OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT AND THE PRESIDENTIAL BOARD OF THE GEORG-AUGUST UNIVERSITY, GÖTTINGEN, GERMANY

December 9, 2020

Dear President Jahn and members of the Presidential Board,

The names subscribed below are those of 120 fellows, former fellows, and associates of the Lichtenberg-Kolleg (Advanced Study Institute in the Humanities and Social Sciences). We are scholars of many nationalities, ethnicities, beliefs, and academic disciplines.

We write to object in the strongest possible terms to the plan to abolish the Lichtenberg-Kolleg in 2021.

Since the arrival of the first fellows in 2009, the Kolleg has earned an enviable reputation internationally. Professor Martin van Gelderen’s introduction of competitively elected early career fellows, beginning in 2014, has complemented the senior fellows who act as mentors, often in conjunction with members of the Göttingen faculty. No fewer than 97 senior fellows and 54 early career fellows, many from disadvantaged communities, have disseminated the values of the university worldwide. 

Interdisciplinarity and high disciplinary standards combine with the inclusion of scholars of color—including scholars at risk—and internationalism to define the character of the Kolleg. Key fields of enquiry, such as Human Rights, Modern Jewish Studies, the Anne Frank Research Project, and the Global Enlightenment, proclaim its cosmopolitanism. The threat to the Kolleg is a direct attack on the Enlightenment values that the university has long fostered, and with which—with the exception of the tragic period between 1933 and 1945—it has proudly identified.

We live in an era of unprecedentedly sophisticated attacks on the truth. The humanities are under assault. The assailants are not only after Jews, Muslims, and liberal democrats, they are targeting humanism itself. If they win, in Lichtenberg’s own words, “perhaps in time the so-called Dark Ages will be thought of as including our own.”

Yours sincerely,

Gabriel Abend, University of Lucerne, Switzerland

Camilla Adang, Tel Aviv University, Israel

Sinem Adar, Center for Applied Turkey Studies, Berlin, Germany

Shaheen Sardar Ali, University of Warwick, UK

Yael Almog, University of Durham, UK

Francesca Antonini, Lichtenberg-Kolleg, Georg-August University, Germany

Patrick R. Anthony, Vanderbilt University, USA

Lou Antolihao, National University of Singapore

Johann Arnason, La Trobe University, Australia

Ruben Apressyan, Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia

Amandine Barb, Lichtenberg-Kolleg, Georg-August University, Germany

Rainer Bauböck, European University Institute, Italy

Catherine Ballériaux, Belgium

Bill Bell, Cardiff University / Prifysgol Caerdydd, UK

Jason Bell, University of New Brunswick, Canada

Solomon J Benjamin, Indian Institute of Technology Madras, India

Wim Blockmans, Leiden University, Netherlands

Elke Brendel, University of Bonn, Germany

Don Brenneis, University of California Santa Cruz, USA

Justin Broackes, Brown University, USA

José Casanova, Georgetown University, USA

Antoine Cavigneaux, University of Geneva, Switzerland

James Conant, University of Chicago, USA

Cleo Condoravdi, Stanford University, USA

Alexandra Cook, University of Hong Kong

Ian Cooper, University of Kent, UK

Andreas Corcoran, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, France

Kathryn David, Vanderbilt University, USA

Zsófia Demjén, University College London, UK

Laura Desirée Di Paolo, Italy

Anne W. Eaton, University of Illinois at Chicago, USA

Madeleine Elfenbein, Columbia University, USA

Demetrius Eudell, Wesleyan University, USA

Juliet Floyd, Boston University, USA

Meelis Friedenthal, Tartu University, Estonia

Enrico Galvagni, University of St. Andrews, UK

Ivan Gaskell, Bard Graduate Center, USA

Jonas Gerlings, European University Institute, Italy

Martin Gierl, Lichtenberg-Kolleg, Georg-August University, Germany

Norma B. Goethe, National University of Córdoba, Argentina

Sonia Gollance, University of Pennsylvania, USA

Iwona Gusc, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, Netherlands

Frank Hakemulder, University of Stavanger, Norway, and University of Utrecht, Netherlands

