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Success in the Excellence Strategy of the German federal and state governments: University of Bayreuth to host Cluster of Excellence

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University of Bayreuth, Press release No. 114/2018, 27 September 2018

Another major success for the University of Bayreuth: Bayreuth’s African Studies were named Cluster of Excellence today by an international panel of experts and the ministers of science of Germany’s federal and state governments. The University of Bayreuth is thus once again attracting more attention from the international scientific community. In concrete terms, this means that over the next seven years around 52 million euros in additional funding will be available for the University of Bayreuth's research within the scope of ‘Africa Multiple’.

Today marked the end of a selection process that had lasted for months: an international panel of experts, appointed by the Joint Science Conference at the suggestion of the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the German Council of Humanities and Science, has now decided on the winners from among the last 88 proposals nationwide to be named Clusters of Excellence. The fact that Bayreuth was considered is cause for celebration at the university. As University President Prof. Dr. Stefan Leible says, "This confirms our conviction in many ways. The reviewers have rewarded our interdisciplinary approach, our strong networking with research partners, our focus areas, and our international character. These features have been central to us since the founding of our university almost 45 years ago, and since then we have also been carrying out research in the focus area of African Studies." Leible is very optimistic about the consequences of today's decision: "This will enable us to further enhance the research profile of our university and to keep demonstrating that the University of Bayreuth is a world-class research destination."

Prof. Dr. Rüdiger Seesemann und Prof. Dr. Ute Fend-ler, das Sprecher-Duo des neuen Clusters, mit Prof. Dr. Stefan Leible, Präsident der Universität Bayreuth (v.l.). iconZoomOverlay

Provost Dr. Markus Zanner makes it clear that there is a lot of work behind such a success: "We would like to thank our scholars who provided the basis for this excellent research and who have now made our success possible thanks to months of intensive work on the sketches and the full proposals". Zanner sums it up as follows: "Important funding criteria were the excellence of the research, outstanding scholars, high-quality supporting structures in the Cluster of Excellence, and a supportive and efficient environment for the Cluster of Excellence. The fact that we meet all these requirements in the eyes of the international experts confirms that we are on the right path."

A new chapter in Africa-related research

Over the past four decades, the University of Bayreuth has become one of the leading African studies institutions on the global scale. The ‘Africa Multiple’ cluster of excellence seeks to realign Bayreuth's African Studies focus area in close cooperation with African partner institutions. Using innovative basic research, the clusters’ projects will analyse the simultaneity of heterogeneous and mutually influential ways of life and world-making, showing how "Africa" is constituted in and through multiple relations. The research conducted in the ‘Africa Multiple’ cluster will highlight the continental and transcontinental entanglements of cultural, linguistic, social, religious, political, economic, and ecological processes in Africa, thus enabling a more precise understanding of these processes. As a result, Africa's relationships with Europe, Asia, and America may also appear in a new light.

Cooperation across disciplinary boundaries, which is one of the hallmarks of Africa-related research in Bayreuth, will be further expanded in the new cluster of excellence. In particular, law, economics, and engineering are to be increasingly involved in interdisciplinary projects. In line with the credo of Bayreuth's African Studies, "Research on Africa only with Africa", the cluster will initiate new forms of intercontinental academic cooperation. In four new "African Cluster Centres", scholars in Africa will be able to develop their own research ideas and thus play a decisive role in shaping the cluster's agenda. The Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies (BIGSAS), which has been funded by the Excellence Initiative of the German federal and state governments since 2007, will be integrated into the cluster. BIGSAS will continue to cooperate closely with its African partner universities in the recruitment and training of doctoral students.

The cluster's research projects will initially focus on six topics: ‘Moralities’, ‘Knowledges’, ‘Arts & Aesthetics’, ‘Mobilities’, ‘Affiliations’, and ‘Learning’. To this end, the University of Bayreuth is expanding its expertise by recruiting a new professor for Philosophy of Science with a focus on Africa, a junior professor in the field of Digital Humanities, and four independent junior research groups. A digital research environment will generates synergies both between the disciplines themselves and between Bayreuth and the African Cluster Centres. All data collected within the cluster be made accessible for shared use via a ‘knowledge cloud’.

Another focus of the ‘Africa Multiple’ cluster is the critical examination of knowledge production about Africa. Here, the members of the cluster, together with colleagues from Africa and other continents, will systematically reflect on the generation of knowledge and research methods in the study of Africa. The unequal distribution of power and resources between Europe and Africa continues to impact academic research on Africa to this day. By combining the reflexive component with the development of new forms of academic cooperation across continental borders, the cluster will contribute to gradually changing these structures.

Prof. Dr. Ute Fendler and Prof. Dr. Rüdiger Seesemann, the chairpersons of the cluster, are excited about the opportunity to open a new chapter in Africa-related research together with the scholars involved. "We owe this to our outstanding team and the constant support of the University Governing Board and the Bavarian State Ministry of Science and the Arts. We now have the unique opportunity not only to reconfigure African Studies, but also to take part in building the ‘university of the future’," Prof. Seesemann said in an interview following the announcement of the cluster decisions.

Background of the Excellence Strategy

The Excellence Strategy of the German Federal and State Governments is designed to promote top-level research at universities in Germany. An international panel of experts appointed by the Joint Science Conference (GWK) at the suggestion of the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the German Council of Humanities and Science (WR) was tasked with deciding which top-level research was eligible for funding. In a first step, 63 universities in Germany submitted a total of 195 project proposals from a wide variety of scientific fields, 88 moved on to the next round, and today it was announced who would actually benefit from research funding. It will be available as of 1 January 2019, and the funding period is seven years, with a second funding period of seven years following successful re-application. Approximately 385 million euros are earmarked annually for the Clusters of Excellence, 75 percent of which will be provided by the federal government and 25 percent by the relevant host state. The Africa cluster will receive 50.2 million euros from the Excellence Strategy.


Prof. Dr. Ute Fendler
Romance Literary & Comparative Studies
University of Bayreuth
Phone: +49 (0)921 / 55-3567
E-mail: ute.fendler@uni-bayreuth.de

Prof. Dr. Rüdiger Seesemann
Islamic Studies
University of Bayreuth
Phone: +49 (0)921 / 55-3553
E-mail: ruediger.seesemann@uni-bayreuth.de

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Christian Wißler
Press Contacts
University of Bayreuth
Universitätsstr. 30 / ZUV
95447 Bayreuth
Phone: +49 (0)921 / 55-5356
E-mail: christian.wissler@uni-bayreuth.de

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