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  • From the Margins to the Mainstream?Women's and Gender History in Germany
  • Karen Hagemann (bio)

In May 2005, the Working Group on Women's and Gender History in Germany, a member of the International Federation for Research on Women's History (IFRW), sent a resolution on the state of the integration of women's and gender history in German universities to the board of the German Historical Association. This resolution was in its tone a very modest protest against an ongoing situation of permanent discrimination. It describes the "reverse gear" in the integration of women's and gender history in German universities since the mid-1990s.1

Indicators for this setback, which were also mentioned in part in the resolution, are the following five observations. First, a very small number of professorships that are explicitly devoted to women's and gender history exist; in seventy-one history departments in German universities there were, in 2005, no more than four tenured professorships in modern history explicitly dedicated to women's and gender history. Second, there has been a relatively low increase in the percentage of tenured female professors more generally in history. We can observe a paradox here: since the early 1990s, the number of formally qualified female historians who had finished their dissertation in the field of women's and gender studies grew rapidly, and more and more women who had completed their habilitation—the second big book—joined the academic labor market. But despite this significant increase in the percentage of highly qualified women, the numbers of tenured female professors in history increased only very slightly. Even all the laws and regulations in the German university system relating to the preferred promotion of women with "equal qualification" did not change the overall patterns very much, because the male majority defines the standards of qualification.2 The gap between the number of female history students and tenured female faculty members in the history departments has widened in the last forty years. The number of women students in history has increased in West German universities; they comprised 22 percent of the student body in l960, and 44 percent in 2003. Women were only 6 percent of the teaching faculty and 2 percent of the tenured faculty in l960; by 2003 the overall number of female faculty in the history departments reached 30 percent, but only 12 percent were tenured faculty and not more than 10 percent were full professors.3 This percentage in history matches the average rate at German universities (which includes the natural and technical sciences), but not in the humanities and social sciences in general, [End Page 193] where the average percentage of female professors has increased in the last ten years from 11 to 20 percent.4

Third, a small number of articles on women's and gender history are published in so-called general historical journals in Germany, such as the leading Geschichte und Gesellschaft or Historische Zeitschrift. Entire volumes have come out in the last thirty years without any article on women's and gender history. Because of this situation, female historians in the German-speaking lands, like their colleagues elsewhere, have started their own distinct journals. The most important ones are L'Homme, established in 1990 in Vienna, and Metis, founded in 1992 in Bonn.5 They have also set up their own book series like Geschichte und Geschlechter, started in 1992 by Gisela Bock, Karin Hausen, and Heide Wunder.

Fourth, women's and gender history is only marginally integrated into so-called general events of the discipline, in particular the biennial Congress of the German Historical Association, but also at other conferences. One recent example was the congress of the German Historical Association in Kiel in 2004, which took place without any session on women's and gender history despite several proposals. Furthermore, the number of female paper presenters was marginal. The board of the German Historical Association proudly proclaimed before the congress that they had got so many proposals that they had to reject 50 percent of them. Obviously, they were biased in their selection. This bias was publicly criticized in February 2005 in a review of the congress in the...


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