Postgraduate studies at the IGES

IGES scholars supervise doctoral research projects across all disciplines represented in the institute (history, history of art, literature, translation studies, political science). IGES has a strong tradition of providing an intellectually stimulating and supportive home to its vibrant community of postgraduate researchers. Our doctoral researchers are in close intellectual exchange with each other, with senior IGES scholars and with the Graduate Centre for Europe (GCfE).

The IGES belongs to a dynamic worldwide network of twenty Centres for German and European Studies supported by the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service). IGES students network and interact with their counterparts at other DAAD Centres at postgraduate conferences, at summer schools and on study trips. IGES students also have the opportunity to conduct research at other DAAD Centres, and many benefit from DAAD scholarships to carry out research in Germany. IGES funding is available to attend academic conferences and conduct fieldwork.

The IGES has an outstanding track record of successful PhD supervision. Many current and former IGES students have secured research council funding for their doctoral study. IGES graduates are regarded as highly employable by the academic and business communities.

If you would like to discuss your postgraduate research proposal informally with us, please get in touch with Dr Jost-Henrik Morgenstern-Pomorski (J.Morgenstern-Pomorski@bham.ac.uk) or with the IGES scholar thematically closest to your field of interest. We are also delighted to help you formulate an application and funding proposal.

The IGES and the department of German Studies at the University of Birmingham are part of a DAAD-sponsored UK postgraduate training consortium, providing summer schools for postgraduates in German Studies together with the Universities of Edinburgh, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham, and Oxford, and the IGRS in London.

Our postgraduate researchers

Ivor Bolton

The implementation of German heritage policy and the representation of the German Democratic Republic through memorials and museums 

Supervisor: Sara Jones 

The purpose of the research is to provide new data, analysis and discussion on the use of the history of the GDR in formulating and implementing heritage policy, and to examine the effect of this on how the GDR is remembered through memorials and museums. In addressing these issues, the work investigates how the politics of remembrance relates the GDR past to unified Germany.  A framework of political network theory supports the research. Using memorial and museum-based comparative contexts the research investigates how the memory of the GDR past is used to shape political decision-making, and how political decision-making shapes how the GDR is remembered. A further concern of the study is to look at how the memorialization of the GDR is influencing the development of German 'inner unity'. The key themes of the research are: Policy into practice - reconstructing the past; Managing the representation of the GDR - bringing the past into the present; Representation and Diversification - How diverse intent, purpose and motivation on the part of heritage policy-makers and implementers produce representations of the GDR. In conclusion the research considers how diverse outcomes and implications in the representation of the GDR can indicate ways forward for remembering the GDR past and its long-term memorialisation.

Read his full profile


Yordanka DimchevaYordanka Dimcheva

Urban Terrorism in France (2015-2020): Trauma, Memory and the Transmission of Affect

Start date: 2020 

Supervisor: Katharina Karcher 

Yordanka Dimcheva started her PhD project at the University of Birmingham in October 2020. In the context of her research, she is interested in the affective experiences of the recent terrorist attacks in France and the embodied forms of remembrance. Her project aims at offering an analysis of the impact of terrorist violence upon French residents in a manner which highlights the complexity of the relationship between trauma, memory, and affect. Yordanka's broader research interests include the ethics of researching political violence, narrative research methods, and interdisciplinary research. 


Timothy Dowdall

The Relationship of Max Stirner’s Thought to Nihilism 

Start date: 2018 

Supervisors: Nicholas Martin, Elystan Griffiths 

My thesis deals with the enfant terrible, or invisible man, of nineteenth-century German philosophy, Max Stirner, and seeks to appraise the frequent assertions of his being a nihilist. It is my contention that the stark polarisation of opinion on this subject is indicative of an ideological divide, which inhibits any attempt to answer the question of Stirner’s nihilism in a balanced and objective manner. Although Stirner is not known ever to have used the word ‘nihilism’, or any of its derivatives, in his published writings or elsewhere, he was first accused of nihilism within a few weeks of the publication of his magnum opus, Der Einzige und sein Eigentum, in 1844. Since then, the allegation has been repeated by well over a hundred writers and critics, resulting in it almost becoming a truism. My research aims, firstly, to establish a clear understanding of the meaning of the term ‘nihilist’, secondly, to examine the accusations of nihilism levelled at Stirner in the light of this analysis, and, thirdly, to assess not only the fairness and accuracy of the imputation of nihilism but also its usefulness in understanding Stirner’s thought. 


richard fieldhouseRichard Fieldhouse

German Trade Unions and Jean Monnet’s Action Committee for the United States of Europe 

Supervisors: Armin Grünbacher, Sabine Lee 

My research, which I started in 2015, discusses the German trade unions' membership of Jean Monnet's Action Committee for the United States of Europe 1955 - 1975, a period of change for both European integration and German politics. The Committee has been neglected in recent years and my research is the first to view it from the perspective of a constituent member group, the German unions being one of the most important. The German unions invested heavily in the Committee, initially emotionally and always financially, but later lost interest in it. My research traces the unions' involvement with the Committee, their attempts to use Monnet to win greater powers in the Rome Treaties and the reasons for their subsequent disillusionment. In doing so it illuminates the interplay of European and domestic politics and the Germans' quest for equality and integration into Europe after World War II. 


