Hermine Bähr presents a working paper on ‚Knowledge, Science and Society: The State of the Art of social Science Studies‘

The aim of this study is to examine the production of transdisciplinary knowledge in the context of real-world laboratories. The concept of transdisciplinarity describes the intentionally installed research setting of hybrid knowledge production at the science-public nexus that is aiming to solve pressing societal challenges. Especially in the context of climate change, sustainable development and urban planning, so-called real-world laboratories are implemented to co-create ‚robust‘ and ’socially relevant‘ knowledge that leads to social change.

This project takes a Science and Technology Studies account to investigate – by applying ethnographic and reconstructive sociology research methods – how practices of knowledge production change under the condition of research done in transdisciplinary settings.

One part of this project is to develop a conceptual account for a better understanding of the connections between science and society when it comes to the transfer of knowledge claims into changed structures. The other part is to empiri-cally analyze the interactions and transformations that occur when facts and ‚matters of concern‘ travel in between – that is, to reject the linear model of knowledge transfer by acknowledging the ambiguity of knowledge in the making and the complexity of its interactions.

In order to follow the implementation process between scientific and public knowledge production and deliberation, a case study is chosen, that shows the transfer from the global claim of decarbonization to the structural change in one particular region. The chosen case study is a rural periphery of post-GDR coal mining regions: Lusatia and the lignite coal mining area in central Eastern Germany (Mitteldeutsches Revier). This area is particularly interesting, as it amplifies the societal tensions between urban vs. rural understandings of energy politics and touches upon issues such as populism, skepticism, representation and marginalization.

Simone Wagner presents a working paper on ‚Space in Conflict – Cospatiality and its Effect on the Authority of Superiors‘

Many conflicts between religious superiors and their chapters as well as civic magistrates deal with spatial issues. These can be explained by applying the concept of cospatiality. Jacques Lévy defines cospatiality as „une des interspatialités caractérisée par la mise en relation de deux espaces occupant la même étendue“. During the conflicts the actors tried to conceptually and physically distinguish between the precinct of the collegiate church and urban space. However, they failed to do successfully. By challenging the meaning applied to space by their adversaries actors created cospatiality. Walls were constructed as dividing as well as permeable. Physical formations like doors and sounds could act as a switch triggering spatial interaction. Cospatiality influenced the authority of the superiors. As monastic and urban space interacted their authority was challenged.

Research to listen to: University of Erfurt launches „WortMelder“ research podcast

With the episode „Quo Vadis, Catholic Church? The crisis and the way out of it“, the University of Erfurt has launched its new academic podcast „WortMelder“. Julia Knop, Professor of Dogmatics at the Faculty of Catholic Theology, talks about the deep crisis of the Church and how the so-called Synodal Way can initiate reforms.

The first episode marks the beginning of a series of talks with which the University of Erfurt would like to regularly introduce a scientist and their research via the audio format. The aim is to focus on the socially relevant aspect of their research and to discuss topics that concern everyone in an understandable way. „Our scientists are looking for answers to socially relevant questions every day,“ says Carmen Voigt, press officer at the University of Erfurt. „We want to get to the heart of them in the podcast and show what our researchers are actually working on – and how important their work is for society. With the increasingly popular podcast format, i.e. audio (or video) files that can be subscribed to, we have found a suitable channel for this, which makes it possible to break new ground in research communication and thus reach new people.“

The first interviewee in the „WortMelder“ podcast Prof. Dr. Julia Knop is herself a member of the Synodal Way – a dialogue assembly with about 230 members – and works there as an expert on reform proposals for the Catholic Church. She once again explains the extent and the reasons for the crisis, which (power) structures need to be changed, for whom she is actually doing all this and why this crisis concerns us all.

 „WortMelder“, the science podcast of the University of Erfurt is now available on the known streaming services and on the website of the University of Erfurt at www.uni-erfurt.de/go/podcast-wortmelder (German only).

New Publication: „Critical Theory and New Materialisms“

A new publication by Hartmut Rosa, Christoph Henning and Arthur Bueno entitled „Critical Theory and New Materialisms“ has just been published by Routledge. It is based on a conference on this topic in Erfurt.

Despite its origins in „historical materialism“, critical theory has had little to say about questions of materiality in recent decades: Jürgen Habermas‘ „intersubjective turn“ resulted in research foci on normativity, on intersubjective recognition and modes of justification. Questions of ecology, stubbornness and the effective power of things were rather neglected. For some decades now, these have been the focus of „new materialism“ following Karen Barad, Jane Bennett or Rosi Braidotti. Until now, the two currents have had little to do with each other, and there have even been isolated instances of hostility. This volume brings representatives of both currents into a discourse and discusses how critical theory and new materialism can inspire each other – and where differences remain.

Hartmut Rosa, Christoph Henning and Arthur Bueno (Eds.)
Critical Theory and New Materialisms
Routledge, 2021
ISBN: 9780367257040
216 pages 
hardback: 139,96 EuUR  / ebook: 26,94 EUR

New collaborative research centre in Erfurt and Jena is dedicated to questions of ownership

The Friedrich Schiller University Jena will host the opening conference of the new Collaborative Research Centre/Transregio (SFB) 294 „Structural Change of Property“ on 8/9 July. The SFB started work at the universities of Jena and Erfurt at the beginning of the year and is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).

