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Asien-Orient-Institut UFSP Asien und Europa (2006–2017)

Research on Modernity in Asia

On 31 August, 2015, Professor Sven Trakulhun left the University of Zurich after serving with distinction for six years as an assistant professor in the fields of Asian history and European-Asian relations, where he conducted research and taught effectively by introducing students to new subjects and perspectives.

Jörg Fisch

Sven Trakulhun arrived in Zurich well prepared for these tasks. After completing his doctorate at Giessen in 2000, where he wrote a thesis (published in 2006) on Siam and Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, he was granted several scholarships, fellowships, and research positions at Potsdam, Galway (Ireland), and Konstanz, concentrating on European-Asian relations. His research at these institutions culminated in his Konstanz Habilitation of 2011, “Asiatic Revolutions: Europe and the Rise and Fall of Asian Empires, 1644–1818,” which will soon be published. While in Zurich, he also published several articles on a wide range of Asian-European, Southeast and South Asian history.

Stimulating research

Equipped with this academic background, Trakulhun was destined for the position as an assistant professor at the URPP Asia and Europe. He soon became one of the supporting pillars of the research network and his work as one of the coordinators of the URPP’s Research Field 2, “Entangled Histories” was highly regarded. He stimulated research both in his research field and in cooperation with institutions in other countries, particularly by organizing a number of international workshops and conferences that addressed topics such as the transnational history of ideas, the history of the Enlightenment in Europe and Asia, and with problems of biography: „Transcultural Bodies – Transboundary Biographies: Border Crossings in Asia and Europe“ (2010) and „Biography Afield in Asia and Europe“ (2012) to name just two of them.

Encounter between East and West

An important part of Trakulhun’s job involved his duties in the Department of History of the University of Zurich’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. In this capacity, he contributed to a broad range of work, especially through his teaching on multiple academic levels that included the university program Master of Advanced Studies in Applied History. Additionally, he held public lectures for a general audience. He also supervised several masters and doctoral theses. In these activities, he demonstrated his giftedness as an academic teacher and his versatility in numerous historical subjects. His main interest was always the encounter between East and West, and he showed a keen interest in subjects long neglected, such as Asia’s contribution to “modernity.” His own cultural background aided him in this line of study, the ripest fruit of which, at this point, is his Habilitation, which is a sophisticated investigation into the history of a difficult concept. He painstakingly shows how Europe appropriated a central feature of modernity without succeeding to monopolize it fully.

The University of Zurich, most especially the URPP and the Department of History, has good reason to be grateful to Sven Trakulhun for confronting them with an expansive, intriguing, and always fascinating field of history. We all wish him inspiration, joy and success.

(Asia & Europe Bulletin, 4/2015, p. 22)