Frank Gerards

Luftwaffe Pilot training in WW II 

Supervisors: Armin Grünbacher, Jonathan Boff 

My PhD project started in October 2020 and the working title for now is: Why did Luftwaffe pilot training in WWII fail? The defeat of the Luftwaffe is generally attributed to attrition as a result of the overwhelming pressure exercised by the Allies in the air war over Germany, leading to the de facto demise of the Luftwaffe in the first half of 1944. This emphasis on Allied air power has obscured factors on the German side, i.e. decisions and processes in the Luftwaffe that also played a significant roles. One of these factors is Luftwaffe pilot training which in most secondary literature is only referred to in passing remarks. My thesis attempts to dig deeper into the attitudes, culture, organization and execution of Luftwaffe pilot recruitment, selection and training.  Was Luftwaffe pilot training indeed the 'stepchild of the Luftwaffe' or is there more to it? 


george gibsonGeorge Gibson

Briefe ohne Unterschrift: Transnational Identity in the GDR 

Supervisors: Sara Jones, Corey Ross 

My research analyses a selection of letters written by citizens of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) to the BBC German Service’s weekly ‘Briefe ohne Unterschrift’ radio programme between 1955 and 1974, regarding their opinions and experience of living within East Germany. They reveal significant tensions between writers’ perception of their own national identity, and that officially constructed by the state. In a divided Germany, national identity was not determined by national borders alone, but was constructed transnationally. As a transnational communication set against the backdrop of conflicting notions of nationhood amongst East German citizens, the letters are uniquely placed to illuminate a complex process of identity construction in the GDR. Using a Goffmanian approach to identity as performance, I will select letters from key dates in the history of the GDR to analyse how writers construct multiple imagined communities and audiences and perform the role of their scripted national identity. I will seek to discover what letter writers perceived their national identity to be; how they performed their national identity; what communities they imagined both as an audience and as a participant; and how all of these conceptions changed over time.

Read his full profile


Owen Grey

From Entente to Axis: Romania and the Crisis of Europe

Start date: 2019

Supervisors: Klaus Richter, Jonathan Gumz

The purpose of my research is to examine Romania's foreign policy during the interwar period and determine why Romania, having entered the Great War on the side of the Entente in 1916, chose to align herself with the Axis in 1940.

My research will assess major turning points in the course of Romania's relations: the resurgence of German power in the 1930s, the retreat of Britain and France in face of a changing Europe, the deterioration of relations with the Soviet Union, and the weakening of alliances between small states. 

As well as considering diplomatic events, my thesis will also explore domestic factors, the nature of Romanian nationalism, the dictatorial influence of the King, the politics of division, and the unstoppable march of the extreme right, exemplified in particular by the Iron Guard. 

This body of work will show that, in determining why Romania went 'from Entente to Axis' in little more than 20 years, it is important to consider the symbiotic relationship that exists between foreign and domestic events.  


Patrick Harsch

A comparison of novels about WW1 published in the interwar period and after 1990 

Start date: 2015 

Supervisors: Nicholas Martin, Elys Griffiths 

My thesis attempts to compare and contrast two groups of World War One fictional prose texts, the first one consisting of four novels written between the two world wars: Arnold Zweig's 'Junge Frau von 1914' & 'Der Streit um den Sergeanten Grischa', Franz Werfel's 'Die vierzig Tage des Musa Dagh', and Virginia Woolf's 'Mrs Dalloway'. The second group contains novels published after 1990 by Avi Primor, Sébastien Japrisot, Pierre Lemaitre, Angelika Felenda, Ahmet Umit, Akram Aylisly, Chris Bohjalian and Pat Barker. The main body of my thesis consists of four thematic chapters on Jewish assimilation, the Armenian genocide, military injustice and the inhumane treatment of shell-shocked WW1 soldiers, looked upon as four different examples of injustice in the context of WW1. In each of these chapters, one of the interwar novels is compared with its thematic post-1990 counterparts. 


