The workshop of the Bavarian Center for Peace and Conflict Research (BZeFK) in Augsburg was kicked off prominently by Claudia Roth, Minister of State for Culture and Media.

More than 20 peace and conflict researchers from all over Bavaria came to Augsburg, the City of Peace, for February 2 and 3, 2023, at the invitation of the Chair of Political Science, Peace and Conflict Research at the University of Augsburg, headed by Prof. Christoph Weller, to exchange information about their current research projects and to network for new projects. Also present at the opening on the first day of the workshop was Anne Franke, a member of the Bavarian State Parliament, who had already initiated the Bavarian Initiative for Peace and Conflict Research in 2021 and, together with the Universität Bayern e.V., invited participants to a meeting in the Bavarian State Parliament.

The greeting of Augsburg’s mayor Eva Weber to the Bavarian peace and conflict researchers was delivered by the speaker for culture, world heritage, and sports, Jürgen Enninger, at the beginning of the second workshop day. He emphasized Augsburg’s importance as a city of peace, which is also reflected academically in the close cooperation with Weller’s Chair for Peace and Conflict Research at the University of Augsburg. As a current example, he referred to the intensified municipal efforts to create a culture of remembrance, which also includes postcolonial dimensions, and the Chair’s project “Postcolonial Perspectives on the City of Peace” last year. Claudia Roth then took up this theme directly in her keynote address, referring to the recent return of the Benin bronzes to Nigeria:

“These works of art and artifacts not only have a high cultural value, they tell a story marked by violence, raids, oppression, and alienation. A history from which we can – and must – learn! The German government has acknowledged this responsibility. We want to learn from coming to terms with our colonial history. And we want to take responsibility,” said the Minister of State for Culture and Media at the networking workshop. Furthermore, this will contribute to peace, because quite a few of the conflicts in the global South, according to Roth, also have colonial roots. Thus, coming to terms with the colonial and post-colonial past can facilitate dialogue among conflict parties.

Prof. Weller followed up regarding the concrete political contributions to the establishment of a postcolonial culture of remembrance. He placed them in the context of the thematic orientation of the research network, which focuses on „Deutungskämpfe im Übergang“. Especially in Augsburg, a closer look at the dark sides of colonialism in connection with the early trading empires of the Welsers and Fuggers is needed but is still in its infancy. Christina Pauls, a researcher at the University of Augsburg, agreed and illustrated this, for example, with perspectives from Venezuela, where the violent conquest and plundering of the country by the Welsers in the colonial 16th century is remembered in a completely different way. The film “Mamparo,” subtitled in German for an Augsburg audience, conveyed some perspectives from the Venezuelan city of Coro, formerly “New Augsburg,” in a very vivid way, Pauls said. She also stressed the need for further networking with Venezuelan actors and their local reception in Augsburg.

The total of 16 scientific contributions by the participants of the networking workshop were all focused on the topic of conflicts. Theories and methods of conflict analysis or their treatment in the context of teaching were as much topics of the workshop panels as conflicts in the context of social protest movements, of state collapse, or in the case of differences in historiography. The interdisciplinary panels – which included researchers from geography, history, political science, law, regional studies, social work, social psychology, sociology, technology impact research, and theology – produced a great deal of discussion and at the same time rich ideas for looking at the respective conflicts from different disciplinary perspectives.

The „Bayerische Zentrum für Friedens- und Konfliktforschung: Deutungskämpfe im Übergang“ is a regional cluster of peace and conflict research funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) for four years. Since April 2022, the cluster has brought together scholars from the universities of Augsburg, Bayreuth, and Erlangen-Nuremberg as well as the Leibniz Institute of Contemporary History (Munich-Berlin, IfZ), who network their research and strengthen and structurally anchor peace and conflict research in Bavaria. To this end, it also offers networking opportunities for all scholars conducting peace and conflict research in Bavaria.

The interdisciplinary research network, compriing eight projects in the social sciences and history, focuses on „Deutungskämpfe im Übergang“ (Conflicts.Meanings.Transitions), i.e. socio-political conflicts over interpretations that take place particularly at the end of a period of violence, during the transition from war to peace, or in the course of the re-evaluation of violent pasts. According to the initial assumption shared by the group, the course and results of these conflicts are of great importance for current and future social peace. The focus is on various thematic foci such as “interpretive struggles over peace strategies of non-state actors”, “interpretive struggles over violence”, and “interpretive struggles over universal rights and diversity”.

Photo: Christina Pauls, Jürgen Enninger (Referent für Kultur, Welterbe und Sport, City of Augsburg), Prof. Christoph Weller, Claudia Roth (Staatsministerin für Kultur und Medien; from left to right, photograph taken by Nicki Weber)

This report was originally published in German by the Chair for Political Science, Peace and Conflict Research, University of Augsburg.