In tandem for peace

Aleida und Jan Assmann were awarded the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade – joint research for a peaceful living together on earth.

What do Astrid Lindgren, Albert Schweitzer and University of Konstanz researchers Aleida and Jan Assmann have in common? They all were awarded the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade – one of the most prestigious cultural awards in Germany. Aleida und Jan Assmann received the prize during the award ceremony that traditionally took place in the Paulskirche in Frankfurt/Main on 14 October 2018. They talked with about the relevance of their research for society. Videos are in German only. Ms Assmann, Mr Assmann, in the last few years, you have been honoured with several research prizes. Last year the Balzan Prize, this year the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. Has, in a way, the time come for the topics collective memory and memory culture?

Aleida and Jan Assmann: Aleida Assmann: Professor of English and literature at the University of Konstanz from 1993 to 2014. Jan Assmann: Egyptologist, cultural scientist and, since 2005, honorary professor of cultural science and religious theory at the University of Konstanz. The two researchers from Konstanz are among the pioneers in the field of “collective memory” and “memory culture”.

Mr Assmann, what is happening in society that makes memory culture such a hot topic?

In view of the growing political instrumentalization of these themes in recent German history, Aleida Assmann’s scientifically grounded studies continue to provide much needed enlightenment on a broad range of issues relating to the cultural memory of nations. “Time and again, her work has illustrated that an open and honest handling of the past is an essential precondition for peaceful coexistence”, states the jury’s justification. Jan Assmann has made “an indispensable contribution to our understanding of the willingness and capacity for peace held by religions in today’s global society”. How can research change the political debate? After the Karl Jaspers Prize and the Balzan Prize, it is now the third prize you have received jointly. “The German Publishers and Booksellers Association awards the 2018 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade to Aleida and Jan Assmann. In doing so, the association and its members have chosen to honour two exceptional scholars who have inspired and complemented each other’s work for decades.” We would like to know how this inspiration actually works. Is it always harmonious?

“The best thing about these prizes is that we received them jointly.”

Jan Assmann

The Peace Prize of the German Book Trade is not the first prestigious award the researchers have received - in 2017, for instance, they were awarded the Balzan Prize and the Karl-Jaspers Prize. Over the course of her career, Aleida Assmann was honoured many times, for instance with the A. H. Heineken Prize (2014) and the Max Planck Research Award (2009). Among the many accolades Jan Assmann received, the Sigmund Freud Prize for Academic Prose (2016) and the Thomas Mann Prize (2011) are of particular note. What do these prizes mean to you? Are they an incentive to carry on in that direction?

Simone Müller

By Simone Müller - 23.10.2018