Workshop: From classification to concepts: Interdisciplinary heuristics on the conceptualization of flora, fauna, man and landscape

Organisation: Prof. Dr. Walter Bisang / Prof. Dr. Tanja Pommerening

The Mainz Research Training Group "Early Concepts of Man and Nature: Universal, Local, Borrowed" aims to understand concepts of natural objects for selected domains of "man and nature" and to analyse their (trans)cultural dissemination in time and space from a wide range of perspectives. Since there seem to be surprising parallels in the early knowledge of man and nature across different cultures (Rothschuh 1978; Wulf 2009: 10), it is necessary to distinguish universal from specific concepts. In this context, universal is defined in terms of the independent emergence of similar phenomena under similar conditions rather than in terms of the universal existence of certain phenomena at any time and any place (Boas 1911).

The first workshop of the Research Training Group takes up classification as a heuristic for detecting concepts of flora, fauna, man and landscapes.

It will focus on the question of how individuals divide up their world and which systems operate across individual groups (cf. Berlin 1992 vs. Ellen 2006). How is it possible to capture classifications at the levels of writing, language, pictures and frames?

Researchers from anthropology, philology, linguistics, sociology and botany will present synchronic and diachronic examples from the cultures and languages of their expertise with regard to at least one of the following questions:
What are the criteria for distinguishing different plants, animals, humans or landscapes?
Are there forms of classification that are specific to writing, language, pictures or frames?
Are there hierarchisations?
Is it possible for systems of classification to vary between different social groups?
What motivates classification?

The cognitive sciences analyse the general principles that determine classification (Lakoff 1987, Murphy 2002), while computer linguistics develop tools for discovering classification systems from large databases that can be used in turn for modelling classification systems. The Research Training Group is particularly interested in the application of these theories and methods on historical sources and in the requirements for their implementation.

Jochen Althoff (University of Mainz, Classical Philology)
Sabine Bartsch (University of Darmstadt, English Linguistics, Corpus and Computational Linguistics)
Walter Bisang (University of Mainz, Linguistics)
Dietrich Busse (University of Düsseldorf, German Language and Linguistics)
Roy Ellen (University of Kent, Anthropology)
Simone Gerhards (University of Mainz, Egyptology)
Sonja Gerke (University of Mainz, Egyptology)
Orly Goldwasser (University of Jerusalem, Egyptology)
Stefan Hirschauer (University of Mainz, Sociology)
Joachim W. Kadereit (University of Mainz, Special Botanic)
Tanja Pommerening (University of Mainz, Egyptology)
Andrea Rapp  (University of Darmstadt, German Computational Linguistics)
Iolanda Ventura (CNRS Paris, History of Sciences)
Thekla Wiebusch (CNRS Paris, Linguistics)

Berlin 1992: Berlin, B., Ethnobiological classification: principles of categorization of plants and animals in traditional societies. Princeton. New Jersey.
Ellen 2006: Ellen, R., The categorical impulse: essays in the anthropology of classifying behaviour. Oxford.
Lakoff 1987: Lakoff, G., Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things. Chicago.
Murphy 2002: Murphy, G. L., The big book of Concepts. Massachusetts.
Rothschuh 1978: Rothschuh, K. E., Konzepte der Medizin in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart. Stuttgart.
Wulf 2009: Wulf, Chr., Anthropologie. Geschichte, Kultur, Philosophie. Köln.


21st and 22nd November 2014

Workshop 21st November 2014: Senatssaal (Room 07-232), Naturwissenschaftliches Institutsgebäude (Johann-Joachim-Becher-Weg 21, 55128 Mainz)
Public lecture 21st November 2014: Room P3, Philosophicum (Jakob-Welder-Weg 18, 55128 Mainz)
Workshop 22nd November 2014: Room P7, Philosophicum (Jakob-Welder-Weg 18, 55128 Mainz)