A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Alphabet

Anthropologie is the study of humanity (Greek: ánthrõpos = man, lógos = discourse, study). In German Enlightenment Anthropologie is conceptualized as an antonym of theology (Theologie): The study of God is contraposed to the study of man. Early on, the German Anthropologie split into distinct disciplines: cultural (Volkskunde, Völkerkunde, Ethnologie), philosophical, historical, and biological (physische Anthropologie). In the German-speaking area, two disciplines in particular have asserted their claim to a holistic interpretation of everyday life and culture: > Ethnologie or Völkerkunde respectively, and > Volkskunde.


Anthropos stands for the journal of the international review of anthropology and linguistics and the Anthropos Institute, which provides (among other core activities) all facilities promoting the journal Anthropos. The journal was founded in 1906 by Fr. Wilhelm Schmidt, first editor of the new journal, which was to be a forum in which missionaries could publish the results of their research and make it available to their fellow missionaries and to others who had a scientific interest in these kinds of materials.

Today, Anthropos is one of the ten largest and most important journals in the world devoted to cultural anthropology.
The Institute was founded in 1931 in St. Gabriel's near Vienna by Fr. Wilhelm Schmidt and moved to Switzerland in 1938. By the end of the 1950s, the General Council of the Society of the Divine Word (-> SVD) decided to move the Institute to Sankt Augustin near Bonn, where it still exists today.

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Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte (BGAEU) / Berlin Society for Anthropology, Ethnology and Prehistory

Oldest anthropological society in Germany, founded in 1869 on an initiative of Rudolph Virchow.


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Bibliographisches Archiv zur Anthropologie (BAA)

Biographical data of over 2000 anthropologists (physical anthropologists, archaeologists, folklorists, museologists, ethnologists, linguistis and missionaries) are systematically stored and updated in the "Biographisches Archiv zur Anthropologie (BAA)". Please contact Prof. Berthold Riese at


for a detailed list of available biographies and any individual inquiries you may have.


see Trickster

Deutsche Forschungs Gemeinschaft (DFG)/ German Research Society

Founded in 1920 as the Notgemeinschaft der Deutschen Wissenschaft, today the Deutsche Forschungs Gemeinschaft (German Research Society) is the most important German organization to fund science and research. The DFG stands for a proven system of self-governed research funding in Germany that enjoys a high degree of national and international recognition.

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Deutsche Gesellschaft für Völkerkunde (DGV)/ German Anthropological Association

The German Anthropological Association (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Völkerkunde) congregates social anthropologists as well as people and institutions interested in anthropological issues. It was founded in the 1920s as Gesellschaft für Völkerkunde, with even older predecessors.

The GAA devotes itself to the promotion of anthropological research and teaching and to the distribution of anthropological knowledge. It is a network of scientific exchange. More than 20 sections focus on thematic and regional subdivisions of anthropology. The GAA organizes a biannual congress.

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Deutsche Gesellschaft für Volkskunde (dgv)

see Volkskunde

Deutsche Inner-Afrikanische Forschungsexpedition (D.I.A.F.E.)

Name of 12 or 13 German Inner-African Research Expeditions between 1904 and 1935, organized and carried out by Leo Frobenius, his assistants and associates of the Institut für Kulturmorphologie (Frankfurt/Main). A list of the expeditions is available on


As early as the 1930-32, Walter Hirschberg together with Schmidl, Wölfel, van Bulck and Routil founded the Wiener Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Afrikanische Kulturgeschichte (Viennese working group on African cultural history), which provided a programmatic framework for the ethnohistorical persistence on meticulous historical research procedure. They thereby provided an alternative framework to the > Kulturhistorie promoted by Schmidt, Koppers, Graebner, and Ankermann, which they perceived as speculative. Mühlmann had already argued, they were of the opinion that the determination of a culture’s age based on the criteria of > Kulturkreise confused historical and evolutionary aspects. Consequently, both the older (Schmidt) as well as the more recent (Koppers, Heine-Geldern) Viennese cultural historical school had in fact based their judgment on evolutionary instead on historical aspects. Where (pre)historic findings were lacking, “speculations of evolutionary character” were being substituted. This lead ethnohistorian Walter Hirschberg to conclude that all that, which we identify as “old” or “primordial” may in fact constitute more recent historical processes and movements. Therefore, the ethnohistorians focus on historically verifiable evidence.

