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Acclaimed German Anthropologist and Goethe‑Institut President Carola Lentz Visits India

In Nation, News
March 02, 2024

Prof. Dr Carola Lentz, eminent German social anthropologist and President of the Goethe‑Institut, has embarked on her maiden visit to India to offer her scholarly insights on the role of education and culture as a unifying force for multiple identities in a globalised world and also unfold her vision for the institute’s future and the challenges ahead.

Dr Lentz, who arrived in New Delhi yesterday, began her tour at the Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan New Delhi which is the regional institute for South Asia. She is also slated to visit the Goethe-Instituts in Kolkata, Mumbai, and Chennai and the Goethe-Centre in Thiruvananthapuram besides meeting regional partners and attending select local events during her three-week-long visit to the country.

A key focus for her visit is to look more closely at the institute’s multifaceted cultural activities fostering exchange as well as its offers for German language learning, which is a requirement for the mobility of skilled Indian workforce to Germany and an important area of the Indo-German strategic bilateral partnership.

Dr Lentz, who assumed presidency of the Goethe-Institut in mid-November 2020, says the institute is the Federal Republic of Germany’s largest institution of cultural exchange abroad, and works in 98 countries through 158 institutes (among them the six Max Mueller Bhavans in India). Its three main pillars are teaching the German language and providing training for German teachers; facilitating and exploring possibilities of cultural exchange and dialogue as a key to understanding; and providing information about socio-cultural life in Germany.

“The Goethe-Institut stands for the values of democracy, non-violence, tolerance, and openness to many perspectives. In all societies there is a multiplicity of voices. Our institute, through its worldwide network, offers protected spaces for free discussion and information, enriching cross-border encounters and cultural exchange,” notes Dr Lentz.

“I have a keen interest in the plurality of stories and alternative perspectives, and this professional and human interest completely aligns with the principles of the Goethe-Institut,” she points out.

An avid theatre, dance and music enthusiast, Dr Lentz kicks off her India visit by attending an immersive theatre performance, The Song of the Cosmos, created by Crow, as part of the activation programme for the Delhi edition of the exhibition, “Critical Zones. In Search of a Common Ground,” at the Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan New Delhi.

In Crow’s The Song of the Cosmos, each vocalist is cast as an element within the Cosmos. These six celestial and earthly beings come together to sing the story of an epic journey: from the Big Bang and the creation of the universe to the emergence and evolution of life, and a vision of the future. The 30-minute show comprises four introductory pieces – solos and duets that introduce these elements, including Dark Energy, the Sun, the Ocean, and the Desert, taking the audience on an exhilarating voyage through the Cosmos.

Dr Lentz, currently senior research professor at the Department of Anthropology and African Studies at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, is known for her pioneering works on colonialism, land rights, and the politics of memory in Africa. She was the first German researcher to be awarded the Melville J. Herskovits Prize, the most important international book prize in African studies, for her book Land, Mobility and Belonging in West Africa.

A Fulbright scholar at Harvard University and a Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, her research interests include ethnicity, nationalism, colonialism, politics of remembrance, Middle Class in the Global South, labour migration, land rights, and middle-class biographies. Equally important for her are questions relating to ecological crisis and sustainability, and freedom for the arts and world literature.