The Walter Benjamin Kolleg (WBKolleg) is an inter- and transdisciplinary research and teaching institution at the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Bern. It provides the infrastructure for the systematic promotion of and initiation of networking among young scholars. Furthermore, it supports cooperation between faculties and universities.
The Kolleg is named after Walter Benjamin (1892-1940). The philosopher studied at the University of Bern where he in 1919 graduated with a thesis titled “Begriff der Kunstkritik in der deutschen Romantik” [The Concept of Art Criticism in German Romanticism]. The name of the research institution founded in 2015 and ceremonially inaugurated on April 26 of 2016 stands for Benjamin’s concept of a creative combination of different disciplinary approaches in the humanities.
The WBKolleg comprises three types of institutions and various projects:
The Walter Benjamin Kolleg is the inter- and transdisciplinary forum of the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Bern. It promotes cooperative practices between the humanities, cultural studies and social sciences by supporting research that transcends established disciplinary boundaries. While the Kolleg hosts researchers from all different stages of their careers, it places particular importance on young scholars, for example through its prestigious junior fellowship program. It also offers a broad portfolio of interdisciplinary study programs from BA to Ph.D. level that is unique in Switzerland. Moreover, the Kolleg fosters outreach work by helping its students and scholars exchange their research with society and politics.
As an institution of the Faculty of Humanities, the WBKolleg is supported by the management of the University of Bern. It links researchers from across the Faculty through various formats, for example through research platforms that can be formed to further new and innovative interdisciplinary approaches. In addition to strengthening these internal structures within the Faculty, the Kolleg also aims to make the Faculty more visible on an international, global stage, for instance through the renowned Friedrich Dürrenmatt Guest Professorship.
While the Kolleg covers a broad range of topics, it promotes three thematic foci more intentionally: globalization, the interrelations of language and society, and the digitized humanities. In this way, the Walter Benjamin Kolleg not only strengthens the internal and external profile of the Faculty of Humanities, but also contributes substantially to the University's focus on intercultural knowledge, sustainability and digitization. Indeed, the Kolleg is a dynamic institution that provides a space for innovative, discipline-bending thinking and cutting-edge research at the University of Bern.
The eponymous role model of the Kolleg is Walter Benjamin, a German writer and cultural philosopher who received his doctorate from the Bernese Faculty of Humanities in 1919. Like Walter Benjamin, the Kolleg stands for creative thinking between the established disciplines and the goal to address socially relevant issues with forward-looking concepts and original approaches.