imran hashmiImran Hashmi

Nietzsche and Adorno as Critics of Enlightenment 

Start date: 2020 

Supervisors: Nicholas Martin, Elystan Griffiths 

My project is a comparative study of Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) and Theodor W. Adorno (1903-1969). Nietzsche and Adorno are, for good reason, often examined alongside one another, and my study aims to add to our understanding of the relationship between them by comparing them as critics of enlightenment. Both thinkers held ambivalent views of enlightenment and one its of its central principles: rational thought. Whilst Nietzsche and Adorno acknowledged the strengths of reason and how it enables individuals to live autonomous intellectual lives, they were just as keen to highlight what they considered to be the negative impact of reason on wider culture, which they believed to be reflected in the artistic and intellectual developments of their times. By viewing Nietzsche and Adorno in this way, I aim to show that a critique of enlightenment underpins their aesthetic, intellectual, and moral critiques of culture and society. 

Read his full profile


Matthew Hines

Writing a New Society: Aufbau in East German Literature 1945-1961 

Supervisors: Sara Jones, Ute Hirsekorn (Nottingham), Mónica Jato 

My thesis reappraises the early years of literature in the German Democratic Republic, starting from its foundations in the Soviet Zone (SBZ) until the building of the Berlin Wall, called the Aufbau. Rather than apply a generalised aesthetic model to the period according to the Soviet or Lukácsian school, I seek out so-called dissidents and, with a reading of Walter Benjamin’s theory of allegory which allows a fragmentary consciousness to find expression in literature, explore how aesthetic deviation from the party line shared in, not deviated from, the state’s ambitions. Highlighting the inherently un-constructed beginnings of the (literary) Aufbau, I analyse experimental, critical and superficially conventional works of literature (novels, novellas, plays) allegorically to conclude that they come to (new) meaning as signifiers by their engagement with the historical present and thus perform an aesthetic, if not ontological, ‘building’. 


Aleksandra Koluvija

The human rights-based approach to refugee integration: Understanding the role of civil society organisations in refugee integration in Berlin, Germany 

Start date: 2017 

Supervisors: Julian Pänke, Nando Sigona 

In my dissertation research, I am investigating the inclusion of human rights values in refugee integration practices from the bottom up – from the perspective of refugee integration practices on the local level performed through CSOs in Berlin, Germany. The research is divided in a mapping process and subsequent case studies with semi-structured interviews. Interviews are performed with employees of two different groups of CSOs working in the refugee integration sector in Berlin. The two groups (previously defined in the working process) are those CSOs in Berlin that appear to use a human rights-based approach (HRBA) and those that do not use such an approach in their refugee integration measures. A particular focus of my research is to find out how refugee integration measures are planned, implemented, and performed in the CSOs and how these steps are connected to the use of a HRBA. Furthermore, it aims at uncovering descriptive data on the subjective experiences of the interviewees with the HRBA and insights on how they regard the importance and usefulness of incorporating human rights-values in refugee integration measures. 


Johanna KreftJohanna Kreft

Beyond "colonial amnesia" - Decolonising German institutional memory through transformative social activism 

Supervisors: Sara Jones, Emanuelle Rodrigues Dos Santos, Jenny Wuestenberg (Nottingham Trent) 

In its current form, Germany’s mainstream memory landscape maintains a widespread neglect towards Germany’s colonial past, as most memory and educational institutions still avoid a genuine engagement with this historical period and its legacies. This promotes a gravely ahistoric version of Germany’s past and contributes to the marginalisation of local communities descending from formerly colonised societies. Throughout the last decades, scholars and activists have been scrutinising mainstream society, propelling critical postcolonial approaches, and demanding a re-engagement with Germany’s colonial period. This PhD research seeks to investigate more closely this development of a postcolonial memory culture that has been emerging over the past 40 years. The project focuses on how different spheres within German society – mainstream society, political and cultural institutions, academics, activists and minoritised communities – engage with the memory of the German colonial experience. One of the particular interests is to learn about how civil society initiatives participate in shaping this discourse and to explore their transformative potential to encourage a 'decolonisation' of mainstream German memory culture. 

