The statue park in the Budapest, showing cleared-away memorials from the Communist era


The Department Culture and Imagination

Researchers from the disciplines of Art and Architectural History, Cultural and Literary Studies as well as History and Public History jointly investigate cultural processes in Eastern Europe.

Prof. Dr. Arnold Bartetzky heads the department.


Culture and Imagination

The department devotes itself to cultural patterns and processes of societal change as articulated in art, literature, architecture and various fields of popular culture and knowledge production. It is concerned with drawing forth imaginations as well as with the significance of culture for the formation of societies. This endeavour centres around the visual and the narrative, but also comprises performative practices. With this profile, the department offers a framework for interdisciplinary studies across a broad spectrum of cultural and historical subjects. 

Current research focuses on three topics: »Heritage and Canon«, »Knowledge and Truth«  and »Visions for the Future«, all building on current societal debates. They are deeply interwoven with the GWZO’s main themes while also strongly linking with the Leibniz Research Alliance »Values of the Past« in which several of the department’s employees participate.

From the Department’s Work

Newly published: Global Perspectives on Experiential History

Reenactment is a global phenomenon that encompasses far more than the reenactment of battles. Yet it is often national or local in terms of its historical themes, styles and subcultures. The anthology edited by Vanessa Agnew, Sabine Stach and Juliane Tomann brings together case studies on reenactment from Europe, America and Asia and asks about the relationship between national practices and global developments, including both the spread of new populisms and postcolonial movements.

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Reenactment Case Studies

Adaptation and Radicalisation. Dynamics of Popular Culture(s) in Eastern Europe before the War

– GWZO Participation in the Leibniz Cooperative Excellence Programme

This joint project, led by the ZfL, investigates popular cultures in Belarus, Poland, Russia, Ukraine and Hungary in an interdisciplinary, comparative perspective since the 1980s. At the GWZO, Indira Hajnács is investigating Hungarian folklore heritage. Popular cultural phenomena are explored in the project from historical, literary, cultural and media studies perspectives, using objects from literature, film and visual arts, television series, folk and pop music, videos, memes, murals and graffiti, political journalism and social media. The project promises new insights into popular cultural dynamics from the dawn of democratisation in the 1980s / 1990s to today's strengthening of nationalist ideologies and authoritarian structures.

about the research topic

Real, more real, most real? A Leipzig audio walk on the theme of authenticity

An audience with affinity for science and interest in history was targeted, when Sabine Stach, Arnold Bartetzky, Karin Reichenbach and Stephan Krause created an audio walk through Leipzig's city centre. In the literal sense of the word, the listeners are made aware of the attributions of authenticity in urban space. The project is part of a cross-institutional initiative that was developed within the framework of the Leibniz Research Network »Historical Authenticity« in order to communicate its guiding questions in an easily understandable and broadly effective way. The audio walk, which was produced in cooperation with the company audiokombinat, is available free of charge.

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Nikolaikirchhof – Ein Gang über geschichtsträchtiges Pflaster (Foto: Sabine Stach)

The Research Initiative »Political Epistemologies of Eastern Europe« (PECEE)

Since 2017, the research initiative has been committed to the study of historical entanglements of theories, practices, and figures of knowledge production in their political contexts.
The dynamic social, economic, and intellectual trajectories of Eastern Europe allow for particularly manifold examples to analyse the politics of such historical epistemologies.  This may also help to understand contemporary developments where the spheres of politics, knowledge and research can hardly be separated.
The group includes representatives of the Universities of Erfurt and Vienna as well as the Czech Academy of Sciences and the GWZO. With the participation of former and current members of the department, conferences, research proposals and publications have been conducted since several years.

learn more in »History of Science and Humanities« 44/4
Eros bandito by Igor Mitoraj. Exhibition in Warsaw, 2004
Wall fresco in Kaaden’s Franciscan church, detail with a portrait of the donor, © GWZO/R. Boček

Subject Areas of the Department Culture and Imagination

Heritage and Canon

Cultural heritage is not a constant essential property, but rather a social construction subject to continuous change. This subject area focuses on heritage constructions and canon formations in art, literature, music and architecture.

Visions of the Future

Rooted in a growing interest in social utopias, this area adopts a historical long-term perspective to examine radical concepts for a comprehensive redesign of society and ways of life.

Knowledge and Truth

In the face of current controversies over knowledge production and credibility, this subject area examines the entanglements of different cultures of knowledge and truth regimes between the public arena and expert discourse.


Publications 2017–2020


Guest Research at the GWZO



Conferences, Guest Lectures and More

13:00 - 13:30

Special event

Was hat ein Karpfen mit dem Protest gegen den russischen Krieg in der Ukraine zu tun?

Presentation of the online exhibition »No wobble! | Нет вобле!« by Dr. Susanne Jaeger (GWZO)

Event as part of the Wissenschaftsfestival SPIN2030  


Location: Technische Sammlungen Dresden, Dresden

09:00 - 11:00


Figuren der Wissenschaftsorganisation. Zu einer unbestimmten Kategorie wissenschaftlicher Praxis

Panel as Part of the 6th Kongress Polenforschung »Umbrüche – Aufbrüche«

with: Anne Kluger (MLU Halle-Wittenberg), Sophie Schwarzmaier (Max-Planck-Institut
für Wissenschaftsgeschichte), Dr. des. Karin Reichenbach (GWZO), Dr. Friedrich Cain (Universität Wien), Dr. Steffi Heinecke (Max-Planck-Gesellschaft)

Location: Technische Universität Dresden, Hörsaalzentrum, Dresden

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21.03.2024, 12:00 -
22.03.2024, 16:00


Cities. Building. Culture. New Approaches to Heritage Development in Eastern Europe

Conference of the Joint project with the BMBF »Stadt.Kultur.Bauen«

Location: Aachen

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