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.
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.
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.
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.