About the Department of Anthropology and African Studies

The Department of Anthropology and African Studies at the Johannes Gutenberg-University currently offers a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Anthropology, a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Anthropology, a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Linguistics with a specialisation in African Languages and Linguistics, and a Ph.D. in Anthropology and in African Languages and Linguistics. The B.A. study programme provides a solid grounding in anthropology and African studies. Students who attain this degree should be able to pursue professional careers in development work, broadcasting and the media, journalism and publishing, public relations, the social services, and other fields, or, following appropriate graduate studies, pursue careers in teaching and research in university and museum settings.

The department is an interdisciplinary institution which covers a broad spectrum of both research and teaching activities. These include social, political, religious and economic anthropology, the politics and sociology of development, media and visual anthropology, modern popular culture, African literatures, African music, theatre and film, and African languages. Its staff includes four full professorships: Anthropology (Carola Lentz), Anthropology and African Popular Culture (Matthias Krings), Anthropology and Modern African Studies (Thomas Bierschenk) and African Languages and Linguistics (Raimund Kastenholz). Both the department’s curriculum and research projects focus on modern Africa. Collaborations with African colleagues play a central role in its activities. The department invites and supports colleagues, PhD candidates and M.A. students from Africa and members of the department teach at African partner institutions.

Numerous research activities and projects and a high volume of third-party funding for research projects carried out by the department attest to its vitality. Furthermore, teaching and research are tightly interwoven and advanced students are actively involved in research projects.The department’s facilities include a departmental library (Bereichsbibliothek Ethnologie und Afrikastudien) and three specialised collections: the Jahn library for African literatures (Jahn-Bibliothek für afrikanische Literaturen), the African Music Archive (Archiv für die Musik Afrikas) and an ethnographic collection (Ethnographische Studiensammlung).

The departmental library, which complements the holdings of the university library, comprises approximately 63,000 volumes and some 70 journals. A video archive comprising ethnographic films, documentaries on African cultures and societies and on current events in the region, music clips, and African films is an additional resource available to students, researchers and staff.

The Jahn Library for African Literatures (founded in 1975 and now headed by Anja Oed) is one of the oldest and most comprehensive research facilities for African Literary Studies in Europe and beyond. Its collection comprises creative writing from Africa in over 80 languages, including classics of African literature,  works by less well-known writers and locally produced literature. The collection also holds translations, film adaptations of literary works, audio books and a large number of critical sources and academic journals. The Jahn Library organises an International Janheinz Jahn Symposium on a central issue in African literary studies around every four years.

The African Music Archive (AMA, founded in 1991 by Wolfgang Bender and now headed by Hauke Dorsch) holds a unique collection of modern African music on shellac and vinyl discs, audio- and videotapes, CDs and DVDs. The archive’s main focus is modern, urban African music. The AMA currently holds around 10,000 recordings, the oldest of which are on shellac discs from the 1940s. Records from nearly all African countries can be found in the collection, which is continuously extended through new acquisitions. Several thousands of newspaper clippings are also held in the AMA, sorted by country, genre and artist. The articles, reports, interviews, reviews, etc. present a vast amount of background material which is available for immediate inspection. Students are actively involved in many of the AMA’s current projects, such as conserving the shellac discs, cataloguing the collection, and organising concerts, exhibitions, workshops and courses.

The department’s ethnographic collection is the largest of its kind in Rhineland-Palatinate. It was started in 1950 by Erika Sulzmann, who, in 1948, became the first lecturer in anthropology at the newly established Institut für Völkerkunde at the JGU, and immediately began to build up an ethnographic collection. Between 1951 and 1954 she collected more than 500 objects in Belgian Congo, which formed the original core of the department’s holdings, and constantly added to the collection through her subsequent research trips to the Congo between 1956 and 1980.Today, the collection encompasses about 3,400 objects, mainly from Central and West Africa, but also from Australia, Papua New Guinea and the South Pacific. The collection’s items are used in teaching. Students learn how to handle ethnographic objects in compliance with ethical requirements, how to conserve them, and how to design small exhibitions around them. Anna-Maria Brandstetter has been the curator of the collection since 1992.