Entangled Archives: Perspectives from Modern India in German Archives (Report)


Ent­ang­led Archi­ves: Per­spec­tives from Modern India in Ger­man Archi­ves, 27.09.2018 9:00–19:00, 28.09.2018 9:00–18:00, Depart­ment of South Asi­an Stu­dies, Insti­tu­te for Asi­an and Afri­can Stu­dies, Hum­boldt-Uni­ver­si­tät zu Ber­lin, Inva­li­den­stra­ße 118, Ber­lin.

The first two Panels were dedi­ca­ted to dif­fe­rent insti­tu­ti­ons and actors who­se actions can be  raced through Ger­man archi­ves. In Panel 1, which was chai­red by ANGELIKA MALINAR from Zurich Uni­ver­si­ty, MARTIN CHRISTOF-FÜCHSLE from the Cent­re for Modern Indian Stu­dies in Göt­tin­gen pre­sen­ted sources from mili­ta­ry as well as mis­sio­na­ry per­so­nal in the Mys­o­re Wars in South India in the second half of the 18th cen­tu­ry. In this series of wars bet­ween dif­fe­rent European and Indian fac­tions, Hano­ve­r­i­an Regi­ments took part in batt­le and gar­ri­son duty at the side of the Bri­tish East India Com­pa­ny. The mis­sio­na­ries from Hal­le on the other hand expe­ri­en­ced the war from a civi­li­an per­spec­tive and whe­re due to their assign­ment often in clo­se con­tact with the local popu­la­ti­on. Both archi­ves offer new per­spec­tives on a, in terms of soci­al histo­ry, rela­tively litt­le rese­ar­ched peri­od of colo­ni­sa­ti­on in India, as they rep­re­sent an European per­spec­tive but wit­hout the cons­traints of con­tem­pora­ry Bri­tish legi­ti­mi­sa­ti­on dis­cour­ses.

PASCALE RABAULT-FEUERHAHN (CNRS, Paris) gave an insight into the Ger­man 19th cen­tu­ry deba­tes about the pos­si­bi­li­ty and legi­ti­ma­cy of Indian Indo­lo­gi­cal scho­l­ar­ship. Rab­ault-Feu­er­hahn argued, that in order to tru­ly over­co­me natio­na­lism as a frame­work of his­to­ri­cal wri­ting, the scho­l­ar must crea­te ent­ang­led archi­ves. An examp­le for this is Raub­ault-Feu­er­hahns stu­dy of the deba­tes of the Inter­na­tio­nal Con­gress of Ori­en­ta­lists in Paris 1873 and fol­lo­wing cri­sis of European indo­lo­gy, regar­ding the ques­ti­on of the inclu­si­on of Indian scho­l­ars into the disci­pli­ne. The dif­fe­rent sources show the inten­si­ty of deba­te bet­ween some of the most influ­en­ti­al Ger­man and French ori­en­ta­lists of their time, but also reveal for examp­le the per­spec­tive of R. G. Bhandarkar, an Indian atten­dee of a con­gress of ori­en­ta­lists in Vien­na.

Panel 2, which was chai­red by Joa­chim Oes­ter­held (ZMO), began with RAZAK KHAN (Göt­tin­gen Uni­ver­si­ty), who argued that the­re is no clea­rer examp­le of ent­an­gle­ment than a trans­la­ted text. The examp­le of Abid Husain, who as a natio­na­list Mus­lim was in a sen­se still trans-natio­na­list in his prac­tice of trans­la­ti­on of Ger­man texts into Urdu illus­tra­tes this. Trans­la­ti­on here beco­mes a mino­ri­ty prac­tice. Which lan­guage is cho­sen for trans­la­ti­on reveals some­thing about the power rela­ti­ons bet­ween lan­guages and the­re­fo­re reminds us, that archi­ves are not only pla­ces of explo­ra­ti­on but also prac­tices of power. Khan shows for examp­le that the turn to clas­si­cism in Urdu lite­ra­tu­re only part­ly stem­med from its oppo­si­ti­on to Hin­di, but also deve­lo­ped becau­se of the lack of expres­si­on in modern lan­guage for cer­tain words that nee­ded trans­la­ti­on.

