Examination of the university’s colonial past: An Open Letter from Göttingen Postkolonial to President Metin Tolan

The political alliance Göttingen Postkolonial has released an Open Letter to the the university president, demanding a thorough examination of the university’s colonial past and suggesting a course of action to accomplish such an examination. We are happy to share the letter on our website.
See also our press release of September 21.


Dear Prof. Tolan,

As the new president of the University of Göttingen, we would like to welcome you and wish you all the best for your presidency. As Göttingen Postcolonial we are an always open of initiatives in the area of Göttingen, which is concerned with the reappraisal and discussion of the colonial past, postcolonial present and visions of a decolonial future. The goal is to promote a responsible and critical and racism-critical approach to the colonial heritage here in Göttingen and the region. Most of us are students or research assistants at the University of Göttingen who are involved in colonial reappraisal on a voluntary basis beyond their studies and research.

The University of Göttingen has already taken a first step towards the reappraisal of colonial past through the work of the chair of Prof. Habermas and has made the first research results visible on the website Göttingen Kolonial.

We would like to find out how you intend to proceed with the topic: How will research on the colonial period and colonial continuities be strengthened? How will the demands of student groups for support in the debate on topics such as the naming of the Blumenbach Institute be dealt with (see, for example, the contribution of the Basisgruppe Umweltwissenschaften to the student-organized event “Wohin mit Blumenbachs Erbe? – Negotiations on Göttingen’s handling of the “father of anthropology” or the demands for a power_critical anthropology! (2018). This semester and last semester, students volunteered to organize and conduct a seminar on racism and colonialism in the environmental sciences, as critical engagement with the history of science is, from our perspective, essential for good scholarly work and social discourse today. How can the university take responsibility for this critical examination of colonialism and racism in science – also with regard to the history of Göttingen University in particular – and strengthen the exchange on this?

We want to name some of the current expectations we have of the university in various areas and to point out their importance underline their importance:
– Assumption of responsibility by the institution of the university and its faculties and departments for a critical reappraisal of the colonial period, the history of racism and the history of science, as well as colonial continuities in research and teaching, in particular also with regard to international research
– Structural anchoring of elements critical of colonialism and elements critical of racism in teaching & studies
– Obligatory sensitization of lecturers and university staff on racism and other forms of discrimination and power relations as well as protection against discrimination according to AGG
– Basic financial support for colonial reappraisal and for further development critical of racism by various different status groups of the university
– Continuation of the anti-discrimination counseling for students with a focus on students affected by racism with appropriate (e.g., psychological) psychological) qualification, as for example called for through the BIPoC collective in the event “The Past in the Present – Post/Colonialism in Teaching”

We are looking forward to receive a reply as soon as possible.

With kind regards,
Göttingen Postcolonial