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Berliner Nietzsche Colloquium

By Helmut Heit

The Berliner Nietzsche Colloquium (BNC) is an open academic reading- and discussion-group dedicated to the work of Friedrich Nietzsche. The main motivation behind this colloquium is the essential insight that Nietzsche's philosophy should not only be read and investigated on its own, but must be shared and discussed. It was established by Dr. Helmut Heit in October 2008 at the Technische Universität Berlin. Heit came to Berlin to work with Günter Abel after he was awarded a research-position funded by the Volkswagen-Foundation's Initiative for Excellence in the Humanities (the so-called Dilthey-Fellowship) to investigate Nietzsche’s philosophy of science. Out of this engagement with the Nietzschean perspective on science and research grew the scholarly ideals of the BNC. As such, the colloquium is not restricted to any specific topic or approach, but covers the broad range of contemporary international Nietzsche-research.

Meetings and Members

During the German summer and winter-terms (mid-April to mid-July and mid-October to mid-February) we meet regularly on every Wednesday from 6 to 8 pm. The BNC is mainly addressed to graduate students and academics, but is open to anyone interested in a better understanding of Nietzsche's ideas and in making a serious effort to read his work carefully. It has become a real success not only with respect to the scholarly quality but also in terms of visibility and attendance.

A significant advantage of this colloquium is certainly that it is situated in Berlin. Not only is Berlin one of the most exciting cities in Europe, it also hosts excellent libraries and research institutions. The concentration of Nietzsche scholars at Berlin institutions—including Günter Abel, Marco Brusotti, Volker Gerhardt, and Renate Reschke, as well as Rainer Adolphi, Steffen Dietzsch, Helmut Heit, Sören Reuter, Udo Tietz, Claus Zittel—regularly attracts a good number of PhD-candidates as well as visiting scholars from many different countries and backgrounds. In particular, researchers from abroad choose Berlin to improve their language skills and to interact with German philosophers. For these international guests the BNC proves to be an excellent opportunity to present their research and engage in a weekly academic exchange on Nietzsche. As a result, the BNC continues to count members from literally all over the world: from Japan, Korea and China, to Syria, Russia, and Turkey, from many European countries to the United States, Chile, Brazil, and Argentina. The working-language is German, though some of the talks and discussions are held in English. While our current mailing list reaches more than a hundred people, it is usually a group of about twenty scholars attending the weekly meetings. Lisa Heller, Heit's collaborator and co-organizer of the BNC, circulates information and material via this list in preparation for the meetings.

The BNC provides space to present and discuss individual research-projects, as well as Nietzsche's own texts and secondary literature. Most of our sessions are filled with presentations by our regular members. Usually, these papers are circulated a couple of days before the meeting to allow a better preparation and a more productive debate. We enjoy a research-focused yet constructive discursive atmosphere, which allows for the presentation of works-in-progress. We have seen many MA- and PhD- or Post-doc-projects over the years; some of them have since been published, for example the monographs of Marcus Born, Nikolaos Loukidelis, Manos Perrakis, Axel Pichler, and Simon Springmann. A smaller number of our sessions is devoted to a close reading of selected Nietzsche texts. We have hosted particularly productive discussions of Die Fröhliche Wissenschaft 125, Zarathustra's fourth speech, and Nietzsche's late poem "Zwischen Raubvögeln". If a member of the colloquium wishes to discuss a relevant piece of secondary literature, we can occasionally dedicate a session to it. The funding of the Volkswagen-Stiftung also allows us to invite some guest-speakers to Berlin each term. Over the years we have hosted a number of eminent international Nietzsche scholars visiting Berlin and sharing their views with us. Among them, in chronological order, were Aldo Venturelli, Thomas Brobjer, Andreas Urs Sommer, Babette Babich, Anthony K. Jensen, Volker Gerhardt, Vanessa Lemm, Werner Stegmaier, Enrico Müller, Marco Brusotti, Hermann Siemens, Chiara Piazzesi, Ken Gemes, and Martin Saar.

Conferences and Summer-schools

In addition to these weekly meetings the BNC has also been the foundation for more wide-reaching activities. In February 2010, Heit organized a workshop on Nietzsches Philosophie des Wissens im Kontext des 19. Jahrhundert together with his collaborator Lisa Heller. A publication of these and a number of additional papers is in preparation and will appear as Handbuch: Nietzsche und die Wissenschaften. Geistes-, Natur-, und sozialwissenschaftliche Kontexte in 2013 with Walter de Gruyter Publishing. A large international conference on Nietzsches Wissenschaftsphilosophie / Nietzsche's Philosophy of Science, in which several members of the BNC played a role, took place in July 2010. A bilingual anthology with a selection of the 16 keynote and 48 contributed papers delivered at the conference was edited in 2012 by Helmut Heit, Günter Abel, and Marco Brusotti. The latest conference arranged in the context of the BNC was dedicated to Nietzsche on Early Antiquity. Anthony Jensen, who was visiting Berlin (and the BNC) as an Alexander von Humboldt-fellow organized this event together with Heit in November 2011. A publication of these and some additional papers is in preparation.

Another recent initiative of the BNC, in particular of Hannah Grosse Wiesmann, is the Nietzsche-Lektüre-Tage. These reading days are a kind of summer school dedicated to a single but whole book by Nietzsche. Once a year in August we spend a week at a location connected to Nietzsche's biography and focus on one of his works. In 2011, we read Jenseits von Gut und Böse in the Nietzsche Dokumentationszentrum in Naumburg, in 2012, Also sprach Zarathustra in Sils Maria. Participation in these meetings is restricted by a selection process after a widely circulated call for applications.

Homepage and Contact

The current activities as well as our earlier programs are accessible on our homepage: This homepage was created and is maintained by Lisa Heller. During the winter-term 2012/13 Dr. Nikolaos Loukidelis and Professor Dr. Rainer Adolphi were in charge of the BNC, since I was visiting the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton.
Technische Universität Berlin