African Studies


Eckhard Breitinger

The Institute of African Studies and all its affiliated institutes and facilities mourn the loss of Prof. Dr. Eckhard Breitinger, a founding father of African Studies at the University of Bayreuth.


Until the late 1970s, his route towards Anglophone African literature and theatre was not a straight one. However, even during his studies at the University of Tübingen of English language and literature, of pre- and early history and of archaeology, his interest in the strange and new was already pronounced. In the 1960s, he spent some semesters abroad in Switzerland and Wales. After he completed his teacher-training in 1966, he was not drawn to teaching in his Swabian homeland, but for two years went as a lecturer to the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. In 1971 he received his PhD in English literature on the topic "Death in the English Novel around 1800". After some years as a university assistant and teacher in secondary schools in Tübingen, in 1980 he left Germany to become a Senior Lecturer at Nkrumah University in Ghana. That was the venue where Africa and the African Diasporas became his core interests. In view of this, his Habilitation on “Broadcasting and Radio in the United States 1930-1950”, which he submitted in the winter semester of 1986/87 at the University of Bayreuth, appears a mere digression into American Studies. He acted as a project manager in both the Collaborative Research Centre "Identity in Africa" (1983-1997) and in the Research Training Group "Intercultural Relations in Africa" (1991-1999) at the University of Bayreuth. His teaching and research activities were not limited to the University of Bayreuth – his sphere was truly transnational, as he took up numerous visiting professorships in Europe and, especially, in Africa. Until recently, and a long time after his retirement, freed from administrative tasks and a fixed teaching load, he exhibited his relationships and experience over and over again in the service of the University of Bayreuth. He actively supported the development of an alumni network of African graduates of the University of Bayreuth and acted as a mentor to students at the Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies.

He was very committed to making Africa and its cultural diversity known outside Africa. In this regard his academic teaching and active support of young researchers was only one of his many strategies. He was not satisfied by publishing his research results for an academic audience only. Thus, he popularized his findings in numerous radio broadcasts, journalistic articles, lectures, photo exhibitions and lexicon contributions. Another strategy was his publishing activities. In the approximately 100 monographs and edited volumes of his Bayreuth African Studies Series, he published on issues of African literature, linguistics, music, theatre, sociology, religions and cultures of Africa. In this way he offered researchers on Africa, and African researchers alike, a forum to publish their research.

Having arrived in Bayreuth in the winter semester 1980/81 as a coordinator for the newly established focus on Africa, over a period of 30 years he, more than any other, shaped a whole generations of young researchers and artists from all over the world. The enduring legacy of his activities is indeed tangible. Amongst those who travel in Southern, Eastern or Western Africa and reveal themselves in conversation as members of the University of Bayreuth, it quite often happens that the conversational partner turns out to be a former student of Eckhard Breitinger. Even at Africa-related international conferences, encounters with the network of his former students are frequent - those who have been participants of international conferences which he organized and DAAD and Humboldt Fellows supervised by him. The fact that this group of Bayreuth graduates continues to feel connected, even after leaving Bayreuth, is not only due to the high standards of African studies taught at the University of Bayreuth, but also to the legendary hospitality of Eckhard Breitinger. He was one of that rare species that takes great pains to care for invited guests - and they were numerous - and conveys among other things, the hospitable cultural characteristics of Upper Franconia.

The quality of Eckhard Breitinger’s African research and his tireless creativity both in Bayreuth and in all his other work-places cannot be overestimated.

Dr. Franz Kogelmann, IAS