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LMU-UC Berkeley Research

UCB’s open door to visiting professorship is perfect timing

München, 08/29/2014

University of California, Berkeley professors have been conducting research at LMU in a special Humanities Research program since 2007, but it was earlier this year when the program began to flow in both directions, sending its first LMU professor west to California.

Photo: Bonnie Azab Powell / UC Berkeley

Just as LMU’s classical archaeologist, Prof Rolf Schneider, was preparing to write his part of a co-authored book, UCB opened its doors to host a visiting professor from LMU. The timing couldn’t have been better for Prof Schneider, since being accepted would provide him with experts in the field, UCB’s libraries with their remarkable range of cultural historical reading on South Africa, and time to research and write his first draft.

“From memory to marble: the frieze of the Voortrekker Monument at Pretoria” will be about the making and reading of one of the largest marble friezes in the world. The historical frieze was created to commemorate the centenary of the 1838 Great Trek, when 15,000 pioneers left the then British Cape to trek into the interior to found independent Afrikaner republics.

Since 2010, Prof Schneider and his co-author, Prof Rankin, have been uncovering unpublished drawings, plaster models made in preparation for the frieze, and some 4,000 mostly unpublished documents in South African archives, including minutes of the Monument’s committee meetings. From 2D paper designs to 3D stone carvings, their findings will provide fascinating insight into the original intentions versus a re-contextualized post-apartheid setting.

Creating partnerships
Acceptance of Prof Schneider’s application to UCB brought him back together with his Berkeley colleague, Prof Christopher H Hallet from the History of Art Department. Both work in the field of Roman sculpture – Prof Hallett’s focus on exceptional portraits from Aphrodisias in southwestern Turkey, Prof Schneider’s on portrayals of non-Romans, including a spectacular group of colored-marble statues in Rome showing Trojans with origins also in Anatolia. The four months at Berkeley were exactly what he needed to raise to a new level his scholarly dialogue with Prof Hallett about problems of imagery, architecture and marble, topics pertinent for his book.

The professors’ talks revealed that they had many mutual research interests, and have resulted in a formal collaboration and an invitation from the Humanities research program for Prof Hallett to visit LMU for six months in 2015. Also writing a joint article with Prof Stewart from Berkeley, Prof Schneider feels that the different academic traditions of American universities have made his work better. “It is the difference that enables competing ideas to be more articulated, challenged and changed,” he says.

The social exchange
Living off campus has promoted contact with the world around UCB, but so have professors and students. “I have been wonderfully integrated in activities,” says Prof Schneider, “joining excursions including oyster bakes and wine tasting. One colleague even took me sailing. Berkeley, the Bay area and San Francisco are very beautiful, with world class opera, theatre and music, museums and architecture, excellent wine and cuisine, and a high tech industry. For the first time I have ridden in a Tesla S electric sedan!”

The program’s visiting professors at LMU are equally appreciative of such elements. Just finishing a six-month stay in Munich, UCB’s Prof Paolo Mancosu had applied in order to take advantage of LMU’s Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy to finish his book “Abstraction and Infinity” on counting infinite collections and abstractionist philosophy of mathematics.

Having access to colleagues at LMU with interest in his areas of work, a center for mathematical philosophy that he calls an intellectual power house, an excellent library and the Center for Advanced Studies where he also gave a talk inaugurating the Berkeley Lecture series at LMU, Prof Mancosu was able to write, exchange ideas and expand his social and academic contacts. “There are so many things going on and so many people to talk to,” he says, “that I could not have hoped for a more vibrant Center to visit.” Elizabeth Willoughby