THIAGO PINTO BARBOSA (ZMO) fol­lo­wed an actor-net­work approach to dis­cuss glo­bal ent­an­gle­ments in anthro­po­lo­gi­cal know­ledge pro­duc­tion. He dis­cus­sed the trans­for­ma­ti­on of know­ledge on the examp­le of the cate­go­ry of race, which was the cen­tral cate­go­ry of Ger­man anthro­po­lo­gy in the late 19th and ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry. Bar­bo­sa fol­lows the tra­jec­to­ry of an object, in this case a so cal­led anthro­po­me­ter into its colo­ni­al past. The anthro­po­me­ter was used by Ira­wa­ti Kar­vé, who gai­ned her PhD at the Kai­ser Wil­helm Insti­tu­te in Ber­lin. Her rese­arch on skulls inte­res­tin­g­ly enough con­tra­dic­ts the ruling the­sis of raci­al dif­fe­ren­ces of her time, howe­ver the rea­sons for the sin­gu­la­ri­ty of her fin­dings remain unknown.

Panel 3, chai­red by Micha­el Mann (Hum­boldt Uni­ver­si­ty) chan­ged per­spec­tive from the actors to the archi­ves.

GERDIEN JONKER (Erlan­gen Uni­ver­si­ty) dis­cus­sed the role of pri­va­te and fami­ly archi­ves in the wri­ting of ent­ang­led Indo-Ger­man his­to­ries. Jon­ker tal­ked about the pro­cess and spe­ci­fics of working with the archi­ve of the Laho­re-Ahma­di­y­ya Mos­que in Ber­lin. Being neit­her a sta­te archi­ve nor a pri­va­te fami­ly archi­ve, it is an examp­le of civil socie­ty orga­ni­sing its­elf, crea­ting an orga­nis­ed but not publicly acces­si­ble archi­ve. The ques­ti­on now is, how to make this archi­ve com­mu­ni­ca­te with other archi­ves. An examp­le can be mar­ria­ge files found in the archi­ve, who are lin­ked to simi­lar docu­ments in fami­ly archi­ves, but also appe­ar in sta­te obser­va­tions. If the dif­fi­cul­ties of access and com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on can be over­co­me, civil socie­ty archi­ves like that of the Laho­re-Ahma­di­y­ya Mos­que offer the pos­si­bi­li­ty of sys­te­ma­tic approa­ches out­si­de of sta­te archi­ves or the use of pri­va­te pos­ses­si­ons as mere illus­tra­tio­nal mate­ri­al.

BRITTA LANGE (Hum­boldt Uni­ver­si­ty) pre­sen­ted the epis­te­mo­lo­gies, prac­tices and ima­gi­na­ti­ons of the Ber­lin Sound Archi­ves. A sound archi­ve may be view­ed on first glance as an unusu­al archi­ve, which howe­ver bears the ques­ti­on what a “usu­al” archi­ve actual­ly is. Howe­ver, Lan­ge argues that record­ings were used to both con­ser­ving his­to­ri­cal moments and gai­ning power over enemies in times of war. During war peri­ods, it was pos­si­ble to gain mate­ri­al from colo­ni­zed peop­le wit­hout tra­vel­ling sin­ce they were impri­son­ed in Ger­ma­ny. Tho­se record­ings are sel­dom­ly known in the coun­tries of the speaker, which leads to the ques­ti­on who­se memo­ri­al func­tion the record­ing has and how we can lis­ten to records to ana­ly­se the power rela­ti­ons­hip that lies wit­hin.

Panel 4 focu­sed on Ger­mans in India. Ravi Ahu­ja (Göt­tin­gen Uni­ver­si­ty) chai­red the dis­cus­sion.

