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Research Programme

Negotiating differences in Europe

The theme of this research programme, which has been running since 2012, is "negotiating differences in modern Europe". It implements the objective enshrined in the Institute’s statutes of researching the traditions, changes and crises of religious, political and social differentiations in particular, as well as the effects of these in Europe. It is cross-departmental and pursues current academic questions. It facilitates the historical-critical scrutiny of both contemporary self-definitions of Europe and normatively loaded analyses. Instead of declamatory statements about tolerance, diversity and pluralism as characteristics of Europe, the interest is in the various forms, actors, developments and cycles in the generally conflict-laden negotiating of differences, and in the process nature of differentiations. Europe is understood as a laboratory for the development of forms of regulating and confining – but also producing and maintaining – otherness and inequality. The conflictual dynamics of the space known as "Europe" arises out of the manifold interactions and involvements that have led to exchange, appropriation and integration, as well as to exclusion and confrontation on the continent and beyond its borders.
Since 2018, the theme "negotiating differences in modern Europe" (i.e. since c. 1500) has been pursued in a second phase with new focuses, which trace in a trans-epochal perspective the creation of differences, the interaction of various categories of difference, as well as their contingent hierarchies.


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By researching the conflictual interplay between pluralisation and marginality, the IEG investigates, firstly, the challenge that plurality poses for the pursuit of unity and the conditions under which a respect for diversity and multiplicity developed or was rejected. Additionally, the projects enquire into how individuals and groups found themselves in a marginal position or were able to use this position to further their own ends, and how specific actors claimed the authority to speak on behalf of, and advocate for marginalised groups.

Secondly, the IEG examines the socially impactful dialectic of the sacralization and desacralization of action-guiding ideas, and asks how »sacrality« as a negotiable resource for the creation or bridging of differences is invoked or abandoned. Proceeding from the insight that experiences of difference are made palpable and reflected by mobility in particular, the IEG analyses, thirdly, the significance of mobility and the crossing of boundaries – spatial, social and conceptual – for processes affecting individuals and groups. It investigates how transnational and trans-cultural boundary-crossing influenced the ascription of religious, ethnic, cultural, social and gender-specific affiliations.

Through the joint work in the research areas, the disciplinary research interests of the two departments increasingly interlock with each other and receive stimuli from the Digital Historical Research Unit | DH Lab. The latter was established in 2019 as part of a so-called minor strategic expansion. The aim is to systematically incorporate digital processes and instruments in the sense of "embedded digital humanities" into the academic work of the IEG and its research areas. It is also intended to promote the shared use and continuing use of digital research data and the integration of this data into open access publications.

The cross-sectional publication On site, in time. Negotiating differences in Europe makes the research perspectives and project results available to a broader public. It focuses on "sites" where the varied and conflict-laden negotiating of differences in European history is concentrated in a quintessential way. The articles demonstrate the creation of differences, the often conflict-laden negotiating of these differences, and the strategies that were developed to promote, alleviate or remove these conflicts. Up to 2023, further "On site, in time" articles emerging from current and future research projects at the IEG will be added.