Dr. Birte Förster

M.A. (University of Cologne), Ph.D. (University of Gießen)

Birte has gained her PhD from the University of Gießen, and joined the department in 2008. She is also the managing editor oft he review journal „Neue Politische Literatur“.

Birte's research covers German cultural, media and gender history during the nineteenth and twentieth century, and also in post-1945 Western European history, focussing on the impact of decolonization. In her first monograph, „The Queen Luise-Myth“, Birte analyzed the intersection of gender and nation, taking the Queen’s representations in popular mass media, school books ans social practices between 1860 and 1960 as examples.

Birte has received several grants and fellowships, among others from the Evangelisches Studienwerk Villigst Association, the German Academic Exchange Service, and was part of the „Pro Professur“-Programme for female post-docs. She was recently awarded the Athene-Prize for founding reviewlution-net, a review-journal run by students.

Office Hours
I am on sabbatical leave until April 2015. Office hours are being held irregularly, p

Current Research

Birte is currently working on 
large-scale infrastructure projects in sub-saharan Africa, 1930-1970, analyzing their capability of fixing and retaining colonial power. These power relations were disguised by seemingly ‘neutral’ discourses of technical improvement and modernisation ascribing the “promise of constancy, inclusion and equality” (van Laak) to infrastructures. It is precisely this bias that makes these projects valuable objects for the analysis of gradually transforming power relations during decolonisation. Foucault’s notion of power as a multilayered social field serves as a starting point to analyse the complex interweaving of public and private interests within the wider frame of the decolonisation processes and global economic entanglement.

Her aim is to write a comparative study of the decolonisation processes of the British Empire and the French Empire, focussing on the gradual transformation of power relations between the respective metropolises, the colonies and third parties. She will examine several infrastructure projects in Sub-Saharan Africa – for instance the Koussou High Dam (Ivory Coast), Owen Falls (Uganda) but also failed infrastructure projects – in order to explore and assess the interconnections between governmental institutions and private companies and secondly the transnationalisation of actors. Furthermore, the inherent narratives of technical improvement and modernisation are to be taken into account.

Teaching and Research Interests

Birte is teaching nineteenth and twentieth century German history, post-war Western European history, and academic writing. Her research interests are Contemporary European History, Colonial Development and Decolonization, 
Cultural History,
 Gender History, and
 Media History.

She is currently teaching a first year course on Modern and Contemporary History on the Nazi Seizure of Power. She also co-teaches a seminar on the responses to Nationalsocialism withing political theory and historiography with Dr. Oliver Eberl (Department of Political Sciences) and the Master Seminar, a research seminar on various fields of ongoing historical research.

Selected Publications

Der Königin Luise-Mythos. Mediengeschichte des "Idealbilds deutscher Weiblichkeit", 1860-1960, Göttingen 2011 (Formen der Erinnerung 46).

Reviewed in German History 2012 by Eva Giloi 

co-edited with Martin Bauch: Wasserinfrastrukturen und Macht von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart Special Issue of Historische Zeitschrift (forthcoming).

Analyzing Popular History, Gender and Nationalism, in: Sylvia Paletschek/Barbara Schraut (Hrs.): Popular History Now and Then. International Perspectives, Bielefeld 2012 (Historische Lebenswelten in Populären Wissenskulturen 6), S. 149-169.

Infrastructures as Means of Accessing Natural Resources. In: Alexander Nützenadel/Laura Rischbieter (Hrsg.): Natural Resource Conflicts. Regimes. Markets, and Transnational Governments. Sonderheft von “The International History Review” (forthcoming).

Recent and forthcoming talks in English



Dr. Birte Förster

Department of History
Darmstadt University of Technology
64283 Darmstadt


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