A Big Birthday, Virtual Perspectives, Anonymous Prisoners


A Big Birthday, Virtual Perspectives, Anonymous Prisoners

Freiburg’s green oasis is celebrating a big birthday

The Botanical Garden of the University of Freiburg, located on Schänzlestraße in the Herdern neighborhood of Freiburg, is celebrating a historical anniversary. It was founded 400 years ago in 1620, and since then it has been shaped by war, destruction, several reopenings at new locations, and more recently by the increasingly important role of natural science research at the University. “The first gardens didn’t have much in common with today’s Botanical Garden,” says Prof. Dr. Thomas Speck, who has been the Botanical Garden’s director since 2002. The first hortus medicus was planted for the purpose of educating future doctors, he says, according to the creed “there is a plant for every illness.” Today, the fifth oldest university garden in Germany is a showcase for researching and teaching and is also a quiet oasis open to the public where people can relax and learn about plants.

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One building, many perspectives

Inside the inner courtyard of the Old University building located at Bertoldstraße 17 are two large trees: a lime tree (also known as linden, or basswood) and a plane tree. The two trees were planted during the Revolution of 1848-49. But what do they stand for? Why don’t more people come to the courtyard to enjoy their beauty? And what is the future of this special building, which was built by the Jesuits in the 17th century? Students of the University College Freiburg at the University of Freiburg explored these and many other questions in a course taught by the historian Dr. Marie Muschalek. As a final project, they created a virtual tour with images, texts, and podcasts for all who are interested. Here’s a little teaser: The trees stand for the love of Europe.

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When freedom seems scary

The people who cultural anthropologist Dr. Barbara Sieferle interviews for her research must remain anonymous. She doesn’t even disclose the city where they live. This caution reflects the difficulty of the situation she is investigating. Sieferle is studying the lives of people being released from prison. She chose to focus on a men’s prison, giving the prisoners in her study names like Daniel, Stefan, Boris, Tom and Murin. What is unique about her postdoctoral thesis is that she approaches life after prison from a cultural anthropological perspective. This means she studies the everyday lives of ten men, beginning with the five months during which she met with and interviewed them in prison, after which she followed their first steps back to freedom.

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