The Library of Banned Books

Our “Library of Banned Books” designates a larger project in research, education, and art, as well as an actual library of banned books emerging from these efforts.

We believe that our dedication to human rights and civil liberties and our focus on current developments should be accompanied also by a historical-critical examination of the restrictions and curtailments of these rights and freedoms. Our project on banned books therefore mainly examines the history censorship and its role in politics and society, its relationship to rights and freedoms, and also the many-faceted and varied attempts at censorship circumvention.

Our research project brings together approaches in the following areas:

  • a synchronic and diachronic examination of censorship, i.e. the history of censorship and its prominent and lesser known implementations, and current practices of censorship in different countries.
  • an examination of actual censorship practices, i.e. mechanisms for its enforcement (bans, bans of reproduction and distribution, copyrights, criminal liability issues, etc.).
  • an examination of narratives and strategies for the justification of censorship and bans, i.e. of the associated legal and rhetorical means.
  • an examination of censorship as a means of creating, enforcing, and maintaining (political) power, especially in the 19th and 20th centuries.
  • an examination of historic and current methods and practices of censorship circumvention, i.e. hidden meanings in texts, alternative means of distribution, etc.
  • an investigation of the resilience of ideas in repressive environments.

In these areas we plan seminars, workshops, conferences and art projects and undertake them either ourselves or in cooperation with partners.

The resulting collection of secondary literature as well as the growing library of “banned books” is part of our publicly accessible Freedom Library.