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DFG-Project "Plants for Palestine"

DFG-Project 'Plants for Palestine'

The project 'Plants for Palestine! Natural science in the Yishuv, 1900-1930' was funded by Leo-Baeck-Fellowship of the Deutschen Studienstiftung from 2013-2014 and by the the German Research Foundation (DFG) from 2014-2017. The project, carried out by Dana von Suffrin, represented a collaboration between Prof. Dr. Kärin Nickelsen (Institute for the History of Science / LMU) and Prof. Dr. Michael Brenner (Institute for Jewish History and Culture / LMU).

The project examined the history of botany in its theoretical as well as its applied form as agricultural science in the Yishuv, the Jewish pre-state settlements in Palestine, in the period between 1900 and ca. 1930. It was focused on the work of a group of German scientists centered around the colonial botanist and Zionist Otto Warburg (1859-1938). The projects main thesis is that botany in its theoretical and applied form presents a significant strategic instrument for the practical Zionists in their effort to colonize Eretz Isreal. This process has, until now, hardly gotten any attention by historians and represents an instructive historical case for two reasons: first, it demonstrates the systematic entanglement of science and ideology. Botany, like all natural science, is embedded in a distinct social, political and cultural context, a fact which reveals itself especailly during nation-building-processes. Secondly, this case serves to illuminate the transfer of knowledge and disciplines across geographic, cultural and generational distances that has been systematically carried out. Taking up on postcolonial theories, the complex interplay of "imported" knowledge and local knowledge reservoirs is of particular interest for this project.

This project has resulted in the book "Pflanzen für Palästina - Otto Warburg und die Naturwissenschaften im Jischuw" which was published in 2019 by Mohr Siebeck publishers.


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