Wouter Hanegraaff, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands

Mats G. Hansson, University of Uppsala, Sweden


Ingrid Hehmeyer, Ryerson University, Canada

Dominik Hünniger, University of Hamburg, Germany

Mark A. Hutchinson, University of York, UK

Alessa Johns, University of California, Davis, USA

Akihiro Kanamori, Boston University, USA

Christian Kiening, University of Zurich, Switzerland

Deniz T. Kılınçoğlu, Lichtenberg-Kolleg, Georg-August University, Germany

László Kontler, Central European University, Hungary

Mirjam Künkler, Princeton University, USA

Aishwary Kumar, Stanford University, USA

Anthony LaVopa, North Carolina State University, USA

Joep Leerssen, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands


Will Levine, Lichtenberg-Kolleg, Georg-August University, Germany

Marsha Libina, American University of Paris, France

Avi S. Lifschitz, University of Oxford, UK

Shiru Lim, Lichtenberg-Kolleg, Georg-August University, Germany

Caroline de Lima e Silva, Lichtenberg-Kolleg, Georg-August University, Germany

Giovanni Lista, European University Institute, Italy

Zsófia Lóránd, University of Cambridge, UK

Mara van der Lugt, University of St. Andrews, UK

Roy MacLeod, University of Sydney, Australia

Lars Magnusson, University of Uppsala, Sweden

Martina Mampieri, Lichtenberg-Kolleg, Georg-August University, Germany

Ioana Manea, Romania

Alexandre Mendes Cunha, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil

David A. Meola, University of South Alabama, USA

Nicholas B. Miller, Flagler College, USA

Júlia Mink, John Wesley Theological College, Budapest, Hungary

Benjamin Mirwald, Germany

Jason Mittell, Middlebury College, USA

Bob Moore, University of Sheffield, UK

Ewa Morawska, University of Essex, UK

A. Dirk Moses, University of North Carolina, USA

Iryna Mykhailova, Ukraine

Emilia Nercissians, University of Tehran, Iran

Laura Nicolì, University of Oxford, UK, and Sorbonne University, France

Ere Nokkala, University of Helsinki, Finland

Per Øhrgaard, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

Defne Över, Texas A&M University, USA

Dorinda Outram, University of Rochester, USA

Roland Pfau, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands

Stefano Poletti, Italy

Detlef Pollack, University of Münster, Germany

Ann Rigney, University of Utrecht, Netherlands

Ritchie Robertson, University of Oxford, UK

Hanna Roman, Dickinson College, USA

Weronika Romanik, Lichtenberg-Kolleg, Georg-August University, Germany

Nida Sajid, University of Minnesota, USA

Nahed Samour, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany

Heinrich Wilhelm Schaefer, University of Bieleveld, Germany

Sebastian Schirrmeister, Lichtenberg-Kolleg, Georg-August University, Germany

Philipp Schorch, Ludwig-Maximilian University, Munich, Germany

Maria Semi, Columbia University, USA

Radhika Singha, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India

Norbert Schappacher, University of Strasbourg, France

Andrea Schmidt, Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium

Jyotirmaya Sharma, University of Hyderabad, India

Mark Simes, Lichtenberg-Kolleg, Georg-August University, Germany

Rudolf von Sinner, Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná, Brazil

Iris Sportel, Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands

Tim Stanton, University of York, UK

Adam Storring, Lichtenberg-Kolleg, Georg-August University, Germany

Christiane von Stutterheim, University of Heidelberg, Germany

Sheela Suryanarayanan (Saravanan), University of Hyderabad, India

Steven Tester, Georg-August University, Göttingen, Germany

Emanuel Tov, Hebrew University, Israel

Antonella Tramacere, Mississippi State University, USA

William Uricchio, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA


Lalit Vachani, Georg-August University, Germany

Georgios Varouxakis, Queen Mary University of London, UK

Mirjam van Veen, Free University of Amsterdam, Netherlands

Gert Westermann, Lancaster University, UK

Kelly J. Whitmer, Sewanee: The University of the South, USA


Daniel Wildmann, Queen Mary University of London, UK

Gerben Zaagsma, University of Luxemburg

Please respond to Ivan Gaskell, acting chair, Scientific Advisory Board, Lichtenberg-Kolleg, Georg-August University, Göttingen

Ivan Gaskell
Professor of Cultural History and Museum Studies

Bard Graduate Center
38 West 86th Street, New York, NY 10024 
T 212 501 3063 
F 212 501 3065 
E gaskell@bgc.bard.edu