Past Worlds and Modern Questions - Cultures Across Time and Space

The TRA Present Pasts takes an interdisciplinary approach to the research of past cultural, political, social and economic constellations embedded in a broad geographical context and historical depth. Its work focuses on the interaction of contemporary challenges and processes and comparable phenomena in the past. The knowledge about the functioning of cultures generated by such a historical-comparative approach can lead to a better understanding of the present.

The interdisciplinary approach of the TRA Present Pasts and its research fields heritage and communication seek to combine the different traditions and structures of the various cultures of research present at the University of Bonn. In particular, it seeks to effect the networking of the "minor subjects". The holdings of the university collections function as a research infrastructure, integrating the various disciplinary approaches involved in TRA 5 in historical and contemporary contexts and processes.

© Bialek/Uni Bonn
Eine Wissenschaftlerin und ein Wissenschaftler arbeiten hinter einer Glasfassade und mischen Chemikalien mit Großgeräten.
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About us

Organisation, goals, team

Eine Wissenschaftlerin und ein Wissenschaftler arbeiten hinter einer Glasfassade und mischen Chemikalien mit Großgeräten.
© Markus Winkler on unsplash


Research profile, topics, projects, Professorships

Eine Wissenschaftlerin und ein Wissenschaftler arbeiten hinter einer Glasfassade und mischen Chemikalien mit Großgeräten.
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Events, funding, newsletter

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

Our members

Our members are professors, postdoc researchers and PhD students of the Faculty of Arts, of the Faculties of Protestant and Catholic Theology, and of central scientific research institutions.

Benefit from our network and funding opportunities!

Argelander Professorship for Critical Museum and Heritage Studies

We are pleased to welcome Jun.-Prof. Dr. Julia Binter as Argelander Professor in the TRA Present Pasts since 01.05.2023. The trained social and cultural anthropologist as well as theatre, film and media scholar most recently led the collerative research, exhibition and repatriation project "Confronting Colonial Pasts, Envisioning Creative Futures" on the collections from Namibia at the Ethnological Museum Berlin.

Julia Binter combines an international and transdisciplinary profile. With her research, she translates postcolonial theory into practice. Her ethnographic research therefore not only investigates the cultural, political and economic entanglements of  the past and present, but also seeks to reshape them in collaborative film and exhibition projects. With her research projects 'Heritage of Mission' and 'Heritage of Water', she opens up new possibilities for collaboration with the natural sciences and theologies, thus strengthening the transdisciplinary network of TRA Present Pasts.

© Barbara Frommann/Uni Bonn
Paul Basu_1.jpg
© Meike Böschemeyer/Uni Bonn

TRA Hertz Professorship for "Global Heritage"

Prof. Dr. Paul Basu isHertz Professor of TRA Present Pasts . The internationally renowned anthropologist, curator and critical heritage specialist will establish a "Global Heritage Lab" in which he and his team experiment with decolonial approaches to cultural heritage research.

© TRA Present Pasts

Notice Board

Have an event overview with our digital 'notice board'.

General Assembly and Networking-Event

On 12 October 2022, the annual general assembly of TRA Present Pasts took place in the auditorium of the main building.

In addition to the annual report, the elections of the speakers and the steering committee, the announcement of the TRA Present Pasts Young Research Award 2022 and a lecture by the Hertz Professor of Global Heritage Paul Basu, the TRA Present Pasts used the meeting as a networking event. Nearly 70 members gathered for a poster session with snacks and drinks.

The TRA projects 'Open Museum', 'Digitised Memory Practices in China and in International Comparison' and 'Religious Communication' as well as the university centres ZHF, BMZ, MHZ, ZVF, CCT and BoCAS, the Cluster of Excellence BCDSS, and the Dölger Institute presented their work. At the same time, the service points Research Data Service Centers and Open Access, the Research and Innovation Services (EU applications and BMBF applications), and the TransferCenter enaCom offered info points.

Press releases
From Both Sides Now: the Story of an Egyptian Stele

How people cope with crises has always been a fruitful field of research for the sciences. For instance, how do people from different cultures use objects to find strength and reassurance in times of need? This question lay at the heart of the indisciplinary collaborative project “SiSi,” which was funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and involved teams of researchers from Egyptology and the Anthropology of the Americas at the University of Bonn. In a case study on a stone tablet from the University of Bonn’s Egyptian Museum that has reliefs on both sides, Egyptologist Prof. Dr. Ludwig D. Morenz has now documented indications of personal piety in a new book.

Cult of the Gods in Pre-Egyptian Society

The desert in southern Egypt is filled with hundreds of petroglyphs and inscriptions dating from the Neolithic to the Arab period. The oldest date from the fifth millennium B.C., and few have been studied. Egyptologists at the University of Bonn and Aswan University now want to systematically record the rock paintings and document them in a database. Among them, a rock painting more than 5,000 years old depicting a boat being pulled by 25 men on a rope stands out in particular. 

Ten million euros for archaeologists at the University of Bonn

The four Roman legionary fortresses in Bonn, Neuss, Xanten and Nijmegen still hold unexplored treasures of knowledge about the multifaceted life of the Romans on the Lower Rhine. The goal of a team led by archaeologist Prof. Dr. Jan Bemmann from the University of Bonn is to decipher these and preserve them for future generations of researchers. The project is now receiving major support from the Academies Programme, which is jointly funded by the federal and state governments: As one of five newly funded long-term projects, it will receive around ten million euros for the next 18 years.

Colonial heritage in knowledge production

The University of Bonn has once again received excellent reinforcement. The internationally renowned anthropologist, curator and critical heritage specialist Paul Basu now occupies a so-called Hertz Professorship in the Transdisciplinary Research Area "Present Pasts". The starting point for his work is a critical engagement with the heritage of Western knowledge production, especially as it is reflected in scientific archives and collections. In doing so, he brings together different disciplines, but also the non-university public.


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Dr. Kim Alings

Strategic Development and Quality Assurance

+49 151 464 767 44


Prof. Dr. Matthias Becher

Department of History

Prof. Dr. Karoline Noack

Department of Archaeology and Cultural Anthropology

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