A major difference between cultural historians and ethnohistorians was in their analytical procedures: Whereas the former worked their way from the present to the past guided by the notions of Kulturhöhe, Kulturlagerung, and Beziehungskriterien, the latter started with the earliest available written sources on a particular ethnic group, slowly working their way into the present.

For the case of non-literate peoples or cultures respectively, Frankfurt ethnohistorian Eike Haberland suggested to employ triangulation measurement: Firstly, a firm historical basis should be established, on the grounds of which temporally and culturally uncertain points could then be located. In order to do so, one should make use of the expertise of other disciplines (e.g., linguistics) and sources usually neglected by European historiography (oral traditions, archaeological findings, language, artefacts). In particular, artefacts needed to be included in the enquiry. For, similar to the baby thrown out with the bath water, along with the cultural historical method, the artefacts had been discredited and shelved.


Ethnologie (Greek éthnos = people, lógos = discourse, study) is the study of man as cultural being. The German term Ethnologie refers first of all to an academic discipline (sometimes also referred to as Völkerkunde, Kulturanthropologie, or Sozialanthropologie); to its institutions, organizational structures, to its specific idiom, rituals and myths, as well as to its protagonists. This discipline is organized under the > Deutsche Gesellschaft für Völkerkunde (DGV), an academic professional association established in 1929.

Professionals often employ the terms Ethnologie and Völkerkunde synonymously in daily use. Whereas some departments still use the older term Völkerkunde, others use the more recent term Ethnologie. While a clear-cut distinction is difficult, we favour a pragmatic solution based on ideal-typical differences in connotation. In a sense, this corresponds with the emic criteria of fieldwork: For, whereas colleagues who were socialised into the discipline before the 1960s tend to refer to themselves as Völkerkundler, those colleagues who joined the discipline in the 1970s or later tend to prefer the more recent term Ethnologe.

Today’s students thus only very rarely – if at all – refer to themselves as Völkerkundler. Völkerkunde thus lends itself as a designation for those approaches and contexts that emphasize descriptive approaches, cultural history, a museum environment, and notions of primitive people, traditional societies and preliterate cultures.

Ethnologie on the other hand refers to the discipline as a whole or to those approaches that emphasize theory construction, a university environment, contemporary societies and cultures (whether they are non-literate and ‘traditional’ or not). In Germany, the terms > Kulturanthropologie and > Sozialanthropologie have not (yet) gained the same currency as Ethnologie.

However, it should be noted that in international contexts, German Ethnologen refer to themselves in English as as “cultural” and/or “social anthropologists”.

For further information:


German Ethnosoziologie was established by German anthropologist and jurist Richard Thurnwald; it was advanced and developed further by his student Wilhelm Emil Mühlmann. Thurnwald decidedly rejected the study of cultural-historical objects. He was one of the first German-speaking anthropologists, or Völkerkundler, to instead turn his attention towards socio-scientific problems such as social cohesion among the pacified autochtonous populations in the colonies. For instance, during the German Empire he investigated “native law” and the reasons for the population decline in German New Guinea. As customary at the time, this kind of research was often initiated by the colonial administrations. For instance, in the British Colonial Empire ethnological studies by the British social anthropology (> Sozialanthropologie) were increasingly being financed from 1930 onwards. Thurnwald’s research journey to East Africa in 1930 was financed by the London “International African Institute” established in 1924, which focused primarily on the question of controlling cultural change. Because of his rejection of cultural historical Völkerkunde, Thurnwald is often dismissed as a functionalist by his German peers. However, he shared with his British colleagues his research questions, rather than methodology.

