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Niklas-Luhmann-guest professorship

Niklas Luhmann was one of the greatest international sociologists of the 20th century. From 1968 onwards he taught at Bielefeld University (one of its first professors) until his retirement. As an outstanding sociological theorist, Luhmann played a crucial role in promoting awareness of the University by the international scientific as well as non-scientific public. For the first time in 2005, the Faculty of Sociology and the Rectorate of Bielefeld University established a Niklas-Luhmann-guest professorship. The intention of this guest professorship is to attract internationally renowned sociologists in order to offer the students and a wider academic as well as non-academic public audience the opportunity to become directly acquainted with influential and innovative theories. Appointment to the guest professorship always occurs in the summer semester.

Previous guest professorship appointments:



Niklas Luhmann Gastprofessur 2015: Elena Esposito


This year Niklas-Luhmann-Visiting Professor, coming to Bielefeld from December 2015 until January 2016 is Prof. Elena Esposito.

Elena Esposito is professor of sociology at the University of Modena-Reggio Emilia. She received her PhD and her Habilitation in Sociology from Bielefeld University under the supervision of Niklas Luhmann. She has held several fellowships and guest professorships, including institutions such as Columbia University, Meiji University, the University of Vienna, IKKM Weimar, ISA Warwick, The New School in New York, and the Humboldt Stiftung.

Esposito works with the theory of social systems on a broad range of issues especially in relation to the social management of time. Her publications deal with topics such as social memory and forgetting, fashion as the semantic institutionalization of transience, the use of the future in financial markets, the genesis and transformation of fiction, and the social management of uncertainty. In all these cases, the tools of systems theory, with their focus on contingency and improbability, are utilized to foster dialogue with other social theories as well as with ongoing public debates. Her current research projects address the possibilities and forms of forgetting on the web, the problem of communication with algorithms, and the proliferation of rankings and ratings for the management of information.

As the Niklas Luhmann Visiting Professor of Sociology, Elena Esposito will give a public lecture on Artificial Communication: The production of contingency by algorithms on December 9th. While on the faculty of the Department of Sociology at Bielefeld University she will be teaching a weekly graduate seminar on Developing Systems Theory, focusing on the challenges and the usefulness of Luhmann’s approach for current sociological research. She will also coordinate a Master Class for the discussion of ongoing PhD dissertations.

For further informations about Elena Esposito see the CV.



Niklas Luhmann Gastprofessur 2014: Alejandro Portes


This year Niklas-Luhmann-Visiting Professor, coming to Bielefeld from October 4th to December 6th, is Prof. Alejandro Portes.

Alejandro Portes is Howard Harrison and Gabrielle Snyder Beck Professor of Sociology at Princeton University and Distinguished Research Professor at the University of Miami. He is the Founding Director of the Center for Migration and Development at Princeton. He has formerly taught at Johns Hopkins University, where he held the John Dewey Chair in Arts and Sciences; Duke University, and the University of Texas-Austin. In 1997, he was elected president of the American Sociological Association and served in that capacity in 1998-99. Born in Havana, Cuba, he came to the United States in 1960. He was educated at the University of Havana, Catholic University of Argentina, and Creighton University. He received his M. A. and Ph. D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Portes is the author of 220 articles and chapters on national development, international migration, Latin American and Caribbean urbanization, and economic sociology. He has published 36 books and special issues. His books include City on the Edge – the Transformation of Miami (California 1993), co-authored with Alex Stepick and winner of the Robert Park Award for best book in urban sociology and the Anthony Leeds Award for best book in urban anthropology in 1995; and Immigrant America: A Portrait, 3rd edition, (California 2006), designated as a Centennial Publication by the University of California Press in 1996.

