5 doctoral positions for Ph.D. projects (f/m/d)

The Max Weber Centre for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies (Max-Weber-Kolleg) at the University of Erfurt invites applications for up to:

5 doctoral positions for Ph.D. projects (f/m/d)
Pay category E 13 TV-L (65 %)

In the fields of Classics, Music Didactics, North American and Modern History, Early Christianity, Religious Studies and Sociology as well as related subjects within the framework of the International Graduate School (IGS) “Resonant Self–World Relations in Ancient and Modern Socio-Religious Practices” directed by Prof. Dr. Jörg Rüpke and Prof. Dr. Hartmut Rosa (Erfurt) and Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Spickermann and Prof. Dr. Irmtraud Fischer (Graz), funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Austrian Research Foundation (FWF).

The positions are to be filled by 1 October 2022 for a period of 3 years.

The project is a cooperation between the Max-Weber-Kolleg at the University of Erfurt and the University of Graz. Participants are required to spend the second year of their participation in the programme at the cooperating university.

As an International Research Training Group, the programme’s primary language is English.

You can find more information about requirements and the application process on the website of the University of Erfurt.

New video presents research results on the cultural significance of water spaces in India

Since Harald Lesch and Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim have become omnipresent, it is nothing new that scientists present their research on YouTube. Complex topics from space research, physics, biology, chemistry and technology are often explained in corresponding videos. Humanities scholars, on the other hand, are considered less YouTube-savvy. One exception is the research group „Religion and Urbanity“ at the Max Weber College of the University of Erfurt, which is currently presenting a new film on YouTube that deals with life around water in India.

In this video, Dr Sara Keller, who has organised an exhibition and a workshop on this topic, introduces us to the fascinating world of images in India and explains the cultural significance of water spaces in India on the basis of three thematic complexes (rituals, architecture, femininity). In addition to scholars, local artists who have dealt with the topic also have their say.

„We decided to use YouTube as a medium to give a younger audience an insight into foreign worlds, because in an increasingly globalised world it is important to get authentic impressions – beyond the clichés you have picked up from Bollywood films, for example,“ Sara Keller explains her motivation.

If you want to learn more about life around water in India, you can find the entertaining film here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCavwlGnrgM

Martin Fuchs presents a working paper on ‚Reciprocal Recognition: Claims of Universality and Ontological Assumptions. A Comparative Sociological Reflection‘

The paper intends to elicit the suitability of the recognition theorem for social and societal analyses (Sozial- und Gesellschaftsanalysen), different from eliciting its usefulness in socio-philosophical discussions. Regarding the question of normativity, the goal is to clarify whether, and if so how, critique of social conditions of humiliation, disrespect, etc. can here find the conceptual anchor suggested. The approach is a twofold one: a systematic reconstruction of core aspects of the concept of recognition and of parts of the debate on recognition, with regard especially to weak points regarding its application in social analysis, and, secondly, a systematic introduction of empirical problems of humiliation and degradation, tracing basic questions that arise during historical processes. The paper raises questions and suggests some answers. The paper attempts helping clarify the relevance of the recognition theorem or postulate for social analysis and social theory.

Anne Murphy presents a working paper on ‚The Possibility of a Punjabi Urban Imaginary‘

There is a saying one hears, upon arrival in Lahore, Pakistan: “Lahore na vekhia, jammia nahi”: “One hasn’t been born, until one has seen Lahore.” The sentiment this statement carries undergirds this paper, to consider the urban literary imaginaries that are both present, and missing, in our understanding of Punjabi language cultural production in the decades following the traumatic division of the Punjab region between the nation-states of India and Pakistan at decolonization in 1947, which was accompanied by catastrophic violence. A lesser discussed impact of Partition’s violence was the division it entailed linguistically and creatively. Although there is ample literature addressing how Partition has been addressed, described, and expressed in creative terms, consideration of Partition’s impact on writing and language themselves, in the act of expression, has received little sustained attention. This essay enters this area of exploration, to consider a possible urban imaginary that persists, and is simultaneously thwarted, by this international border, and how a kind of cosmopolitan and shared religiosity remains central to the formation of an urban imaginary on both sides of the border: in Lahore, the urban heart of Punjab that was ceded to Pakistan, and in Delhi, which became home to so many refugees at Partition that “Delhi was transformed,” as William Dalrymple put it in his travelogue of Delhi, City of Djinns, “from a small administrative capital of 900,000 people to a Punjabi-speaking metropolis half the size of London” (1992, 44). A close reading of select works reveals surprising parallels in work on both sides of the border, even as the border continues to divide, and allows for consideration of a kind of aspirational urbanity as an analytical tool for understanding cultural production along such lines, drawing on Rau’s (2020) discussion of this idea.

Antje Linkenbach presents a working paper on ‚Adivasi perspectives on ‘development’, ‘self-determination’ and ‘rights’‘

The following paper presents experience-near perspectives and aspirations voiced by female and male Adivasis from Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, who engage in countering mainstream development. The paper also attempts to bring the micro-concepts into conversation with scholarly (macro-)conceptual reflections.

The subsequent considerations take inspiration from a) two workshops with scholars and Adivasi activists held in Ranchi (Jharkhand) and Delhi in 2014, and b) the documentation of a workshop held in Kalunga (Odisha) in 2015, with Adivasi and members of NGOs. All workshops laid the focus on experience-near narratives, descriptions and concepts, as well as aspirations communicated in the vernaculars as well as in English.

The workshops showed clearly and convincingly that ‘development’, as conceptualized and enforced by the Indian state and the related economic players (like corporations), is experienced by Adivasi as violent, destructive and expressing a lack of recognition of their own life-worlds. However, despite marginalization and suffering, Adivasis have hope and the ‘capacity to aspire’ (Appadurai), as well as the strength to fight with legal and political measures.

Central to Adivasi aspirations are visions and strategies evolving around the notions of ‘life’ (jivan), governance / self-control over the vital resources like water, forest, and land (ham loogoon kaa khud shaasan), and rights (adhikaar). Adivasi increasingly emphasize their status as equal citizens and part of a common humanity. In this capacity they claim to have the legal and the moral right to pursue the life they want, and they are prepared to realize these rights through grassroot democratic means.

Alina Zeller presents a working paper on ‚Trachtenvereine in the U.S.: Practices of Bavarian Customs Associations in the Negotiation of German-American Ethnicity, Culture and Tradition‘

At the beginning of my paper, I want to introduce the phenomenon Trachtenverein (Bavarian customs association) in general before going into more detail on my PhD project. Most importantly the Trachtenvereine are associations dedicated to preserve Tracht (ethnic alpine costume) through different practices. The clothing shows their attachment to their Heimat (homeland), which is a central element of their community. They encourage their members to wear their local or regional Tracht as often and as “original” as possible. I consider this their most important practice, because without the clothing you cannot be a Trachtler*in (member of such an association). But there are further practices through which those Vereine (associations) preserve seemingly old traditions and customs.

To gain insight in the variety of their activities I want to take a look at a newspaper clipping of the German-American weekly newspaper “Vorbote” from Chicago (Appendix I, p.12). On March 14, 1920, the weekly once more published an advertisement for the “Erstes großes Gerbirgstrachten und Alpenfest”. The Schuhplattler-Vereine“Edelweiß”promoted their first big festival themed around the Tracht and the Alps.

Through the analysis of the clipping, we see several of their practices. The Gebirgstracht (alpine costume), mentioned in the title, is not mentioned in the text itself. The committee of the event, most certainly members of the Verein, speaks directly to the German audience of Chicago. Certainly, they assume that their audience is aware of their clothing practices and does not further elaborate on it. Moreover, this advertisement shows, that the Verein was not only interested in Tracht. They point to their loved and well-known dance“Müllertanz (dance of the miller), which they incorporated in their program. Coming second after preservation of clothing, dance of the Schuhplattler and other Volkstänze is the most common activity practiced by the Trachtenvereine. The name of this dance already reveals a lot about the subject. Most dominantly the Vereine perform rural dances, reminding of former agricultural settings, in this case the mimicking of the process in a mill.

Furthermore, we get to know, that this Verein in Chicago was involved in the German-American festive culture. Not only did they organize their own event, but also create a network with other performers. They worked with a Schrammelkapelle (orchestra playing folk music from Vienna) and at least one other performer, who did a humoristic lecture. Unfortunately, the advertisement does not tell us, if the food and beverages of the event were prepared by the Verein itself.

So, this small advertisement gives us a first insight into the practices of the Trachtenverein or Schuhplattler-Verein “Edelweiß. This Verein is the ideal example for my project as it was the first association of the Trachtler*innen formed in the U.S.

Barbara Thériault presents a working paper on ‚Average aesthetics or the regular haircut. The aesthetic dimension of the social in a German city‘

In ‚Average aesthetics or the regular haircut. The aesthetic dimension of the social in a German city‘, I propose to explore, through interviews and observations, the setting of the hair salon. I intend to do so both as a sociologist and as an apprentice hairdresser – another vocation that focusses on observation – exploring a social setting that
encourages talk and the exchanging of confidences.

