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.
© Volker Lannert/ Universität Bonn
Eine Wissenschaftlerin und ein Wissenschaftler arbeiten hinter einer Glasfassade und mischen Chemikalien mit Großgeräten.
© Abt. Vor- & Frühgeschichtl. Archäologie
Eine Wissenschaftlerin und ein Wissenschaftler arbeiten hinter einer Glasfassade und mischen Chemikalien mit Großgeräten.
© BASA Museum
Eine Wissenschaftlerin und ein Wissenschaftler arbeiten hinter einer Glasfassade und mischen Chemikalien mit Großgeräten.
© SFB 1167
© Paul Basu

Hertz Professorship "Global Heritage"

We are pleased to welcome Prof. Dr. Paul Basu as Hertz Professor of TRA Present Pasts as of 01.06.2022. The internationally renowned anthropologist, curator and critical heritage specialist previously held professorships at SOAS University of London and University College London.

His research and teaching has focused on the intersections of material culture, cultural memory, and migrations of people, things and historical narratives. For the past 20 years his regional specialism has been in West Africa. He has worked extensively with museum collections and archives, often collaborating with local communities to re-engage with historical materials and knowledges sequestered in European institutions. He recently led the very successful Museum Affordances / [Re:]Entanglements project.

At the University of Bonn, Paul Basu will establish a “Global Heritage Lab”. This will provide a platform for experimenting with decolonial approaches to heritage research, exploring what lessons we can learn from the past as we confront the urgent questions of our own time and attempt to imagine more sustainable and just futures for the planet.

Become a Member of the TRA Present Pasts and Benefit from aOur Network and Funding Opportunities!


Job advertisement:  Research Associate (TV-L pay grade 13, full-time)

The “Open Museum” project, which is being funded by the Present Pasts Transdisciplinary Research Area (TRA) and led by Prof. Münch (Art History) and Prof. Noack (Ethnology), is seeking to appoint to the following position as soon as possible, initially on an 18-month contract: Research Associate to look after and continue the development of the database system used by the museums and collections at the University of Bonn. The post will be based at the Bonn Center for Digital Humanities (BCDH).

Job advertisement: Research Manager (full-time)

The Hertz Professorship for the Transdisciplinary Research Area TRA 5, “Present Pasts,” is looking to appoint the following permanent position at the earliest possible starting date:
Research Manager. The Research Manager will help to develop the new “Global Heritage Lab”, which is being set up as part of TRA 5, “Present Pasts.” The Lab will provide an innovative new space for transdisciplinary and transcultural critical research into cultural heritage, including innovating exhibition and decolonial methods. In particular, the Re-search Manager will play an important role in strengthening the Lab’s capacity to serve as a platform for exter-nally funded German and international research partnerships, with a particular focus on partnerships in the Global South.

Call for papers: NARRATIVES OF SPECIAL THINGS. AGE AND TIME (Workshop 17th-19th November 2022)

The workshop will apply narrative-theoretical and communication-sociological considerations diachronically and interdisciplinarily to objects in the sense of Bruno Latour’s Thing Turn. In a comparative approach, the narratives and communication structures that give certain things a prominent position can be examined globally and across history and periods.

Please send an abstract (max. one page) for an approximately 25-minute presentation by June 19, 2022 to:

Press realeases
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.

Zentrum für Versöhnungsforschung ceremonially opened

Covid-19, climate change, populism, and not least the Ukraine war make the question of how and whether reconciliation is possible highly topical and relevant. The new Bonner Zentrum für Versöhnungsforschung (Center for Reconciliation Research) at the University of Bonn bundles research on this topic in cooperation with partner organizations. The center’s aim is to analyze reconciliation practices in an interdisciplinary and comparative way looking at different cultural, social and regional contexts. The center has now been ceremoniously opened in the University's Festsaal.

Early urbanism found in the Amazon

Several hundred settlements from the time between 500 and 1400 AD lie in the Bolivian Llanos de Mojos savannah and have fascinated archaeologists for years. Researchers from the German Archaeological Institute, the University of Bonn and the University of Exeter have now visualized the dimensions of the largest known settlement of the so-called Casarabe culture. Mapping with the laser technology LIDAR indicates that it is an early urbanism with a low population density - the only known case so far from the Amazon lowlands. The results shed new light on how globally widespread and diverse early urban life was and how earlier societies lived in the Amazon. The study appeared in the journal Nature.

With the wiki into the early Middle Ages

"Repertorium Saracenorum". With this impressive name, historians at the University of Bonn now present the result of a project that took years to complete: an online wiki, created from more than 70 Latin-Christian works and 622 individual reports from the 7th to 11th centuries - digitally collected, categorized and scientifically processed. In cooperation with the Cologne Center for eHumanities (CCeH) at the University of Cologne, a novel compilation of sources dedicated to the so-called Saracens has been created. These are medieval populations of Muslim faith. The platform, called "Saracen Wiki" for short, is intended to benefit researchers, students and the interested public. The resulting new research questions and findings have relevance for present times, for example in researching communication and globalization processes or the history of Christian-Muslim relations. The website is now online and open to the public.*


Avatar Alings

Dr. Kim Alings

Strategic Development and Quality Assurance

+49 151 464 767 44


Prof. Dr. Matthias Becher

Department of History

Prof. Dr. Karline Noack

Department of Archaeology and Cultural Anthropology

The six TRAs: the Research Profile of the University of Bonn

Our six Transdisciplinary Research Areas (TRAs) create areas for exploration and innovation in research and teaching at the University of Bonn.

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