Sharon Macdonald: Identity, Heritage and the Humboldt Forum

Claimed to be ’the largest cultural development in Europe and the most ambitious in Germany this century’ (press release at opening of Humboldt Forum in 2021), the Humboldt Forum is widely seen as an important statement of the identity of post-reunification Germany. It is highly contested, especially for how it deals with the GDR and Germany’s colonial pasts and continuities.

This lecture will look at questions of identity and heritage as they were played out and struggled over in the making of the assemblage that is the Humboldt Forum, including attention to the mobilisation of concepts such as ‘diversity’ and ‘multiperspectivity’. These are matters that are variously local to Berlin, national, European and global; and the raise questions about forms of, and relationships between, identity and heritage. The lecture will draw on Sharon Macdonald’s own fieldwork on the making of the Humboldt Forum, as well as other work undertaken as part of the multi-researcher ethnography, Making Differences. Transforming Heritage in the C21st, that was supported between 2015 and 2022 by her Alexander von Humboldt Professorship.  

Sharon Macdonald is Alexander von Humboldt Professor of Social Anthropology at the Humboldt University, Berlin, where she directs the transdisciplinary Hermann von Helmholtz Centre for Cultural Techniques and also a new Centre for Advanced Study, inherit. heritage in transformation. Educated at the University of Oxford, she is a Research Associate of the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, and holds Honorary Professorships at the Universities of Aberdeen and York. She has written widely on questions of identity, culture, museums and heritage. Her authored and co-authored books include Heritage Futures. Comparative Approaches to Natural and Cultural Heritage Practices, Memorylands. Heritage and Identity in Europe Today, and Difficult Heritage. Negotiating the Nazi Past in Nuremberg and Beyond; and the edited and co-edited Doing Diversity in Museums and Heritage. A Berlin Ethnography; Islam and Heritage in Europe Today; and The Companion to Museum Studies

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