Subject history

Cultural Anthropology/European Ethnology at the University of Mainz

The beginnings of the discipline of Cultural Anthropology/European Ethnology at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz are closely linked to the history of the German Institute. It was initially Germanists who helped represent the subject of folklore at the university. They included Professors Kurt Wagner (1890–1973), Karl Bischoff (1905–1983) and, since 1970, Wolfgang Kleiber (1929–2020), all three of whom had an additional habilitation for folklore. However, the subject was strengthened early on by the appointment of Lutz Röhrich (1922–2006), who came to the German Institute in Mainz as an associate in 1950 and habilitated in German studies and folklore four years later. Röhrich laid the foundations for the establishment of his own specialist professorship. After his departure in 1967, Günter Wiegelmann (1928–2008) was brought to the university as his successor, the first folklorist without a German studies profile. Wiegelmann, however, only remained in Mainz for a short time and in 1971 followed a call to the University of Münster. He was succeeded in 1972 by Herbert Schwedt (1934–2010), who had a decisive influence on the fate of the subject at Mainz University for 27 years.

When his position was re-advertised in 1999, the subject was renamed ‘Cultural Anthropology/Volkskunde’. Michael Simon (born 1956), who was appointed to the University of Mainz in 2000 and represented the subject until the winter semester of 2022/2023, took over the reorientation of the subject. The new appointment was accompanied – analogous to 1999 – by a renaming of the subject to Cultural Anthropology/European Ethnology. For one semester, Mirko Uhlig (born 1981) took over the subject area leadership as a substitute. Since 1 April 2023, the subject has been headed by Čarna Brković.

Until 2011, it was organisationally part of the German Institute as a separate subject area. It then merged with the subjects of Film Studies and Theatre Studies to form the newly founded Institute for Film, Theatre and Empirical Cultural Studies (now Film, Theatre, Media and Cultural Studies), which is housed in the Faculty 05 ‘Philosophy and Philology’. The institutional reorganisation was motivated not least by the introduction of the reformed degree programmes at the University of Mainz, which was jointly organised by the subjects of the new institute. The Bachelor’s programme in Cultural Anthropology/Volkskunde started in the winter semester 2009/2010, and enrolments for the Master’s programme were accepted for the first time in the 2012 summer semester. The old Magister programme, which was the standard degree in the subject for many decades, expired at the end of the 2017 summer semester.

The increasing demand and growing student numbers have been met in recent years by the establishment of further university professorships: in 2004, a junior professorship for the subject was advertised for the first time, to which Timo Heimerdinger (born 1973) was appointed. He was followed in 2010 by Asta Vonderau, who remained at the University of Mainz until 2015. In 2012, the subject received another junior professorship, which was filled by Sarah Scholl-Schneider (born 1978). Mirko Uhlig succeeded Asta Vonderau in 2016.

Among the academic degrees awarded, the habilitations in the subject deserve special mention: after Lutz Röhrich, a venia legendi for (Cultural Anthropology/)Volkskunde was awarded to Max Matter (1983), Sabine Doering-Manteuffel (1993) and most recently Christina Niem (2012).