Read her full profile


Marta StarostinaMarta Starostina

The All-Union Join-Stock Company “Intourist” in the 20th cet. Baltics

Supervisors: Klaus Richter, Jonathan Gumz

The purpose of the research is to explore the effect of the Soviet tourism operator “Intourist” on the development of tourism as well as on economic, ideological and tourist mobility issues. So far, no comprehensive study exists about "Intourist" in the Baltic Soviet Republics. This doctoral project deploys a comparative and transnational lens, putting particular emphasis on objects and localities that “Intourist” presented to tourists both from ‘the West’ and from within the Eastern bloc. It contends that these objects and localities fulfilled clear ideological or economic functions, enabling “Intourist” to showcase to tourists the superiority of the Soviet State, while at the same time acquiring crucial foreign currencies for the Soviet Union. The project reconstructs the establishment of “Intourist”, the development of its ideological and propaganda work to convince tourists of a specific image of the Soviet Union, its methods to restrict and direct the mobility of tourists and of their ideas and its strategies to gain important funds used for purposes outside of tourism itself. The research is based on collections in the main Intourist archives in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, as well as on newspapers and published sources about tourism, economics, politics, mobility, etc.


Mireya Toribio Medina

The Discursivisation of Basque Terrorism 

Start date: 2020 

Supervisor: Katharina Karcher 

Mireya Toribio Medina’s research interests lie in the impact that both terrorist activity and counter-terrorism efforts have in societies. In the context of the project Urban Terrorism in Europe (2004-19): Remembering, Imagining, and Anticipating Violence she aims to look at the impact that the narratives on terrorism and counter-terrorism have on policies, law-making, and law enforcement and, in turn, on the effective protection of human rights; which is an essential element in the effective prevention of and response to processes of political violence. 

With a focus on the 2004-present period in Spain and drawing on concepts and methods from disciplines such as memory studies, cultural studies, and criminal justice; her project aims to develop a critical contribution that can help inform better policies and practices for addressing terrorism and its impact. 


Helen Tatlow

Heinrich von Kleist's Der Prinz von Homburg and its translation into English 

Supervisors: Elystan Griffiths, Hilary Brown 

I am researching English translations of Heinrich von Kleist's play, Der Prinz von Homburg. I shall provide an overview of the reception of the play in the English-speaking world and consider in depth the reception, stagings and effectiveness of a selection of the translations, with detailed analysis of sections that pose particular challenges to the translator. 

Read her full profile


Franziska Wolf

Germany viewed from minority perspectives in selected texts by Lion Feuchtwanger and Abbas Khider 

Start date: 2019 

Supervisors: Nicholas Martin, Elystan Griffiths 

My PhD research compares texts that are crucial to an understanding of the discourse of contemporary German migrant literature and German exile literature from the Nazi era, respectively, proving that in both genres minorities in Germany face similar types of exclusion and discrimination. The texts I am working on are Lion Feuchtwanger’s Wartesaal-trilogy – consisting of Success [Erfolg] (1930), The Oppermanns [Die Geschwister Oppermann] (1933), and Exile [Exil] (1940) – and Abbas Khider’s novels The Village Indian [Der falsche Inder] (2008) and A Slap in the Face [Ohrfeige] (2016).

While most research on both exile literature and migrant literature usually favour a historical or autobiographical interpretation within the same genre, my comparatist investigation examines the situation of different minority groups facing similar challenges in German-speaking literature in a larger historico-cultural context. 

Read her full profile


Thomas WoodThomas Wood

Serpents and dragons in early modern German religious culture 

Start date: 2018 

Supervisors: Simone Laqua O'Donnell, Elaine Fulton 

My thesis explores the significance of the serpent as a cultural phenomenon in the changing religious landscape of sixteenth and seventeenth century Germany. Serpents and dragons are universal symbols, found in legends that permeate cultural mythologies across the globe and possess a wealth of allegorical​ power. My research is concerned with the many different manifestations of these potent symbols within a period of great religious upheaval where they are deployed in the fierce rhetoric of confessional rivalry. Of particular interest to this study is the appropriation of dragon-slaying narratives like that of St. George by Protestant reformers which reveals much of how they imagined their religious identity and how they understood the world they lived in. 

Read his full profile

Recent PhD successes

Helen Tatlow (2021): Encountering Heinrich von Kleist in the works of John Banville and David Constantine (Elys Griffiths, Hilary Brown and Maike Oergel)

Maren Rohe (2019): Constructing the Other: Polish and Russian Perceptions of Germany between Media Influence and Individuality (DAAD, with Julian Pänke)

Alexander Brown (2019): Rethinking the GDR Opposition: Reform, Resistance and Revolution in the Other Germany (AHRC, with Joanne Sayner)

Marlene Schrijnders (2019): From London to Leipzig and Back: Post-Punk, Endzeit and Ostgoth (AHRC, with Joanne Sayner)

David Zell (2018) Major Cultural Commemorations and the Construction of National Identity in the GDR, 1959–1983 (Sara Jones and Joanne Sayner)