This project, which highlights the aesthetic dimension of the social, builds on a previous one that I pursued on middle-class inhabitants of a city in central Germany, which considered the practical, moral, and material dimensions of how they lead their lives.

The goal of this project is not only to capture this aesthetic dimension of the social but also, following the work of Simmel and Kracauer, to develop a methodological position sensitive to the full range of sociological meanings. In this way, I hope to contribute to the renewal of sociological writing through “sociological feuilletons,” brief texts inspired by German journalism of the 1920s and 1930s that marry sociology, literature, and reportage.

The project also serves to bring sociology to a broader public, not only through its engaging theme but also through the distinctive genre of writing that it promotes and the new spaces it creates for disseminating sociological research. In doing so, it could foster a
reflexive engagement by readers with the texts produced and ultimately impart a greater sociological sensibility to public discourse.

Urs Lindner presents a working paper on ‚Antidiscrimination, Equal Opportunity, and Equal Representation. An Egalitarian Justification of Quotas‘

The article develops an egalitarian justification of quotas. Its suggestion is, first, to differentiate between quotas as goals and quotas as a means. Second, three requirements for an egalitarian justification are introduced: it has to be demonstrated that 1) the ideal is desirable, that 2) quotas bring us closer to this ideal, and that 3) objections claiming their impermissibility fail. The article explores anti-discrimination, equality of opportunity and equal representation as desirable egalitarian ideals that are situated on the levels of procedural, distributive and relational justice. It argues that anti-discrimination is advanced by both quotas as a means and as goals, whereas equality of opportunity is primarily served by quotas as a means and equal representation by quotas as goals. Finally, it is indicated that the objections from reverse discrimination, merit violation, stigmatization and social partition are unfounded. Integrating three common egalitarian ideals, this three-step argument constitutes a comprehensive egalitarian justification of quotas.

Lukas Meisner presents a working paper on ‚The Project of Modernity beyond Capitalism as Religion: Disenchanting the Tragic Worldview‘

Against the classical liberalist trope of modernity as rational, disenchanted, and enlightened, this article argues to reconstruct it as spell-bound by religion – namely, by capitalism as religion. The argument is drawn from combining a line of thinkers starting with Marx and ranging from Weber via Lukács and Benjamin to Goldmann and Berman. At the latest since the Marxian twist, any consequent emancipatory critique of religion incorporates a critique of capitalism as well – any project of modernity that is not self-contradictory can no longer be identified with capitalist modernisation. More succinctly, the former, conceived of as a political project, must precisely be about overcoming the latter. This is because, if capitalism is to be grasped as a religion, then any humanist or enlightened society would have to be postcapitalist. Accordingly, since we are not postcapitalist today, we are not humanist or enlightened either. The article will deliver the foundation of that argument by demonstrating why capitalism must be deciphered as an immanent material cult religion whose worldview is tragic, if not bleakly apocalyptic.

Asuman Lätzer-Lasar presents a working paper on ‚Mobility and Post-mobility of Deities in Roman Port Cities of the Southeast Iberian Coast‘

The Iberian Peninsula has been a region subject to a constant influx from migrating people and moving objects, whether by land routes from the European continent or by sea routes from the African continent. This characteristic is the basis for me to reflect on the transculturation processes of a specific supraregion, namely the east coast of the Iberian Peninsula. In doing so, I focus on the intraurban places for religious communication with and to deities in four selected port cities that differ greatly from each other. I am interested in the extent to which the processes of religious placemaking and the typology of cities interacted and influenced each other.

In research history, the Roman cities of the Iberian Peninsula as such are very well researched. (Panzram 2017; Olcina Domènech u. a. 2014; Houten 2020) However, the focus tends to be on the power relations deriving from the Roman occupation, as well as on the political and military history under Roman rule. The topic of transconnectivity is addressed, but then either evaluated from an economic perspective or limited to certain chronological periods, such as the pre-Roman development, especially the Phoenician and Punic periods, or the late Roman or medieval periods, especially with a focus on the Arab-Muslim presence on the Iberian Peninsula.

Recently, literary sources were used to reconstruct diverse social spaces, and labour biographies of migrants were sketched using the epigraphic evidenc. (Keegan et al. 2013; Holleran 2016) Nevertheless, a deep analysis of the diverse urban religioscapes is hardly available. Rather detailed studies on individual gods are evaluated on a supra-regional basis, such as Isis (Alvar Ezquerra – Gasparini 2020, Granizo Candelas 2020) or Minerva in Tarraco (Ruiz-Rodríguez 2017, 323-350). For this colloquium paper I can only present a brief comparison of the diverse religious landscapes in four selected port cities of the East coast by focusing on the placement and design of religious spaces.