PANIKOS PANAYI (De Mont­fort Uni­ver­si­ty) explo­red the case of Ger­man inter­nees in India during the First World War and their traces in Ger­man as well as in Bri­tish archi­ves. When the war bro­ke out, the Ger­mans in India con­sisted main­ly of four groups: Mis­sio­na­ries, most­ly from the Basel and Leip­zig Mis­si­ons; tra­vel­lers, busi­ness­men and “non-arm­chair” Indo­lo­gists. Many of them, except from the mis­sio­na­ries, whe­re part of the Bri­tish ruling eli­te befo­re the war bro­ke out. After that the Empi­re tra­cked down as many Ger­man citi­zens in its area of influ­ence as it could, expel­ling or detai­ning them. In India, the­re are accounts of mul­ti­ple sites of detain­ment of the­se unusu­al pri­soners of war and a who­le ran­ge of archi­val infor­ma­ti­on gives tes­ti­mo­ny to that, reaching from Bri­tish, Ger­man and Indian offi­ci­al docu­ments to reports of inspec­tion of the camps by Swiss and US Embas­sy dele­ga­ti­ons and also let­ters and docu­ments from the impri­son­ed them­sel­ves.

ROLAND WITTJE (IIT, Madras) pre­sen­ted rese­arch about the Indian Insti­tu­te of Tech­no­lo­gy in Madras and Indo-Ger­man Col­la­bo­ra­ti­on in Sci­ence and Tech­no­lo­gy in gene­ral. He con­cep­tio­na­li­sed his rese­arch howe­ver not as an insti­tu­tio­nal histo­ry, but as a histo­ry of Cold War and deve­lop­ment dis­cour­ses. The ope­ning of the Insti­tu­te is to be view­ed more in the con­text of Cold War rival­ries than imme­dia­te eco­no­mic inte­rests, which in turn lead to con­flic­ts of inte­rest bet­ween Ger­mans and Indians. The Ger­mans wan­ted to struc­tu­re the Insti­tu­te after the model of a “Tech­ni­sche Lehr­an­stalt” (tech­ni­cal col­le­ge) with a strong focus on con­nec­ting prac­ti­cal expe­ri­ence with sci­en­ti­fic methods, while the Indian side had more of an Indian MIT in mind, a dif­fe­rence in align­ment which is pro­bab­ly best sum­mo­ned up in the ques­ti­on of blue col­lar or white col­lar workers that should be trai­ned the­re.

The second day star­ted with Panel 5, chai­red by Vanda­na Joshi (Delhi Uni­ver­si­ty) about the making of poli­ti­cal archi­ves. ANANDITA BAJPAI (Hum­boldt Uni­ver­si­ty) dis­cus­sed the histo­ry of Radio Ber­lin Inter­na­tio­nal during the Cold War in India. The GDR radio sta­ti­on star­ted a Hin­di depart­ment in 1967 and aimed to inform Indians on life in the Ger­man Demo­cra­tic Repu­blic and estab­lish socia­list thoughts and con­cepts abroad. The depart­ment employ­ed several Ger­man and three Indian jour­na­lists and was con­nec­ted to Moscow, whe­re the dai­ly con­tent of the broad­cast was che­cked. Bajpai argued that the Indian lis­teners were not pas­si­ve recei­vers of GDR pro­pa­gan­da, but co-shapers of the medi­um its­elf. The archi­ve of Radio Ber­lin Inter­na­tio­nal reveals fan-mail, pho­tos and cri­ti­ques from the lis­teners, who often lived in sub­ur­ban or rural India. Through ques­ti­ons and comments of the fre­quent lis­teners, who part­ly were orga­ni­zed in clubs, a strong rela­ti­ons­hip bet­ween jour­na­lists in Ger­ma­ny and a diver­se group of peop­le from India emer­ged. Sin­ce GDR citi­zens were not allo­wed to tra­vel to India, the cor­re­spon­dence also brought India clo­ser to the non-Indian jour­na­lists.

