by the »lost city« of Ani by exploring them from multiple perspectives and in an interdisciplinary manner:

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