DFG sets up new CRC „Human Differentiation“ for JGU and IEG
The German Research Foundation (DFG) has approved the establishment of a new Collaborative Research Centre (SFB) „Human Differentiation“. The application was submitted by the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) together with the Leibniz Institute for European History Mainz (IEG). The CRC 1482 is funded with a total of around 10 million euros for a first period of four years.
The focus of the CRC is on the research question of how historical and contemporary societies categorize their members, spatially separate them, and thus suggest different social affiliations to them. The work carried out by the IEG since 2012 as part of its research programme on „Negotiating differences in Europe“ thus forms part of an interdisciplinary cultural and social science network. The CRC includes history scholars from the IEG as well as scholars from sociology and ethnology, American studies and linguistics, the theatre, media culture and translation studies of the JGU.
Human differentiation means first the external differentiation of humans from animals and artifacts such as robots, then the division of people into categories and groups such as ethnicities, nations, language, and religious communities, and finally their differentiation based on characteristics such as age, gender, disability, or performance. “The CRC deals with an elementary, consequential and conflict-prone phenomenon: that people are constantly categorizing themselves. The aim is to develop a general theory of human differentiation that determines its sociocultural functions,“ says Prof. Dr. Stefan Hirschauer, spokesman for the Collaborative Research Centre from the Institute of Sociology at JGU.
It is not individual distinctions that are relevant, but the interplay of the many different affiliations of people
The CRC aims to bring together a specialized and separate variety of research branches for the categorization of people in a new overarching field »Studies in Human Categorization“. In doing so, individual distinctions – for example by gender, ethnicity, or religion – are no longer brought to the fore as before. Rather, the members of the CRC observe the many affiliations of individuals in their competition with each other and shed light on how people are sometimes distinguished in this way, sometimes in this way. The historical changes and the specific contexts in which distinctions are made – or people are not distinguished – are of particular interest to the IEG. As the director of the IEG, Prof. Dr. Johannes Paulmann, explains, „a fundamental reflection on long-term differentiation processes should be initiated and theoretical considerations for historical science should be developed“.
The 20 sub-projects of the Collaborative Research Centre address central aspects of the overarching question in the three areas of work “Body and Performances”, “Mobility and Order Processes” as well as “Human Limits and Infrastructures“. The IEG is involved in three sub-projects at the CRC. A project examines how the category „refugee“ was developed in the period immediately after the Second World War through legal-bureaucratic distinctions between people and their self-location. Another sociological-historical project deals with how the distinction between, for example, the „infected“, „recovered“ or „vaccinated“, changed proximity pproximity and distance behavior during current and historical pandemics. Finally, a subproject is dedicated to human-animal differentiation and its permeability in the context of behavioral research at the Serengeti Research Institute in Tanzania since the 1960s.
The results of human differentiation usually appear in public discourses as unquestioned, given characteristics of human beings. They can become a hanger for identarian attributions. On the other hand, the CRC wants to raise awareness that people and social groups only come to their characteristics by distinguishing themselves in social practices and distinguishing themselves. It wants to sharpen the social and historical understanding that these distinctions can often lead to several competing results and are complexly intertwined.
Contact for scientific information:
Prof. Dr. Johannes Paulmann
Director, Department of Universal History
Leibniz Institute for European History
Prof. Dr. Stefan Hirschauer
Spokesperson of the CRC 1482
Sociological Theory and Gender Studies
Institute of Sociology
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU)