IchBinHanna (translates to #IAmHanna)
English version by Ilka Brasch and Jens Temmen (proofread by Natalie Roxburgh and Abby Fagan)
Press coverage concerning our grassroots initiative, which provides insight into precarious working conditions in German academia
#IchbinHanna is a trend on Twitter that emerged in response to an informational video explaining the Academic Fixed-Term Contract Act (“Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz”), which the Federal Ministry of Education and Research posted on its website. In Germany, universities are subject to special legislation exempting university employees from usual labor rights, and the video casts the practice of issuing fixed-term contracts for positions in academia as a supposed necessary precondition for innovation. Though the video has since been removed, it depicted working conditions that accord to usual labor rights in Germany as antithetical to the university because longer-term contracts would “clog the system.”
Following our fall 2020 initiative #95vsWissZeitVG (95 Theses against the WissZeitVG), we – Amrei Bahr, Kristin Eichhorn, and Sebastian Kubon – launched the hashtag #IchBinHanna. Hanna is the fictional character that the video uses to illustrate the ostensible advantages of the Academic Fixed-Term Contract Act. Thousands of scholars spontaneously reacted and explained with great detail, through personal narratives on Twitter, why they identify with Hanna and feel ridiculed by the video’s infantilizing tone and unrealistically positive depiction of their precarity as short-term university employees. These narratives show that, for many people, these university-specific conditions make access to academic positions difficult or even impossible.
Since June 10th, 2021, more than 7,000 people have contributed to the discussion through more than 60,000 tweets using the hashtag #IchbinHanna. In addition to people directly affected by fixed-term contracts, more and more professors and students have also started adding to the conversation. After the subject was discussed in a debate on matters of topical interest in the German federal parliament on June 24th, 2021, the hashtag #HannaImBundestag (Hanna in the federal parliament) arose and is being used to a similar extent. Exact numbers can be tracked here.
A free presentation to inform e. g. students about the campaign can be found here).
We are using this page to collect the numerous statements and press coverage related to the initiative.
Reactions by politicians and university management (In German):
#IchBinHanna. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research’s reaction to the discussion on social media. In: The website of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, June 13th, 2021 (it has since been deleted in this form; refer to the web archive).
The original video was deleted by the Federal Ministry on June 14th, 2021. It can be retrieved from the web archive.
Video message by the state secretary Wolf-Dieter Lukas. In: The website of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, June 17th, 2021.
A reaction by the Federal Secretary of Education Anja Karliczek (CDU) and reform suggestions from the SPD can be found in: Twitter-initiative #IchbinHanna. Karliczek argues universities and federal states are responsible. In: Tagesspiegel, June 21st, 2021.
On June 24th, 2021, the German federal parliament held a debate on matters of topical interest (minutes).
A statement by the German Rectors’ Conference (short: HRK) is available, in concert with vice president Kerstin Krieglstein’s guest commentary (Keine Alternative. In: Die Zeit 26/2021, S. 41 and in the Wissen3-Newsletter, June 24th, 2021).
Contributions to the discussion and statements:
A note (thanks to Jens Temmen who has raised these points in this fantastic thread): In recent weeks, the hashtag #IchbinHanna has served as a focal point for scholars and scientists of all walks of life, who share, to various degrees, the experience of working in the precarious environment that is the mark of German academia. While the hashtag and the stories that accompany it have gained political traction, a number of scholars and scientists have tirelessly pointed out that the voices of BIPoC, queer, and disabled scholars and scientists, as well as the voices of non-EU residents and other marginalized groups, are – in a way basically similar to all other dimensions of academia – less likely to be heard. The structures of discrimination and marginalization that exist in German society at large are at work in academia as well, and a critique of working conditions in this environment necessarily needs to be intersectional. The following collection of tweets is an attempt to amplify the voices of scholars and scientists more likely to be hurt by than heard – to paraphrase the title of the important essay collection by Arghavan et al. – in German academia. While far from complete, this collection can serve as a point of departure, a source to inform our intersectional critique, or a way to connect with scholars and scientists with similar experiences:
@Dori_Kiel tweets about disability studies / activism and ableism in German academia (English and German).
Press Coverage and Articles (in English):
David Matthews: #ichbinHanna. German researchers snap over lack of permanent jobs (Interview with Kristin Eichhorn). In: Times Higher Education June 21, 2021.
Fintan Burke: German researchers draw up demands for incoming science minister. In: Science Business July 15, 2021.
Amrei Bahr/Christine Blume/Kristin Eichhorn/Sebastian Kubon: With #IchBinHanna, German academia protests against a law that forces researchers out. In: Nat Hum Behav (2021).
Thilo Mathes: I’m no longer Hanna. In: Medium September 14, 2021.
Sabrina Mittermeier: #IchBinHanna: What next? In: Hypotheses September 14, 2021.
Gretchen Vogel: Controversial Berlin law gives postdocs pathway to permanent jobs. In: Science November 19, 2021.
Faces of 2021: who shaped the higher education headlines this year. In: Times Higher Education, December 20, 2021.
Ulrich Dirnagl: #IchbinHannah and the fight for permanent jobs for postdocs. In: EMBO reports (2022)e54623).
Digitaler Wissenschaftsaktivismus in Deutschland. Wie der akademische Mittelbau seine Stimme findet und sich einen Resonanzraum schafft (mit Iuditha Balint, Kristin Eichhorn und Mahshid Mayar. In: Textpraxis Podcast, May 1, 2022 (German and English).
Ben Upton: Germany’s short-term fix on temporary contracts wearing off. In Times Higher Education, May 31, 2022.
For more press coverage in German see here.