AG 1: Un/Doing Differences: Practices of Human Differentiation

Members: Mita Banerjee (American Studies), Sascha Dickel (Sociology), Stefan Hirschauer (Sociology, Spokesperson), Herbert Kalthoff (Sociology), Friedemann Kreuder (Theater Studies), Matthias Krings (Anthropology and African Studies), Damaris Nübling (Linguistics/German Studies), Gabriele Schabacher (Medienkulturwissenschaft), Axel Schäfer (American Studies), Oliver Scheiding (American Studies), Benjamin Wihstutz (Theater Studies)

What unites the members of our research unit is a shared interest in discovering how cultural differences between individuals within society arise, are superimposed and neutralized, in other words, in studying the “doing” and “undoing” of differences. We thus plan to examine the practices of human categorization. Such practices include the use of demarcation strategies for the purpose of community formation (“them and us”), the use of linguistic, religious, ethnic and national labels as well as the use of intra-societal divisions based on gender or status.

In a comparative approach, we intend to look at heterogeneous cases of human categorization and the demarcation between communities; our focus will be primarily on examining the contingency aspects of these processes, the conditions underlying differentiation and its undoing and the mechanisms involved in the actualization or neutralization of variants of such differentiations. The research group will thematically organize the methods of making distinctions analyzed in the various disciplines and research areas of its members, and will also make a comparative analysis of them as culturally specific methods of making distinctions.

The group’s long-term goal is to establish transdisciplinary perspectives capable of uniting Social and Cultural Science methods – perspectives from which the practices and procedures used to distinguish human beings from one another can be empirically observed, and their mechanisms and functions analyzed.