Research FacilityCentre for Asian and Transcultural Studies

Press release No. 64/2019
18 June 2019

Innovative research facility opens its doors – inauguration ceremony with artist Ai Weiwei

The Centre for Asian and Transcultural Studies (CATS) of Heidelberg University – an innovative collaborative research facility clustered around a new library building – is complete: After three years of construction, CATS will officially open its doors on 25 June 2019. The opening ceremony is hosted by the Mannheim and Heidelberg branches of the Baden-Württemberg State Office for Assets and Real Estate. In addition to the Baden-Württemberg Minister of Science Theresia Bauer and the State Minister of Finance Edith Sitzmann, two very special guests will attend the ceremony – Sheba Chhachhi, photographer, installation artist and women’s rights activist from India, and the Chinese conceptual artist, sculptor and curator Ai Weiwei. The inauguration will be accompanied by a full day’s programme of events.

CATS creates a new spatial and structural entity for the Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies (HCTS), which grew out of the Excellence Cluster “Asia and Europe in a Global Context”, and Heidelberg University’s Asian Studies institutes. For this project, four buildings of the former dermatological clinic on the Bergheim Campus were restructured by the participating institutes – the South Asia Institute, the Centre for East Asian Studies and the Institute of Anthropology with its special focus on South East Asia. Constructed at the beginning of the 20th century, these buildings enclose a quadrangle that has now become the site of a new research building. While the entrance of this building is on the ground floor, the structure itself extends more than four storeys underground and houses a joint library. On the CATS grounds with nearly 8,000 square metres of research, work and teaching space, a collaborative facility has been created that offers central access to the three libraries of the South, East and South East Asian Studies institutes and also comprises media laboratories for the development and use of digital resources.

The innovative scientific approach practiced at CATS is a transcultural shift of perspective in which Asian Studies research and teaching is not only focused and intensified, but also enters into a dialogue with the humanities and social sciences, which traditionally concentrate on the region of Europe. The decision to cluster the Asian Studies institutes and connect them through a new research facility was prompted by the growing importance of transcultural studies in the context of the increasing significance of Asia on the world stage. Of the total construction costs of approximately 30.8 million euros, around 19.2 million euros are funded 50 percent through federal research building programmes. The state contributes around 17 million euros. The university’s share of the costs amounts to nearly four million euros.

Annette Ipach-Öhmann, the director of the Baden-Württemberg State Office for Assets and Real Estate, will open the inaugural festivities. After a speech by Finance Minister Sitzmann, the keys to the new facility will be handed over in a symbolic act. This is followed by welcoming addresses for the guests from Science Minister Bauer, the Rector of Heidelberg University, Prof. Dr Bernhard Eitel, and Dr Joachim Gerner, mayor of the city of Heidelberg. Next, Dr Veit Probst, director of Heidelberg University Library, and the two founding directors of CATS, Sinologist Prof. Dr Barbara Mittler and Indologist Prof. Dr Axel Michaels, will introduce the audience to the work of the centre. In two “Artists’ Interventions”, the artists Sheba Chhachhi and Ai Weiwei will discuss questions regarding the social commitment of intellectuals. The music for the event will be performed by the Nepalese band Triplets and by Klangforum Heidelberg.

As part of the accompanying programme on the opening day, Asian scholars from Heidelberg will display their favourite objects in Heidelberg’s Museum of Ethnology VPST. Prof. Michaels and Dr Margareta Pavaloi, the museum director, will give an introductory speech at 10 am. At 1 pm, an Indian ritual celebrating the first entry into a new house will be performed, arranged by Dr Patanjali Mishra of Banaras Hindu University. Prof. Dr Christiane Brosius (South Asia Institute) and Prof. Dr Joachim Kurtz (Centre for East Asian Studies) will then discuss the prospects and challenges of Asian Studies in Europe with colleagues from Copenhagen, Leiden, Shanghai and Venice. The English-language discussion will begin at 2 pm. Starting at 3 pm, artist Friedemann von Stockhausen and art historian Prof. Dr Monica Juneja (South Asia Institute / Institute for European Art History) will share their views on the “Percent for Art” principle, followed by a haiku performance in the open area at 3:30 pm. After the end of the official festivities, the audience will have a chance to meet artist Ai Weiwei. This meeting (which starts at 7:30 pm) will be moderated by Heidelberg students of global art history. With the exception of the exhibition, all events will take place on the grounds of the CATS facility at Voßstraße 2.

Note to news desks:

The inaugural festivities for the research facility will take place on Tuesday, 25 June 2019. The event in the Centre for Asian and Transcultural Studies (building 4130, Voßstraße 2, lecture hall 05) will begin at 5 pm. Media representatives are cordially invited to take part in and report on the festivities. Please register by email at or by phone at +49 6221 54-2311.