Thurnwald exerted considerable influence on his student Wilhelm Emil Mühlmann. Mühlmann, who was a racist and a Nazi in the 1930s and 40s, addressed similar research questions, for instance, cultural processes, and used functionalist methods in his search for patterns of social dynamics. Mühlmann’s work is both biological as well as sociological: for a long time the biological determination of sociation stood at the focus of his works; it was only after the Second World War that he reduced the impact of the biological. In 1950, Mühlmann became professor at the newly founded University of Mainz; in 1957 he was appointed full professor for > Ethnologie. During his working years in Mainz, Mühlmann became chairman of the working group Ethnosoziologie of the German Sociological Association (GSA), which held their workshops in Mainz. Apart from the Mainz scholars, a handful of young researchers took part in these meetings; they were to take over important chairs of anthropology in later years: Hans Fischer (Hamburg), Wolfgang Rudolph (Berlin), Erhard Schlesier (Hamburg and Göttingen), as well as Carl August Schmitz (Frankfurt/Main), Wolfgang Lindig (Frankfurt/Main), and E.W. Müller (Mainz). 

Mühlmann continued his ethnosociological focus in Heidelberg, where he took up a professorship in 1960. In Heidelberg, the two disciplines were brought together under a joint department for sociology and anthropology (Institut für Soziologie und Ethnologie). In Mühlmann’s opinion, trying to understand one’s own culture from the inside alone was insufficient. In order to reach self-knowledge, the comparison with other, non-European cultures was indispensable. This is what distinguished Mühlmann from the majority of West-German sociologists, who – until this day – often do not incorporate this insight into their works. At the center of Mühlmann’s work in Heidelberg stood social theory (and besides extensive excursions to Sicily, where M. and his students studied charismatic movement of Danilo Dolci, hardly any field research).

Other students of Thurnwald were Sigrid Westphal-Hellbusch (Berlin), René König (Cologne), Gerd Kutscher (Berlin), Thomas Barthel (Tübingen), Herbert Baldus (Sao Paolo), Wolfram Eberhard (Berkeley).

Mühlmann had several students, most of whom critically evaluated their teacher and his theoretical approaches: Wolfgang Lindig (Frankfurt/Main), Lorenz Löffler (Mainz, Zürich), Ernst Wilhelm Müller (Mainz), Hans-Peter Duerr (Heidelberg, Bremen), Christian Sigrist (Münster), Reinhard Kößler and Emil Zimmermann (both Freiburg), Fritz Kramer (Berlin), Beatrix Pfleiderer (Hamburg), Georg Elwert (Berlin) und Christian Giordano (Fribourg).

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Frobenius-Institut / Frobenius-Institute

In 1898, Leo Frobenius (1873–1938) founded the “Afrika Archiv” (Africa Archive) in Berlin as a private foundation. After the First World War, the archive was relocated to Munich, where the “Forschungsinstitut für Kulturmophologie” (research institute for > Kulturmorphologie) was established in 1920. In 1925, the institute moved to Frankfurt/Mainz. In Frankfurt the institute was annexed to the university, where Frobenius received a lectureship for the study of culture and > Völkerkunde. The Institute edits the journal -> Paideuma.

Since 1946, the Institute bears the name of its founder. The personal union brought about by the director of the anthropological institutions in Frankfurt, was dissolved in 1966/67. Traditionally, the research focus of the Frobenius-Institute has been on the study of African cultures and history. Even though Africa lay at the centre of Frobenius’ work (between 1904 and 1935 he conducted a total of twelve or thirteen expeditions to the continent’s interior (-> D.I.A.F.E.), collecting ethnographic and historical data, oral records, material objects and rockscape copies), his regional and theoretical interests went further. From the very beginning, he supported research conducted by members of the Institute in Spain, Italy, France, and Scandinavia, as well as the Arab Peninsula, in India, Southeast Asia, Melanesia, and Australia. 

The consideration of the cultures of all so-called Naturvölker was consistent with the universal approach of Frobenius’ theory of > Kulturmorphologie. Under the direction of Adolf E. Jensen (1946–1965) this tendency was further strengthened: Of the ten research journeys undertaken by members of the Frobenius-Institut between 1950 to 1964, three were to South and Middle America, one to India, and three to Oceania; only three were headed to Africa.

