- Prof. Dr. Ravi Ahuja, Centre for Modern Indian Studies, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
- Prof. Dr. Michael Mann, Institute for Asian and African Studies, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
- Dr. Heike Liebau, Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO)
Funding: German Research Council (DFG)
Duration: Nov. 2014 to Oct. 2026 (first funding period: Nov. 2014 to Oct. 2017)
The richness and the potential of the holdings of German archives on modern Indian history has been appreciated insufficiently so far. To the international community of historians of India, these resources can open up new research perspectives that have remained obstructed by an excessive fixation on British colonial archives. At the same time, innovative research questions can be generated for purposes of transnational historical comparison and for the historical analysis of “globalization” processes through an exploration of the modern history of German-Indian entanglements.
Moreover, the resulting twofold widening of research perspectives creates new chances for a more intensive communication and cooperation between Indian and German traditions of historical inquiry – traditions that have taken cognizance of each other, so far, only to a very limited extent. Through the following initiatives the long-term project “Modern India in German Archives” (“Das Moderne Indien in deutschen Archiven”, MIDA) aims to produce the necessary conditions for this substantial endeavour.
- systematically collect in a single database catalogue and keyword information on holdings of German archives on modern India and the history of German-Indian entanglements, from the establishment of the Danish-Halle Mission in South India (1706) up to the end of the political division of Germany (1989/90);
- make available this database to the international academic community on a long-term basis as a “growing” and open digital resource for the purpose of locating specific archival material;
- provide the international academic community as well as a wider public with long-term access to a digital archive guide, which will be derived from the database and successively expanded in order to present an overview of the full thematic range of relevant collections;
- demonstrate the potential of German archival resources for India-related studies in exemplary pilot research projects and a corresponding publication series. This will encourage a) a more intense utilization of these archival holdings particularly by German and Indian historians and b) the shaping of the necessary multilinguistic and inter-regional qualification profiles;
- contribute to a sustained realization of the goal that was formulated on a bilateral workshop of the DFG and the Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR) in November 2012, namely the intensification of German-Indian research co-operation in the Human Sciences. The German-Indian “tandem structure” according to which the pilot projects have been designed will serve as a key instrument to achieve this aim.
An important goal of the long-term project “Modern India in German Archives” (MIDA) is to systematically record the contents of German archives on the history of modern India and the German-Indian history of entanglements between 1706 and 1989/90 in a database and to make this database available to international research.
Beyond this collection of the relevant holdings, their presentation in a digital archive guide ensures that this archive data is presented in a way that meets current and future research needs.
These research needs are shaped by the historiographic tendency towards transnational and trans territorial perspectives. The MIDA project itself is an expression of this increasing opening of the historical sciences: sources of Modern India in German archives, which so far had appeared as marginal to earlier national — but also colonial-historical — container perspectives are only now becoming the focus of the investigation. Previously, territorially defined perspectives, whether that of a German national history or of a British-Indian colonial historiography, were unable to identify source material, the significance of which could only be seen in conjunction with materials that had emerged from other territorial contexts.
Transnational and trans-territorial perspectives initially focused on the history of transfers or mutual reception, i.e. they examined bilateral relations or transfer axes that transcended the territorial framework of national or imperial historiographies. In the meantime interdisciplinary research approaches are largely anchored in the humanities, cultural and social history, but also in postcolonial studies, and German-Indian exchange relations are examined less along transfer axes than in larger interreligious-historical contexts.
If the history of entanglements is well established in terms of content, the methodological consequences of this historiographic development, however, seem to have been neglected so far. If, for example, Indian and German historical actors entered into complex exchange relations that could not be reduced to bilateral transfer axes mediated by territorial state institutions, but were integrated into extensive transnational networks, what does this mean for the order of archives and the structures of the archive? As a form of epistemological power articulation from different perspectives, the archive has become the subject of intense philosophical and historical reflection. The close connection between the logic of the archive and the institutional logic of power apparatuses, especially of state (national or imperial) power apparatuses, is now open. However, what consequences does it have if, within the framework of the MIDA long-term project, we not only leave the conceptual containers of the territorial states with our research, but bring archival materials into a new relationship and in a certain way produce a new “meta-archive”?
The project intends to respond to these questions by first taking the archives as singular, institutionally and territorially delimited repositories in the presentation of the inventories in the database and following their own logic. At the same time, however, the goal of the project is to make the data visible in a new way as a network of archives according to the research questions and thus to reorganize “the archive” against institutional and territorial logics.
The project is based at three institutions at two locations, that is, Goettingen and Berlin:
Centre for Modern Indian Studies
Seminar für Südasienstudien
Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Unter den Linden6
Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient
The virtual research environment FuD employed in the project as well as the website of MIDA have been developed by the Servicezentrum eSciences of Trier University and adapted to the specific needs of MIDA in close coordination with the staff of the project.
Servicecenter eSciences, Universität Trier
DM-Gebäude Postfach DM26