In publica commoda

Press release: From "Bare Essentials" to "Objects Full of Hope and Promise"

No. 224 - 01.11.2018

Göttingen Research on the Tangible Objects of Flight and Migration to be Funded with One Million Euros


What role do objects play when people are forced to flee? What things do they take with them and why? The University of Göttingen, the Museum Friedland and the Berlin exhibition office "Die Exponauten" are dedicating a new research project to the question of the significance of the material aspects of flight and migration. 


The research (“The Language of Objects”) focuses on the premise that the value of protection of life and human dignity is inseparably linked to objects. Objects convey status and identity and they are imbued with personal hopes and emotions. Project Manager Professor Andrea Lauser from the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology states: "Stories told by refugees about important objects tell a lot about fears, loss and deprivation, but also about beautiful memories and hopes for the future. Importantly, this is also about human dignity. How many and which items are needed for a dignified existence, and who decides this?”


The starting point is the Museum Friedland. Here, the very first contacts are made, and making use of what is known as “multi-sited ethnography”, the researchers collect the stories of refugees at their new places of residence. "In ‘The Language of Objects’ we want to make a contribution to current research about refugees," says Lauser. At the same time, an exhibition is being conceived in which the creation of the exhibition is itself a research process. This will be designed in such a way that the insights acquired will be shared with the public in a meaningful way.


The joint project runs until July 2021 and is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) with one million euros under the "The Language of Objects" funding line.


Contact person:

Dr Ute Marie Metje

Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology

University of Göttingen

Theaterplatz 15, 37073 Göttingen

Phone +49 551 39 25573