At present, the Institute is again striving to extend the geographical radius of its research activities, especially towards East Indonesia and Oceania.

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Institut für den Wissenschaftlichen Film - Wissen und Medien (IWF)/ Institute for Scientific Film

Founded in 1956 as a non-profit facility of the Federal Republic and the Federal States, the IWF promoted science and education through developmental and transfer services in audiovisual media. The IWF was closed at the end of 2010. Various German anthropologists have been closely connected to the IWF, i.e. Günter Spannaus, Rolf Husmann, and Beate Engelbrecht (all Göttingen).

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The term cultural anthropology was coined in the USA around 1900 by the German immigrant and Völkerkundler (> Völkerkunde) Franz Boas (1858-1942). Boas wanted to set apart cultural anthropology as a distinct historical-phenomenological field, thereby distinguishing it from the field of biological, or physical anthropology respectively.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Mühlmann and Haberland (among others) attempted to rename German > Ethnologie into Kulturanthropologie. However, Kulturanthropologie in the sense of the US-American cultural anthropology, has not gained the same currency in Germany as > Ethnologie; but it has gained some currency in some of the disciplines in succession of > Volkskunde.

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In the German-speaking areas, Kulturhistorie, or cultural historical Völkerkunde, was another distinct version of Ethnologie.

The umbrella term subsumes different approaches and schools; in some respects also > Kulturmorphologie. A common characteristic of all cultural historical approaches is their focus on the cultural history of non-literate people – i.e., the classical subject matter of Völkerkunde –, which they then try to reconstruct.

Besides the Cologne school around Fritz Graebner and Berhard Ankermann, the Vienna school (Wiener Schule) around the Fathers Wilhelm Schmidt (mainly intellectually) and Wilhelm Koppers (mainly institutionally), who also represented the cultural historical approach, was particularly influential.
Cultural historical Völkerkunde was used to project the “recent circumstances” (die rezenten Verhältnisse), i.e., the estimated ethnographic facts, onto the past; the present life-forms were taken as representative of past human existence – under the tacit assumption of cultural continuity and by applying the cultural historical method. Cultural historians were also interested in the question of spatial distribution. They argued that cultural change is brought about by innovations taking place at a geographical centre, from where they are slowly carried over to the periphery, or to other cultures respectively. This understanding of Kulturhistorie, which turns away from the speculative works of Schmidt and Koppers towards the inclusion of prehistorical research as well as archaeology and the history of scripture, emerged as early as the 1950s (> Ethnohistorie). However, since the 1970s, cultural historical approaches are hardly pursued, even though there are some signs for a – somewhat tentative – renewed interest in the new millennium.

Researchers who have dealt with the cultural historical subject matter in diverse ways include Fritz Graebner and Bernhard Ankermann (Cologne), Hermann Trimborn (Bonn), Hermann Baumann (Munich), Thomas Barthel (Tübingen), Hans Plischke (Göttingen), Martin Heydrich (Cologne), Franz Termer (Hamburg), Lászlo Vajda (Munich), Eike Haberland (Frankfurt/Main), Ulla Johansen (Cologne) and Rolf Herzog (Freiburg), as well as Ulrich Braukämper (Göttingen), Hans-Peter Duerr (Heidelberg), Thomas Hauschild (Halle), Wolfgang Marschall (Zurich), Beatrix Heintze and Klaus Müller (Frankfurt/Mainz).


Kulturmorphologie (“cultural morphology”) is a theoretical model of German anthropology. The term was coined by Leo Frobenius, who employed it to refer to his notion of the external formation of culture. Kulturmorphologie was influential until the 1960s, especially at the > Frobenius-Institut located at Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Universität in Frankfurt/Main (short: Frankfurt University). Frobenius espoused a particular version of the idea that a conception of the inner coherence in people’s thinking and acting is a prerequisite to understanding culture. This idea emerged during the interwar years in Great Britain in a functionalist shape, in the USA in a cultural relativist, and in Germany – by ways of the influential works by Bergson and Nietzsche – in a vitalist one.

