Doctoral Preparation at the Max Weber Kolleg

The Max Weber Centre for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies at the University of Erfurt (MWK) offers a six-month doctoral preparation programme for applicants at the MWK as part of its study programme. Applications are possible until 28 February.

This offer is aimed at early stage researchers who have completed an excellent Master’s degree and who wish to pursue an interdisciplinary doctorate in the context of the Weber research programme at the Max Weber Kolleg, which can be supervised by members of the Kolleg. A one-semester preparation period for the doctorate is offered to suitable early stage researchers, which enables individualised supervision by a mentor, so that at the end of the doctoral preparation an exposé is available that enables application to the doctoral programme of the Max Weber Kolleg. The doctoral preparation is oriented towards the individual needs of each participant. It consists of mentoring with regard to the research question of the dissertation project and the state of research, participation in selected colloquia and the opportunity to participate in seminars and in the qualification programme of the University of Erfurt. Certificates are issued for participation in the university’s qualification programme. The admission procedure as a doctoral candidate to the Max Weber Kolleg remains unaffected.

The Max Weber Kolleg offers financial support for participation in the doctoral preparation for the duration of usually 6 months in the form of a scholarship, which is awarded according to the scholarship statutes of the University of Erfurt. The doctoral preparation usually starts on 1 April. Direct follow-up funding in the case of acceptance as a doctoral candidate from a doctoral scholarship can only be made possible if the full 6 months are not required for the preparation of the exposé.

As the Max Weber Kolleg would like to support women in a special way, applications from women will be accepted preferentially. More information you can find on the website of the MWK.

Rafael Barroso-Romero presents a working paper on ‚Reconsidering unusual burials‘

In this paper I present the starting premises of my project. I try to justify the relevance of my research and why I consider that my approach is suitable. To this end, first I describe the different theoretical approaches from which the recognition of funerary diversity in the Archaeology of Death has been addressed and how from there the popular notion of „deviant burial“ along with every assumption it implies, as well as the arguments that have been considered when applying it in the Roman funerary world (1). Next, I briefly describe how the use of the concept of deviant in Religious Studies suggests that it is not the most appropriate one to call this type of burial (mainly necrophobia and paleopathologies) (2). In the following section I put the Roman funerary world into a cultural context by explaining the main ideas that exist about the fate of the deceased after death (both those that arise from ritual action and from the texts) (3). In the final section, I suggest that the direct recognition of funerary diversity is the most appropriate way to understand the Roman funerary world in all its complexity, and I suggest an approach focused on the study of religious materiality of grave goods and how the material culture transforms the way in which the self relates to the world (4).

Richard Lim presents a working paper on ‚Public Spectacles and Christianizing Urban Cultures in Late Antiquity‘

This Kolloquium text is part of an ongoing study of the transformations in public life in Roman metropolitan cities during Late Antiquity. The culture of public spectacles long continued to play a constitutive role in the cultural self-identities of the Roman urban populace despite Christianization and ecclesiastical condemnations. I show in this paper how the plebs urbana assumed participatory roles in making themselves ‘belongers’ in urban spaces by engaging with the culture of spectacles throughout the city notwithstanding their typical characterization as passive spectators in ancient and modern accounts.  I examine, in particular, the phenomenon of urban talk and related forms of sociability that came into being around the culture of Roman public spectacles even beyond the dedicated entertainment structures of the hippodrome, theatre and amphitheatre and explore how these persistent cultural forms shaped even the lives of urban Christians, a prime case in the reciprocal formation of religion and urbanity. How ordinary Late Antique Christians came to regard themselves as at once sophisticated urban inhabitants, proud members of a Roman metropolis and, at least by their own lights, upstanding followers of Christ in the context of their interactions with this urban culture of public spectacles has important implications for the way we conceptualize the processes of Christianization, secularization, de-paganization and de/re-sacralization in Late Antiquity.

New junior research college ‚EIPCC‘ is launched

‚Effective and Innovative Policymaking in Contested Contexts‘ (EIPCC) is the title of a new junior research group that the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy at the University of Erfurt has launched together with colleagues from the Faculty of Economics, Law and Social Sciences and the Max Weber College as part of the Christoph Martin Wieland Graduate Forum at the University of Erfurt.

The key theme of EIPCC is the investigation into effective and innovative forms of policymaking particularly in contested contexts. It covers research on the four dimensions of: Public Policymaking; Socio-economic Development and Effective Policymaking; Socially Innovative Policymaking, and Policymaking in Conflicted and Contested Orders. Contestations may arise due to the globalization of economic and social relationships and its consequences for the economic, social and even physical wellbeing of societies; the significant structural and political challenges in the course of ageing societies or international migration; new political forms of contestation such as populist or even extremist parties; and unresolved, violent conflicts.