His current research is on the adaptation process of the immigrant second generation in comparative perspective, the role of institutions on national development, and immigration and the American health system. In 2001, he published, with Rubén G. Rumbaut, Legacies: The Story of the Immigrant Second Generation and Ethnicities: Children of Immigrants in America (California 2001). Legacies is the winner of the 2002 Distinguished Scholarship Award from the American Sociological Association and of the 2002 W. I. Thomas and Florian Znaniecki Award for best book from the International Migration Section of ASA. Ten volumes of his collected essays have been published in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. His most recent articles have appeared in the American Sociological Review, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, International Migration Review, and Population and Development Review.

Portes is a former fellow of the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences and of the Russell Sage Foundation. He has received honorary doctorates from the New School for Social Research, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the University of Genoa (Italy). He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. In 2008, he received the annual Award for Scientific Reviewing (Social and Politcal Sciences) from the National Academy of Sciences. In 2009, he was elected to the American Philosophical Society. In 2010, he received the W.E.B. DuBois Career of Distinguished Scholarship Award from the American Sociological Association and, in 2012, he was inducted as the James Coleman Fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences.

For further informations about Alejandro Portes see the CV.

During his visit at the Faculty of Sociology of the University of Bielefeld Alejandro Portes is going to teach a weekly graduate seminar at the Bielefeld Graduate School in History and Sociology “The Economic Sociology of Immigration”. [more...]

Alejandro Portes will give a public Lecture at the University on November 19th:
“Immigration, Transnationalism and Development: the State of the Question"



Niklas Luhmann Gastprofessur 2013: Yasemin Soysal


portrait Yasemin Soysal

Before taking her position at Essex University, Yasemin Soysal studied (PhD in Sociology, Stanford University) and worked (Assistant and then John Loeb Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Harvard University) in the US. She has written extensively on the historical development and contemporary reconfigurations of the nation-state and citizenship in Europe. Currently she is working on two projects: a comparative and longitudinal study of the changing concepts of “good citizen” and “good society” in Europe and East Asia (with S.Y. Wong, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, UK, and the Hong Kong Research Grant Council), and a survey study of “life course and self projections” of immigrant and non-immigrant origin youth in Spain (with A. Gonzales and H. Cebolla, funded by Juan March Institute and the Spanish Ministry of Education). Soysal has held several fellowships and guest professorships, including Wissenschaftskolleg, National Endowment of Humanities, National Academy of Education, German Marshall Fund, Max Planck Institute, European University Institute, Juan March Institute, New York University, Hitotsubashi University, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. She is past president of the European Sociological Association.

Selected Publications:

Limits of Citizenship: Migrants and Postnational Membership in Europe. University of Chicago Press, 1994. [Chinese translation, Chu Liu Book Company, 2013].

The Nation, Europe, and the World: Curricula and Textbooks in Transition, with H. Schissler (ed). Berghahn Books, 2006.

Citizenship, Immigration, and the European Social Project: Rights and Obligations of Individuality, The British Journal of Sociology 63 (1) 2012.

Individuality, Sociological Institutionalism, and Continuing Inequalities: A Response to Commentators, The British Journal of Sociology 63 (1) 2012.

Reply to Will Kymlicka, “Multicultural Citizenship within Multination States.” Ethnicities 11(3) 2011.

Unpacking Cosmopolitanism: An Insider-Outsider Reading. The British Journal of Sociology, 60th Anniversary Special Issue 2010.

Re-conceptualizing the Republic: Diversity and Education in France, 1945-2008, with S. Szakacs. Journal of Interdisciplinary History 41(1) 2010.

Diversity from Within and Without: Comparative Notes from France and Japan, with S.Y. Wong. Multicultural Education Review 2(1) 2010.

Locating Europe. European Societies 4(3) 2002.

Citizenship and Identity: Living in Diasporas in Postwar Europe? Ethnic and Racial Studies 23 (1) 2000.


The Changing Logic of Political Citizenship: Cross National Acquisition of Women Suffrage Rights, 1890-1990, with F. O. Ramirez and S. Shanahan. American Sociological Review, 62 (5) 1997.

Citizenship and Claims-Making: Organized Islam in European Public Spheres. Theory and Society 26 (4) 1997.

