Many of you will know Heike from past T2M conferences – and if you haven’t yet met her, make sure you do at a future conference. She’s been a lynchpin of T2M almost since the start, serving on the EC and helping out in a large number of ways, often behind the scenes but doing vital work. In 2009 she was awarded her PhD, which looked at the history of tourism in the German Democratic Republic, and combined some of her research interests – notably the history of mobility and modern Germany. Currently she is a grammar school teacher and an independent scholar – making her life even more busy than most!
How did you get into academia?
Honestly, I am not sure if I am in academia. At least I am not in it in the common sense since I am an independent scholar. Although I work as a grammar school teacher, my heart goes out for the challenges of historical sciences and thus I actively link to the scientific community. Therein I am a lecturer at my local university and I follow my research interests. I also try to link university and school with certain projects that allow pupils to get an insight into academia and to make researchers aware of the potential of young people.
You work particularly on the history of tourism. How would you say the histories of tourism and mobility are linked – as they are written now, and as they might be written in the future?
Tourism, in a modern sense, is – from the term’s meaning – one form of mobility. But this isn’t only a spatial mobility as one would assume, but it also includes cultural and sometimes social mobility. Nevertheless tourism is a bit set aside in the history of mobility. I think this is the case because the history of mobility originates from a technical and economical approach. Secondly, the history of tourism is currently a field of change. Perspectives shift from an artefactual history to questions of tourist perceptions and historical relations of places, cultures, tourist traditions and travelling people. For the future I hope for a sustainable integration of tourism history with the history of mobility. The subdiscipline can learn so much from the highly integrative approaches of mobility history, that I wonder if we will be able to establish cross-disciplinary historical work as a “must”. Cutting-edge fields could be the key to such a new understanding.
Is there a specifically German way of doing the history of mobility – for example, is there one area or topic that gets a lot of attention?
History of mobility is a quite international research topic. International networking is most important, but there are some national specifics. Since Germany is a centre of the automobile industry and innovative structures in transport supply and infrastructure, the history of mobility started from this technical point of view. But by now several other foci gained importance – covering different disciplines. Tourism history (in a country whose people are called the “world champions in travelling”), transport psychology, sociology, company and brand history to name only a few – are vivid examples of this.
What are you working on at the moment?
Currently I am working on an offshoot of my PhD thesis. There I had explored the idea that something as apolitical as tourism could cause the downfall of a dictatorship (amongst other “stress” factors). I set this aside until I recently remembered my readings of Foucault about “Discipline and punish”. I reread Foucault and found his ideas useful for my idea.
I am also working on a cross-school-and-science project about a Nazis’ subcamp in my local area. My students and I dealt not only with the history of this subcamp, but especially with the difficult history of remembering these events after the war until today.
Finally I am making up my mind about how to proceed in academia. There are quite a few challenges and decisions to be made concerning where to head next. Will it be the history of mobility again? Yes, but it’s a big field with a myriad of opportunities.
What are you reading at the moment?
I have just completed “Der Aufstieg der Quandts”, a history of a German business dynasty. The historian Joachim Scholtyseck was chosen by the family who wanted to examine their history, especially during the Third Reich. In my opinion it is excellently written and makes clear how industry behaved in a rapidly changing political climate. It perfectly and exemplarily illustrates the tightrope between independence, collaboration and involvement of many German companies during Nazi power.
Privately I have recently read William P. Young’s “The shack”. It is a book about grief and understanding, about being not in control of everything but letting go.
You’ve served on T2M’s EC for two terms, but are now stepping down. What advice would you offer new members of the EC?
When I joined the EC I was in more than one way a fresh(wo)man. Being part of this board was a wonderful experience that taught me much about the inner life of a scientific organisation. I would encourage younger members who are new to the EC to express their opinions. There is a special value about these voices of new entrants to the field. I would ask established scientists to use their network for T2M’s benefit.
Finally, what do you think T2M has done well – and what areas are there for improvement?
T2M has grown steadily in the last years. I still find what impressed me most in my early days at T2M – it is a young organisation with a broad understanding of mobility and the real will to integrate members from quite different origins. Part of my time in the EC I was the only woman there and one of only two students. This does not reflect our membership and I hope that T2M will find a way to properly represent its members. Being part of the first Summer School of T2M this year, I also see a great opportunity to add a unique feature to T2M by perpetuating this format.