The Lessing Prize of the city of Hamburg has selected Berlin-based art historian and political philosopher Juliane Rebentisch as its 2017 award winner. She is the first woman to receive the honor since Hannah Arendt, in 1959. The quadrennial award, which includes an endowment of nearly $12,500, was founded in 1929 by the German senate on the bicentennial of philosopher Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s birth and is intended to celebrate German culture, specifically writers and scholars who live in Hamburg or have a connection to the city. Previous recipients include Walter Jens, Jean Améry, and Wolfgang Schivelbusch, the latter of whom won in 2013. Novelist Nino Haratischwili was also presented with a $5,000 scholarship.
Rebentisch teaches at the Offenbach University of Art and Design in Hamburg and has been the acting president of the German Society for Aesthetics since 2015. She is the author of Die Kunst der Freiheit: Zur Dialektik demokratischer Existenz (The Art of Freedom: On the Dialectics of Democratic Existence, 2016) and Ästhetik der Installation (Aesthetics of Installation Art, 2003), which offers a reevaluation of aesthetic autonomy and ethics in contemporary art. She studied philosophy and German studies at the Freie Universität Berlin, where she completed her dissertation in 2002. In addition to serving on Texte Zur Kunst’s advisory board and contributing to October, Rebentisch has been on staff at the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt since 2014 and has served as coeditor of the biannual periodical WestEnd: Neue Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung since 2011.
“The Lessing Prize and the accompanying scholarship this year go to two women whose independent and enlightened thinking attaches to the hinges of our society: In her research, Juliane Rebentisch examines, among other things, how power is staged within a democracy,” said Carsten Brosda, the head of Hamburg’s culture department. “Nino Haratischwili transforms family stories into contemporary history with poetry and opulence and has long since established herself as an indispensable voice in German-language contemporary literature.”