The University has always been an exclusive place. Whereas in the 18th century it was reserved for few learned families, the research university of the 19th century was decisively a place for the aspiring educated middle classes, closing themselves off from the “bottom ranks”. Social advancement via a university career was an exception well into the 20th century.

At universities, women were represented more as objects suitable for research, rather than subjects who were capable of research. Under National Socialism, universities were among the first institutions to implement racist selection criteria. The portraits of Göttingen scientists reflect these mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion. There is an obvious absence of portraits of female scholars up into the 20th century. In addition, the portraits themselves can be perceived as part of the inclusion and exclusion processes. For example, they express certain notions of femininity and masculinity. But even beyond the example of the exclusion of women, the portraits show who belongs to the University and who does not.

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