The Berliner Colloquien zur Zeitgeschichte (Berlin Colloquia on Contemporary History) are a collaborative effort begun by the Hamburg Institute for Social Research and the Einstein Forum Potsdam in March 2010. The colloquia are based on the premise that scholars of contemporary history should not only be engaged in historical research but also be aware of debates in other disciplines and be open to sociological, philosophical, psychological, and, last but not least, moral issues. That writers, literary scholars, and life scientists are equally welcome to join these discussions, and that this intellectual exchange must transcend national borders, underlines out intention of making room for the unexpected—with an informal setting and a productive group size. These meetings have in essence been designed to be laboratories, forums for new, provocative approaches, places for trying out different ways of thinking. Freed of the restraints of traditional academic enterprise, they are meant to open up space for conceptual experiments—for the kind of dialog that is often desired but rarely fostered. Neither lacking in commitment and goals, nor rigid and inflexible, the sessions are guided by three interrelated principles: the objective of empirical work is theory; theory is tested in empirical research, and; the sting of current events must be felt. Only then does the study of contemporary history meet its real purpose as scholarship that is engaged with its times.
The Berliner Colloquien zur Zeitgeschichte are organized four times a year. The journal Mittelweg 36 reports regularly on these meetings in articles, records of the discussions, and interviews.