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The Institute

As a central research institution in the humanities and cultural studies, the Erich Auerbach Institute for Advanced Studies offers members of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities a place to develop innovative research concepts in collaboration with international researchers and to explore interdisciplinary intersections. It functions as an incubator of ideas for the development of new research approaches in dealing with socially relevant topics, taking into account their historical dimension as well as the cultural diversity associated with them.         


The mission of the Institute is to expand international academic contacts and to promote the international exchange of research in the humanities at the University of Cologne through sustainable networking, cooperation and the promotion of young researchers. A flexible organizational structure with alternating directorship and different thematic and regional priorities takes into account the dynamization of knowledge production. At the same time, the institute works to increase the visibility of research in the humanities and cultural studies in the public sphere.

Research Focus

The main focus of the institute lies on the intersection of cultural studies and social sciences. As an interdisciplinary institution, the Auerbach Institute takes into account the fact that the opening for cultural studies in a global context has brought the subjects of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities closer to socio-political issues. These include the differentiation of concepts of cultural identity, the consequences of the medial transformation of social communication, the role and function of art and aesthetic theories for the reflection of social and economic processes, as well as the status and practice of criticism in changed formats of the public sphere. The aim is to make the socio-political relevance of research in cultural studies accessible to a broad public. The guiding question is the scope of the humanities in the global age, which will be differentiated and critically discussed according to different annual themes at the institute. In its first phase (2021–2024), the Auerbach Institute will be directed by the literary scholar Anja Lemke. The following annual themes have been set by her:

2021: On the Present of the Future

2022: actual/possible – On the Relation of Reality and Fictionality

2023: Culture and Economy

2024: "World" – an Interdisciplinary Approach to a Semantic Field

Regional Focus

The regional focus is initially on the development of transatlantic cooperation with North American universities. The Institute thus responds to a desideratum of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities to strengthen its research contacts in the Anglo-Saxon research area (including 28 institute partnerships), to link existing filiations with each other, and to establish further collaborations. Current collaborations can be found here:

Fellow Program

The Auerbach Institute generally offers two- or three-month fellowships to international researchers who apply together with a Cologne partner. Together with their hosts, the fellows form an interdisciplinary fellowship group for the duration of their stay. Through the tandem structure, the international visibility of cultural studies research at the University of Cologne can be improved. At the same time, the joint work on the annual themes enables the development of new international collaborative research topics and formats, which can become the basis for further joint research and teaching concepts and ensure the sustainability of the contacts.

The fellows present their research to the public together with their host within the framework of the "Auerbach Lectures" and discuss it in joint colloquia. In addition, they have access to the facilities of the institute and their own joint budget for further conferences, workshops, discussion events, and block seminars in order to link research and teaching more closely and to bring the international research of the Faculty to the public. The Auerbach Institute thus offers

  • a location for international researchers with workplaces, common forums and also informal contact possibilities
  • an international interdisciplinary research platform from which new, long-term, externally funded research and teaching initiatives can emerge
  • an institutional framework for more targeted networking through the circulation of topics with the possibility of participation in events of the institute also for international researchers in other funding lines (Humboldt, DAAD, DFG, BMBF, etc.)
  • a greater international visibility of research in cultural studies.