Researchers from sociology, political science and history, philosophy, law and economics, Chinese and South Asian studies and religious studies are investigating the structural change of property in 23 sub-projects. Thematically, the Collaborative Research Centre deals with the history of property since antiquity, with current conflicts over property as well as with future property relations and alternatives to private property. Research is conducted not only in the European context, but also in India, China and Brazil, for example. According to the three speakers Hartmut Rosa, Silke van Dyk and Tilman Reitz, the future structures of property will undoubtedly be negotiated on a global scale. At the opening conference, the researchers will discuss present and future property relations with guests from academia, practice and the media.

The initial diagnosis of the interdisciplinary research network is that disputes about the form, meaning, distribution and obligation of property will clearly gain in intensity in the coming years.

„This is not just about the distribution of income and assets, but about a wide range of issues, such as the ownership of data, of gene sequences, of global resources up to the wind and raw materials on the moon, the question of who owns the city, or whether bodily organs can be property,“ says Hartmut Rosa, the spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Centre. The Berlin citizens‘ initiative Deutsche Wohnen & Co expropriate for the socialisation of large real estate companies, but also the attempt by the German government to protect key industries from Chinese access and even nationalise them if necessary, are just two current examples of the disputes to be expected, he says. At the same time, the researchers observe that what it means to own property is changing:

„The dominant idea of ownership implies that the owner can dispose of his property and shape it, but also that he has to take care of it. Today, when residential property is acquired by large real estate funds and often resold in a fraction of a second, owners who hold shares in the funds generally do not know what they own, and tenants do not know to whom they pay the rent. This changes the character of what property is and means,“ explains Silke van Dyk, co-speaker of the SFB. Similar shifts can be observed when, for example, music titles or literary products can not only be multiplied arbitrarily and free of charge via digital means, but when they are no longer acquired as personal property at all, but are only used or ’streamed‘ temporarily.

„Then ownership of cultural products is replaced by technical access rights. This also changes the character of ownership,“ explains Tilman Reitz, also a co-speaker. In any case, after decades of partly aggressive and global privatisation of property in almost all economically relevant areas, up to and including water and wind, political and also technical counter-tendencies can now be observed everywhere. These not only bring about new forms of ownership, which are reflected for example in diverse forms of sharing economies or commons, but have also set in motion a worldwide reflection on alternatives to the property form of society.

Interested parties can follow the event online (identification code: SFB_294):

The speakers of the SFB are also available for individual interviews (contact: koordination.sfb-eigentum(at)uni-jena.de)

New publication: „Andere Klarheit. Versuch über die Verklärung in Kunst, Religion und Philosophie“

Wallstein Verlag has just published a new book by Markus Kleinert entitled „Andere Klarheit“ (Other Clarity). It is – as the subtitle promises – an attempt at transfiguration in art, religion and philosophy. The book is also Kleinert’s habilitation thesis, which was awarded the Max Weber Prize for Young Researchers.

When hearing the term „transfiguration“, one might not first think that this could be a key concept for modernity. Transfiguration is called in religious contexts the elevation of the soul into the afterlife or the exaltation of a human being to a god, but above all the term is associated with that peculiar Bible episode of Christ’s transformation on a mountain. Ideas that are not exactly familiar in modern, secularised societies. But even the everyday understanding of transfiguration in the sense of a glossing over does not seem to suggest that transfiguration could be a key concept of modernity.

This makes it all the more exciting to read the book „Andere Klarheit. Versuch über die Verklärung in Kunst, Religion und Philosophie“ by Markus Kleinert (together with Hermann Deuser, head of the Kierkegaard Research Centre at the Max Weber College), which is dedicated to the concept of transfiguration in modernity and shows, on the basis of authors such as Luther or the Baroque poet Greiffenberg, up to Goethe, Nietzsche and Leopold Ziegler, how this motif, aligned with an idea of transformation, refers to an optimistic view of man and the world. In doing so, he also shows that such religious ideas are still effective socio-culturally today – in part without direct reference to religion – as illustrated not least by a look at American and Russian history.

Kleinert’s study, which also includes the visual arts (Raphael) and music (Wagner), shows the productivity of the concept of transfiguration, with its proximity to the Enlightenment as well as to glory, for understanding our modern culture as well as our attitudes and lifestyles.

Markus Kleinert
Andere Klarheit. Versuch über die Verklärung in Kunst, Religion und Philosophie

Wallstein Verlag, 2021
ISBN 978-3-8353-3992-7
277 pages
29,90 Euro

Exhibition opening: India. Life around water

Water opens up many living spaces in India: spiritual purification, social interaction, travel and everyday household management. Interested people can experience these different spaces in the photo exhibition „INDIA. Life on the Water“ in the Augustinerkirche from 7 to 8 July. The exhibition is organised by the KFG „Religion and Urbanity. Reciprocal Formations“ (FOR 2779) of the Max-Weber-Kolleg of the University of Erfurt and can be visited during church opening hours. Admission is free.

The photo exhibition, curated by Sara Keller, invites visitors to discover the many dimensions of water in India. There, water is not only an important element of livelihood, it also carries crucial spiritual and religious significance. As the main means of purification, water is an essential component on the path to Mokṣa (मोक्ष or liberation). The spaces associated with the water reflect this multidimensionality: they are at once spaces of female conviviality, colourful and dynamic environments, and backdrops to a refined architecture. The 26 photographs explore moments and experiences around the themes of ritual, femininity, architecture and the environment.

The exhibition is in German and English, and there is an audio guide. It takes place in the context of the conference „Accessing Water in the South Asian City“, organised by the KFG „Religion and Urbanity: Reciprocal Formations“. The research group is based at the Max-Weber-Kolleg of the University of Erfurt and has been funded by the DFG (German Research Foundation) since 2018. The researchers are investigating how urbanity and religion have influenced each other throughout history, especially in Europe and South Asia.