Un/doing Differences.
Practices in Human Differentiation

DFG Research Unit 1939

Common to members of the research group is an underlying interest in the creation, overlapping and invalidation of various cultural distinctions drawn between members of society – an interest, in other words, both in the “doing” and the “undoing” of differentiation. The interest lies in investigating the practices used in culturally categorizing people. In the context of creating “us vs. them” communities, these include drawing boundaries along linguistic, religious, ethnic and national lines, as well as the distinctions made within society along gender lines or with respect to performance categories.

The research design is comparative in nature, and examines heterogeneous cases of categorizing persons and of boundary-drawing between communities. The intent is to illuminate the contingency involved in such processes, including the conditions for differentiating or ceasing to differentiate, and the forces that drive actualization or neutralization of variants of such differentiations. The differentiations addressed in the research projects and disciplines of the research group members will be brought together thematically and investigated comparatively as cultural practices of differentiation.

Humanities and social science disciplines empirically observe the cultural practices and processes involved in differentiating members of society, and analyze the mechanisms and functions involved. The long-term goal of the research group is to develop trans-disciplinary analytic perspectives that can build bridges of understanding between these various, and varying, disciplinary perspectives.

The research group emerged from the Working Group 1: Un/Doing Differences: Practices of Human Differentiation at the SoCuM Research Center for Social and Cultural Studies at JGU Mainz.

Prof. Dr. Stefan Hirschauer, Un/doing Differences Spokesperson
on German Radio SWR2 Journal (16.01.2013)
(Audio in German)