Andreas Goldthau, holder of the Franz Haniel Professorship for Public Policy at the University of Erfurt and one of the initiators, explains: „The Young Researchers‘ College sees itself as a platform that brings together international young researchers with a focus on (or from) the Global South. And we are very pleased to now have a structured and EPPP-certified programme for early career researchers.“

Petra Gümplová presents a working paper on ‚Normative View of Natural Resources – Global Redistribution or Human Rights-based Approach?‘

This paper contrasts conceptions of global distributive justice focused on natural resources with a human rights-based approach. To highlight the shortcomings of the former and to emphasize the advantages of the latter, the paper looks first at the methodology of moral theorizing, showing that it misconstrues the claims individuals and groups made to natural resources and offers impracticable solutions. Second, I argue that distributive conceptions assume a narrow view of natural resources as economically beneficial goods. Human rights, I propose, are better suited to make sense of the variety of needs natural resources fulfill for humans. In virtue of their legal institutionalization, human rights enable agents to effectively pursue their legitimate claims to resources. Third, I look at the system of sovereignty over natural resources and argue that rather than dismissing it as unjustifiable, it should be reformed in line with the principles which underlie its structure – human rights.

Katharina Mersch presents a working paper on ‚Urban Communities and religiously motivated violent Crowds‘

The paper represents a shortened version of an article to be published in a volume on religious violence in the Middle Ages; the articles should reflect upon how ‘religious’ violence really was.

The article deals with two examples of violent crowds gathering to pursue religious goals and wandering through the lands, a phenomenon not uncommon from the late 11th century onward: 1. The so called Rintfleisch-pogroms that caused many deaths among the jewish population in the cities of Swabia and Franconia in the year 1298, and 2. the shepherds’ crusade of 1251 whose participants never reached the Holy Land but attacked clerics, monks, and sometimes Jews in several cities in France. If we want to find out to what extend religious ideas and non-religious motives stimulated the violent acts, it is crucial to take a look not only on the crowd itself, but on the cities and their citizens opening their gates to the crowd, too, on their reactions and the subsequent communication with authorities. It is a difficult task to reconstruct their motives as narrative sources give the best account of the events, while their authors were focused on interpreting these events with regard to religious narratives. Nevertheless, within these narratives the cities served as a stage for negotiating the legitimacy of violence. Not everyone agreed to kill Jews, while it seems that quite a lot of citizens did not worry about injuring and killing clerics, monks and scholars when not threatened by officials. All groups have in common that they were distinguished from the urban legal cosmos in one way or another, a fact that needs to be considered to the same degree as religious affiliations or the victims’ special position in the hierarchy of the church.

Simone Wagner presents a working paper on ‚A common History? About the Relation between Collegiate Churches and Cities‘

Superiors of collegiate churches often refered to origin stories in order to gain more authority in conflicts. Aside from arguing with highly symbolical charters of origin they often fashioned themselves as representatives of saints having founded the religious communities. Often such speech acts were embedded in a broader hagiohistorigraphical tradition. While collegiate churches and cities were often constructed as seperate entities their history was depicted as a shared one. A shared history was constructed by creating saints as integrative figures between city and collegiate church as well as linking the foundation of the cities to religious superiors. Historiography of the canons/the canonesses and the citizens could heavily influence each other without necessarily creating a collective identity. It seems that especially imperial cities contested the canon*esses‘ view of the past. However, saints worked less well as integration figures in cities with a more complex infrasctructure of parishes and their relics.

Andreas Pettenkofer presents a working paper on ‚Formal Organizations and the Destruction of political Alternatives. A pragmatistic Reconstruction of Robert Michels’ Sociology of Political Parties‘

This paper discusses how modes of social coordination can destroy the plausibility of egalitarian norms. It focuses on formal organizations – more specifically, on political parties – and on the mechanisms through which these organizations can destroy the plausibility of the ideas that they were meant to institutionalize. Its goal is to save some of the insights that can be found in Robert Michels’ Sociology of Political Parties (1911/1924), a now mostly unread ‘classic’ that, precisely because of its age, has the advantage of not treating party organizations, and the ways in which they typically operate, as a natural fact of social life. Michels’ book remains interesting for its ethnographic descriptions of everyday micro-practices, and for its ideas on how these practices can transform the ways in which party members understand themselves and their worlds. In order to reconstruct the social mechanisms that can be found in Michels’ descriptions, this paper uses the pragmatist concepts of selective attention, situated reflexivity, and social self.

The paper will appear in: Jenny Brichzin, Jasmin Siri (eds.), Soziologie politischer Parteien, VS 2021.