World Expansion of Mass Education, 1870 1980, with J. W. Meyer and F. O. Ramirez. Sociology of Education 65 (2) 1992.

Constructing the First Mass Education Systems: Nineteenth Century Europe, with D. Strang. Sociology of Education 62 (4) 1989.


Nation-State and Citizenship: Inclusions and Exclusions
starting on May 13th. (Further informations about the seminar you can find here).

Yasemin Soysal will give a Public University Lecture on June 5th (further informations about the lecture will follow).

-> [more...]



Niklas Luhmann Gastprofessur 2011: Saskia Sassen

Saskia Sassen This years Niklas-Luhmann-Visiting Professor, coming to Bielefeld from May 11th to July 9th, is Prof. Saskia Sassen, Columbia University, New York. Saskia Sassen is the Lynd Professor of Sociology and Co-Chair, The Committee on Global Thought, Columbia University (www.saskiasassen.com). Her recent book is Territory, Authority, Rights: From Medieval to Global Assemblages (Princeton University Press 2008) published in German by Suhrkamp (2008) as Das Paradox des Nationalen. Other recent books are A Sociology of Globalization (W.W.Norton 2007), the 3rd. fully updated Cities in a World Economy (Sage 2006), the edited Deciphering the Global (Routledge 2007), and the co-edited Digital Formations: New Architectures for Global Order (Princeton University Press 2005). For UNESCO she organized a five-year project on sustainable human settlement with a network of researchers and activists in over 30 countries; it is published as one of the volumes of the Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (Oxford, UK: EOLSS Publishers) [http://www.eolss.net]. The Global City came out in a new fully updated edition in 2001. Her books are translated into twenty-one languages. She serves on several editorial boards and is an advisor to several international bodies. She is a Member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a member of the National Academy of Sciences Panel on Cities, and was Chair of the Information Technology and International Cooperation Committee of the Social Science Research Council (USA). She has written for The Guardian, The New York Times, Le Monde Diplomatique, the International Herald Tribune, Newsweek International, Vanguardia, Clarin, the Financial Times, among others. She contributes regularly to www.OpenDemocracy.net and www.HuffingtonPost.com. During her time at the Faculty of Sociology of the University of Bielefeld Saskia Sassen will be teaching a weekly graduate seminar at the Bielefeld Graduate School in History and Sociology “Territory, Authority, Rights: Emerging global assemblages” and she will give two public Lectures at the University :

  1. Territory, Authority, Rights: Emerging Global Assemblages (May 11)
  2. Ungoverned Territories and Informal Jurisdictions (planned for June 22)

For further Information about the Seminar (content, registration) consult the ekvv of Bielefeld University (http://ekvv.uni-bielefeld.de/kvv_publ/publ/Home.jsp).



Niklas Luhmann Gastprofessur 2009: Ulrich Oevermann


portrait Alois HahnUlrich Oevermann wird vom 1.12.2009 bis zum 5.2.2010 die von der Fakultät für Soziologie und der BGHS getragenen Niklas Luhmann Gastprofessur wahrnehmen und während dieser Zeit ein umfangreiches Lehrprogramm durchführen. Informationen zu den Lehrveranstaltungen, die v.a. im Rahmen des Lehrprogramms der Graduiertenschule abgeboten werden, finden Sie im eKVV der Universität Bielefeld Für Anfang des Jahres 2010 wird Herr Oevermann eine Universitätsöffentliche Vorlesung halten. Während seines Aufenthaltes beuieht Herr Oevermann Raum K4-111 auf dem BGHS-Flur. Herr Oevermann ist Emeritus der Universität Frankfurt/Main und gehört seit den späten sechziger Jahren zu den produktivsten Soziologen dieses Landes. Die Bildungs- und Sozialisationsforschung jener Jahre eignet er sich als wissenschaftlicher Assistent von Jürgen Habermas an. Seine soziologische Karriere beginnt er mit einer großangelegten Untersuchung über den Zusammenhang von Sprache und sozialer Herkunft. Dabei kommt er über die Soziolinguistik von Bernstein zur Linguistik und ihrem Regelbegriff und von dort aus zu einer ganz eigenen Version von Strukturalismus, vielleicht der einzigen neben Bourdieu, die man gleichfalls in vollem Umfang der Soziologie zurechnen kann. Der Grundgedanke ist einfach genug: Für Oevermann ermöglicht es der Überschuss der sprachlich sinnvollen gegenüber den gesellschaftlich sinnvollen Sätzen die Selektivität der Gesellschaft zu erfahren – und zu objektivieren, und der Überschuss der gesellschaftlich sinnvollen Sätze gegenüber dem, was man in diesem oder jenem Sozialsystem sagen kann, ermöglicht es, dessen eigene Selektivität zu erfahren – und zu objektivieren. Daran schließt eine eigene Methodenlehre für qualitative Sozialforschung an, die sogenannte objektive Hermeneutik, die als Sequenzanalyse darauf angelegt ist, durch Rekonstruktion von sprachlich bzw. gesellschaftlich eröffneten Möglichkeitsräumen die ereignishafte Selektivität des sprachlichen Einzelaktes und durch Rekonstruktion des Zusammenhanges mehrerer Einzelakte die strukturelle Selektivität des jeweils untersuchten Sozialsystems, oder wie Oevermann sagen würde: der Fallstruktur der jeweils untersuchten Lebenspraxis aufzuklären. Für Oevermann schließt das grundbegriffliche Interesse an Strukturen die Thematisierung weder des Neuen noch des Individuellen noch des Originellen aus. In seinen neueren Publikationen ist es vor allem die Unterscheidung von strukturierter Routine und sie überfordernder Krise, von der Oevermann sich den soziologischen Aufschluss über diese Dreiheit von Themen erhofft. In gut dreißig Jahren hat er auf diesen Grundlagen sein soziologisches Lebenswerk aufgebaut.



Niklas Luhmann Gastprofessur 2008: Alois Hahn


portrait Alois Hahn Der diesjährige Inhaber der Niklas-Luhmann-Gastprofessur ist der Trierer Soziologe Alois Hahn. 1967 wurde er in Frankfurt am Main mit einer Arbeit über die soziale Bedingtheit von Einstellungen zu Tod und Sterben promoviert und habilitierte sich 1973 in Tübingen mit einer Arbeit über "Systeme des Bedeutungswissens". Seit 1974 ist er ordentlicher Professor für Allgemeine Soziologie an der Universität Trier und forscht und lehrt dort über ein breites Themenfeld. Die Schwerpunkte seiner Arbeit liegen in der Religions- und Kultursoziologie, der Thanatosoziologie und in der letzten Zeit auf Forschungen zu Inklusion und Exklusion.
Alois Hahn war Inhaber zahlreicher Gastprofessuren, unter anderem 1987/88 an der Ecole des Hautes Etudes in Paris und 2007 an der Université de Strasbourg. Im akamdemischen Jahr 2005/06 war er Fellow am Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin.
Das Arbeitsprogramm im Rahmen der Luhmann Gedächtnis Professur dreht sich um Überlegungen zur Vorgeschichte des sozialwissenschaftlichen Denkens.
Weitere Informationen erhalten Sie hier.

Niklas Luhmann Gastprofessur 2007: Nils Brunsson

Department of Management and Organisation at Stockholm School of Economics

april 24– may 30, 2007

Curriculum Vitae & Publications
seminar and lectures (following soon)

Prof. Nils Brunsson holds the City of Stockholm Chair in Management at the Stockholm School of Economics. He has published more than 20 books and numerous articles on organizations. His research includes studies of decision-making, administrative reforms and standardization. He is now working with issues of rule-setting and regulation. His latest book in English is Mechanisms of Hope. Maintaining the dream of rationality in organizations. There are several reviews of Nils Brunsson’s contributions to organization theory (see CV and publications).
During his time at the Faculty of Sociology of the University of Bielefeld he will be teaching a weekly graduate seminar about “Institutional Aspects on Organizations” every Tuesday from 10- 13h (Room T4-110) (For registration contact christel.vinke@uni-bielefeld.de). Additional to that seminar a public lecture is going to take place on 9. Mai. Nils Brunsson will also make a one-day workshop about his latest book Mechanism of Hope.


