Bridges to Europe
How Centers for German and European Studies in Japan, China and South Korea in- fluence discourse about Germany and Europe.
Offering exceptional expertise in eleven countries: the 20 Centers for German and European Studies constitute a unique global knowledge network. Based on multilateral cooperation and supported by the DAAD with Federal Foreign Office funds, these institutes train undergraduate and PhD students at prestigious universities – and are involved in interdisciplinary debates on Germany and its role in Europe. This is also the case in Asia, where different disciplines engage in exchange at Peking University, the University of Tokyo and Chung-Ang University in Seoul. This is a strategically important programme, as Stefan Bienefeld, Head of Development Cooperation and Transregional Programmes at the DAAD, emphasises: “The centres stimulate interest in German language and culture and inform people – also through public events – about current developments and debates,” he says. “Furthermore, graduates’ expertise enables them to influence decision-makers in politics, business and society in their native countries.”
When it comes to content, the centres focus on the subjects of post-war and contemporary Germany as well as European integration – with specific emphases. “We teach and engage in research on key concepts of German cultural history, such as the bourgeoisie, cultural memory, German Romanticism and the concept of empire or the European Enlightenment,” ex- plains Professor Liaoyu Huang, Director of the Ger- man Studies Center at Peking University (ZDS). What is more, this is done from different perspectives: German studies, philosophy, law, social sciences and economics. “What unites us is a strong interest in Germany,” says Huang. Close ties exist with cooperation partners at Freie Universität Berlin and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. “Our students attend lectures and seminars in Berlin for a year, and we invite German colleagues to the ZDS.”
A focus on German literature and culture does not only lead to productive interchange with German re- searchers, but also strengthens regional cooperation: for example, at the Conference of East Asian Centers, an event organised by the Center for German and European Studies (ZeDES) at Chung-Ang University in Seoul at the beginning of October 2018. “With this event, we are also contributing to the development of an East Asian peace community,” says host and ZeDES Director, Professor Nury Kim. “However, it faces three obstacles: the Japanese past, the Korean present and the Chinese future.” Looking at Germany and Europe presents perspectives, he adds: “Since 1945, Germany has come to terms with its past, overcome its division into two states and successfully assuaged its European neighbours’ fear of German hegemony.”
Attending PhD conferences with DAAD support
The conference focused on the protest movement of 1968 and its impact on societies in Europe and Asia. Country-specific differences were also discussed by 35 PhD students who were able to travel to Seoul with DAAD support. They included Chaoran Huang, for example. The DAAD scholarship holder graduated in German studies at Peking University and has been working on her PhD in Berlin since October 2017. “Many junior researchers were able to give lectures during the conference and present their research,” she says. “That inspired me a lot.” After completing her doctoral thesis Huang would like to return to a Chinese university and encourage students to take up German studies. “Intercultural exchange leads to a new view of your own country.”
Multilateral, interdisciplinary discussions are also the goal of a joint summer school organised by the three East Asian centres. The Center for German and European Studies (DESK) at the University of Tokyo and the European Academy of Otzenhausen organise the European Fall Academy, which is supported by the DAAD. Sachiya Mine, a Master’s student in the European studies programme at DESK, attended the summer school in September 2018: “The focus was between the EU and East Asia and challenges of global governance,” he explains. “The experience has strengthened my intention to take up a career in research after completing my course: doing research into the history of Germany and Europe is my passion.”
Political consulting as an exciting career prospect
This central idea also underlines the work of DESK in Tokyo. “We are the only university in Japan that offers a Master’s degree in European studies,” says DESK Director, Professor Yuichi Morii. “The emphasis lies on politics and history; in addition, the programme includes modules on law and economics.” As the oldest institution among the three East Asian centres, DESK has established itself as an innovative base for Japanese-European academic and cultural exchange that has close links with German universities. “We also advise Japanese ministries and the media. Further- more, we organise panel discussions and workshops with German guests,” says Morii.
Moonju Kim also regards this work as an exciting prospect. The South Korean has just completed her Master’s in German and European studies at ZeDES in Seoul. She travelled to Germany several time with DAAD support. Whether at the summer school in Otzenhausen or as a participant in the Kolleg Europa and DAAD Study Visit to Germany programmes: “I learned a great deal about the European refugee cri- sis in discussions with experts and other students.” She analysed these findings in her Master’s thesis. Kim was able to support the Conference of East Asian Centers in Seoul as an assistant. Her goal: “I hope that I can continue to actively support good German-Korean relations in the future.”