Call for Applications – CEU Summer University 2021

CfA – Postgraduate summer course on “Urban governance and civic participation in words and stone. Urbanism in Central Europe 1200-1600” at Central European University (CEU) in Budapest, Hungary, July 19 – July 28, 2021

Application deadline: February 14, 2021

This course aims to examine the notion of civic participation through a critical lens and against a longer historical perspective.  It will seek its origins in political thought and explore its forms of expression in written and visual media. The geographical focus of study will be Central Europe which provides a rich wellspring of sources and a fascinating field for interdisciplinary research combining art history, social history, pragmatic literacy, and urban planning. This course will place a strong emphasis on the issues of preservation, protection, and the value of conceptual and built heritage for modern societies.

The aims and methods of this course are closely aligned with current scholarly trends. Cities and towns have been the subject of historical, archaeological and architectural investigations, as well as studies on political thought. These studies have generated debates on the creation and growth of towns; on the role of seigniorial power, civic initiatives and external forces in these processes; and on the role of migration, colonization and cultural transfer in the spread of urbanization – just to name a few. The contribution of this course to the ongoing debates will be to link closely the administrative and spatial/architectural aspects, and to place Central Europe centre stage in a broader comparative perspective

Accepted participants will have sight visits in Budapest and go on a 3-day fieldtrip to Prague (4 nights’ accommodation and travel will be covered for them).

Financial aid is available.

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Jana Ilnicka edits rediscovered manuscript MS Eisenach 1361

The German Research Foundation (DFG) is supporting a research project by Dr. Jana Ilnicka at the Max-Weber-Kolleg of the University of Erfurt with funding totalling up to around 328,000 euros. It is entitled „The rediscovered manuscript MS Eisenach 1361 of the Wartburg Foundation and its partial parallels: Edition and Situations in Space and Time“ and is to be worked on over the next three years.

The Wartburg manuscript Ms Eisenach 1361-50 is a codex of 108 single-column leaves written on both sides (216 pages), 115×85 mm in size, produced in the XIV century and written in a West Middle High German dialect. It was originally in the Premonstratensian convent of Altenberg, before it first came into private ownership and then into the holdings of the Wartburg Foundation. The manuscript begins with thirteen psalms (2r-24v), all translated into Middle High German. This is followed by an anonymous sermon on the feast of the Assumption (25r-33r). From leaf 34r a series of 70 text pieces begins (34r-108v), some of them very short, the others longer. The last piece of text (n. 70) begins on fol. 108v and is not complete, as one leaf in the manuscript has been torn out. From fol. 34r on, the manuscript has partial parallels with the manuscript Berlin, SBB-PK, Ms. germ. fol. 986, and there are still some similar fragments in a Munich manuscript, Munich Cgm. 5235 (4th v. XIV Cologne?, M60).

Some of the 70 text pieces begin with the author’s name: Thomas Aquinas and Meister Eckhart are the two authorities mentioned by name as authors in this manuscript („Meister Thomas sagt“ or „Meister Eckhart sagt“), the others are anonymous („Ein Meister sagt“, „Einige Meister sagen“, „Es gibt eine Frage“). Some of the texts attributed to Meister Eckhart were edited by the first editor of Meister Eckhart’s German works, Franz Pfeiffer, as „sayings“ in his Eckhart edition of 1857. Some of these sayings were then identified by Heinrich Denifle (about 30 years later) and Josef Koch (about 100 years later) as edited translations of Eckhart’s Latin works translated into German, but the manuscript itself was considered lost since 1909 and Eckhart’s authorship of these pieces was widely disputed. The other texts, which were known at least from the partial parallel manuscript in Berlin, had not been researched since then. But a few years ago, Balázs J. Nemes and Markus Vinzent discovered this manuscript in the library of the Wartburg Foundation. As part of her research project, Jana Ilnicka will prepare a critical edition of this manuscript and make these texts accessible to researchers.

„The sample analysis of the manuscript so far has shown that these texts cannot be understood directly on their own, but must be introduced into the context of the philosophical-theological debate of the time, and that it is only out of this context that their precise contents emerge,“ Ilnicka reports. Such a contextualising analysis would then also make it possible to correct the information on authorship and contribute to research on the state of the debate in the 14th century.

„The language of the Wartburg manuscript, Middle High German, shows that the highly speculative theological themes were recorded in a vernacular, i.e., in a non-university setting. Therefore, the precise analysis of these texts will allow us to take a completely new look at lay education in the 14th century. Among other things, this concerns women’s education at the time, which, as the Wartburg manuscript suggests, cannot be reduced to „women’s mysticism“ alone.

For her work, Jana Ilnicka, who has already worked intensively on Meister Eckhart as part of her dissertation, will find competent discussion partners for these questions at the Max-Weber-Kolleg of the University of Erfurt, or more precisely, at the Meister Eckhart Research Centre located there. She will begin her work on 1 February 2021 – in the first step with the transcription of the manuscript. At the end of her research, she will present an annotated edition of the manuscript.