What makes the Göttingen Lichtenberg Kolleg so special

Dhe historian Samuel Moyn once described the human rights idea as a minimalist utopia that emerged from the ruins of totalitarian ideologies. According to Moyn, it is not directly linked to the French Enlightenment, which subordinated individual rights to the nation state. It was not until the 1970s that it formed a global movement and, particularly through the United Nations, influenced international jurisprudence.

Since then, individual rights have also been defended against states. Despite all the emphasis, human rights remain a fragile utopia. Nations and associations exploit them for their own purposes, religions take up the cause or refuse to do so. State constitutions must balance the tensions that arise between religious, state and individual claims. The associated conflicts shape the public debate.

Aroused protest and amazement worldwide

A research group at the Lichtenberg-Kolleg of the University of Göttingen is working on this constellation. It builds on studies on historical enlightenment carried out at the college, which also examine what standards the Enlightenment has set worldwide and which crimes have been committed in its name. A humanities that combines awareness of the problem, relevance to the present and historical depth in such a way is what every university will want.

Each? The university presidium wants to close the college in September 2021. After the failure of the application for excellence and the persistent leadership crisis following the failed presidential election, the university came under pressure. To this end, the state ministry significantly cut university budgets at the beginning of the year and announced another round of savings for 2021. Reinhard Jahn’s interim board of directors now has to decide what to do with the institutes that were built with the millions of excellence without being able to set long-term priorities. One of the victims of savings is said to be the Lichtenberg College, which was launched in 2009 with, among other things, excellence funds.

The decision, which was largely made without discussion, aroused protests and amazement worldwide. Institutes for advanced studies are places of longing for bureaucratic scientists. In contrast to comparable institutes, the Lichtenberg-Kolleg has also brought young scientists to Göttingen for research stays of several years and has built up a dense network, especially in Israel, over the years. Since the young scholars hardly take notice of German-language literature, the college is a link for a humanities that threatens to lose its international connection.

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