Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences - Institute of Asian and African Studies

History of the Institute

The University of Berlin was founded in 1810 on initiative of Alexander and Wilhelm von Humboldt. It immediately became one of the global centers of enlightenment education and philosophy. Hegel and Schopenhauer taught at the university before the natural sciences and medicine began to play an equally important role. After 1945, the university became one of the academic hubs of Eastern Europe and now figures among the top universities of reunified Germany. It currently hosts 35,000 students. More ...


The history of the Institute for Asian and African Studies goes well back into the 19th century. Originally founded as Interpreting School, the Seminar für Orientalische Sprachen (SOS) was opened in 1887 with the aim of serving the national interests in the German economic expansion into Asia. Soon its scope was broadened and in the light of the colonial developments in Africa renamed to “Colonial Institute.” It was only in 1945 that today’s Asian and African Studies emerged as a cooperation of diverse areas of studies:


  • In 1968 the section Asia studies was established at Humboldt-Universität, integrating Africa as a field of study.
  • In 1989 it became an individual faculty with a Dean.
  • In 1994 the faculty was dissolved and absorbed into the Philosophical Faculty III of Humboldt-Universität.
  • In 2000 the international debate on area studies came up and interconnection and comparability of diverse regions became a desideratum for research.
  • In 2005 the study program Regional Studies Asia/Africa was introduced as a consequence of this debate, aiming at an interdisciplinary approach questioning the boundaries of research on certain areas.