Josefin Graef (2017) Narrating violent crime and negotiating Germanness: the print news media and the National Socialist Underground (NSU), 2000-2012. (Sara Jones and Isabelle Hertner)

Primrose Young (2017) Bourgeois ambivalence: A comparative investigation of Thomas Mann’s Der Zauberberg and T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land (Nick Martin and Steve Ellis)

Jessica Wood (2016) Portraits of the Artist: Dionysian creativity in selected works by Gabriele D’Annunzio and Thomas Mann (Nick Martin and Clodagh Brook)

Helen Hunter (2015) Literary uses of biblical imagery in Hartmann von Aue’s Gregorius, Kafka’s Die Verwandlung and Thomas Mann’s Der Erwählte (Nick Martin and Nigel Harris)

Leila Mukhida (2015) Politics and the moving image: contemporary German and Austrian cinema through the lens of Benjamin, Kracauer and Kluge. (Sarah Colvin, Sara Jones and Elystan Griffiths)

Charlotte Galpin (2014) Euro Crisis…Identity Crisis? The Single Currency and European Identities in Germany, Ireland and Poland. (Tim Haughton and Isabelle Hertner)

James Green (2014) Nietzsche, Goethe and the nineteenth-century tradition of Bildung (Nick Martin and Elystan Griffiths)

Emily Oliver (2013) Shakespeare and German reunification: The interface of politics and performance (Nick Martin and Kate McLuskie)

IGES supervisors

Thomas Brodie would be delighted to hear from students intending to work on any aspect of Modern German history, as well as those with thematic interests in the histories of religion, war and memory in any European context since 1800.

Charlotte Galpin Charlotte Galpin is particularly keen to supervise projects on European and national identities, European public sphere and media, Euroscepticism, EU citizenship and social movements, the role of Germany or Britain in Europe, Brexit, and gender and feminist approaches to these topics.

Elystan Griffiths supervises postgraduate projects on German literature of the period 1750-1850, with a particular interest in how social and political tensions manifest themselves in German culture. He is also interested in German-language film and has supervised doctoral research in this area.

Armin Grünbacher is happy to discuss supervision of postgraduate research in the areas of German post-war social, economic and political history.

Jonathan Gumz supervises postgraduate research in the fields of the history of the late Habsburg Empire and of modern Central and Eastern Europe as well as the history of war in the 20th century to the present, of international law and of state collapse.

Timothy Haughton is particularly keen to supervise students wishing to study the domestic politics of East-Central Europe, party politics and political campaigning.

Sara Jones explores how memories of dictatorship are negotiated across borders in political, cultural and social processes. Sara would welcome applications from candidates interested in post-socialism, memory politics (especially of Central and Eastern Europe) and cultural policy under state socialist dictatorships.

Katharina Karcher is happy to supervise students with a research interest in political violence and terrorism, gender and conflict, feminist protest and European women’s movements, Feminist Theory, 1968 and its legacy, political extremism and contemporary German culture and politics.

Simone Laqua-O’Donnell is particularly interested in gender history, the history of children and childhood, the history of migration and the history of modern missions.

Nicholas Martin welcomes applications from prospective postgraduate students keen to research modern German intellectual history and/or the cultural history of war and political violence in twentieth-century Germany. He is currently supervising 4 PhD students. He has supervised 8 PhD projects to successful completion.

Julian Pänke is happy to supervise postgraduate students in the following areas: EU-rope’s external relations, the European Neighbourhood Policy, German foreign policy and Berlin’s role in Europe.

Klaus Richter supervises postgraduate students exploring the modern history of Central and Eastern Europe (especially of Poland, the Baltics, the Russian Empire), of Germany’s relation with Eastern Europe, and the history of nationalism and ethnic conflict.

Graham Timmins is available to supervise in areas related to the external relations and foreign policy role of the European Union with specific reference to EU-Russia and German-Russian relations.

Jutta Vinzent welcomes proposals for doctoral theses on modern and contemporary art (preferred areas include any aspect of mobility and migration related to Germany, Britain and their colonies; curating in historical perspective in Germany, Britain or post-1989 Europe; conceptions of space and urbanism; Holocaust and memory; and approaches of network theories and relationality).

Funding Opportunities

Master’s Studentship at the Institute for German Studies, University of Birmingham 

The Institute for German Studies (IGES) at the University of Birmingham invites applications for a Master’s studentship, which carries a stipend of £5,000 towards the cost of fees or maintenance of a Master’s degree focusing on contemporary German Studies.

Other opportunities

German funding; here you can find information on various kinds of German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) funding for foreign students, graduates and postdocs as well as on funding offered by other selected organisations.