Reaction by Prof. Hanneder

Here is a reaction by Prof. Jürgen Hanneder to my previous post, sent to me via e-mail:

Sorry for the „somewhat frustrating keynote lecture“, but my intention was to talk about the
situation of young academics without pretending that I have solutions. A permanent position has
its own frustrations: whereas one can finally stop worrying about one’s own job — a great relief
—, one has to start worrying about the jobs of others, and only the hard-hearted will not feel
this as a considerable burden.

Thank you for sharing the inside view from Vienna. It becomes very clear from your report that
while some of the problems are probably universal, others are specific to a certain place. Vienna,
as Paris, for instance, is actually a place with many potential posts in Indology. My university
has one Indological professorship, the only one in Hessen, one assistantship and one lecturer. In
our federal system we still have a few universities with an Indology, more than Austria or France,
but most of these are very small. As a result our primary concern is not to extend the number of
posts in our institutes, which is impossible except through projects, but to avoid losing whole
institutes. This is an ongoing work, a regular topic in our deliberations in the Indological
section of the DMG, and in this typically assistants are crucial, for they often have the task of
maintaining continuity in the institute.

In my university we have so few students, and in the last years virtually none that remained in university. But this is exactly what has been endangering our small subjects, which in our system are mainly „funded“ through undergraduate (not graduate) students. Due to the political awareness surrounding „small subjects“ like Indology, we (only in Hessen) are, since few years, no more endangered simply by low numbers of students, since there is now an official special status of a small subject.

Of course I have doctoral students and a research group. Applying for projects in order to keep the
small group in jobs is my daily work, and the same applies to many colleagues in Indology and other
similar small subjects. Often this strategy worked, but two from „my“ staff recently gave up after
unsuccessful project applications and left the field. This is as sad as understandable. I am very
aware that not everyone can just apply everywhere and move around the world to take the next job,
and that the recommendation to go abroad can sound zynical. This was of course not the
intention. And I am quite aware of the fact that not many countries actually hire foreigners on a
larger scale in academic jobs: In one application I was apparently rejected from a list, because it
was decided German applicants, that was at the time when many from Germany applied abroad, would
not be considered.

But then we have the peculiarities of the German system. If I would aspire to get another assistant
post from our university, even with partial financing from outside, this would just produce mild
amusement. There is a general consensus that the small subjects are underfunded and are financed by
the big subjects anyway and that we should be happy to be allowed to live. We are lectured every
term about our rising deficit. One trick to accomplish such a growth, even temporary, used to be
applying to another professorship, getting a „Ruf“, and renegotiating with the home university. My
university has proved in too many cases that they will not do such a thing, but simply wish you all
the best in your new job, and possibly close down your institute after you are gone. And as far as
Marburg is concerned: the Indological professorship was supposed not to be continued after my
predecessor retired and it was only by a combination of some political moves and sheer luck that
this decision was reversed.

You write:
> Engage in university politics, cooperate with colleagues across disciplines and institutions, speak
> up in meetings, don’t let the professors decide everything on their own.

I can only agree. Why not organise an international petition concerning young academics in small
oriental subjects through the DMG? The Indological section there is of quite substantial size and
there you might get a lot of support from „assistants“ and „professors“.


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