Eine Wissenschaftlerin und ein Wissenschaftler arbeiten hinter einer Glasfassade und mischen Chemikalien mit Großgeräten.

Dies Academicus

Twice annually, we are reaching out to the academically interested public at the University of Bonn's Dies Academicus

This day provides an opportunity to showcase the work of our researchers and allows the community to engage with our current research questions. 


Dies Academicus May 2024

Case Studies in the History of Slavery and Abolition

Public lecture by Sara Eriksson, Sarah Zimmerman, and Natalie Joy, moderated by David B. Smith

The three BCDSS Fellows provided interesting insights into their projects and discuss slavery and abolition in different temporal and geographical contexts. 

Sara Eriksson: "How to do an Archeology of Slavery: A Case Study from Ancient Greece"
What can a small piece of lead used to repair a cook pot tell us about slavery in ancient Greece? In this talk, I demonstrate how we can see the experience of oppressed people in the past through the objects that archaeologists dig up. Following the path of a lead repair from where it was found in The Sanctuary of Poseidon on the island of Poros all the way back to its origins in the Laurion silver mines outside Athens, we uncover the lives and labor of the enslaved people that formed the backbone of the ancient Greek society.

Sarah Zimmerman: "Gender, Slavery, and World Heritage on Gorée Island (Senegal)"
In May of 2018, a coalition of Senegalese activists took to social media to denounce the inauguration of the "Place d’Europe" on Gorée Island—a Senegalese UNESCO World Heritage site that commemorates the transatlantic slave trade. The imagery from the inauguration and the ensuing public debates demonstrate that women and slavery are part of a complicated past that Senegalese officials and anti-imperialist activists seek to mobilize in an effort to draw connection with and discredit the historical legacies of France’s presence in Senegal. This presentation focuses on gender and domestic slavery to determine if recent public debates and renovations on Gorée have opened up new possibilities for who or what is commemorated on the island in the twenty-first century. 

Natalie Joy: "The Indian’s Cause: Native Americans and the American Antislavery Movement"


Gender and Gender Ambiguity

Public lecture by Claudia Jarzebowski, Emma Kalb, and Eva Marie Lehner

"One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman," Simone de Beauvoir argues in her famous book The Second Sex, published in 1949. This has come as no surprise to historians since the 1990s, as women's and gender studies have identified numerous examples that argue against historically defined, biological gender roles. In this light, we ask what historically characterized a man or a woman and how were gender identities defined, for which there are long abbreviations today? What definitions and ideas of 'woman' and 'man' were there in the first place? And: Did this broad variance in gender identities also exist in historical and transcultural comparison? The perhaps surprising answer is: Of course! You will learn more about this with the help of three illustrative contributions on Europe and Asia by researchers from the Bonn Centre for Dependency and Slavery Studies.

This short series of three presentations took place on 6 December 2023 and was held in German. 

Dies Academicus 12/2023
San José de la Angosta, Cárdenas
Justo German Cantero, Los ingenios: Colección de vistas de los principales ingenios de azucar de la Isla de Cuba (Havana, 1857); reprinted Barcelona, 1984, edited by Levi Marrero. © Public domain

Slave Plantations

Public lecture by Michael Zeuske and Alexa Voss

Slave plantations for the cultivation of sugar and cotton as well as trade with slaves from Africa - hardly anything shapes the image of the slavery empires in the Americas more strongly.

Plantations, however, have accompanied the Atlantic slavery since 1500. Ever since Eduard von Lippmann's fundamental book on sugar (Geschichte des Zuckers, 1890), everyone in Europe assumed that plantations had existed during the "westward migration" of sugar (when sugar cane migrated from Papua via India and the Mediterranean to the Americas). In the Middle Ages, however, there were very few large latifundia with mills in Cyprus, otherwise sugar-cane was grown by free farmers on small fields rather than on great land pieces (plantations).

The "invention" of the plantation is twofold: in historical reality in Madeira (very few), the Canary Islands (few) and especially in São Tomé in the Gulf of Benin under the name of engenho/ ingenio or roça in the 16th century and under the general name of "plantation" (plantation/ estate) in Barbados in the 17th century.

How did the invention of the slave plantation come about, how did it develop, and what is its significance for us today?

This lecture took place on 24 May 2023 and was held in German. 

The Exodus in the Old Testament. Liberation and/or Divine Slavery?

Public lecture by Ulrich Berges

The liberation of Israel from slavery in Egypt is one of the most fundamental contents of the Old Testament Jewish credo and subsequently also of the New Testament Christian religion. More decisive than the historical core of truth or the hypothetical reconstruction of the same is the spiritual-historical dynamic of this narrative. In the justifications of some nation states such as South Africa, the USA, and Israel, the Exodus narrative plays a decisive role, as it does in liberation movements such as the South American "teología de la liberación."

An important aspect of the Old Testament narrative remains underexposed or even completely negated: The salvation from slavery does not lead to freedom and autonomous self-determination, but to the obligation to submit to the divine Torah. This ambiguity of salvation and submission can be seen in the Old Testament in the often overlooked metaphor of YHWH as the slave owner of his people. This lecture will explore this ambiguity, paying special attention to the slave laws in the Old Testament.

This lecture took place on 24 May 2023 and was held in German. 

Burial chamber of Rechmirê
© Public Domain. Maler der Grabkammer des Rechmirê - The Yorck Project (2002) 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei (DVD-ROM), distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. ISBN: 3936122202.


Human Norms in the Anthropocene

Public lecture by Christoph Antweiler

Humans are making earth history. The Anthropocene refers to the geo-historical phase in which humanity has become a decisive factor shaping our geosphere. We all have an idea of what is meant by anthropogenic climate change, however Anthropocene is far more than this. It is also about species loss, soil change, and ocean change. The Anthropocene is a fact-based concept as well as a fundamental metaphor of planetary crisis. The concept derives from the geosciences and has subsequently gained a life of its own in the Humanities, where it often used as a buzzword. Critical voices from the humanities mostly revolve around normative and ethical issues. In our unequal world the question is who is responsible for catastrophic change. An anthropological view emphasizes the embeddedness of localized and often vulnerable communities within macro-scale and long-term environmental change.

Christoph Antweiler is Principal Investigator at the BCDSS and Professor of Southeast Asian Studies, Institute of Oriental and Asian Studies, University of Bonn. His related publication "Anthropologie im Anthropozän" is about to be published by Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt, in May 2022.

This lecture took place on 18 May 2022.

Christoph Antweiler.jpg
© Barbara Frommann



Announcement of the BCDSS MA Programs

The Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies hosted an Open Hour event on December 1st, 2021 to introduce two MA programs: "Dependency and Slavery Studies" and "Slavery Studies." During the event, an overview of the center and the MA programs was presented, along with examples from teaching staff. The event covered core research areas and methodological challenges of Dependency and Slavery Studies, researcher positionality/reflexivity in qualitative research, and the international and interdisciplinary approach of the MA programs. Attendees also had the opportunity to meet and speak with current MA students.

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