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)

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.

Erfurt, the blue City

What else can you do under the conditions of the hard lockdown? A new book provides an answer to this: look at Erfurt! Erfurt, the blue city, invites you to go on excursions, on foot or – thanks to the many pictures – in your head. The authors at the Max-Weber-Kolleg of the University of Erfurt have not presented another tourist or historical guide here in German and English. Rather, an attempt to understand the city and this city. What has created urban atmosphere for more than a thousand years, what holds it together despite all the challenges, despite all the differences? And: how do you see this in today’s cityscape?

The starting point is still today’s „many-towered Erfurt“, as it was called in the Middle Ages. In seven short chapters, it becomes clear how much fun it is to dive into the city’s history as a story of religious and urbanistic change. To put oneself in the living worlds of past epochs on the basis of what one sees today. The common thread for the selection is the colour blue, which stands for the water of the Gera, Mary’s cloak, woad and more: The book also wants to surprise with unusual perspectives.

„Die blaue Stad“t (The Blue City) was created in the research group „Religion and Urbanity: Mutual Formations“, which is based at the Max-Weber-Kolleg of the University of Erfurt and has been funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) since 2018. How urbanity and religion influence each other is being investigated here comparatively, especially for Europe and South Asia. The question is also discussed in the context of regular „City Walks“ in Erfurt, in which sociologists, historians, archaeologists, urban researchers and religious scholars participate. Professor Susanne Rau, spokesperson of the collegial research group: „I am pleased that we can now reach a broad public through the book.“

More information here.