Uniting research on Europe and on India within a single research center is – in Germany, at least – a new and unique approach. Historians of Europe may wonder whether research on India offers added value for their own research. Yet precisely this question is a cause of concern for area studies researchers, who worry that the specific value of their research may be diminished, and that their work will in future be judged in terms of what it can contribute to the history of Europe.
Against this background, research on India has a bridge-building function. Like a bridge, it facilitates communication between previously unconnected domains; like a bridge, it can only be stable if it is based on firm foundations on both sides. The first step is therefore to explore the experiences of "unknown" actors – this necessitates the source-based research and philological skills that are standard practice in area studies today. The next step will be the (linguistic and cultural) translation of these findings for the German research context. Two considerations are crucial here. First, research on India is too important for its findings to be overlooked by those whose main focus is on Europe. Second, it is not a question of appropriating the "unknown," thus enriching – but not changing – the dominant context. Rather, like any good translation, it will entail a process of interaction and transformation that respects and conveys both languages. In other words, the intention is not to apply European models to India, but to develop joint models that draw on research on both regions, and that have greater explanatory power in combination than in isolation.