ALEXANDER BENATAR (Hum­boldt Uni­ver­si­ty) explo­red the making of for­eign minis­try archi­ves in the con­text of Cold War rival­ry. He poin­ted out that as the past its­elf is poli­ti­cal, so are archi­ves and the archi­vist is an important figu­re in forming a nati­ons iden­ti­ty. The poli­ti­cal func­tion of archi­ves seems evi­dent in the rese­arch about the cold war. While parts of the archi­ves of the East-Ger­man secret ser­vice had been bur­ned, tho­se of their wes­tern adver­s­a­ries are not yet acces­si­ble. Despi­te the­se dif­fi­cul­ties for rese­arch, espe­ci­al­ly spies might in a sen­se ent­ang­le archi­ves far bey­ond the sta­tes con­trol. When the par­ti­ti­on of Paki­stan and Ban­gla­desh hap­pen­ed in 1971, both Ger­man sta­tes beca­me active diplo­ma­tic par­ti­ci­pants in the pro­cess. The Ger­man Demo­cra­tic Repu­blic see­ked to reco­gni­ze the new sta­te of Ban­gla­desh quick­ly in hopes of gai­ning offi­ci­al reco­gni­ti­on by India in return. The Federal Repu­blic of Ger­ma­ny, which still fol­lo­wed the Hall­stein Doc­trin in its for­eign poli­cy, suc­cess­ful­ly tried to pre­vent this from hap­pe­ning. In the high­ly poli­ti­cis­ed memo­ry of the pro­cess of this par­ti­ti­on in South Asia, the per­spec­tive on ent­ang­led archi­ves can help on the one side to make visi­ble the agen­cy of actors in South Asia, who were more than pawns in a game of Cold War powers, but also shed a light on other­wi­se hid­den con­tra­dic­tions and gaps in natio­nal archi­ves in regard to a high­ly poli­ti­cis­ed mat­ter like this.

The clo­sing Panel 6, chai­red by Hei­ke Lie­bau (ZMO), view­ed dif­fe­rent aspec­ts of trust and coope­ra­ti­on. RACHEL LEE (LMU Mün­chen) pre­sen­ted rese­arch about Otto Königsberger’s work in India. The archi­tect and archaeo­lo­gist who fled from Nazi per­se­cu­ti­on to India in 1935 and beca­me an influ­en­ti­al con­tri­bu­tor in housing pro­grams and archi­tec­tu­ral plan­ning the­re, espe­ci­al­ly in Mum­bai. His work is clear­ly visi­ble up to today, which draws atten­ti­on to the fact that buil­dings them­sel­ves ser­ve as archi­ves as well. The work on the ent­ang­led histo­ry of Königsberger’s life and archi­tec­tu­ral work in exi­le drew from sources that ran­ged from pri­va­te collec­tions of Rena­te Königs­ber­ger to the Swiss Insti­tu­te Archi­ve in Kai­ro. Con­cer­ning archi­tec­tu­re and space, Lee poin­ted out that the way archi­ves them­sel­ves are built and orga­ni­zed (for examp­le in their cata­lo­guing sys­tem) affec­ts rese­arch and wri­ting pro­ces­ses, sin­ce they offer spe­ci­fic obvious working methods.

SVENJA VON JAN (Göt­tin­gen Uni­ver­si­ty) gave insight into the ent­ang­led histo­ry of las­car sea­men in Ham­burg. During her rese­arch she used several archi­ves, inclu­ding sta­te archi­ves, muse­um archi­ves and com­pa­ny archi­ves and poin­ted out that domi­nant archi­ves tend to silence non­do­mi­nant sto­ries. Most of the infor­ma­ti­on on the IPI activi­ties lies in the Bri­tish libra­ry. The­re, ille­gal activi­ties in Ham­burg are not filed, which leads to the need to decen­tra­li­ze Bri­tish archi­ves and broa­den per­spec­tives on the Ham­burg crime sce­ne. During the 1920ies the las­cars ope­ra­ted in legal and ille­gal net­works, smugg­led wea­pons, cocai­ne, liquor and com­mu­nist lite­ra­tu­re and orga­ni­zed them­sel­ves in poli­ti­cal net­works. Sin­ce they did not get sear­ched befo­re boar­ding the ship and wea­pons were easi­ly avail­ab­le, Ham­burg beca­me a smuggling hot spot and a cent­re of glo­bal arm sup­ply.