Niklas Luhmann Gastprofessur 2006: John W. Meyer

(Department of Sociology (and the international studies institute) at Stanford University
April 18 – June 20, 2006

portrait meyerCurriculum Vitae

This years Niklas-Luhmann-Visiting Professor, coming to Bielefeld from April 18 to June 20, is Prof. John W. Meyer, Department of Sociology (and the International Studies Institute) at Stanford University.

John Meyer received his PhD from Columbia University, New York, here he taught for several years afterwards before becoming Professor of Sociology at the Stanford University, California, where he is now an Emeritus Professor.

Throughout the years his research has focused on the spread of modern institutions around the world, and their impact on national states and societies. He is particularly interested in the spread and impact of scientific activity, and in the expansion and standardization of educational models. He has made many contributions to organizational theory (e.g., Organizational Environments, with W. R. Scott, Sage 1983), and to the sociology of education, developing lines of thought now called neoinstitutional theory.

Since the late 1970s, he has worked on issues related to the impact of global society on national states and societies (e.g., Institutional Structure, co-authored with others, Sage 1987). Currently, he is completing a collaborative study of worldwide science and its impact on national societies (Drori, et al., Science in the Modern World Polity, Stanford, 2003), and is working on a study of the rise and impact of the worldwide human rights regime.

During his time at the Faculty of Sociology of the University of Bielefeld he will be teaching a weekly graduate seminar focussing the impact of modern macro-level cultural environments on societies, organizations, and individuals seen as actors. Additional to that seminar two public lectures are going to take place on 26. April and 24. Mai. Following are information on the seminar and the lectures.


Graduate Seminar April – June: Seminar on Sociological Institutional Theory

Public Lecture I, 26. April: Institutional Theories in Sociology

Public Lecture II, 24. May: Building a World Society


Niklas Luhmann Gastprofessur 2005: Harrison White


portrait Harrison White Die meisten Wissenschaftler forschen heute zu sehr speziellen, eng abgegrenzten Fragestellungen. Auch in der Soziologie fragen nur sehr wenige nach umfassenden und allgemeinen Zusammenhängen. Einer dieser wenigen ist Prof. Harrison C. White von der renommierten Columbia University in New York, der sich derzeit für zwei Monate als erster Niklas-Luhmann-Gastprofessor an der Fakultät für Soziologie der Universität Bielefeld aufhält. Harrison C. White (*1930) gilt allgemein als einer der Gründer und bedeutenden Vertreter der Netzwerktheorie. Er ist als Mathematiker und Soziologe ausgebildet. In vielen seiner Arbeiten hat er sich mit der Modellierung, mit der mathematischen Rekonstruktion von sozialen Netzwerken beschäftigt. Wie Niklas Luhmann betont White in seinen Arbeiten dabei die Eigenständigkeit dieser sozialen Realität. Das Soziale ist nicht reduzierbar auf Individuen. Es sind soziale Strukturen oder Netzwerke, die die Entwicklung von individuellen Identitäten erst ermöglichen. Die Arbeiten von White widmen sich der Analyse solcher sozialer Netzwerke. Wo, wann und wie verdichtet sich Interdependenz? Wo, wann und wie entstehen Kopplungen und Entkopplungen im sozialen Verkehr? Whites Analysen gehen davon aus, dass die sozialen Strukturen den Möglichkeitsraum bilden und kontrollieren, in dem Identität entstehen und sich entwickeln kann. "Identity and control" lautet entsprechend der Titel seines theoretischen Hauptwerkes, das 1992 erschienen ist. (mehr)



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