Frobenius “claimed to be concerned with the study of the ›Wesen‹ (essence) and the ›Gestalt‹ (form) of a culture. (…) Frobenius’ conception of the culture (Paideuma) as an immaterial level of its own led to the idea that Paideuma takes possession of men, thereby giving them power to create culture in one of its possible shapes (Gestalt).” This paideuma, however, wasn’t conceptualized so much as an interlocking wheelwork, as in the case of functionalism, but rather as a radiant blossom on the tree of life, which does not want to express anything but itself. Under such a new-romantic perspective, cultural history transformed itself into a field of morphologically diverse flowers, which – similar to the cultures in Oswald Spengler’s book “Der Untergang des Abendlandes” (“The Decline of the West”) – first bud, then bloom, before they die off again. These phases are expressed in cultural morphological terms as Ergriffenheit (emotion), Ausdruck (expression), and Anwendung (utilization) (also Barbarei – Kulturei – Mechanei, or Schöpfung – Gestaltung – Erfüllung). In his own works, Frobenius addressed mainly the first phase. The circle of staff members at the Frobenius-Institut – sometimes referred to as Frobenides – formed a group of personally and intellectually connected researchers.

The continuation of elemtens of cultural morphological thinking – albeit in modified form – was ensured by the Frobenides and their students, who one after the other took up influential positions within German anthropology. It is important to note that hardly any of the students followed Kulturmorphologie in a strict sense. Today Kulturmorphologie is not pursued by german anthropologists anymore.

Among Frobenius’ students we find the names of Adolf Ellegaard Jensen, Ewald Volhard, Karin Hissink, Hildegard Klein (all of them Frankfurt/Main), Heinz Wieschhoff (University of Pennsylvania) and Hans Rhotert (Stuttgart), as well as Adolf Friedrich (Mainz), Helmut Petri (Cologne), Otto Zerries and Helmut Straube (both Munich); under Frobenius’ successor Jensen studied Adolf Friedrich as well as Meinhard Schuster (Basel), Barbara Frank (Munich), Horst Nachtigall (Marburg), Wolfgang Rudolph (Berlin), Peter Snoy (Heidelberg), and Eike Haberlandt (Frankfurt/Main).

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Max-Planck-Institut für ethnologische Forschung (MPISA)/ Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology

The Max Planck Society was founded on February 26, 1948, and is the successor organization to the Kaiser Wilhelm Society for the Advancement of Science.

The research institutes of the Max Planck Society perform basic research in the interest of the general public in the natural sciences, life sciences, social sciences, and the humanities. In particular, the Max Planck Society takes up new and innovative research areas that German universities are not in a position to accommodate or deal with adequately. The Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology began its work in 1999 and moved into its permanent building in Halle/Saale in late 2001. The main theme of the Institute’s research programme can be summarized as the comparative analysis of contemporary social transformation, which also characterizes the Institute’s contributions to anthropological theory building. Extended fieldwork is an essential part of all research projects as it facilitates close-up observation of processes at work in different societies.

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Artifical term based on Greek pais (boy, child) created by Leo Frobenius.

For Frobenius, cultures are some kind of supraindividual organisms. Therefore, all expressive and artifactual manifestations of a culture (e.g. myths, paintings, dances, ornaments etc.) are related to each other and expressions of what he calls Paideuma: a different mentality (or "soul") which leaves its imprints on unique cultural styles. This conception is akin to the Culture & Personality School developped in American Cultural Anhtropology (e.g. Ruth Benedict).

Paideuma is also the title of a journal published by the Frobenius-Institute and founded in 1938.

Privatdozent (PD)

Private lecturer is a title conferred in some European university systems, especially in German-speaking countries, for someone who pursues an academic career and holds all formal qualifications (doctorate and habilitation) to become a tenured university professor. With respect to the level of academic achievement, the title compares to associate professor (North America) or something between senior lecturer and reader (UK); however, the title is not connected to any salaried position.

