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Research Programme

Negotiating differences in Europe

In the research programme for the years 2018 to 2023, the overarching theme of »negotiating differences in Europe« will to be developed further both substantively and methodologically. The IEG’s goal is to implement the trans-epochal perspective equally across all areas of research, to pay closer attention to the interaction between categories of difference and their contingent hierarchies, and to grasp the specific dynamics of the negotiation of difference on the basis of concrete historical processes and problems.

This theme has also facilitated historical-critical scrutiny of contemporary self-descriptions and normative diagnoses of Europe. Thus instead of programmatic observations about tolerance, diversity, and pluralism being characteristic features of Europe, the IEG has focused on the various forms, actors, developments and cycles in the generally conflict-laden negotiation of difference in the realms of religion, society, and politics. Europe is understood as a laboratory for the development of forms of regulating and delimiting – and of producing and preserving – otherness and inequality. The conflictual dynamic of the cultural entity known as »Europe« springs from manifold interactions and entanglements that have led to exchange, assimilation and integration, as well as to differentiation and confrontation, on the continent and beyond.

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The research programme 2018–2023 productively carries forward past findings and approaches into the investigation of new central problems; it also applies them to new perspectives within currently running projects:

(1) Recent research at the IEG has highlighted the voluntary and forced marginalisation of individuals and groups as a specific form of negotiating differences. Thus, by investigating the conflict-laden interaction between pluralisation and marginality, the IEG seeks to treat a central question of the European negotiation of difference, asking specifically: What challenges does plurality entail for the pursuit of unity? Under what circumstances is the valorisation of diversity developed or rejected? And what (active) role does a position of marginality play for which, among others, the IEG has developed the notion of »cultural sovereignty« as a heuristic key.

(2) The analysis of key concepts like »humanity«, which should be uncoupled from the differentiating grasp of particular interests, has highlighted the socially impactful dialectic between the sacralisation and the desacralisation of hegemonic ideas. Connected to this, the IEG now investigates the way this dialectic works in other fields systematically and diachronically. The question how »sacrality«, as a negotiable resource for the creation and bridging of difference, is invoked or abandoned seems an ideal probe for innovatively studying the entanglement between religion, politics and society, and the transformation between the symbolic, discursive and institutionalised spheres of the sacred and the non-sacred.

(3) Previous IEG research dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of boundaries and their transgression has mapped out the significance of mobility, the drawing of boundaries and their (spatial, social and intellectual) transgression for individual and group processes. The fundamental insight that experiences of difference can be grasped and reflected upon exceptionally well by focusing on mobility is now being analysed in a separate research area. The aim of this research is to show how transnational and trans-cultural boundary-crossing influenced the ascription of religious, ethnic, cultural, social, and gender-specific affiliation.

The research programme for 2018 to 2023 brings the IEG’s existing interdisciplinary, transepochal and European-oriented strengths to bear on the following three research areas.