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.