(source: )

Societas Verbi Divini (SVD)/ Society of the Divine Word

The Society of the Divine Word was founded by St. Arnold Janssen on September 8, 1875 in Steyl, a small village in Holland, just across the German border. By the end of the 1950s, the General Council of the Society of the Divine Word decided to move the > Anthropos Institut to Sankt Augustin near Bonn, where it still exists today.

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Sociologus. Zeitschrift für empirische Ethnosoziologie und Ethnopsychologie. Journal for Empirical Social Anthropology

Sociologus was refounded in 1951, an older journal with the same name was ceased to exits in 1933.

Sociologus publishes contributions form the fields of > Ethnosoziologie and > Sozíalanthropologie with both an empirical and theoretical focus.

Today it is published by the Berlin publishing house Verlag Duncker & Humblot.

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In Great Britain a distinction is made between the more historically aligned museum Ethnology, which today is virtually non-existent, and British Social Anthropology, which was influenced by French sociology. Similar to the German > Ethnosoziologie (but without its biological characteristic), this discipline addresses the structures of (mainly Overseas) societies. Social Anthropology took a lead-role in the development of the method of stationary fieldwork, which is employed by researchers worldwide for the study of everyday life and cultures, thereby contributing to comparative sociology and anthropology.

In Germany, Social Anthropology is often misleadingly translated as Sozialanthropologie (Soziale Anthropologie would be more accurate). Sozialanthropologie could not develop the same currency as Social Anthropology, because of its association with a discipline of the same name, which once existed in Germany and which focused to study the connection of race and society. 
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Trickster is the name of an anthropological periodical founded in 1978/79. It is the outcome of one of the many student initiatives at the time. Trickster provided a forum for the topics neglected by established German anthropology. From the periodical came forth the publishing house of the same name in 1982. Since 1996, Trickster is continued as “Edition Trickster” of Peter Hammer publishing house (Wuppertal).

Whereas Trickster distinguished itself above all by its rather academic character, the Cargo magazine founded in 1980 was clearly a student medium.

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see Ethnologie


The academic discipline of Volkskunde traditionally investigates one’s own culture, in particular that of the rural and urban working class. Different disciplines of this kind exist in most European countries. Today, in the German-speaking area one can find it under different names (e.g., Volkskunde, Europäische Ethnologie–European Ethnology, Empirische Kulturwissenschaft–Empirical Cultural Studies). There exists a strong connection to the term of folklore, which in the 19th century was used to refer to the study of the traditional customs of rural European populations, but which is now increasingly being employed to refer to the small traditions of everyday life in all societies.

Even though individual protagonists and institutes coming from either traditional line (Volkskunde or >Völkerkunde) also take up the approaches, methods and subject matters of the other discipline, on the whole, they still constitute distinct academic disciplines with their own respective traditions, rituals, cults, myths, idioms, and networks. Volkskunde is organized in the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Volkskunde (dgv), > Völkerkunde in the > Deutsche Gesellschaft für Völkerkunde (DGV).

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Zeitschrift für Ethnologie (ZfE)/ Journal for Social and Cultural Anthropology

Founded in 1869, the ZfE is one of the oldest anthropological journals worldwide. It is co-published by the German Anthropological Association (> Deutsche Gesellschaft für Völkerkunde) and the Society for Anthropology, Ethnology and Prehistory of Berlin (> Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte). The ZfE is published in two volumes a year, which contain peer reviewed articles in German and English, each of which is accompanied by an English abstract.

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The term 1968er (Achtundsechziger, 68er) subsumes diverse, usually leftist student and civil rights movements, which were more or less running parallel since the mid-1960s. It specifically refers to the year of 1968, in which some of the addressed issues and conflicts escalated: in the USA particularly in the anti-war demonstrations and the consequences of the assassination of Martin Luther King, in Europe in form of a range of diverse yet intense civil conflicts. 

In Germany, the term is commonly used to refer the German student movement of the 1960s. However, this somewhat oversimplifies the 1968ers student generation, which was characterized by diversity rather than uniformity, and which included different Marxist approaches as well as neo-positivism and critical rationalism.